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The Trip

LAST Christ­mas, my fam­i­ly of six (Mom, dad, broth­er, and aunts) pulled up to our ten-day Airbnb on the East side of Kauai, near Tun­nels Beach in Hanalei Bay.

Kauai, near Tunnels Beach in Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay’s ter­rain makes you feel as though you’ve plopped into a mag­i­cal realm between two miles of beach­es and end­less moun­tain ranges. Being a mid­west­ern fam­i­ly, we were blown away by the sheer size of the palm trees and hang­ing coconuts, the ide­al dec­o­ra­tions for our beach lodge, less than a mile from the ocean. We were also pret­ty jazzed about rec­og­niz­ing film loca­tions, as we drove by them, from movies like “The Descen­dants”, “Juras­sic Park”, “Juras­sic World”, and “Pirates of the Caribbean, On Stranger Tides”.


Kauai, near Tunnels Beach in Hanalei Bay

Feel­ing Free with My Broth­er in Hanalei Bay



.…known as the Gar­den Isle for its fields of Taro, lush land­scapes, and oxy­gen-rich air qual­i­ty is the ide­al Island get­away. Kauai is Hawai­i’s old­est island and is far less pop­u­lat­ed than the big Islands of O’ahu and Maui.

Pho­to © Davina Schaetz / Unsplash


Only, upon arrival at our Airbnb, our fam­i­ly dis­cov­ered there was no key left inside the mail­box as promised by the land­lord. Our first adven­ture began with me climb­ing onto my broth­er’s shoul­ders to crawl through an open, sec­ond-sto­ry win­dow and unlock the front door.

And that’s how we began our vacation.

Kauai, near Tunnels Beach in Hanalei Bay

My Fam­i­ly


Tunnels Beach

With­out plan­ning, our next day adven­ture began by hang­ing out with sea tur­tles. Known as “honu” (hoh-noo), most com­mon honu sight­ings on the North Shore of Kauai are in Ani­ni, Tur­tle Cove, Ke‑e Beach and Tun­nels Beach. Sea tur­tles lay their eggs on the Gar­den Isle from May through Sep­tem­ber, but can be found year-round pop­ping their heads above the sur­face and feed­ing off the reefs. My fam­i­ly arrived at Tun­nels Beach and split up to explore the sea life. I jumped into the water and began snap­ping pic­tures of var­i­ous but­ter­fly fish with only the sounds of water rush­ing past my ears. Out of the cor­ner of my eye, a hint of green flut­tered into my vision. I turned to see a Hawai­ian green sea tur­tle glid­ing along­side! They are much big­ger than I imag­ined, with deep, kind eyes that just stare at you. With wide, smooth shells and long flip­pers, sea tur­tles can cut through the water like glass, reach­ing speeds up to 35 mph. I man­aged to cap­ture a cou­ple of up-close shots before drop­ping my cam­era into the reef and scar­ing off my leop­ard print­ed friend. I know what you’re think­ing, don’t wor­ry, my cam­era was fine. My aunts rent­ed masks, snorkels and fins from Hanalei Surf. Prices depend on the length of your rental and go from $6 per day to $22 for the week. I love a good deal.

Field of Fish in Hanalei Bay

Field of Fish in Hanalei Bay


PRO TIP: Experts cau­tion a safe dis­tance to keep between your­self and a tur­tle is 10 to 15 feet. They are very timid and can eas­i­ly be scared off. There’s real­ly no expe­ri­ence like swim­ming along­side some­thing you’ve only seen on your friend’s Insta­gram feed and in an aquarium.


My new BFF


Sleeping Giant Trail of Nounou

Hav­ing down­hill skied all our lives, my fam­i­ly was nat­u­ral­ly drawn towards the moun­tains on Kauai, regard­less of the warm weath­er and non-snowy con­di­tions. The Sleep­ing Giant Trail of Nounou was the per­fect dis­tance and ele­va­tion for a half-day hike. The hike itself isn’t very steep, but the mud can add to your lev­el of effort. Care­ful, the path­ways get very nar­row at cer­tain points. The trails are wet and mud­dy dur­ing the win­ter and dry dur­ing the sum­mer. Set your tribe up for suc­cess with good hik­ing shoes and plen­ty of water, snacks and bug spray for this mod­er­ate lev­el 5.8 km trail. You can expect to com­plete the hike in rough­ly 2 hours.


