Welcome back to our Wellness Wanderlust series. Today we’re exploring healthy travel in Kauai, Hawaii. Where to stay, where to eat, what to do, all with the mindset of eco-friendly, soul-nourishing adventure. From hiking, yoga, sushi (poke all day!), beaches and unique activities, this is your complete guide to healthy travel in Kauai. Aloha!
When I think about health and wellness, my thoughts naturally drift to food and fitness, to safe, non-toxic products and holistic remedies, to mindfulness and self-care.
But an often overlooked aspect of wellness is travel. Yes, exploring the world allows us to learn from other cultures, to experience new things, nourishing our bodies and souls along the way.
That’s why travel is such a huge part of healthy living for my family–in fact, Matt and I try to take a big international trip every year on our anniversary (in addition to all of the domestic travel we take throughout the year).
I love our traditions of skiing with his family out West every President’s Day, of going to the Indian Wells tennis tournament in Palm Springs every March, of visiting my grandparents in Orlando and Cape Cod every year, of spending every Thanksgiving with my family at their mountain house in Big Canoe, of taking our annual beach trip with family friends down in Florida.
But, hands down, my favorite trip every year is our anniversary trip. In 3+ years of marriage, we’ve been to Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Paris, Amsterdam and London.
And this year, in lieu of an international trip, we decided to venture out to Hawaii.
It was a stressful year for us and we were in desperate need of a relaxing beach vacation, the type of trip where very little planning is involved.
The type of trip where you don’t have to deal with language barriers and currency conversions, confusing public transportation or passport dilemmas or safety concerns.
We wanted something easy yet unique, something beautiful yet simple, adventurous yet relaxing, somewhere we could just show up and have an incredible time.
Somewhere we could go, and do nothing but read books on the beach with a cocktail in hand and come home feeling incredibly accomplished.
Kauai was the clear choice. I mean look at this view ????????????????
Healthy Travel in Kauai, Hawaii
The oldest, Northernmost and fourth largest island in Hawaii, Kauai is dubbed the “Garden Island”, which is definitely the overstatement of the century.
As soon as we landed, Matt and I couldn’t stop saying how we felt like we were on a different planet. Admittedly, because we love international travel so much, I was a little disappointed in myself for wanting a simple beach vacation–but Kauai was anything but.
If I didn’t know that Hawaii was technically part of the United States, and someone told me we were in Asia… or Mars, I would’ve believed them.
The postcard-worthy landscapes of jagged cliffs, emerald valleys, cascading waterfalls, lush rainforests, and shockingly blue water and skies were unlike anything I’d ever seen before.
Here’s an unedited sunset photo from my iPhone for proof–I’ve never seen so many colors in my life.
Alright, so how does Kauai fit into wellness travel? Let’s start here…
What is wellness travel? Though I believe traveling anywhere will improve your mood, mindset, health and life, I look for a few key things when it comes to healthy travel:
- Farm-to-Table Dining: I want the food to be fresh, local, vibrant and chockfull of colorful, indigenous, nutrient-dense produce, seafood and meat sourced from nearby farms and waters.
- Outdoor Adventure: What could be more healthy than hiking a gorgeous mountain or beachside yoga? Spending time in the great outdoors, connecting with Mother Earth is paramount for wellness travel.
- Eco-Friendly Lodging: Staying somewhere with LEED certification, green and sustainable practices and materials that minimize its impact on the environment, or even a luxury resort in a nature-centric, earth-conscious setting is top of mind when it comes to wellness travel.
- Mindfulness Opportunities: Whether taking a yoga class, attending a meditation seminar, finding a quiet place to read, or seeking healing and peace in a natural spa, I always look for a variety of mindfulness opportunities at the destination.
Kauai fit the bill perfectly. Check it out:
Healthy Travel: Where to Stay in Kauai, Hawaii
We opted to splurge and stay at the St. Regis Princeville Resort in Kauai. I couldn’t have been happier with our decision, though I will say this: the resort is not perfect, but the location is.
