First impressions of Kauai, and our condo

Kauai lookout in Princeville |
Hanalei Valley Overlook

Oh goodness you guys… I have started so many good ‘fires’ at home, but with no middle nor ends, blog posts just can’t really happen yet. From purging to painting to tree pruning to house washing to dump runs to selling stuff to gutting my son’s room for a new makeover, there is lots of good stuff to come.

It’s like I got this massive burst of, “I cannot believe this place looks like this and I’m over the mess!” It’s mayhem in the best of ways. And I’m sprinting full speed ahead. Faster than picture taking apparently!

So until fuller stories can emerge, I felt it would be a good time to continue my storytelling on our summer Hawaiian getaway, and offer up my first impressions of Kauai.

We have been to Maui MANY times, and even a couple to Oahu. But this was our first trek to Kauai, and boy do I have a few things to tell you!

Please bear in mind, these are what I consider ‘crappy phone shots’, as I lost all my good shots inside my also lost Cannon camera during the trip home. Sigh…

But they are good enough to help tell the story. Here we go! 

Approaching Kauai by air from Maui |
Approaching Kauai by air from Maui |
Here’s what it looked like as we approached Kauai from the air. I could barely contain my excitement! Look at all that GREEN.

All last summer I was itchin’ to get over here. Talk was, the Maui locals fly to Kauai’s north shore for their summer vacations, and to definitely stay there. But… you must love rain.

I’m from the wet coast, so I was good with that.

On the way to Hanalei, on Kauai, over one of many one way bridges |
One lane bridge in between Princeville and Hanalei

There is a reason they call Kauai the Garden Island. Most drives to and from airports on Maui are your ‘basic sugarcane fields’ and industrial buildings. It’s neat, but it doesn’t send you bolting for the camera in a hurry. 

But this island throws that mind set to the curb, and showcases its finest even before you reach a destination.

Near Hanalei, on Kauai, overlooking the lush tropical valley |
The valley below the Hanalei Valley Lookout – do drive this!

On the way to the north shore, the scenery was so outstanding, it was so hard to keep your eyes on the road.

At one point I just spat out to my son, “WHAT IS THIS PLACE?!”

I will never EVER forget how the surroundings made me feel. Imagine being a tiny ant in a giant jungle. Like that. The mountains are tall and close to the roads. The trees TOWER over you, and in many cases, trees on both sides of the roads create an arch, because they are touching. It’s as if the vegetation is on steroids.

Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Reserve on Kauai |

Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Reserve

Chaotic Perfection is the perfect name for this place. It’s rambling, and even a little wild. But in the most beautiful ways imaginable.

But then a little bit of tough reality quickly set in. As we eased through the towns along the 2 lane highway towards the north shore, traffic came to a stand still at each town. It was ugly. And I quickly assumed there must be some kind of construction going on.

But I was wrong. This was everyday traffic. Rush hour at 1:30 pm?! Yep. All day. Every day. Unless you leave before sunrise, as we learned later. Crazy talk.

The airport town is Lihue. And then there’s Kapaa. Both those towns have alternative routes, but we didn’t know about them at that point. So… if you go, look them up!

Near Hanalei, on Kauai, overlooking the lush tropical valley |
The valley below the Hanalei Valley Lookout

But of course, in between the towns, (once you FINALLY got through them that is…) the highway was basically yours. And you got to see stuff like this. And this wasn’t even anywhere yet!

Sea Lodge condo, on Kauai, overlooking the ocean |
The grounds at Sealodge

But first things first, we settled into our condo. 

We stayed in the area called Princeville. It’s a community of condos and residential living, situated around a golf course setting. So… perfection.

Our condo was called the Sealodge. (we booked through VRBO) We chose there due to a friend’s recommendation. It was pretty cool.

Sea Lodge condo, on Kauai, overlooking the ocean |
Sealodgreminded me of all these deserted beach houses along massive rolling hills. It was so quiet, which felt odd, yet fascinating. It’s about the most affordable place on the north shore. The condos are amazing. Ours even had an upstairs, so my son could enjoy his own space and TV!

I wish I could show you the complete shoot I took of our place. But… someone else is enjoying them. 

One of the reasons for the affordability is, while it’s ocean front, it is not beach front. It has its own small secluded beach, but the trail to it was very steep, and since it rained every day, it was too treacherous to attempt.

