About Wildnat Vacations

When I vacation I love to experience the culture and essence of the region I am traveling to. In order to do so I research the heck out of my destination to learn the customs, local haunts, and best things to do. I’m an active person and love to get out and hike, boat, fish, and discover hidden gems. I’m not the type of lady to sit around at a resort all day and soak up the sun while sipping on a piƱa colada. If you want advice on where to go to experience the culture and essence of a region, you’ve found the right place!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Kauai My Way

One of the many beautiful beaches on Kauai.
Kauai is known as the Garden Isle for its lush rainforests, rustic hiking trails, and picturesque beaches. It is home to the Kalalau hiking trail, Waimea Canyon, and the famous Na Pali Coast. Several blockbuster Hollywood films and TV shows have been shot here including Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Avatar, South Pacific, Fantasy Island, the pilot episode of Gilligan’s Island, and many, many more. After researching all of the islands, I knew Kauai was the one to go to for the real Hawaiian experience.

I planned a four-night/five-day vacation for my birthday in April 2011. I live in Los Angeles, California and sometimes this city really drains me. I wanted to get out of the city and experience the natural beauty of Kauai. My vacation included hiking the Kalalau trail, which is some of the best hiking in the world, photographing secluded beaches, driving to the top of Waimea Canyon, and experiencing the local cuisine; pork and poi.

Below you will find my itinerary, tips, and links to valuable trip planning resources. Please feel free to ask questions and share your tips, photos, and videos with me. I hope this information is helpful in planning your trip to Kauai. Aloha!

Research Resources
Guide Book: The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook by Andrew Doughty. This book became an invaluable resource while planning my trip to Kauai. Mr. Doughty knows his stuff and will save you hours of research. I read this book front to cover about a month before my trip and based most of my itinerary off of his guidance. A must buy for your trip. Click here to purchase the book on amazon.com at a great price.

Tripadvisor.com: I spent several hours reading reviews from fellow Kauai travelers. This is how I found out about the Kauai Photography tour which is a must do for anyone into photography or anyone wanting to discover Kauai’s hidden treasures. Click here to visit Tripadvisor’s Kauai page.

Yelp: I checked out Yelp.com to read restaurant reviews. Yelp always seems to be dead on.

Flickr.com: Once I began mapping out my itinerary I started searching on Flickr.com for photos of the areas I wanted to visit. This gave me a great overview of what to expect and also showed me interesting ways to photograph Kauai once I arrived. My Flickr page can be found here.

Youtube.com: I did a search on youtube to view travel movies and landscapes. You can view my travel movie by clicking here. Hopefully it will help you plan your own vacation itinerary.

What to bring
I am one of those people who never check my baggage on a flight. My advice is always to pack light. Kauai has a very casual and relaxing environment so leave your suites and fancy dresses at home! My plan on this trip was to see the real Kauai; hike through rainforests and red dirt trails, eat at local haunts, watch sunsets from the beaches, and only go to my hotel for sleep. Here is my packing list for my 5 day Kauai adventure:


  • 1 Pair tennis shoes for hiking Women's Tennis Shoes Men's Tennis Shoes
  • 2 Pair cargo type shorts
  • 1 Pair nice jeans
  • 4 T-Shirts
  • 2 Tank Tops
  • 2 Casual evening tops
  • 1 Sun dress
  • 1 Bathing suite
  • Hairbrush and hair bands
  • Disposable contacts and my glasses – sun and regular
  • And of course your unmentionables – underwear, socks, etc.
  • Not clothing but a must is Sunscreen and Bug Guard. You can purchase Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard plus Sunscreen on Amazon. This stuff works great!
Everything else I bought at Wal-Mart when I landed on the island!

Photographers and Videographers

Camera Equipment

Video Equipment
Point and Shoot Vacationers
The BEST point and shoot camera I've come across is the Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100 IV 20.1. This little guy is capable of professional photos and 4K video recording! Runs around $950 on Amazon. If that's a bit out of your budget, I'd recommend one of its sister cameras: Sony RX-100M III, Sony RX-100B, or Sony RX-100M2B.

Pro Tips
If you are a photographer bring a polarizer! This filter will be essential in bringing home some amazing ocean view shots. A polarizer works just like your polarized sunglasses – it removes the glare from the water so you can see all of the different colors and reefs below. The polarizer filter should be rotated when you are framing your shot to remove the glare from the water. This is a must have when shooting tropical or sunny scenes.

Notice how the polarizer reduces the glare and brings out the reefs.
When shooting video I always shoot like I see the world – this means I don’t do too many panning shots or crazy trick shots. I just shoot like my eyes see the scene in front of me. This will give your audience a real life perspective of your trip.

I used a Joby Gorilla Tripod to shoot driving scene. I attached the tripod to my dashboard with duct tape and shot some great countryside driving shots which were great when transitioning from one location to the next in my Kauai vacation movie. I first tried a dashboard mount but it didn't stick the the car's dashboard.