Hiking the Sleeping Giant Trail

Hik­ing the Sleep­ing Giant Trail


The Reward

No vaca­tion with my fam­i­ly would be com­plete with­out a trip to the local ice cream hole. Did I men­tion that my fam­i­ly is from the Mid­west? Frozen treats are not only a must to my fam­i­ly, but an essen­tial incen­tive for stir­ring up fun games on a long car ride. Every game ends the same, no mat­ter who wins or los­es, every­body gets ice cream. The way Hawaii does shaved ice is some­thing spe­cial. Wish­ing Well Shave Ice  is the ide­al spot you’ll want to get it. A cute, lit­tle shack you’d miss if you blinked, this Insta­gram­ma­ble spot is worth find­ing for that per­fect shot. What makes this shaved ice so spe­cial is the scoop of ice cream sur­round­ed by syrup sweet­ened ice. As sim­ple as this con­cept seems, there’s a spe­cif­ic deli­cious tex­ture that will make you think “why don’t they serve this back home?”

Pho­to © Dustin Belt @dbeltwrites / Unsplash


The Wish­ing Well Shave Ice is open 7 days a week from 9:30am-5pm. Go find them and tag me on insta­gram at @Nicopressley_ and @lafamilytravel so I can rem­i­nisce with you!


Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church

Immac­u­late Con­cep­tion Roman Catholic Church

The Heart

Our fam­i­lies’ most spir­i­tu­al adven­ture took place at the Immac­u­late Con­cep­tion Catholic Church in Lihue Kauai. Walk­ing into the church, you notice how inti­mate of a space it is, with it’s high ceil­ings, wide open win­dows and small wood­en pews. Halfway through the mass, rain start­ed pour­ing. A priest was deliv­er­ing the ser­mon in Poly­ne­sian. Sun­light streamed in on the ear­ly morn­ing wor­ship­pers, accom­pa­nied by the soft pat­tern of rain out­side. If you’ve ever had one of those moments when you felt like some­one who was­n’t phys­i­cal­ly there with you — was — this was that moment.

Immaculate Conception Christmas Mass

Immac­u­late Con­cep­tion Christ­mas Mass


Ear­li­er in the year, we lost my grand­par­ents, my father’s par­ents. After that, I began a new busi­ness ven­ture in copy­writ­ing. My broth­er spent all year study­ing for his civ­il engi­neer­ing exam and my par­ents dealt with the prop­er­ties left behind. Up until that point, we had­n’t got­ten a moment togeth­er to process the hole they had left in our lives. I’m not the most reli­gious per­son, but this expe­ri­ence felt heal­ing for us all.

Pho­to © Colter Olm­stead / Unsplash


Between the laugh­ter and sun­ny beach­es, it’s the moments of fig­ur­ing things out and going through hard times that binds you. Hawaii was the escape my fam­i­ly need­ed to jump back to reality.

Getting There

A direct flight from LAX to Kauai’s pri­ma­ry air­port, Lihue, is a hop, skip and a six and a half-hour nap away! A con­nect­ing flight will put you any­where between 6–10 hours with a stop over in Alas­ka. Most air­lines serve a meal and snacks dur­ing flight. Make sure to wear some­thing com­fort­able and bring your sleep mask! Upon arrival, you will be greet­ed with col­or­ful leis from the concierge team. Right through bag­gage claim you’ll be able to find your mode of transportation.

Rent A Car

Direct­ly out­side the air­port, with­in walk­ing dis­tance, you will find car rental booths. The pick up and drop off areas for all the rental car com­pa­nies are locat­ed right there. Below are the com­pa­nies avail­able to rent cars in Kauai:

Advan­tage Rent A Car 
  • (800) 777‑5500
Alamo Rent-A-Car
  • (800) 327‑9633
  • (808) 246‑0462
Avis Rent-A-Car
  • (808) 245‑9031
Bud­get Rent-A-Car 
  • (808) 9031
Dol­lar Rent-A-Car 
  • (800) 342‑7398
Enter­prise Rent-A-Car 
  • (808) 241‑5580
Hertz Rent-A-Car
  • (808) 245‑3356
Nation­al Rent-A-Car 
  • (808) 245‑5638
  • (800) 227‑7368

You can also use Uber and Lyft to and from the airport.

Nico Press­ley is a Hol­ly­wood based screen and copy­writer. She val­ues fam­i­ly time, hik­ing, adven­tures and her bom­bay cat, Sam. When she is not curat­ing SEO dri­ven con­tent she is cre­at­ing copy for her VFX and sto­ry­telling com­pa­ny Chaos Mag­ic Stu­dios. Her weak­ness­es include one heck of a sto­ry and ice cream, pis­ta­chio if there’s a choice. 

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