One week ago today I got home from Hawaii's beautiful Garden Island, Kauai!
Pre-Trip Prep Work
It was my first trip to Kauai and as you may know I am a researcher. I like to know what to expect from a new place. I like to plan ahead, but I am not one to plan every minute. I want to know what is there, get an idea of what I would like to do, where I would like to eat, etc, then once I get there (armed with the info), I play it by ear as I explore on my own. I usually research places online and buy a guidebook before I go.
If you also like to plan from guidebooks, use this one:
I love this guidebook, It is the best. I have one for Oahu and for the Big Island as well. I highly recommend them!
After reading this book, I knew that there was WAY more I wanted to do than I could possibly do in a week. So, before we left home, I marked the things I REALLY wanted to do:
AND the places where I wanted to eat:
Then during the trip, I took notes on the things I did and liked (so I can use my notes to plan my next Kauai trip):
I recommend doing something similar to organize your massive to do (or to eat) list.
A bit of background specifically about my trip to Kauai:
Why was I there and who was I with: The reason I had this awesome chance to go to Kauai was because my husband had a conference for Continuing Medical Education there. My kids were in school though, so I was only able to go with Wes because my awesome mom came to stay with the kids while we were gone! So, it was just me and my husband this time. (BUT I feel it is of note that this island is truly an island of adventures and is very family friendly. I cannot wait to bring our kids here some day!)
Transportation: I always research quite a bit for flights before I buy them. This time the best deal was through United (bought on their site was cheaper than using other travel site options). It was a good deal, but now that I have flown several different airlines between the Mainland and Hawaiian islands, I would pay a little more just to fly on Delta. There are so many things about their flights that are just more convenient-in seat plugs for phones, individual screens with free entertainment at each seat, and not so crazy about weight of luggage (Hawaiian airlines reweighed our bags at least 5 times even though we weren't close to the limits). United had "personal device entertainment" available on your own device IF you had downloaded their most updated app and IF you had an iPhone or an Android 4.3 or higher (except in reality it doesn't work with newer Androids as we learned on our flight) AND they did not have plugs for phones which was inconvenient since our flight info we were emailed indicated otherwise. Wes and I were ok with it and simply read books instead of the entertainment we had planned on, but if we had been flying with our kids and counting on the promised entertainment for them it would have been a nightmare!
Also, I would definitely recommend renting a car while on Kauai. I would even consider renting a Jeep or SUV. Kauai has some wild roads that you will want to have 4WD to explore. (Check out the 36 second video below to see why you may want a Jeep) A friend of mine HIGHLY recommended that I rent a Jeep there so we did and it was totally worth it!
Lodging: Since Wes was going to a conference, there was a discounted rate to stay at the hotel where the conference was being held. We took advantage of that discount and stayed at the amazing Grand Hyatt. Here's a few pictures I took of the hotel (They are all from the back/beach side, most are views from my room):
Let me tell you, this hotel was amazing! It is fancy-there are several (pricey) restaurants, 5 acres of pools (FREE to guests), tons of shopping, and nice beach, etc, etc. I am fairly certain my kids would not want to leave the resort if we stayed here with them. But of course, you pay a price for the fancy hotel. Even the boat captain made a joke about staying at this hotel when we went on our whale watching cruise. It is for sure upper end accommodations, and we may not be able to stay here without the discount (or without careful planning and saving to do so).
At this point, I do not have any advice as to where you might stay for a better deal since I only looked at the hotel where the conference was this time. I know lots of families stayed in vacation homes and they sounded more reasonably priced. I am sure if you plan ahead and do some research, you can find reasonably priced accommodations for your budget.
So, now you know why I went, who I was with, where I stayed and how I got around. Activities and Food will need their own posts! Watch for those soon!