You might be thinking, “Why is Kathryn sharing her honeymoon with us before she shares her wedding?” And I would agree that it seems out of order. The thing is, our wedding photos are currently going through the submission/review process for print media, which means I can’t share with you them just yet. But I’ve been itching to share something of our nuptials with you, and our honeymoon counts, right? Plus it’s the middle of winter, so it seemed a good time for an island getaway, don’t you think?
Also, forgive me if this is the longest post ever – I haven’t written a travel post before, so I’m sort of figuring it out as I go along, and I’d love to hear your (nicely worded) feedback.
Since we were getting married in December, Ryan and I knew we wanted to go somewhere warm for our honeymoon, and since we had only five days to travel, we wanted something that wasn’t too far away. We enlisted the help of Katie at Ever After Honeymoons, we talked with some friends who had recently traveled to Hawaii, and after considering a few different options, Ryan and I decided to stay at the St. Regis Princeville Resort on the island of Kauai. Cue gorgeous photos, courtesy of the St. Regis.
I’ll tell you right now, the pool was my favorite part of our trip, second only to the helicopter ride. I could happily have stayed there, sipping chilled citrus water (or a mai tai) and reading my book, for the entire 5 days we were on the island. Right on the beach, with amazing views of Hanalei Bay, plus awesome poolside service, lounging with my new hubby. Really, does it get any better than that?
The overall feel of our room was a sort of refined contemporary Hawaiian – sophisticated, comfortable, elegant but not fussy. And yes, the view is pretty much unbeatable.
We luckily made our appointment at the resort’s Halele’a Spa for the day it poured buckets. Though my massage was not the best I’ve had, tea and cookies in the spa’s lounge, followed by the sauna and steam room, more than made up for it. Head’s up: the steam room is intense. I kind of loved it. Stepping out of it to an ice cold face towel felt amazing. (You can also book certain spa treatments in oceanside cabanas. Maybe next time if it’s not raining…)
Oh look, another picture of the pool. How did that get in there? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
End gorgeous photos. Begin sub-par photos taken by yours truly. (My disclaimer for the following photos is that Ryan and I, in our post-wedding haze, failed to pack his digital camera or enough film for my little 35mm, leaving us with one roll of film from our honeymoon, and about three decent shots. Let’s call it a learning experience.)
Hibiscus flower at the St. Regis.
Palm trees near Kapa’a, on the drive from the airport in Lihue to our hotel in Princeville.
We had originally booked an economy rental car with Alamo, figuring we’d rather spend our money somewhere else, but when we got there they were really friendly and gave us a special honeymoon deal so we could upgrade to a convertible for not much more per day (less than if we’d booked a convertible from the start). Kauai’s not a big island, but I promise, if you plan on leaving your hotel at all, a convertible is totally worth it – it made all of our sightseeing infinitely more fun. (Believe it or not, this is one of the better photos we ended up with. Somehow I managed to blink in a photo that I was taking of myself. Ryan is sporting a Tommy Bahama shirt on loan from my dad. And no, he did not shave once on our honeymoon.)
This is the view from our hotel room. Stunning is the only word for it, even with the shoddy photography. We were pretty lucky with the weather on our trip, and only had one day of rain the whole time. The next morning, we counted at least 15 waterfalls that had appeared on the cliffs outside our window.
This may or may not be my husband blow drying his hair.
(Excellent example of our major photo fail: No photos from our helicopter trip. Ryan thought this bobble-head look was a hilarious alternative.) One of the coolest parts of our trip, and something I encourage for anyone who travels to Kauai, was a helicopter tour of the island. There are several companies to choose from, and we opted for Jack Harter‘s doors-off tour, recommended to us by the St. Regis concierge who was super helpful with setting everything up. Doors-off literally means there are no doors on the helicopter, which makes an already indescribable experience even more breathtaking. We saw parts of the island you can’t see any other way, dipping into canyons, getting up close to waterfalls, flying along sea cliffs of the Na’Pali Coast. Kauai might not offer the nightlife or shopping scene of other Hawaiian islands, but its beauty is unparalleled and a helicopter tour is totally worth it.
Good thing we got a photo of one of Kauai’s wild chickens. These things are all over the island – a wild rooster actually gave us a wake up call two of the mornings we were there (sort of funny, mostly not).
Despite the fact that it was raining, and that he was wearing totally inappropriate footwear, Ryan insisted on trekking down the trail to Queen’s Bath (a swimming “pool” carved into a lava shelf). See those steps he’s on? I made it to the bottom of those in my sandals, until they turned into a slick downhill mud slide and I turned around. Ryan made it to these waterfalls and took photos to show me what I missed. (Queen’s Bath is supposed to be amazing, so if you’re in Kauai when the weather is good and the surf isn’t dangerous, check it out and let me know how it is.)
I think this is my favorite picture of the two of us from our trip, on our last night in Kauai. Most of the time, both for the sake of variation and our wallets, Ryan and I opted to eat somewhere other than the hotel. But cocktails and small plates at the St. Regis Bar were delish and the setting was brilliant, so four out of the five nights, we watched the sunset there. The view is spectacular and the vibe is elegant yet totally relaxed. For food and drinks, we especially liked the Dark & Stormy cocktail, the chicken samosas, and beef satay. After dark, we moved into the lounge for traditional Hawaiian music, which was a nice treat for our last night on the island.
