Kauai is always, always, always a good idea.
If you're wondering where to go, and you can't come up with anything, let me just suggest: Kauai.
One of the things I love best about going to Hawaii is the jetlag.
No, seriously! Hear me out on this one! If you fly from the mainland US, you wake up super early every day and you get into and out of all the great places before anybody else is awake. (That is how we ended up at a nude beach with our kids one time, but perhaps that is more of a cautionary tale than a shining example of the early bird getting the worm? I'm not sure.)
Anyway, once you've done whatever exciting thing you did in the morning (nudity optional), you can pass out on the beach for your afternoon nap and wake up in time for a sunset dinner. It's just one more reason that Kauai is always a good idea.
We divided our week into two parts: the first few days on the quiet and rugged North Coast, then the last few days on the more busy and commercialized South Coast. The North Coast won our hearts. And Julia Robert's and Harrison Ford's and, and, and. We'll never be buying property here, but at least we can visit.
Our very first morning, jetlag and super-excitement had us awake before dawn, ready and raring to hike along the wild Kalalau Trail on the Napali Coast. I've heard this called the most epic hike in America.
I think the true epic label probably applies mostly if you hike the full 26 miles, but we hiked the four-mile round-trip out to Hanakāpīʻai Beach, and that was epic enough for us.
You see that stretch of trail going down behind us? You can't tell from the picture, but that is pure, 100% red clay waiting to knock you on your rear end. There's also crazy wind-shear around some of the headlands, and the river crossing was in flood just before the beach.
So, yeah, four miles was epic enough for us, especially because we took the helicopter tour and got another look at the entire Napali Coast from the air, no red clay involved.
This is the only time I'll probably ever spend this much money on one hour of my life, but it was completely worth every penny to sit in the front seat of the helicopter and fly over the world of Jurassic Park and King Kong.
I was smiling and crying the entire hour.
For our beach visits--and we had one or two each day--we simply started at the northern most beach and worked our way around the island, one idlyllic patch of sand at a time.
At low tide one day, we were lucky enough to swim at the Queen's Bath near Princeville.
We ate lau-lau pork wherever we could, and sampled all the shave ice we could possibly find. This one's from the shave-ice place in the shopping center in Hanalei, where they put macadamia-nut ice cream under the shave ice. Because they're genius like that.
Speaking of food, breakfast was my favorite meal in Kauai, because of the beautiful fruit, the gorgeous view outside our condo (above the St. Regis Princeville), and the adorably doofy nene birds that always thought they were going to get away with my beautiful fruit (they never did).
Aside from beaches, Kauai offers lighthouses, waterfalls, gorgeous mountaintop views--and I kid you not, a Grand-Canyon-type deal where we hiked through the desert to a waterfall, just proving once again that Kauai is always a good idea, even if you want a little desert with your beach.