Aloha! Last week we longed for Maui and Lanai, and continuing on our tour of Hawaii this week we head west to Oahu and Kauai. These are the islands for you if you're looking for the softest white sand beaches in Hawaii and a mix of family-friendly outdoors adventure with stupendously beautiful scenery.
Although it's the smallest of the main Hawaiian islands, Kauai has more beaches than the rest; about half of its 111-mile coastline is made up of 28 beaches made fine over time as Kauai is by far the oldest Hawaiian island at over 5 million years old. Its mountains surround lush, tropical rainforests which earned it the nickname of the "Garden Isle," and Mt. Waialeale is actually the wettest place on Earth, receiving an average rainfall of 450 inches a year. The entire northwest area of Kauai is impenetrable by car, and roads only reach 2/3 of the the island; seeing its magnificent beauty by helicopter is an absolute must here. Waimea Canyon is the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific," and there are no words colorful or magical enough to describe what soaring past its waterfalls and valleys is like before you fly above the Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park (pictured above). It's easy to imagine yourself in Jurassic Park, which filmed here deep in Kauai's remote, remarkable wilderness. I took the helicopter tour myself in 2017, and it was one of those experiences where you want time to stop so you can take it all in fully. A Kauai flight tour is a bombardment of beauty so extraordinary you can barely believe these places are even real.
Kauai will forever be special to me because it's the only island where the very first Nine Muses Travel clients chose to spend the Hawaiian vacation they'd dreamed about for years. It's also Hawaii's most economical island where your accommodations and touring budget will go the furthest. Where does Kauai fit on your list of must-see Hawaiian islands?
Oahu is Hawaii's second oldest island at 2.2 to 3.4 million years old - a distant second behind Kauai but still really old. It has the most flights of any of the islands and offers the easiest access with the most daily nonstop flights via Honolulu. Like Kauai, its age has created over time beaches of fine white sand, especially in popular Waikiki Beach. Honolulu is the biggest town in the state with the best shopping, dining, and entertainment, and it offers the widest selection of family-friendly and leisure activities. It's also perfect for history lovers who will appreciate the solemn significance of visiting Pearl Harbor and the delightful discovery of Ionlani Palace, America's only royal palace! Explore the island with an iconic Diamond Head hike for marvelous views, and spend time along the North Shore to take in the cool surfer beach towns and see the famous Banzai Pipeline before grabbing a bite at a North Shore shrimp truck.
Enjoy this overview of ideas for where to stay and go for a truly special journey on Oahu and Kauai!
Hotels & Resorts - Oahu
The Kahala Hotel and Resort is set on a white sand beach with azure water in Honolulu's plush Kahala district, just minutes from Waikiki's world-class shopping and entertainment. It's best for those who want proximity to Honolulu but prefer to stay just outside of downtown. During the filming of The Descendants, the cast and crew stayed here, and it's known for being a celebrity favorite.
Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina will reopen in March 2021 following property enhancement work. This newer, five-star beach resort combines marine and land adventure with authentic Hawaiian tradition. It's about an hour north of Honolulu and an hour south of North Shore, making it an idyllic home base for exploring all that Oahu has to offer.
I have a soft spot for The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort, Waikiki (aka "The Pink Palace") because I stayed here with Dad in 2017, and we enjoyed our time here so much - the location, beach, warm hospitality, and excellent dining. The property is infused with Hawaiian history and art, and a curatorial tour of the hotel will be an unexpected highlight.
Hotels & Resorts - Kauai
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa is where Dad and I stayed on Kauai, and while it is a large, sprawling property, it's filled with awesome pools, great entertainment and shopping, and wonderful beaches.
Timbers Kauai near Lihue is one of the island's best kept secrets, combining excellent service with authentic Hawaiian living - all in a lush, oceanfront rainforest. Located near the airport, the condo style accommodations including 2, 3, and 4 bedroom residences are all great for families and groups and offer lots of space and room for everyone.
Ko'a Kea at Poipu Beach is an intimate boutique resort where you can experience the essence of Hawaiian culture with the charms and comfort of island hospitality. It's rare to find a small, boutique hotel in Hawaii, and here there are only 121 rooms. Great beachfront access make this a real find.
RARE ACCESS AT PEARL HARBOR: Captain-led tour of USS Bowfin Submarine
Oahu cultural tour: Arts scene, Iolani Palace, Chinatown
Hiking and history tour at Diamond Head State Monument
Surfing lessons with a pro
North Shore stand up paddle boarding adventure - in calm waters
Catamaran SCUBA and snorkel tour
Shark snorkeling with scientific researchers from the North Shore
Deep sea fishing charter
Flats boat bonefishing experience
Surfing lessons with a pro
Movie set helicopter tour and waterfall landing
Family-friendly kayak and hike
Nā Pali Coast private catamaran sail and picnic lunch
Nā Pali Hike (partial / North Coast)
Nā Pali Coast snorkel and kayak challenge
Aerial flightseeing tour
Waimea Canyon guided hike - the Grand Canyon of the Pacific!
Nine Muses Travel works with exceptional tour operators who add unparalleled value for my clients.
Expert guides for private tours: historians, naturalists, artists, unique locals
Comfortable, sanitized, and luxurious vehicles
24/7 real-time support
Competitive rates at four and five star properties with strict health and safety protocols
Deep destination knowledge
Flexible and worry-free cancellation policies, including 100% refunds until shortly before travel
I design journeys that inspire by highlighting local arts and culture, history, and cuisine for intellectually curious clients longing to feel deeply inspired by exciting destinations, culinary delights, and authentic cultural experiences on a life-changing, joyful journey of discovery.
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