One of the very best aspects of living in Hawaii is being able to hop on a plane and jet over to a different island for a quick weekend getaway. When Dane and I found out Island Air was relaunching their service to Kauai this March, we hopped on it for our trip to Princeville.
Fun fact: Island Air started as Princeville Airways in 1980, with service between Honolulu and Princeville airport, so our stay in Princeville brought everything full circle!
We got up bright and early Friday morning to catch our short 35 minute flight from Honolulu to Lihue. Kauai is the first island in the chain of Hawaiian Islands and the only island that we haven’t visited multiple times! We were there in 2012, but haven’t been back since, so we were eager to touchdown on the Garden Isle.
We try to book Island Air whenever possible, because they usually provide the most affordable inter-island travel rates. They’re also a travel alliance with United, so whenever we fly with them we rack up the frequent flier miles! #winning
One of the many things Dane and I do to make the most of our vacations is take the earliest possible flight from point A to point B. We arrived in Kauai at 6:30AM and hit the ground running. First up? Breakfast. Flying into Lihue, the Kalaheo Café is just a short jaunt from the airport and so tasty! Lots of gluten free, vegan and whole food options!
On a previous trip to Kauai, Dane and I covered Waimea Canyon, a Na Pali Coast boat tour and Poipu Beach, so our top priorities on this trip were hiking, discovering some hidden beaches friends had told us about and relaxation!
|Waimea Canyon, 2012 — we were babies!|
Admittedly, the weather wasn’t looking too great, so we nixed our plans to hike the Na Pali on Day 1. It wasn’t worth the risk of getting stuck on the trail in a rainstorm (to us, anyway) and decided to mosey around the southern coast and seeing where the wind took us.
We explored the Kauai Coffee Plantation and enjoyed our favorite flavor of their coffee, Banana Nut Crunch! They only sell this flavor in select locations, so we savored it for sure 🙂
From there, we continued along the southwest coast, stopping to enjoy the famed Tunnel of Trees, Hanapepe Swinging Bridge, and some stunning scenic points!
|When we were here in 2012, Dane got attacked by a swarm of bees that left him covered in stings. The entire time we were on the bridge, we both had our eyes peeled for any flying predators!|
By this point, we were kind of hungry again, so we decided that a stop at the Shrimp Station was in order. We have been dreaming of this place since our first visit to the Garden Isle and it truly is what shrimp dreams are made of. Do yourself a favor and GO!
When we drove as far as we could on the west side, we decided to loop back around and make our way toward our resort in Princeville. Again, we took our time and enjoyed all the colorful finds along the way!
|If you haven’t gathered by now, we are big fans of food and coffee!|
Before we checked into our hotel, we decided to check out the Kailauea Lighthouse. It’s being renovated, so we couldn’t hike out as far as we had hoped, but the views were still fabulous!
We started to see the sun peeking out from the clouds, so even though we were absolutely not dressed for the part…we attempted a hike that friends of ours told us about to a secret beach. I can, without a doubt, say that I should have worn different clothes, but man-oh-man..IT WAS PERFECT!
Once we got to the bottom, all Dane and I could talk about was how much Judy & Bill would love running around on this beach.
We were tired, hungry and really sweaty, which signaled that we needed to check into the Westin Princeville for showers and food…STAT!
Thankfully as soon as we arrived, we were told our room was ready and we had been upgraded to a poolside suite — BONUS!
The resort is a beautiful layout, with touches of old and new Hawaii throughout. Our suite was clean, well laid-out and came with a full kitchen, washer and dryer and spa tub. It also had a huge shower, which I’m always a super-fan of, along with a closed off area for using the toilet.
I love the little extras that the Westin always offer to make guests feel special, so it was no real surprise to me when a plate of superfoods and a special note showed up at our door, along with custom running trails of the property. Something I love about Starwood Resorts is their dedication to fitness for travelers like Dane and I who don’t take vacations from our workouts. It was a great surprise and something we definitely appreciated 🙂
We had dominated our day with so much activity, that a relaxing evening was definitely in order! We had been craving Mexican food for quite some time, so we took a trip up to Hanalei Bay to watch the sunset, followed by completely devouring some tacos and passing out hard back at the Westin.
We let ourselves sleep in on Saturday, before deciding to conquer some hiking! We hadn’t come all this way to Kauai to let overcast skies put a damper on our fun, so we packed up our backpack and set off. The first two miles of the Na Pali Coast don’t require a hiking permit, so that was our first stop.
I couldn’t get over how lush and green everything was! The weather was holding up (and the wind actually felt really nice), so we decided to check out Queen’s Bath before entering full relaxation mode at the pool that afternoon.
I should probably say at this point that any vacation with Dane and I is equal parts adventurous and relaxing. We had enjoyed lots of adventure, so we were ready for the relaxing portion of the show!
We set up shop at the pool, ordered a round of drinks from Wailele and enjoyed the sun, each other and diving into our books. For some reason, pool time always passes much faster than work time (note to self: look into that!), so soon it was time to head back to our room to shower and clean up for our date night at NANEA with Chef Esteban Alicea.
|Dress | Shoes|
I’ll be the first person to admit that when Dane and I travel, it’s our goal to eat and drink exceptionally well. High end, low end, shack on the side of the street? It doesn’t matter — we probably want to try it. So when Chef Esteban offered to cook us up something special on his home turf at NANEA, we were super excited. NANEA caters to vacationers with food allergies and special requests, which made the deal even sweeter.
We started with a round of Bourbon Carrot Mules (so delish!), followed by crisp Pinot Grigio, gluten free rolls with homemade butter and two of the chef’s specialty from-the-sea appetizers.
First up, we had the Garlic Shrimp with sauteéd vegetables and house-made onion dipping sauce. It was just as amazing as it sounds.
Next, we tried Chef Esteban’s fresh ahi carpaccio. Now, let me just tell you a little something about me — I would never in a million years have ordered this off the menu. I would have skipped over it and opted for the beef carpaccio or the bruschetta; however, I can earnestly tell you that this was my favorite part of the meal. The mix of flavors and fresh fish was a treat to the senses and it’s a dish I will be talking about (and dreaming about) for many months to come.
NANEA offers guests the ability to mix meal options, so Dane and I both went with a surf and turf selection. I chose the filet and fresh ono, while Dane opted for the ribeye and ono. Both were cooked perfectly and paired with seasonal vegetables, roasted garlic and my favorite…potatoes!
And because no meal is ever complete without a sweet ending, we dove right into the dessert menu! We shared a Keoki Coffee, a rich blend of Brandy, Kahlua, Crème de cacao and Kauai Coffee. It was beginning to get a little chilly, so it was the perfect treat to warm us up.
I chose a goat cheese cheesecake with a side of homemade coconut ice cream. This dessert blew my mind and if I could start (and end) all of my days with it for the rest of my life, I would be a happy camper. This photo does it absolutely no justice, but I assure you — it was amazing.
Dane chose Apple Banana Bread Pudding and promised me it was as delicious as it sounds.
I love that NANEA and Chef Esteban source their ingredients for all aspects of your meal from local farmers and companies. It feels good knowing your dining experience is supporting local!
Our return flight back to Oahu was leaving early the next morning, so we called it a night instead of venturing out to any other bars. All too soon, our alarms were going off, we were checking out and kissing vacation goodbye.
Until next time, Kauai!