My first stop on Kauai was at the local Wal-Mart right next to the airport. I picked up all of my essentials for the week.
  • Shampoo and Conditioner
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • 24-pack of water
  • Insulated bag to keep my water and food purchases cold on my travels. I also used this as my carry-on bag going home.
  • Beach towel. They have Hawaii themed beach towels at Wal-Mart. Great souvenir and will save a lot of room in your suitcase!
Believe it or not, Wal-Mart is also an excellent place to purchase souvenirs. They have all of the stuff the boutique stores have on the island and for a much cheaper price. Seriously, the SAME stuff! Save your money for Mai-Tai’s, fresh pineapple, and local cuisine; buy your souvenirs here.


Day One – Arrive on Kauai
Wailua Falls
I landed on Kauai around 1PM. After picking up my rental car, a mustang convertible, I stopped by the Wal-Mart to pick up my supplies.

1:00PM – Arrive on Kauai
1:30PM – Pick up rental car
2:30PM – Wal-Mart
3:30PM – Wailua Falls, also known as the waterfall from the opening credits of Fantasy Island. This is a must see and a quick trip from the airport.
4:30PM – Head over to my hotel. The Aston Islander on the Beach located on the east shore. I highly recommend staying on the east shore. It is centrally located and will really maximize your time on the island as both the south and north shores are easily accessible.
8:00PM – Dinner at Hukilau Lani. This was my favorite dinner restaurant on the Island. It was within walking distance from my hotel. Show up about a half-hour early to sip a mai tai and listed to local music.

Pro Tip:
  • Tune to channel 3 while unpacking. This is the visitor channel and will give you a great overview of the Island.

Day Two – Photography Tour
A unique shot of Kalalea Mountain that I would have never found on my own.
6:00AM – Up and at ‘em! Because Hawaii is 4 hours behind Los Angeles it made it very easy to get up for the sunset.
8:00AM – Breakfast at Eggberts. Eggberts was by far my favorite breakfast stop on the island. Eggs benedict and a mimosa is a great way to start off your day!
10:00AM – Arrive at the photo gallery for the Photography tour. I took the Kauai Photo Tour 1 for $119 plus tax and tip. This tour hits about 12 locations on the east and north shores. You will discover beaches and sites not in any guidebook. The tour is about 5 hours and will give you a great basis for what to see in your remaining days on the island. You will also walk away with gorgeous photos from your vacation. If you are into photography or just want to see some Kauai gems, this tour is a must! Please see my links section below for a link to the tour website and also a link to my Flickr page.
5:00PM – I drove back up to the north shore to the Hanalei Lookout. This is a must for a postcard shot of the stunning taro fields.
7:00PM – Arrive at Hanalei Pier for a picturesque sunset.
9:00PM – Dinner at Hukilau Lani.

Day Three – North shore - Kalalau Trail hike, Kalalau Lighthouse, Stunning Sunset
Kalalau Trail
6:00AM – Coffee on the lanai while watching the sun come up!
7:30AM – Head up to the north shore.
8:30AM – Breakfast at Java Kai at the Hanalei center across from Ching Young Village.
9:00AM – Strolled around Ching Young Village and bought a cute t-shirt.
10:00AM – Drove up to Ke’e beach to enter the Kalalau Trail
11:00AM – Started hiking the Kalalau Trail to Hanakapi’ai Beach. This was one of the highlights of my trip, however it is a tough hike and not for the faint of heart. I don’t recommend taking anyone under the age of 12 on this day trip.
2:00PM - Arrive at Hanakapi’ai Beach. It took me a long time to hike the 2 mile trek because I kept stopping to take photos and video along the trail. The views are stunning, so take your time! I hung out on the beach for a couple hours. You aren’t able to swim at the beach because of the strong currents; however, it is secluded and very relaxing. The beach is a great reward for the hard hike out.
4:00PM – I hike back to Ka’pe beach. The hike back didn’t take as long because I just pushed right through. I will say there was a point I thought I was going to pass out and die. It was 80+ degrees and I was hiking uphill most of the way back. Be sure to bring a few bottles of water with you!
5:30PM – Drive over to Kilauea Lighthouse. I arrived after the bird sanctuary closed. This was fine with me as I just wanted the classic shot of the lighthouse.
6:30PM – I drove up the road a little ways and noticed several locals pulled over on the side of the road. I pulled over and saw a beautiful view of the Na Pali coastline. I hung out with everyone for a few hours and witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen! I highly recommend trying to get here for a sunset.
7:30PM – Drive back to the hotel.
8:30PM – Dinner at Hikilau Lani

Pro Tip:
  • Bring a hiking stick if you plan on hiking the Kalalau trail. I used my monopod for one and I was really glad I had it.
  • Be sure you are wearing proper hiking shoes. The trails can be dangerous and proper shoes are essential.
  • Bring plenty of water with you. You will get dehydrated.
  • Take your time and enjoy the views. The Kalalau trail is one of the most stunning hiking trails in the world.
  • Do not swim the waters of Hanakapi’ai Beach. The currents are deceitfully strong and dangerous.
  • Take it all in.

