The past year has been quite a whirlwind. Auggie was born late in 2015 and the first six months of his life were wrought with challenges I never expected which left us at home non-stop for the majority of the first half of the year. The idea of a legitimate family vacation felt like a far off dream back then. But as we have settled into parenthood and I finally got back to work, traveling with a baby seemed manageable, even exciting, do-able. So when Hilton Garden Inn reached out asking if I wanted to partner with them and head to Kauai, Hawaii for a week this winter it didn’t take long for me to say yes.
I have dreamed of going to Kauai for as far back as I can remember – a friend of mine from college whose dad lived there, and whom spent every college break getting an amazing tan, always talked about Kauai like it was this magical exotic far off wonderland. We’ve also lived in the PNW for nearly a decade and it seemed absolutely absurd that we still hadn’t taken a Hawaiian vacation since there are direct flights to Lihue right from our backyard. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that Kauai had to happen and with a baby in tow no-less!
We arrived in Hawaii and were immediately giddy. The palm trees, the vastness of the ocean and the sunset…oh the sunsets. I forgot just how beautiful the setting sun could be and how it could do things to the sky not even the most skilled painter could recreate. We got settled into our cute cottage accommodations pretty quickly, covering the windows with trash bags and painters tape (if you’re a parent and haven’t used this trick yet to blackout a room while traveling it’s the easiest and breeziest! and if you’re not a parent, TRUST ME…100% worth the effort) and laying out Auggie’s adorable swimsuits that by some miracle still fit from early July when we bought them (thank you lycra!).
We went down to the beach as quickly as we could (which was just a short two minute walk from our room across the lawn and right on Wailua Bay!) and soaked in the first of many gorgeous cotton candy sunsets and sunrises. It felt so overwhelmingly beautiful and comforting to watch the warmth of the sun fall on my boys’ sweet faces as it escaped under the horizon, and to hear the bellowing sounds of the waves hitting the shore. Auggie had never been to a real oceanside beach before, so seeing his little toes bury themselves in the sand was pure joy for this mama.
After an AH-MAZING nights sleep in the comfy king sized bed we headed up to The Garden Grille on site for our first breakfast as a family. We immediately ordered pancakes smothered in the most amazing fresh coconut syrup, an omelette filled with every vegetable imaginable and consumed as much fresh papaya and pineapple as we could stomach. Auggie’s sleep schedule means his actual meals happen when we usually don’t have time to eat with him or are at hours we aren’t as hungry, so it was the most fun to sit at the restaurant as a family and actually eat a meal together. The simplest of pleasures, but such a treat! He was so proud of himself to be sitting at the table right alongside mama and papa. When we were done with breakfast we decided to take a walk around the property, swooning over the pretty pool and the ocean views as we went.
After breakfast and our wander, Adam stayed back and put Auggie down for a nap and I hopped in the car to explore the island. We had brought our favorite babysitter Susanna along on the trip to help with Auggie so Adam and I could actually enjoy some of the excursions we had planned and we could both work as needed. Susuanna wasn’t occupied that morning so I brought her along on my day trip adventure which was SO fun.
Just a thirty minute gorgeously scenic drive from the Hilton Garden Inn was the Kilauea Lighthouse. The views were absolutely impeccable and I was in total shock just how turquoise the water was against the rocks. Oh my gosh and the humidity…the closer we were to the beach and the more it sprinkled drops of rain, the more untamed my hair always got! By the end of our trip I finally just gave in and let it go as wild as it wanted.
Before leaving the Kilauea area, we stopped to shop at Hunter Gatherer (an absolute must if you are ever on Kauai!) and nabbed a fresh juice from Kauai Juice Co. They have a location in downtown Kapaa as well and it was definitely a consistent staple of our trip.
I continued our afternoon drive north settling into the beach town of Hanalei. Wanting to get to a secluded place on the water, I pulled off the road at Waikoko Beach and had not a clue how to actually get down from the road to the water as there was a steep drop and appeared no walking route. Luckily a surfer with a cute little scraggly dog wearing a puka shell necklace (seriously, only in Hawaii!) was kind enough to give me and Susanna advice on how to make the trek down : “oh just take off your shoes and climb down the tree roots, they are super strong!” I looked at him in complete bewilderment and laughed a bit thinking he must be kidding? He wasn’t. So in an effort not to look like a seriously old lady in front of Susanna who is 10 years my junior, and with a determination to have an authentic Hawaiian experience, I clung to the tree roots and climbed my way down, feeling like a kid for the first time in years. Once we were down to the sand it was absolutely breathtaking. It was one of those postcard moments you wished you could live in forever.
That night after a relaxing drive back to our hotel along the coast, including a stop at Duane’s Ono-Char Burger for some grub (the teriyaki and pinapple burger was HEAVEN!), Adam and I left Augs with Susanna and set off for a luau and hula dancing performance at Smith’s. We were so entranced by their beautiful property and the botanic gardens. I also couldn’t get over how effortlessly those hula dancers make their hips shake! I don’t think I could shake my body like that even with years of practice!
Two of the things I enjoyed most during our time on Kauai was a helicopter ride we took with Safari Helicopters and our Na Pali sunset dinner cruise with Capt Andy’s. Neither Adam nor I had ever been in a helicopter before so it was such a thrilling adventure for us both (in all honesty, I was terrified before the flight especially now that we have a child who depends on us but it was something I will never regret doing). The views were SO beautiful and it was fun to see the coastline from so high up. And after living in Seattle for almost 10 years with not a single whale sighting, catching multiple views of humpbacks during our boat ride was an absolute thrill that made me cry. There is just something so stunningly beautiful about seeing animals in their wild habitat unrestricted right?
Every morning we made an effort to get to the beach before sunrise allowing us lots of time to adventure around town with Auggie. I’ve traveled many times before, but experiencing a new place through the eyes of your child takes the cake. Everything is new to them (the fresh pineapple and mango at the farmer’s market, the rusty stairs of the lifeguards post, people watching during brunch at Java Kai in Old Town) and everything is so much more fun because of it. I get so much satisfaction from solo travel, but having my little buddy along on this Hawaii trip was the cherry on top of such a great experience.
The morning before we flew back to Seattle, we took one last drive to see Wailua Falls, Opaekaa Falls and the Wailua River. I’m obsessed with waterfalls and my one regret of the trip was not having more time to go on a hike and wade in the calm waters under the falls (oh and not taking home any of the coconut syrup…dang it!). We got to Wailua Falls right after the sunrise and were the only ones taking in its misty glow…it was absolutely breathtaking. I also got to capture a few photos of my boys being extra cute which was an added bonus. This trip to Kauai will be one I will never forget and I’m so glad we got the opportunity to travel as a family to such an awe-inspiring place.
A few other worthwhile stops if you are ever on the island of Kauai:
1. Shipwrecked Kauai (really cute boutique with adorable baby clothes, cards, swimwear etc.)
2. Tiki Tacos (had some of the best tacos I’ve ever had here! HUGE quantity and perfect spiciness)
3. The Fresh Shave (we unfortunately ran out of time to stop here, but it was recommended to me more times than I can count)
4. Bike riding along the Kapaa Bike Path (the Hilton Garden Inn where we stayed let you check out bikes for 2 hours at a time free of charge!)
5. Snorkling on the north coast (we didn’t get a chance to do this this time around, but our babysitter said she saw the most amazing fish)
6. Koloa Rum Company (go to this spot for a rum tasting, OH and one of their rum bundt cakes…holy yum!).
This post is sponsored content created in partnership with Hilton Garden Inn. All thoughts, opinions and photography in this post are my own.