Recap – Molokai and Kauai

In continuation with last week’s post, I am reviewing what activities we were involved in when we visited the last 2 islands of our Hawaii trip.

Molokai is a more secluded and less visited island. My recommendation is if you really want to get away from it all, to come here instead of Lanai. I discussed Lanai last week, but Molokai actually has beaches, lots of beauty, and lots of hikes available. It is also more affordable than Lanai.

Kauai is known as the garden island, and is my favorite one hands down! Just on one island, you go from beaches to jungle to desert canyons. We had the best food here, and we participated in the craziest activities here. This is how much time we delegated to each island:

July 8, 2014 – arrived in Molokai

July 9th – Molokai

July 10th – Transferred to Kauai by air

July 11th – Kauai

July 12th – Kauai

July 13th – Kauai

July 14th – Kauai

July 15th – Fly home


Kalua’aha Church – Free

  • We found this church purely by accident. We were driving on the south side of the island to the east coast to see the Halawa Valley and stopped when we saw this. It is a tiny, one room church and is very cute and quaint. However, I would not specifically drive out all the way just to see the church. The only thing special about it really is its size.
  • Time we spent – 15 minutesmolokai

Halawa Valley – $60

  • First of all, just the drive over here from the center of the island is beautiful. We drove about as far as we could, but to actually go into the valley and get closer to Hīpuapua Falls within, you have to go on a hike. Since the hike involves crossing private land, you can legally only do this by signing on with a tour operator. I searched a couple of different companies offering the tour, and it really varies. One offers an option called a Cultural hike that doesn’t cost quite as much, but doesn’t take you all the way to the waterfall. When it’s combined with seeing the waterfall, it was $60. Another website only offered one option going to the waterfall for $75. Do your research and book in advance if you really are interested. Just what we saw from far away seemed very beautiful and I would not turn down the opportunity to hike there. Also, I have read though that the hike is considered an intermediate/advanced route. So keep that in mind!
  • Time we spent – 2 hours (including drive there, not including hike)

Pālāʻau State Park – Free

  • After Halawa Valley, we drove all the way back towards the center of the island and then headed north to get here. We ate dinner at the picnic tables provided, went on a very short hike, and found the famous phallic rock. Although the park is nice, and if I lived here I would probably spend time here, I don’t think it’s worth wasting your vacation time on unless you are in Molokai for at least a week or more. It is very different from the stereotypical Hawaii scenery. However, there is a lookout point either directly in the state park or right next to it to see Kalaupapa. Kalaupapa is a small community near the coast, surrounded by giant cliffs isolating them from the rest of the world. This was originally a leper’s colony, and you still cannot visit the community without a permit. If you don’t plan on actually visiting, it is cool to at least get a view.
  • Time we spent – 1 hourMolokai3

Kalaupapa National Park – $60

  • As mentioned above, this area was originally established for people suffering from leprosy in the 1800’s. There is a lot of history and the journey to and from the colony, from what I understand, is quite stunning. However, since you must have a permit (which comes from someone residing in the colony), your only way in is to book through a tour or company. Hiking is the cheapest option at $60 a person. Keep in mind, you are literally hiking up and down a steep cliff. It is very strenuous. William and I did not do the hike on our trip, but William had done it previously as a teenager. He got really, really sick from the hike and almost didn’t make it through the whole journey. People can also book tours down on mules, or by flying, but the cost of course goes up from there. William and I sneaked past the first gate on the trail and walked until we reached the staircase leading down. At that point, there was a sign saying we would be fined if we crossed without a permit so we turned around. The only reason we didn’t do this hike is because I didn’t really plan anything on this trip in advance. Only 100 visitors a day are permitted access, so you definitely need to look into it. As I also mentioned above, you can at least look out on the colony in the state park if you don’t plan on going down.
  • Time we spent – 1 hour (not including hike)Molokai4

Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove – Free

  • All we did was stop on the side of the road when we saw it, and walked around a bit. Very cool for a quick picture stop, but nothing to go your of your way for. Just lots and lots of trees like you would imagine it to be.
  • Time we spent – 15 minutesMolokai6

Kepuhi Beach – Free

  • This beach is located on the west end of the island. We mainly went here for nostalgic purposes, since this is where William had spent a lot of time the last time he came to the island. He remembered it not being crowded, which we found to be true. In fact, even though it was July, we were some of the only people on the entire beach. There were some giant rock structures that were great for putting our stuff on, the sand was very soft, and it was very quiet. I found this beach very clean and relaxing.
  • Time we spent – 2 hoursMolokai5

Molokai Post Office (Post-a-Nut) – $18

  • We came here to mail a coconut home to my parents! They have coconut shells to pick from, as well as sharpies for decorating and coloring. The main reason it is so expensive is because coconuts require a lot more postage than paper. We had so much fun mailing our coconut, and our parents enjoyed opening the mailbox and finding it in there! Highly recommend, even if you do it from a different island. Note that, the price also differs based on the weight of the coconut shells you pick from so choose wisely.
  • Time we spent – 20 minutesmolokai7


Hilton Garden Inn Kauai Wailua Bay – Free

  • This is the hotel we stayed at (though when we were there, it was an Aston Resort). I include this because not only did it have its own beach, but it had a section blocked with a bunch of rocks, creating a calm pool. I really liked this because I was still straight up in the ocean, but didn’t have to worry about scary fish or big waves touching me. There was just a giant parking lot for the hotel guests, but I do not remember having a pass. I believe you could just park here, walk down to beach and enjoy the pool as well. However, now that it has changed ownership this may not be the case anymore.
  • Time we spent – 2 hourskauai2

Maniniholo Dry Cave – Free

  • For our full first day in Kauai, we were on our way driving north to hike a bit of the Na Pali Coast. On the way there, we stopped at this cave. It is just one giant room, big enough for you to walk upright throughout. It is also very, very wide. Right across the street is a beach so you could make a day of it in the area. Parking is a little difficult because it’s crowded, but free.
  • Time we spent – 15 minuteskauai3

Ke’e Beach – Free

  • This is basically where the main road going around Kauai ends on the north side. This beach is also right next to where the Kalalau Trail into Na Pali territory begins, and is located within Hāʻena State Park. It was mildly crowded, and we only really went in the ocean for a bit here after our hike to kind of wash off and refresh ourselves (I had gotten really sick on the hike). It was pretty, but I’m sure other beaches in Kauai are better.
  • Time we spent – 15 minutes

