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I will be attending a wedding in Kaua'i in late April.
What side of the island should we stay on? My family will be traveling with me and my mother has a bad knee. We need great suggestions for outdoor activities the whole family can enjoy, bearing that in mind....
The good news is, you can't go wrong picking the North Shore around Hanalei and Princeville. Princeville is more master-planned development, which is not necessarily my cup of tea, but has lots of places to stay with some incredible views. The St. Regis Princeville Resort lobby (and rooms) has one of the best views in the world. Nicest option around Hanalei & Princeville, but pricey. In Hanalei (one of my favorite places in the world), its probably best to rent a house somewhere in town, but there are lots of condo/hotel options in Princeville and I've heard good things about the Hanalei Colony Resort (but it is in a semi-remote and sleepy area, but pretty beautiful setting).
Also look into Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa . I actually prefer the north coast area (around Hanalei and Princeville), but the Grand Hyatt Kauai might be my favorite big hotel in the world. Great for families or couples. Live jazz at Stephenson's Library is the perfect way to end an evening. Love this place. If you're concerned about rain, this is where you want to stay, as the south side is the drier side of the island.
If you stay at The St. Regis, the fit and active part of the group should make the hike to Hideaways Beach . This is a great, secluded beach between the Princeville Resort and the Puu Poa Condos next to it. Between the St. Regis parking lot and the Puu Poa complex is a steep path that leads down to the beach. Secluded, beautiful, good snorkeling, etc. Well worth the steep hike down (obviously, not for mom and her bad knee, but you can always leave her in the lobby at the St. Regis enjoying the amazing views). Lumahai Beach is another one of the many brilliant beaches on the north shore of Kauai that I love (particularly, the far west portion).
Ke'e Beach is kind of a must, with easy access, even for a bad knee, excellent for snorkeling, beautiful, etc.. If you stay on the south side and only make it up the north shore once, I would head for Ke'e, as you'll drive through Hanalei and the drive is incredibly beautiful. Most people go to the part of the beach by the cove/lagoon where the beach ends at the mountain and it can get crowded. I like to go down the beach a little towards Hanalei. You can find some very good shady areas near the tree roots that can be nice, especially if its really hot. When snorkeling here, I normally swim from the main lagoon area over the reef/out the canyon, then hang a right down the reef for a while, then circle back a little more inside. I have found lots of turtles toward the outside of the reef, but on the shallow sections just inside where the surf rolls in. Last time I had 10 turtles within 20 feet of me. Pretty cool. If you are at Ke'e Beach and part of the group wants to get active, at the end of the parking area there is a great hike to Hanakapiai Beach (2 miles in), then you can hike another 2 miles up to Hanakapi 'ai Falls waterfalls at the back of the valley. Pretty strenuous hike, but really great and beautiful.
The Kilauea Lighthouse is always recommended, but there is a fairly long walk to the actual lighthouse (although your mom, doesn't need to walk the whole way). Its pretty cool, but not life-changing.
However, there is a great little market in Kiluaea (the Kilauea Town Market), where you can grab a sandwich/beer/wine to take to picnic on the beach somewhere. I love Anini Beach (Western End), which isn't too far away between the lighthouse and Princeville. If you go to Anini Beach (you'll see it on the map), take the road until it hits the beach, then hang a left and drive as far as you can (past the parking lot, etc). This part of the beach is more secluded. We normally find a little spot of sand with some shade and picnic, take a swim, snorkel, etc. Very peaceful and idyllic at the end of the beach and you can park your car right next to the sand (easy on your mom's knee).
The Waimea Canyon State Park would be good for a day trip on the island.
For casual dining, check out North Shore Grindz . This is the restaurant/cafe inside the North Shore General Store, which is the store at the Chevron station. Burgers, pizzas and Calzones. All good. And perfect for a takeaway lunch for the beach. Its basically at the Chevron station in the Princevile Shopping Center right off the main road.
For a nice meal on the south side, check out the Beach House Restaurant. Roy's Poipu Bar & Grill is a good choice in the Poipu area. Setting isn't as good as the Beach House, but typical Roy's quality.
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It's difficult to go wrong with Princeville. Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas is perfect for families since they have full size kitchens (here's my story). There's a Foodland grocery store just a couple miles away so stock up there and stay away from Hanalei Wake-Up Cafe in Hanalei. Here's what you need to know about the Lihue Airport (LIH).
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South is Sunnier/Hotter/Busier, North is prettier/cooler/can be rainy
Its 45-60 minutes between them so depending on where the wedding is you might want to consider the transit time.
A couple activity options:
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Stay on the South Shore if you can.
The Beach House has amazing food and incredible views of the sunset. Get there early, or make a reservation. Parking is limited, but they have valet parking.
Brennecke's Beach Broiler on the South Shore also has good food and drinks and a nice view. You do have to climb a flight of stairs. The
National Tropical Botanical Garden is just down the road from the Beach House. Some walking is involved, but much of the tour is on an air conditioned bus. I would definitely look into whether or not you think your mom could handle that. We loved it. And just getting there is beautiful.
Spouting Horn State Park is in this area also. It is free and really neat to see. Vendors set up there if you're interested in trinkets. But the view is beautiful and the blow horn is so neat.
We rented a house through VRBO in
Kapaa. So I can't recommend a hotel, but if I were you, I'd really look for something on the south shore because traveling back and forth isn't terribly convenient.
If you make it over to Kapaa, and the traffic in that area is quite congested, so be patient, there is a little restaurant called
Kountry Kitchen. The food is wonderful. Their pancakes are fabulous. The French toast is the best I've ever had. It's just a little place, and it fills up fast, but it is wonderful. Also the
Passion Bakery in Kapaa has the best sticky buns ever. Get there early. They go fast. Their sandwiches are good too. It's a tiny place but worth the effort to find.
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As far as places to stay, I think it depends on where the wedding is located. If the wedding is in Princeville I wouldn't want to drive all the way from Poipu.... Regardless where you stay you will want to rent a vehicle.
If you are planning to stay as a family I would consider renting a large condo. I usually book through VRBO - vacation rental by owner.
We just got back in December for a wedding. We stayed in Kapaa which is the east side. Beautiful place and has lots of local things like Safeway and restaurants. Driving around the whole island takes maybe a max of 4 hours so seeing part of it for the day will be easy.