This 9-day itinerary provides the essential details for a fun-filled celebration trip. Spend two days on Oahu at Waikiki, then seven days on Kauai. Read a celebration traveler’s tale in Hawaii: Cinematic Adventures. Fly across Kauai Channel to appreciate the mountainous landscape. Centuries of growth have formed tropical rain forests, thunderous waterfalls and lush sea cliffs. It rains nearly every day on Mt Waialeale, the summit is the earth’s wettest spot receiving 480 inches of rain a year. The Menehune, the first settlers to harness this resource, constructed aqueducts and fishponds. They were supplanted by the second wave of Polynesians. Then in 1778 British explorer James Cook landed in Waimea Bay. In 1835 sugar barons opened the first sugar mill in Old Koloa Town. Now the sugar plantations are tourist attractions.
HAWAII Oahu. Kauai.
Plan Your Trip. Experience Kauai’s dramatic landscape first-hand. Tours range from luxury air tours to do-it-yourself bike rentals. Active travelers will enjoy the photo safari tour, the all-terrain vehicle tour, the sunrise bike tour down Waimea Canyon Road, the Na Pali Coast hike to Hanakapi‘ai beach, and surfing and stand-up paddle board lessons on Hanalei Bay. Boat tours (catamaran, Zodiacs) leave from Port Allen Marine Center in Eleele and go to Niihau and the Na Pali coast. Visit Kauai’s famous gardens: Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens, Allerton Gardens and Limahuli Garden. Movie tours are a perennial favorite. The Descendants was filmed in the north shore. The helicopter tour lands at the waterfall that appeared in Jurassic Park. Read about these and other movie sites in Chris Cook’s The New Kauai Movie Book (Mutual Publishing, 2013). Check out these tour operators: Kauai hiking tours. Adventure tours. Kauai Outfitters.
Learn More. Kauai is Hawaii’s oldest, northernmost island. The main airport is in Lihue. The island is 33 miles long and 25 miles wide. Of the two major resort areas, Poipu (south shore) is the drier area; Hanalei and Princeville (north shore) is wetter but very beautiful. Visit Kauai tourism and Oahu tourism for information and fun facts.
MORNING Fly to Honolulu (HNL). Take the airport shuttle to your hotel.
DAY 1 Honolulu Airport. Waikiki.
United, Delta, American, Air Canada, Qantas, Hawaiian and other major carriers fly to Oahu. Take advantage of direct flights and book early for the lowest airfares. Book the shuttle online and note your confirmation number. The representative meets guests in the baggage claim area.Getting There United Airlines Honolulu Airport (HNL)
Transportation Ilima Tours 800.713.0146 toll-free 808.836.1881
AFTERNOON Check into the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel for two nights.
Ask for a room on the upper floors. Even side-facing rooms provide a full view of Waikiki. I photographed dramatic sunsets from room 2325.Lodging Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel 2570 Kalākaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815 808.922.2511
EVENING Have dinner at Tiki’s Grill & Bar. Enjoy outdoor entertainment.
Carved Tiki statues with elaborate headdresses and menacing expressions line the patio. The pupu menu is one of Waikiki’s best. Try the coconut shrimp, Kalua pig nachos and the prime rib poke. The salad greens on the Thai chicken & green papaya chop salad come from Nalo Farms. On Saturday and Sunday nights, a 30-foot movie stretches across the beach across from the Honolulu Zoo. Check the movie schedule.Restaurant Tiki’s Grill & Bar Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel 808.923.8454
Event Sunset On The Beach Queen’s Beach, Waikiki Beach.
MORNING Tour movie sites on Kualoa Ranch.
DAY 2 Oahu
Purchased by a missionary ancestor, Kualoa Ranch has been in the Morgan family for six generations. So many movies and TV shows have been filmed here, the ranch is known as Hawaii’s backlot. You can tour the ranch by horseback, ATV, or safari bus. Spend time at the beach: take the shuttle boat across Moli’i Fish pond to Secret Island.Sight Kualoa Ranch 49-560 Kamehameha Hwy., Ka’a’awa 96730 808.748.3222
EVENING Have dinner at Chef Chai.
Chef Chai Chaowasaree uses fresh Hawaii ingredients with the Asian flavors. His signature dishes are the ahi katsu with tomato mango salsa, black tiger prawns in a macadamia crust, Thai oxtail soup, and mahi mahi with Thai red curry sauce. The dining room has two dazzling wine-bottle chandeliers. Located in Pacific Honolulu Tower.Restaurant Chef Chai 1009 Kapiolani Blvd., Honolulu. 96814 808.585.0011
EARLY MORNING Take the airport shuttle to Honolulu Airport. Fly to Kauai.
