Kauai Travel Guide

While on our honeymoon, Tim and I took inventory of all the trips we loved most in 2017. Mine was Miami (ugh, Miami, how I love you so). His was our trip to Maui in March of 2017. I was kind of surprised, as he doesn’t love snorkeling as much as I do and that was far and away my highlight of that trip. But as it turns out, he found Maui was super relaxing in both pace and ambiance. And I realized I agreed. We’re so busy — and I focus on doing and seeing and eating and drinking everything possible — that a relaxing trip is SO. IMPORTANT. So a few weeks ago, we decided to book a long weekend to a different Hawaiian island: Kauai.

You probably already know that not only do I travel a lot, but I am also fiercely passionate about giving you my recommendations for any city I’ve visited. This is no exception. We stayed in Kapaa and were there during a bit of a storm, so we have a heavy bias on easy-to-access things here.


Photo opps


Opaekaa Falls: Twin falls that are easy to spot from an accessible parking lot — aka no hiking required. 


Spouting Horn: I thought this was going to be lame but it was really really cool. Basically the waves crash into this very hole-filled rock bank and in a couple spots there’s HUGE explosive geyser-like activity from the force of the waves. 


National Tropical Botanical Gardens: So, so much gorgeous plant life. (Also saw a lot of spiders, so beware.) This place is huge and long and narrow in shape, so usually you have to take a tram to the other parts of the garden. We didn’t have enough time so we just went to the first zone and it was still awesome. There were vanilla bean pods, mangos, all sorts of flowers, trees, and bananas. It’s like a zoo for plants. They recommend allotting a couple hours here.

Hanalei Valley Lookout: Get an amazing view of classic Kauai from an easily-accessible parking lot. 



Kealia Beach: Just north of Kapaa, this is a perfect spot for boogie boarding. We had a great time here. Tip: Drive all the way to the northernmost parking area to be right at the non-rocky, wavy area for activities! The rest of the beach is gorgeous, though shallow. It’s also great for whale watching.

Kapaa Beach Shop: Super affordable rentals if you’re in Kapaa. Snorkel sets were I think $15 for the week, and boogie boards $20. (Note that the above boogie-boarding photo was censored for modesty. #ladyprobs)


Kipu Ranch Adventures: Our original boat activity was canceled due to weather. We ended up finding this fun excursion and LOVED IT. You drive ATVs through the gorgeous landscape of Kauai and stop at movie filming locations (esp. Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones!). It’s great for families, too. The ATVs have 4 seats and only one person drives. Prepare to get muddy if it’s been raining — and bring black clothes, because my white tee and jean shorts got permanently dyed/ruined from the mud. But so worth it!


Poipu Beach: On the south coast, this was the rare beach where we were able to snorkel during the storm. I got a TON of fish action when snorkeling, a vast area of living coral reef, and got up close to a giant turtle (like 3+ feet long) for a long time here. Highly recommended for any weather! And lots of space for kids to play — plus a playground. PS: I thought “snorkeling here must not be good; it’s so shallow” and how wrong I was. It’s no Molokini (off Maui) but it’s awesome.

Queens Bath: We didn’t end up going because the trail was super muddy and we were in street clothes, but I wish we could have gone. Bring your snorkels, cameras, and play clothes!



Tiki Iniki: I loved this Princeville bar! It had a bunch of really neat, authentic tiki drinks — including the Flaming Zombie, which involved fire. Super cool. It lacks a good view, but otherwise so great.

The Local Kitchen + Bar: We ended up going here 3 times in our trip. It was the best food and cocktails in Kapaa, we thought. And they use a ton of local ingredients, which is what we always seek out when traveling!

Ono Family Restaurant: Also in Kapaa, we ate at this place EVERY. MORNING. for breakfast. I always got the Lindsay Special: Two eggs (I got over-easy), fried rice (WHY don’t we have this for brekky in CA?), and bacon (or your choice of sausage). Seriously amazing. Add a few dashes of hot sauce if you’re feeling spicy.