I would be remiss if I didn’t make a point to note how near perfect the service was at St. Regis Princeville. From the valet to the pool service to the concierge, every single staff member we came into contact with was friendly and helpful, without being overbearing. Exactly what you’d expect and want from such a beautiful hotel.
So that’s it for the photos! But in case you’re inspired to take your own Kauai honeymoon, and you want a couple more suggestions, read on. Otherwise, I appreciate you making it this far – this was a long post! Probably another good reason to post our honeymoon before our wedding, so I can practice my editing skills.
This isn’t everything, but it’s what we might highlight if we were to loan you our Kauai travel books.
Ryan and I were in serious need of new luggage, so we bought a Briggs & Riley carry-on for each of us. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve been using terrible luggage for the past ten years, but I freaking love my new suitcase. I’ve used it three times in the last month and the thing holds a ton of stuff, it doesn’t fall over or give me problems when I wheel it around, and best of all, it fits in the overhead compartment. Not the sexiest suitcase of them all, but the best purchase I’ve made in awhile.
We took three travel books with us, as well as a list of recommendations from friends. The books we found most helpful were The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook: Kauai Revealed by Andrew Doughty and Kauai Restaurants And Dining With Princeville And Poipu Beach by Robert Carpenter. And then of course I had to bring some Stieg Larsson for poolside entertainment.
If you forget anything (like extra film, cough cough) or need to pick up things you couldn’t carry-on, like sunscreen, there’s a Long’s Drugs in Kapa’a, between the Lihue airport and the St. Regis Princeville.
When you’re driving along the northern part of the island, be aware of one-lane bridges, which require you to yield to oncoming traffic. One of the quirkiest things about Kauai, they make you feel a little like you’re in another country.
Things to Do and See
A helicopter trip is worth the splurge. Jack Harter‘s doors-off tour was jaw-dropping and exciting, and unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I don’t remember who gave me this tip, but make your reservation for the beginning of your trip so that you can re-schedule in case it’s cancelled on account of the weather. If you’re staying at the St. Regis, the concierge can set everything up for you. Also, if you’re doing the doors-off tour, you’ll probably want to wear jeans and a sweatshirt, or something that will keep you warm when you’re up in the air.
Visit the historic Kilauea Lighthouse, which is now part of a wildlife refuge. This is where we had our single whale spotting!
Stop by the Waipa Farmers Market, at 2:00 on Tuesday. We picked up some exotic fruit (rambutan and longan, which are also called dragon eyes, and which you need to eat while on the island since you won’t be able to take them home with you), and a slice of chocolate coconut macaroon pie. We also bought some lilikoi and banana jams to give as Christmas presents (just make sure to put them in your checked luggage so they don’t get confiscated by airport security… ahem).
Places to Eat
As I said just above, the St. Regis Bar was one of our very favorite spots, with great drinks, delicious small plates, and an ambience that can’t be beat (especially at sunset).
Another place we patronized more than once was the Kilauea Bakery. All your favorite breakfast pastries, with ingredients like lilikoi (passion fruit), coconut, papaya and macadamia nuts. Ryan also really liked their garlic bagel toasted with cream cheese. (Off Highway 56, on the way to the Kilauea Lighthouse.)
We had excellent grilled catch-of-the-day sandwiches at Hanalei Gourmet. Nothing fancy about this place, but that was some really good fish. For dessert, stop at Wishing Well Shave Ice and order your sno-cone “Hawaiian-style” with mac nut ice cream (a scoop of ice cream underneath your sno-cone; if you’ve ever had a sno-cone in Texas or New Orleans with cream on top, you’ll understand this right away).
The day we went on our helicopter tour, we did a little exploring around the southern part of the island, including a stop at Poipu Beach. If you find yourself in this area around lunch time, try a Hawaiian-style hot dog at Puka Dog. What they call “mustard” was more like flavored mayonnaise. Still good, but definitely not mustard.
For all the kitschy souvenirs and gift items you could possibly want, go to Hilo Hattie in Lihue. We left there with a hula doll Christmas ornament, three ukuleles for three of our nephews, two hula skirt sets for our two nieces, and boxes of chocolate covered macadamia nuts and white chocolate macadamia nut pineapple crunch, which Ryan declared the most delicious thing he’s ever tasted.
If for any reason you need an outfit, Cake Nouveau is a cute (and teeny) boutique near Kilauea Bakery. I found a beautiful black and white silk chiffon wrap dress that was made by a local Kauai designer, and didn’t break the bank (you can see the very top of it in that last photo).
Yellowfish Trading Co. has a unique (albeit pricey) collection of vintage and new Hawaiiana. Lots of kitschy, cool items like vintage hula dollas, as well as more unusual items like an old Bible in Hawaiian. (Hanalei Center)
A big thanks to St. Regis Princeville Resort for the media rate for our room. And for the impeccable service and gorgeous setting, of course!