DAY 3 Honolulu Airport. Lihue Airport. Koloa Town. Poipu. East Side.
Book the 8:30 a.m. flight to have a full day in Kauai. Book a window seat for the 30-minute flight to Lihue Airport ((LIH) for a bird’s-eye view. SpeediShuttle is reliable and low-cost.Getting There Hawaiian Airlines 800.367.5320 Transportation SpeediShuttle 877.242.5777
MORNING Enjoy the thrills of the Jurassic Falls Helicopter Tour.
Imagine flying as low as 500 feet over Kauai’s iconic sights—Waimea Canyon, Mt. Waialeale Crater, Na Pali coast. The terrain is either inaccessible or private. You fly into the crater, between slits in the sea cliffs and to the top of waterfalls. The helicopter sets down near the base of the 400-foot “Jurassic Park” Manawaiopuna Falls. The Eurocopter A-Star flies smoothly even in wind and provides viewing from all six seats. Light colors reflect on the floor-to-ceiling windows so they provide black T-shirts.Sports & Recreation Island Helicopters Lihue Airport Helipads, Ahukini Rd., Lihue 800.829.5999 toll-free 808.245.8588
AFTERNOON Shop in Koloa Town. Have lunch at a beachfront restaurant. Take pictures of the Spouting Horn. Tour Allerton Garden.
Koloa Town preserves the plantation era architecture and century-old monkey pod trees. After browsing in the shops, have lunch in Poipu at Beach House Restaurant. Every seat has an ocean view and you can come in with sand on your feet. Ceviche, made with line-caught island fish marinated in citrus & lilikoi juice, is served in coconut shells. The spinach is topped with candied macadamia nuts and papaya dressing. Stop for photos at the Spouting Horn. The spray shoots as high as 50 feet. Next, tour the former estate of Richard Allerton, who landscaped a jungle into a tropical paradise in Lawai Valley. The paths wind beside towering banyon trees, swaying golden bamboo, and mango trees. Garden rooms feature marble statues, ornamental follies and water canals among the palms, ti, heliconias, and gingers. National Tropical Botanical Garden manages the property.Shop Old Town shops Maluhia Rd and Koloa Rd., Koloa Town. Restaurant Beach House Restaurant 5022 Lawai Rd, Poipu, Kauai 96756 808.742.1424 Sight National Tropical Botanical Garden Tour Allerton Visitors Center 4425 Lawai Road, Poipu, Kauai 96756 808.742.2623
EVENING Check into a beachfront hotel on the island’s east side for two nights.
The 25- acre resort overlooks three miles of white sandy beach on Kauai’s Coconut Coast. Ask for a room overlooking the torch-lit waterfalls and lagoon swimming pool. The island becomes a stage for evening entertainment.Lodging Kauai Beach Resort 4331 Kauai Beach Drive Lihue, Kauai 96766 866.536.7976 toll free 808.245.1955 Restaurant Shutter’s Lounge Kaua‘i Beach Resort
MORNING Visit the island’s movie sites.
DAY 4 Wailua Falls, Aliomanu, Kapaa. Hanalei. Lihue.
The island has appeared in countless movies as a fantasy island, a voodoo island, the Amazon jungle and a dinosaur theme park. The driver shows film clips of Gilligan’s Island, Blue Hawaii and the footage of the pounding surf and 120-mph winds of Hurricane Iniki taken by the Jurassic Park film crew hunkered down in a hotel ballroom.Sight Kaua‘i Movie Tour Roberts Hawaii Polynesian Adventures EVENING Have dinner at the Kilohana plantation estate.
The digs of a sugar baron is a palatial setting for dinner with views of Mt. Waialeale from the courtyard. Chef Todd Barrett draws on Kilohana’s 67-acre farm for produce and herbs as well as Kauai’s local farmers and fishermen. Try the sesame-seared ono or hoisin-glazed spare ribs.Restaurant Gaylord’s at Kilohana 3-2087 Kaumualii Hwy, Route 50, Lihue, 96766 808.245.5608
MORNING Take a guided photography tour of the North Shore.
DAY 5 North Shore
Sign up for a half-day photo tour. You practice shooting Mahalepu Beach, Hanapepe Swinging Bridge and Pokala Beach on the South Shore or Hanalei Taro Lohi, Ke’e Beach and Hanalei on the North Shore. Hanalei Bay is one of the most stunning sunset spots on the planet which Hawaiians named the “glowing breath of life.” You learn the elements of fine art photography in a series of exercises. The pickup times for sunrise, morning, afternoon and sunset.Sight Photo Safari Hawaii Photo Light Chaser Tour AFTERNOON Check into The Cliffs at Princeville for two nights.