Day Four – South shore, Waimea Canyon, Kauai Coffee Plantation, Spouting Horn, and Shipwreck Beach
Waimea Valley
6:00AM – Wake Up!
7:30AM – Drive down to spouting horn. I really wanted to get to spouting horn early in the morning before all of the tourist showed up.
8:30AM – Arrive at Spouting Horn. This is a pretty quick stop and you’ll take home some cool photos. The little souvenir booths open up around 9:00AM. They have cheap jewelry and little knickknacks. I bought a very cute turtle necklace and a dashboard hula girl for a great price. I left around 9:30 right as a big tour bus was pulling in.
10:00AM – Arrive at Kauai Coffee Plantation. If you are really into coffee this is a fun stop. They have free taste testing and you can walk around the coffee bean fields. I grabbed a muffin and some fresh coffee here.
12:00PM – Arrive at the base of Waimea canyon. The drive up to the lookout is breathtaking. Be sure to stop on the way up for some stunning photos. I spent a good 4 hours in Waimea canyon. Unfortunately the lookout was fogged in, but I still went all the way to the top which I highly recommend. Fogged in or not, this was a great way to spend an afternoon. I had lunch at the top of the canyon. The roads are very rough going up. I was driving a mustang convertible and was convinced I was going to blow a tire. Be careful!
4:00PM – Arrive at Shipwreck Beach. I spent the remainder of my day watching people jump off the cliff. I also decided to hike to the top of the cliff and found an awesome hiking trail! This was the perfect way to spend my last full day on the island.
8:00PM – Dinner at the East Side. This restaurant had rave reviews on Yelp. I personally did not enjoy it all that much. The food was pricey but pretty good. However, the atmosphere was too hipster/Los Angeles for my taste. I live in LA and I went to Hawaii to escape all of that nonsense.

A cliff jumper at Shipwreck Beach
Pro Tip:
  • Arrive at Spouting Horn in the morning before all of the tourists arrive. You’ll be able to take photos without random strangers in your shots.
  • Take a gander at the little souvenir booths at Spouting Horn. You’ll find some cute and cheap jewelry and knickknacks.
  • Stop along the side of the road on your way up Waimea Canyon. You will see spectacular views and if you look out to the ocean you will see the Forbidden Island.
  • Even if Waimea Canyon is fogged in go all the way to the top.
  • On your way down Waimea Canyon take the road that forks off to the right. This is a beautiful drive down and you will see great views of the pacific.
  • If you go to Shipwreck Beach, hike up to the top of the cliff where you see the people jumping off. You will find a great hiking trail up there.

Day Five – Last day on the Island
A Beautiful Hawaiian Rainbow!
6:00AM – Pack and sip coffee on the lanai for the last time.
8:00AM – Check out and head to Eggberts for breakfast
10:00 AM – Hit up Wal-Mart for last minute souvenir shopping. (Kauai cookies, Macadamia Nuts, Coconut Candle, Hawaii lotion, Kauai Coffee, and a ukulele.)
11:30AM – I hung out on the beach at the Kauai Marriot until I had to go to the airport.
3:00PM – Airport and head home.

Pro Tip:
  • If you find yourself with time at the airport, stop at the bar and say hi to Val the bartender. She’s a gem!
Where to stay: Stay on the east shore. Aston Islander at the Beach was a clean and safe condo/hotel. I loved my time here. The beds were very comfortable and the views were rustic. Another great choice is the Kauai Marriot by the airport. This is a little more resortesque option.

Where to book your trip: I found the best deal on American Airlines Vacations. I booked a Flight/Hotel/Car package. This site was about $400 cheaper than other travel sites. https://www.aavacations.com/

Youtube: You can view my Kauai vacation movie on my Youtube page. Hopefully this will provide a great overview of the island. http://youtu.be/gpJ2U0HXOsI

Flicker: You can view my Kauai photos on my flicker site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/natashabishop/sets/72157626580886686/

You can buy my Kauai prints here: http://natasha-bishop.artistwebsites.com

You can buy Kauai prints from other talented photographers here: kauai prints

Photography tour page: If you are into tours or photography this is the one to take! http://www.hawaiianphotos.net/Kauaitours.htm

Amazon: I buy all of my vacation supplies on amazon.com. Best prices on the net!

Twitter: Follow me on twitter. http://www.twitter.com/natashabishop

Like Me on FB: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Natasha-Bishop/122473091555

Thank you for reading – please feel free to leave comments, post your own tips, and ask questions!

Until next time,