Nalu Kai: Poolside bar/resto at the St. Regis in Princeville. We went here at the suggestion of some people we met. It is overpriced, sure, but the St. Regis has a private beach and gorgeous views, and this bar is RIGHT. THERE. Somehow I don’t have photos from down on the beach, but you get the gist here.

Uncle’s Shave Ice: They also have “shaved snow,” a creamier option to regular ice. Really close to the Lihue airport. You can squeeze in a quick treat before your flight home!


Things we did that we don’t necessarily recommend
  • Kauai Museum: Not that rich in things that we cared about. And we like museums a lot. But some of it was cool, so if you really want to learn some history, go for it.
  • Hotel Coral Reef: It was so highly rated on TripAdvisor but I hated it. Amazing location though, right on the beach and very walkable. But just shell out a little more per night for a … brighter hotel. The person who cleaned the rooms didn’t seem to have much attention to detail or will to clean up sand. We found a dead cockroach as soon as we walked in, too. Cockroaches happen and I totally get it’s not preventable, but a dead one the day that a new guest checks in is. (Side note: The bed was comfy, which means a lot.)
  • Big Wave Dave’s: A bar in Kapaa. It was a typical dive bar. The reviews made it seem cooler/more interesting than it was.

Bonus hot tip:
I don’t own a GoPro, but I rented one — along with a stabilizing stick — from BorrowLenses and I absolutely loved it. It only cost $80 total for the week. If you live near one of their two offices (San Carlos, CA; Waltham, MA) and can pick it up yourself, you don’t have to pay for shipping!

Have you been to Kauai? What spots do you love?

Party cities in the off-season

One of my favorite girlfriends, Mary, is a baller. She plays craps better than the addictive personality I-Bankers. She drank scotch all throughout my wedding and is one of those people you know you should just follow and it’ll be a good time. It was fitting, then, when she sent out a PSA that she has two nights free every month this year at Paris Las Vegas.

Obviously I’m not going to say no to that.

But what do you do in Vegas in January? We were there over the MLK weekend (Sunday through Tuesday) and absolutely no one was performing. Might I remind you — or, if I haven’t been doing my job well enough, inform you for the first time — that we are Celine Dion SUPERFANS. But this weekend, she was performing Saturday night and Tuesday night. (Cue a full-sized violin — not one of those sarcastic “world’s smallest” ones — because this is a very serious and sad problem for us.) There was some show that Scheana from Vanderpump Rules was in, but unless it’s got the drama with the rest of the gang, I am not into it. (And I know they only film Pump Rules in the summer so I would never meet the rest of the gang. 😉

So Mary and I set out to have an amazing time without the regular Vegas stuff. The highs were in the sixties (fahrenheit) and it was pretty much always overcast, so we decided to make it all about the world-class food, drink, and culture in Vegas. And it was a-m-a-z-i-n-g. So if you are heading to Vegas in the off-season, or if you have been wondering if there’s a reason to take advantage of the CRAZY CHEAP prices this time of year, listen up.


The Paris was so cute. I hadn’t been there since college, and I was so pleased with everything. The location was dynamite — totally central to the Strip. The room was updated and clean and gorge (photo evidence above). The room had a mini fridge for our use (aka for our 3am Chinese food leftovers and a view. There’s a bit of a shopping center attached to the Paris, too, and it served our needs (cross-reference the aforementioned 3am Chinese food).


Then there’s everything else we did.

Short ribs are never not good, right? We went to The Henry for a quick snack of short rib tot-chos after we landed. It’s in the Cosmo and we’ve been a good handful of times, but this time it was our first stop vs. our last stop. Because they’re a 24-hour joint, I had low expectations. They were shockingly good.
Drinks at the Cosmopolitan’s Chandelier bar are never not good. Mary got her classic fizzy drink. Apparently I’ve had it before (???). It’s a nice, smooth cocktail with a little fruit that makes your whole drink feel like Pop Rocks. I had an amazingly airy, herbal cocktail (times two) before doing the obvious perennial activity: Gambling.