Located on an ocean bluff in the Princeville residential community, the Cliffs are rows of two-story condo buildings. The condos are behemoth compared to a hotel room and for not much more in cost. The prime north shore surf beaches, hiking trails are at your doorstep.Lodging The Cliffs at Princeville 3811 Edward Road, Princeville 96722 808-826-6219 EVENING Go to Tahiti Nui on luau night.
You are treated like members of the Tahiti Nui family on luau night. Check in at 5 p.m. and until 6 p.m. enjoy free mai tais, considered the island’s best. The Kohala pig is ceremonially raised from its underground oven. The succulent pork is delicious. Grass-skirted hula dancers rattle gourds and gyrate their hips, even the owner’s 10-year-old niece, who is part of the show. The fire dancer twirls his fiery baton with skill and speed, etching a circle of fire. If you are on the island on a Wednesday night, be sure to go. Call ahead for reservations.Restaurant Tahiti Nui 5-5134 Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei 96714 (808) 826-6277
Take a surf lesson.
DAY 6 Hanalei Bay. Princeville.
Hanalei Bay, a two-mile sandy crescent between a cliff and a narrow point, has several surf spots. At Pinetrees waves break close to shore, it’s relatively shallow and has a sandy bottom. The instructor provides an 11- or 12-foot soft-top board, a leash and a nylon rash-guard shirt. You practice on the sand before paddling out. Stick with it and you’ll ride two or three waves. The instructor helps by pushing your board onto the coming wave. Tip: apply waterproof sunscreen to the backs of your legs to avoid sunburn.Sports & Recreation Hawaiian Surfing Adventures 5-5134 Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei, 96714 808.482.0749
EVENING Arrive before sunset. Have dinner at the St. Regis, Princeville
Chef Maxime Michaud dips into Jean-George Vongerichten’s portfolio of award-winning dishes. Settle in for an extravagant evening. We started with spiced chicken samosas with cilantro yogurt, followed by hamachi sushi with avocado and soy yuzu (an Asian citrus fruit) dressing. Next, cream tomato soup with aged cheddar, then sautéed Kona Lobster with butter cabbage, ginger scallion and mint. Each dish had an unexpected flavor, even the dessert: white chocolate and yuzu Pavlova with Thai basil syrup.Restaurant Kauai Grill 5520 Ka Haku Rd, Princeville, 96722 808.826.9644
MORNING Check into Hanalei Colony Resort for two nights.
DAY 7 Haena. Ke’e Beach.
If a vacation in the tropics means falling asleep to the sound of the sea, your wish is fulfilled. When you open the front door, the sparkling surf fills the view. I was in a corner condo in building H, second floor and feel asleep to the ocean waves and awoke to golden sunrises. The resort has a restaurant and a spa, but you have to drive to a good swimming beach. No worries, Hawaii’s most beautiful beach is at the end of the road.Lodging Hanalei Colony Resort 5-7130 Kuhio Highway, Haena, 96714 800.628.3004 toll free 808.826.6235
AFTERNOON Spend the rest of the day at Ke’e Beach
Tie a batik sarong around your bathing suit, grab a beach chair, snorkeling gear and ride the resort shuttle to Ke’e Beach. (Shutter driver also drives to Hanalei in case you need to rent snorkel gear).Ke’e has a life guard and is good for swimming and snorkeling. The reef fish swim around you, the light glinting from their green iridescent scales. You’ll also see the rugged Na Pali cliffs, rising 4,000 feet above the Pacific. Swamp mahogany trees shelter bathers from the sun. Use the shuttle service because parking spot are usually gone by 9 a.m. The driver also stops at the caves and Tunnels beach.Sports & Recreation Ke’e Beach Haena State Park, end of Kuhio Highway, Hwy. 56), Haena 808.274.3444
MORNING Have a spa treatment.
DAY 8 Haena
As in most good spas, the massage therapist will work out the kinks after a long hike. Deep tissue massage works wonders on tight hamstrings. The beach side massage room is more spacious and worth the added charge. For extra healing, book Shirodhara, a warm-oil massage, with Ayurveda-practitioner Darci Frankel.Spa Hanalei Day Spa Hanalei Colony Resort 808.826.6621
MORNING Fly home.
DAY 9 Lihue Airport (LIH)
United flies non-stop to San Francisco in five hours, a good option for connecting flights.Going home United Airlines Lihue Airport 3901 Mokulele Loop, Lihue 96766 808.274.3800
—Text and photography by Donna Peck