    View of Ke’e Beach from the Kahalau Trail

Na Pali Coast – Free

  • If you come to Kauai, you have to see the Na Pali Coast in some way, shape, form or fashion – I don’t care how! Our first experience was the free way. We took the Kalalau Trail 2 miles in to reach Hanakapi’ai Beach. It’s definitely one of the most scenic hikes I’ve ever been on. You’re essentially walking up and down the dramatic cliff coastline to this secluded beach. The trail actually continues for a total of 11 miles into a valley. Several people take a few days to hike in, camp at the end for a bit and head back. The only thing is this a very strenuous hike. Lots of elevation changes even though it feels uphill both ways and it gets pretty muddy and slippery which is scary being on a cliff edge. Beauty is pain after all. William and I didn’t realize it would be like this and of course did the hike with only like 2 bottles of water on us. I also had been recovering from a parasite, and I think it took quite a toll on my body. I was fine going in, but on the way back I got pretty sick. It put me out of commission for the rest of the day but was WELL worth it. Also, Hanakapi’ai I think was one of William’s favorite beaches in Hawaii. It’s very secluded, quiet, and pretty small. There’s also (at least when we went) a large amount of water that kind of pools up on the beach, and actually gets pretty deep. So you can get in the actual ocean, or get in this calm body of water that goes up to about your hips. Now if you don’t hike the Na Pali coast, the only other way it is accessible is by boat or by air. We actually opted for both (we went a little crazy booking tours in Kauai). We did the helicopter ride a few days later out of the Lihue airport. It was my first time on a helicopter, so that was already exciting. But I can’t imagine picking a more beautiful location to see in the air. It took us all across the island – starting with the more desert like terrain of Waimea canyon, along the coast line of Na Pali, and then into the center of the island. At the center, there is an area known as the Weeping Wall. It is one of the wettest places on Earth, and this wall is covered in several waterfalls! I’ve never seen so many in one place and probably never will again. I’d also like to point out that the iconic Manawaiopuna Falls from Jurassic Park is only accessible from the air as well since it is on private land. If you see it in the helicopter, they even play the epic theme music for you. Finally, on our last day in Hawaii, we did a boat tour along the Na Pali Coast line. Though this was neat and I’m glad we did it, I probably would never do it again simply because of how exhausting it was. We did a raft tour, meaning we had to sit along the sides of the raft and hold onto a rope running along the side. We also had a rope stretched across the floor to put our feet under to help hold us in. It’s a miracle that I didn’t get seasick (I definitely had taken motion sickness medicine though in advance) because the waves were so big and intense. I would often go airborne, and there was no way you’d stay on the boat if you let go. This tour was about 4 hours long though, and it is difficult holding on for dear life for that long of a time. By the end of the tour, my hands and feet had rope burn, my back was killing me (not great for the flight home the next day) and I remember on the last 10 minutes of the ride back to shore, trying to decide if I really wanted to live or if letting go and dying would be more gratifying at this point. That being said though, it WAS very beautiful, amazing and unlike anything I’d ever done before. You can also book a trip by sea on a different kind of boat to make your experience a lot more enjoyable. It was really neat being able to go in and out of sea caves, waterfalls, and see the famous arch that Captain Jack Sparrow stands under in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
  • Time we spent – 8 hours (4 by boat, 1 by air, 3 by foot)

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Kapaa – Free

  • Kapaa has a lot of restaurants along the main stretch of road running through it. In fact, it tends to always have a bit more traffic slowing everyone down, and locals refer to it as the Kapaa Crawl. We decided to stop here for dinner one night. We just found a parking spot and walked until we found a restaurant that sounded good to us. Nothing to go out of your way for sightseeing wise, but a good place to find food!
  • Time we spent – 1 hour

Kilauea Lighthouse – $5

  • It’s a lighthouse on the edge of a cliff with a lot of beautiful scenery and natural surroundings. There’s a lot of wildlife around, particularly birds, to observe. If you have plenty of time on the island, I think it would be worth at least a short visit. William and I didn’t actually go into the lighthouse, and I don’t remember if that’s because it wasn’t open, or if tourists can’t go inside.
  • Time we spent – 30 minutes

Ching Young Village  – Free

  • Situated in Hanalei, this is a little “Chinatown” that we found simply by driving by. We thought it looked cute so we decided to stop. Lots of food and shops in a tiny little area, although many of them not don’t have anything to do with China. I believe we ate some hot dogs here. Nothing to go out of your way for.
  • Time we spent – 30 minuteskauai9

Tree Tunnel – Free

  • When you are taking the main ring road around the island, you will have to turn onto this road to get to Poipu. It’s a just a street surrounded by trees, but it’s really lovely! I enjoyed it, and our tour guides on our zipline tour had mentioned it, which is how I found out it technically had a name. Really, all you can do is just drive through it.
  • Time we spent – 5 minutekauai10

Poipu – Free

  • Poipu is on the south side of the island, and has a very popular beach known as Poipu Beach Park. It also has a lot of restaurants and shops. I have a fond memory of getting ice cream in one of the shops and being amused that a chicken was strolling through (Chickens are EVERYWHERE. It’s like the Hawaiian version of squirrels – at least on Molokai and Kauai). We also mainly stopped in one of the shopping areas to look for a waterproof phone case for the above mentioned boat tour.
  • Time we spent – 2 hourskauai14