I’ll start with the bad, because the list is SO MUCH shorter than the good. The hotel is outdated and in need of a refresh.
There aren’t many private places around the resort to sit, read, have a drink, talk, play a game, or just stare at the stunning view. More guest rooms need to have private balconies, at least.
And the food was just okay–the breakfast buffet and beachside lunch offerings were definitely the best part (which I almost never say), and their sushi and appetizers were fresh and delicious. But dinner left quite a bit to be desired.
Plus, it’s a luxury resort–so while you never have to leave (and would rarely want to), it’s expensive to stay for all of your meals, cocktails on the beach, even just breakfast on the terrace. That being said…
Here’s why it’s worth it to stay at the St. Regis, and why I recommend anyone going to Kauai stay here:
You simply won’t find a better view anywhere on the island. I could sit and stare out at the ocean and green mountains ALL DAY LONG and never get bored.
Wild chickens abound–all over the island. It’s pretty cool!
All of these photos were taken from either our room (if you stay there, it’s worth every last penny to upgrade to an ocean view room) or from our spot on the beach. It was idyllic. And I’m not kidding when I say that after seeing enough photos of their gorgeous 5,000-square foot infinity pool and ocean front lounging, I was convinced that we HAD TO stay here.
We spent the majority of our time down on the beach, where there’s super friendly staff ready to equip your lounge chair with the perfect combination of towels, bring you an endless tray of delicious cocktails and provide helpful recommendations about what else to see and do.
On our last night, you couldn’t have paid me to go back to our room a minute before sun down.
On top of the view, the location couldn’t have been better.
Located in the 9,000 acre resort community of Princeville at Hanalei, just 30 minutes from the airport (rent a car, it will be the best decision you make all trip!), the resort is just a quick drive into the town of Hanalei, where there are tons of restaurants and shops, and just minutes from some of the island’s most beautiful adventures (see more details below).
Truly, the St. Regis was conveniently located to the best the island has to offer.
Other perks of staying here:
- the 10,000 square foot Halele’a Spa (go for their signature Lomi Lomi massage or the Sea of Life facial). Their co-ed relaxation room was, as it name implies, beyond relaxing and cozy with wall-to-wall waterfalls and cultural statues. I also loved starting my massage in the sauna and steam room, which is infused with tropical essences. I loved that so many of their treatments incorporated healing Hawaiian rituals like using organic dilo oil in massages and wild Kauai clay, and their product lines were natural and non-toxic. There’s also a great fitness center in the spa, and a nail salon, too.
- the award-winning Makai Golf Club (we played tennis here instead and it was easily the most beautiful place I’ve ever double faulted 😉
- their food comes from the local farming community and fresh waters. Some of our favorite dishes included: Crispy Coconut Prawns with Ginger pineapple sauce, Kilauea Fish Tacos with Chipotle crema, Coco-Jito Freeze (Belvedere Vodka, fresh lime sour, mint, coconut, pineapple, served blended), the Banh Mi sandwich, the Acai Bowl at breakfast, and the local bone marrow with shallot marmalade and meyer lemon gremolata. Oh and don’t miss the Kona Kampachi sashimi and the Lumahai roll.
- they offer tons of FREE on-site activities, from beachside yoga to hula lessons, farmer’s market tours, lei making, coconut painting, garden tours, fitness bootcamps and guided swims
- they are actively helping to protect the ocean and the Kaua’i Seabird Habitat Conservation Plan with initiatives like low wattage, fully shielded, LED exterior lighting, in addition to green practices like energy efficient AC units, CFL light bulbs and eco-roof tops
- they have tons of dining options, if you don’t feel like leaving the resort: everything from a swanky sushi and cocktail dinner on the terrace to room service and a coffee shop to casual grill dining and fine dining on the terrace. And just look at the view from dinner:
Healthy Travel: Where to Eat in Kauai, Hawaii
Admittedly, we did eat most of our meals at the resort–it was just so convenient and beautiful. But we did venture into town for a few meals that blew our socks off:
Dolphin Sushi: The open-air and lively sushi bar was such a blast, plus they had some incredibly fresh fish you can only get in Hawaii. Obviously, we had plenty of poke (Kauai’s specialty!), but I think I loved the Ono (a local white fish similar to hamachi) and Opah (a local fish that’s crimson in color and rich in flavor) best. You have to sit at the sushi bar for the full experience.