But some pretty outstanding beaches were only quick 10 minute drives. I’ll show you a few soon.

Sea Lodge condo, on Kauai, overlooking the ocean |
The rolling hills on the grounds were so steep, you actually felt a little off, like you’d roll right into the ocean. 

It was neat, in a cartoon kinda way.

Ocean view from Sea Lodge condo, on Kauai | 
But what a view.

This place even had its own rain forest. I kid you not. On the other side of the condos was a full out jungle beside the grills.

I will never understand this island. 🙂

So once we finally found the place, and figured out the ‘unique push button door locks’, (you need a good memory to get in, I’ll tell you that), I had to go for a drive to see where in blazes we landed.

First stop was the Princeville super market. Because our time was so limited to 8 days on this island, I wanted to book in a helicopter tour, Na Pali Coast snorkle sail, and check out the inner tube ride through the Plantation.

Which apparently sells out a year in advance… and they just opened!

But helicopter and snorkel was ON.

Kauai lookout over the north shore valley |
Hanalei Bay Lookout

So I took a little trek along the coast, towards Hanalei.

WORD. It was one of the most spectacular drives I have ever laid eyes on.

It made me want to cry.

I’m sure I did.

Ironwood trees, along the north shore of Kauai |
Passing through the town and beyond, I was curious where all the one lane bridges would lead. So whenever there was a cluster of cars along the side of the road, I pulled over to snoop.

Cliff overlooks, beaches, unique trees… 

Ironwood trees, along the north shore of Kauai |

But darkness was fast approaching, and my windshield was fogging up, and wouldn’t stay clear.

What is going on… 

I quickly learned that going with a cheap, older car was NOT the right move in this place. With heavy rain comes deep puddles, and lots and lots of moisture. My sorry, crap happy windshield never was completely clear until I took a drive down south. Which did me no good up north. The defrost on this car was the worst, leaving some kind of white film that never left.

My car ended up being a total bust, where I could barely make out where I was driving the entire time during drizzle. Not. Good. I hate to complain, but this part ruined a big chunk of our stay. Being paranoid not being able to see got old fast. Night was ridiculously hazardous. Crazy bad car. 

So my advice? Go newer SUV. All the time.

Aside from that…

Sunset from the Sea Lodge condo, in Kauai |
While it wasn’t a beach front sunset, I did manage to see it peek through our rain forest on the property…

Sunset from the Sea Lodge condo, in Kauai |
… and at the end of all the rolling hills.

Next up, the outstanding helicopter ride over the entire island… and a few other beautiful surprises thrown in for good measure.

With a little more drama, just to keep things interesting… 🙂

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Have you been to Kauai? Which area did you stay? Did you like it?

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See all our Hawaii 2016 adventures HERE

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12 thoughts on “First impressions of Kauai, and our condo

  1. Hate to tell you, even our new Mustang convertible had issues with defrost! We stayed in Haena, just beyond all the one lane bridges and it was spectacular. I wanted to cry every time I left to go to the store or JoJo’s or our drive to the Canyon in the south. It was a small conclave of 5 cottages, crashing surf, incredible views and extreme privacy. It was heaven. Love Kauai!

    • Goooooodness…. to the car trouble. We were nearly handed an older mustang convertible but turned it down. Looks like I wouldn’t have been any further ahead. And I’m not sure about the convertible part for Kauai’s north shore… that had to be interesting! 🙂 But to go over the highway’s ancient bridge with all those tall trees covered in vines… Heaven sent!

      Your place to stay sounds perfection. The Hanalei area… I will never have adequate words to the natural beauty to that area.

  2. I have been to Kauai; your photos brought back so many wonderful memories, especially the little one lane bridge to Hanalei. We stayed in the Princeville area too and experienced many of the sights you posted. I think our catamaran trip along the Na Pali coast was my favorite adventure. Thanks for the trip down memory lane this morning.
    Lori in Blue Ridge, GA

    • Ohhhh Lori… do I have a story on our Na Pali coast snorkel tour… it was beautiful… on the way there. That ought to give you a good hint!

      Glad you got to enjoy Princeville too! What an area…

  3. Donna: My husband and I went to Kauai first, then returned another time to see Maui and Oahu. Neither compared to Kauai. The perfection of Kauai resulted in my just breaking down into tears one night while we were at dinner. The atmosphere was SO perfect that I could not hold back the tears. I felt as though I never wanted to leave that island. If we ever return to Hawaii, it will be to Kauai.

