Kauai, My Happy Place

Ke’e Beach on Kauai’s north shore.

I love Kauai. It’s become familiar, and now feels more like a version of home that I come back to rather than a place I visit on vacation. I’d love to own a home on the island someday—even if (or especially if?) it’s a tiny shack that runs on solar panels—where I could spend a few months at a time.

My parents spent some time there this summer, and since I’m able to work remotely, I decided to tag along for a week, sans husband. I didn’t let the time change affect me—I basically woke up at 4:30am Hawaii time, still aligned with my teammates on the West Coast at least, and worked a half-shift. Then, on a midday break, we ate lunch, or ate shave ice, or went to the beach, or tried another shave ice truck, or took a drive along the coast—and often did a mix of all of these. We then returned in the late afternoon so I could finish my workday and eat dinner.

Over the past five years at my current job, I’ve actually grown to dislike this sort of arrangement—working while on a trip—and these days prefer to just take time completely off from work. But in Kauai, it’s easier for me to relax, to just be. I know the island, so I don’t feel the need to follow an itinerary, and whenever I’m in Hawaii in general, I immediately shift into island mode: I live in my swimsuit, I get sand in my hair on the first day that never washes out, and I become so incredibly dark and aware of how brown I really am—and I love it and feel completely in my element. For me, it’s truly one of the most pleasant places to be.

On this trip in July, we stayed near Poipu Beach. We tend to spend time either here in the south or north near Hanalei and Princeville. I love both areas—both have lovely beaches and shave ice stands, which pretty much make up my time in Hawaii. But I do favor Kauai’s north shore because I love the little town of Hanalei and the beach at the end of the road, Ke’e Beach, from where you can set off onto Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast.

I’m not sure when I’ll visit Kauai again, so in the meantime, I’ll daydream as I look at these photos.

Photos taken with an iPhone 7.

Looking down at Wailua Falls from the side of the road.
The rocky border separating the lagoon and sea at Lydgate Beach Park, on the east side of the island.
The shores of Lydgate Beach, beyond the sheltered lagoon.
A post-beach meal in a restaurant in Kapaa (I apologize—I don’t remember which one, and no restaurant names on Yelp ring a bell…)
A section of the Wailua River, from the lookout point over lush Wailua River Valley.
A colorful sign in the seating area at Wishing Well Shave Ice in Hanalei, on the north shore of the island.
Shave ice at Wishing Well in Hanalei.
Ke’e Beach at the end of the road, where the Kalalau Trail begins on the Na Pali Coast.
The Loco Coco Shave Ice micro trailer in a parking lot in Koloa, on the south shore.
The most magnificent tree I’ve ever seen, above the Art House gallery in Koloa. We stayed and looked up at this tree for quite a while. So beautiful.
The door to order at Koloa Shave Ice, not far from that grand tree.
Another shot of the tree, from along the sidewalk.
The Fresh Shave trailer, in the parking lot of Warehouse 3540 in Lawai, between Koloa and Kalaheo.
The mustache-inspired menu at The Fresh Shave in Lawai.
I ended up getting the special that day: the (Salvador) Dali, with coconut and Ghirardelli chocolate topped with macadamia nuts.
The interior of cute shops at Warehouse 3540 in Lawai.
The galbi dish at Roots in Culture, the food truck next to The Fresh Shave at Warehouse 3540.

Published by Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Senior editor at Longreads / Automattic

22 thoughts on “Kauai, My Happy Place

  1. It’s absolutely beautiful! And it sounds like paradise, really. My happy place is my circus school. Even when I keep falling from the rope, the training is hard and my hands are all blistered, no place makes me smile like that place.

  2. My family lived on Oahu for 3 years. Unfortunately, we never had the chance to visit Kauai. It sounds lovely. Maybe one day…

  3. Love it! Beautiful outdoors!
    Looks a bit like our paradise Islands here in lovely Trinidad and Tobago! Enjoy!

  4. I’ve never made it to Kuai, but want to. Been to Maui and spent a fair bit of time on Oahu, and been to Kona for a conference (I really don’t think that counted as I never left the hotel).

  5. I can’t think of one place in the US where I would feel comfortable settling down and spending the rest of my life other than Hawaii…either Kauai or the Big Island. No wait…I could do Aspen forever (spent the 70’s there). Love your photos in this post.

    1. I’ve never been to Aspen! I admit I’m more a beach than snow person though I love the outdoors and Colorado in the summer (was in Boulder in August—love that town). But Aspen in the 70s sounds fun 🙂

      1. Aspen in summer is just as good as Aspen in winter (for me). The 70’s…yeah…I owned a natural food store. And Boulder is another town I might be able to settle down in.

  6. I agree with Heide and I think how lucky joyacey is to live there. I feel like I have had the pleasure of a visit thanks to your quality photos Cheri…who knows, maybe someday a visit will become a reality!

  7. As “working vacations” go, this one doesn’t look or sound half bad! Thank you for sharing your beautiful images, Cheri.

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