Verde Restaurant: We stopped in for lunch here per the concierge’s recommendation after our ATV adventure (more on that below). It’s hidden in a strip mall that feels incredibly out of place in such a spectacular island, but the food did not disappoint. They use 100% grass-fed Kaua’i beef, antibiotic and hormone-free chicken & pork and tons of fresh, local produce to craft a delicious Mexican-inspired menu (tons of gluten free and vegetarian options, too!). Go for the seared ahi tacos and stuffed Sopaipillas. And be sure to wash it all down with the Cultured Mule, easily the best cocktail I’ve ever tried. Made with Hawaii’s Own Organic Ocean Vodka & Kauai Juice Co. Ginger Lemon Kombucha, Fresh Lime Juice, Housemade 5-Spice Syrup, and Thai Basil Leaves. Total flavor explosion!
Rainbeau Jo’s Food Truck: I read about this quirky breakfast spot on Yelp and was convinced we had to try it on our way to the ATV tour. I’ve never met more friendly and welcoming people in my life than the adorable couple who runs this food truck. Plus, they serve local, organic coffee, organic artisan bagel sandwiches from Ya Quddus Bagelry and super fresh, homemade smoothies made with produce sourced from organic & local Hawaiian farmers.
Healthy Travel: What to Do in Kauai, Hawaii
Besides lying on the beach, which you should do A LOT of if you go, there’s a ton of healthy adventures to be had in Kauai. Here are a few of our favorite activities.
Kipu Ranch ATV Tour: Oh. my. God. This was one of the most incredible experiences. You get to drive a badass ATV–get ready to be mud splattered in places you didn’t know you had–explore the island’s tropical Huleia Valley, go up to the top of Mt. Haupu for breathtaking views of Kipu Kai’s untouched paradise and
AND see tons of movie locations that were shot in Kauai, like Indiana Jones and the rope swing scene (yes, you get to jump of the swing yourself!), Jurrasic Park, Mighty Joe Young, The Descendants and more!
The guides are awesome, friendly, funny and super knowledgeable, and the sights are some of the most spectacular I’ve ever seen. Here are some of our photos from the tour:
The wild pigs on the tour were so cute!
Yoga on the Beach: Easily one of my favorite ways to partake in healthy travel is to do yoga outdoors. Fortunately, there were free classes offered at the St. Regis that we took advantage of a few times. The teacher was skilled, the views spectacular and there’s just nothing like doing downward dog with the sounds of waves crashing and the ocean breeze on your skin.
Hike the Na Pali Coast: Pardon my French, but holy shit. There are no words for this hike. Though the full Kalalau Trail (a 22-mile trek) is easily the most epic hike in America, we opted for the first 2 miles, which weaves through one of the world’s most famous natural wonders, the Na Pali coast.
The hike starts at Ha’ena State Park and ends at Hanakapi’ai Beach. With seemingly endless vistas of the psychedelic blue Pacific, legendary peaks and untouched beaches, every inch of this jungle trail boasts jaw-dropping views. See for yourself:
Drive Through Waimea Canyon: Just when you thought the views couldn’t get any better, you weave your way up the winding roads leading to Waimea Canyon and your mind is blown…again!
Also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon is 10 miles and 3,000 feet deep of colossal beauty. The photos speak for themselves.
Thanks for traveling along with me through Kauai. I hope our incredibly journey gave you some wellness wanderlust and a hankering to get out there and partake in some healthy travel of your own.
Have you been to Kauai? What was your favorite part? Share your experience in the comments below.