    • Agree, and completely know what you mean. Seeing these perfect movie sets before you, no matter what you are doing or where you are driving… it was a lot to take in. I have never witnessed so much constant “LOOK AT THAT!” on a vacation before.

      Didn’t you also find the traffic over the top though? Perhaps it was the time of year we went, in August.

      • We were there in June. I don’t remember the traffic being an issue. We live in Arizona and are use to going to the California beaches where traffic is horrendous and parking is practically impossible to find. We were actually ecstatic about the lack of traffic and the beaches where you could go and be the only ones there in Kauai. Maybe we were just there at the right time??

  4. wow, how fun to read this entry, esp. since my husband and i are vacationing in kauai as i type. i’ve been coming to this magical place for over 35 yrs. and have seen so many changes but hopefully it will never turn into Maui and high rise condo/hotel central. north shore of kauai is so lush. glad you and your son had a wonderful time. this time we’re renting a small plantation house on the south shore. i know you’ll return. this island is my happy place. deb

    • Deb, I drove by the plantation area in the south, but wasn’t able to find a parking spot to even check out the beach. That area was mayhem busy, but of course, more sun.

      Staying both in the north shore, and now in the south, which area do you prefer?

      There’s also a law on Kauai that no building can ever be above the height of a palm tree. Or at least, that’s what I heard over and over again via the locals and others. I think they need to beef up their highways to more lanes, if they continue to allow unlimited visitors on the island. The place is simply bursting at the seams.

      • donna, sorry for delay in my reply. i’ve been enjoying kauai and haven’t paid any attention to the computer. hands down, the north shore of the island is breathtaking. i esp. love the mountains. i remember hanalei before it tricked itself out and before princeville etc was built. it still grabs my heart though. the east side, kapaa, is constantly windy which makes the ocean too rough most of the time for me. i’m not a strong swimmer. in the winter the north shore waves really kick up and the rain is heavier and more freq. we now stay in the koloa/poipu area. yes, it too has been overbuilt and it’s still ongoing. we rent a little plantation house built in the 30’s. it’s called “little grass shack” on hoona rd. no air conditioning so some may not like that. but i love it and we’ve been staying here for 20 yrs. it has the most fantastic outdoor shower. it’s in a locals neighborhood with vacation rentals scattered about. it’s one house back from the ocean and there’s a delightful little beach just a few houses down and is a protected cove with wonderful sunsets. poipu beach is a quick drive. it was just past were you drove by the kiahuna plantation condos. i learned early on to pay attention to what the locals do and one day i noticed a beat up old truck with a surf board in the bed and it drove down at the far end of the parking lot. we would always take the first parking we could find and then drag all the beach gear to the crowded beach. not a fan. so i watched this guy take out his board and walk along side the waiohai condos and disappear in the foliage. i had my husband drive to the far end to investigate and viola – a paved path that said beach access. in a short easy walk we were at the beach in front of a beautiful complex. entry into the water had a sandy bottom area and the beach was populated with locals. we found our slice of heaven. it’s a quick hop from our little rental when we want deeper water than what our neighborhood “baby beach” offers. a little further west just on the outskirts of the little town of hanapepe is a sign that says “salt pond”. they actually collect salt there but also there’s a wonderful beach and public park. the natural rock formations acts as a breakwater and it’s a wonderful gentle beach. it rains much less on the poipu end of the island but the trade off is that it’s not as lush as in the north. my favorite time of yr. is early fall before fall break for the school kids. we have already noticed as of yesterday an increase in tourist families at the beach. so if we go in the spring we try to go before the schools are out. the summer around the island is the heaviest tourist time. the water is even warmer in the fall. my husband loves photography too and i convinced him to take a photo tour and while he was reluctant he thoroughly enjoyed it. it was 5+ hrs and very affordable – Kauai Photo Tour – out of Kapaa. as a result he discovered hidden beaches that he has taken me to and many inside tips from the local guide. we only have 2 days left and i’m in “i don’t want to leave” mode. i absolutely love it here. so glad you did too. deb

    • YES! Anini quickly became our fav as well. I had no idea it was possible to find a beach in Hawaii with no waves! Spectacular. I’ll be showcasing those big, gorgeous trees that reach into the ocean soon! So unique!

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