Spouting Horn – Free

  • This is a famous blowhole where you get to watch tons of water spit up into the air every few minutes or so. William and I watched it go off quite a few times. Even though we never saw it go as high as I see in some pictures online, I definitely think it’s cool to see. And it’s free parking too.
  • Time we spent – 30 minuteskauai12

Waimea Canyon – Free

  • Waimea Canyon is so beautiful – you must see it if you go to Kauai! It is free since it is located within a state park. William and I drove to several different look out points for good pictures, and even did a little hiking. I do not remember the particular trail we went down, but I remember not having information on how long the hike was. We kept going for probably 45 minutes, but since we didn’t know how much longer it was or where it was going, we decided to turn around. Despite being in the canyon area, the trail was surrounded by greenery and was a relatively easy trek. Waimea Canyon is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and the name is well deserved.
  • Time we spent – 4 hours

Harbor Mall in Lihue – Free

  • There is nothing very special about this place at all, in fact it seemed pretty dead. The only reason we came here is because our guides on the zipline tour (who seemed to LOVE food) had recommended us a restaurant here called The Feral Pig. It was good, although I admit I am not much of a burger person in the first place. William however, says it’s the best burger he has ever had. He always talks about coming back here. We had actually heard it shut down, but just to relocate so now there’s really no point coming to Harbor Mall at all.
  • Time we spent – 1 hour

Kipu Ranch  – $118

  • The tour has changed since we last went, but the zipline tour we went on offered 8 ziplines, including the longest one in Hawaii, and some time at a water lagoon surrounded by jungle with a high platform to jump off of as well as a little zipline into the water. Even though William is scared of heights, he had the time of his life and always is talking about wanting to do this again. The ziplines were all located on Kipu Ranch, which is private land. It has been featured in many different films, most notably Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean. It was really scenic, really fun, and for movie buffs, probably the most fun way to get access to the grounds. I know there are also specific driving tours through Kipu Ranch as well though. Since I have not ziplined anywhere else except little ziplines in Texas, I don’t have much to compare it to.
  • Time we spent – 5 hours

Wailua Falls – Free

  • We did not get up and close to this waterfall. We simply drove to the closest scenic overlook. It’s very pretty, but probably only worth your time if you try to get closer. Be aware of flooding. Even though we were pretty far away, it looked like the roads and trails around us were covered in water.
  • Time we spent – 15 minutes

Fern Grotto – $25

  • This beautiful grotto is only accessible by boat, but is only a short boat ride up the river. We bought tickets on site. Many boats go every day and they seat a lot of people so you’ll probably always be fine as a walk on (though it is cheaper to buy tickets in advance). While you cruise down the beautiful river on the boat, they have dancers perform with items rooted deep in Hawaiian tradition. Once there, you actually get to walk off the boat and head to the grotto. They briefly talk about the history and science of the area, and then have a group perform a traditional love song in Hawaiian on the platform in front of it. Many couples get married in front of the grotto so it is considered a romantic place. I’d say overall, even if it’s a bit touristy, that this is worth the time and money.
  • Time we spent – 1 ½ hourskauai20

As mentioned earlier, Kauai was my favorite island. If you were to choose any of the islands, I recommend this one the most. I think William would agree as well. If I ever got the chance to go back, I think I would simply want to:

  • Check out more beaches and restaurants, and relax.
  • Spend more time hiking in Waimea Canyon

I’d like to spend more time on the Na Pali coast, but with it either being expensive or tiring to reach, I don’t know if I would do it a 2nd time. I probably would book a different kind of boat tour if I had the money to.

If I went back to Molokai, I’d like to:

  • Actually participate in the Halawa Valley hike with a guide
  • Ride a mule down to Kalaupapa and tour the colony

That’s a wrap on our trip to Hawaii. I’m sure we will be back someday since William asks to return on a weekly basis.