That night, we ate at Beauty & Essex. I wish I had photos of the bottle of champagne we got; of the tuna poke tacos and the chicken meatballs (sounds lame but they were UNBELIEVABLE) or even of the espresso we enjoyed, but no. We were so hungry (and honestly it was so dimly lit) that our table was dry in just over an hour before we headed back to the craps tables. All I can say is: Please go.

I’d never had brunch at the Paris, so I made reservations ahead of time at Hexx. I booked it because I’d heard that the waiters will send you on your way with a mimosa to go. (I forgot about this and went home empty-handed, but I bet it would happen if you ask — they were very quick with the refill.) The food was actually fabulous. We had the mimosas (which were too opaque for my taste, but probably a good idea for people in the Vegas mentality) and a hearty omelet with a housemade English muffin. Did you know that English muffins don’t have to be the dry, boring lump that sometimes houses your Egg McMuffin? They can be rich and delicious! Plus, I got a side of (good, thick) bacon and that thing on the right is a cinnamon roll, if you can believe it. We thought it would be WAY too rich but it was unbelievable.

Did you know Vegas has a ton of art installments? We did, but we’d never taken the time to seek them out. This weekend, we hit up two separate James Turrell (!!!) pieces. The one pictured above is in the Shops at Crystals, attached to the Aria. You can see the colored spaces from the mall, but then you can access the actual rooms where the neon lights live, and it’s such an amazing bath of light.


We also went to Akhob, the James Turrell installment inside the Louis Vuitton store. While the tour is free, I had heard the waitlist fills up weeks in advance, so when we made these plans to go to Vegas one week prior, I got ballsy and just called. Turns out, they had an open reservation time. I took it, and we toured it. All I can say is: Make the time. I felt so otherworldly when looking into the space. (And if you have any sort of psychological or medical condition that may not be compatible, looking back always cured me of anything odd I was experiencing.)


Also in the Shops at Crystals? An absolute heap of photogenic spots. When Mary and I walked down these stairs, we thought they were pretty and wooden. But when we looked back, they were a glowing mosaic of natural materials. (Psst: that’s Mary on the stairs!) While I had my DSLR in Las Vegas, I hadn’t brought it to these shops. Bring yours if you’ve got one!

We also hit up the beloved Mandarin Bar, atop (of course) the Mandarin Oriental. I love time lapse videos, and while this one doesn’t capture the hustle of Las Vegas very well, it does show all the lights.


Obviously I got champagne from the Mandarin’s infamous vending machine after we left the bar. (Probably a mistake in hindsight, as we got two drinks at the bar in Bardot before splitting a bottle of wine eating dinner.)


I got the Midnight in Paris (twice) because it has one of my newest fave ingredients: Giffard Pamplemousse. Check it out if you haven’t yet! This was followed by Steak Tartare and a rare steak (what can I say) which I was too hungry to photograph.


I’d always held off on going to Eggslut in Vegas (also at the Cosmo — I seriously love it there) because I’d lived in LA for years, which is where Eggslut began. I finally relented after I had hours to kill alone after Mary left for home on Tuesday morning. I forgot how amazing their food really is. Limited menus are the way. to. go. Do a couple things REALLY WELL instead of doing a lot of things (end of sentence). I added bacon to the Fairfax. Unbelievable.

The crazy-cheap travel prices in Las Vegas during the off-season are there to incentivize you to make all these purchases. It did for me (I even paid for my flight in Southwest miles because I thought it’d be fun to say the whole weekend was free — ha) and all I can say is I hope my husband isn’t reading this because we spent p-l-e-n-t-y on the food experience. So worth it. I’d probably never done Vegas without a pool party in there (thanks to Mary’s cousin who is a promoter — did I mention how awesome she is?) but the food and booze was so enough to justify an amazing weekend away from home. And for me, it’s just over an hour flight. Please, take advantage of the cheap flights and better-than-cheap hotels. Go to Vegas — or whatever equivalent party city you’ve got — and experience it in the off-peak. It’ll make next time even sweeter.