As Chris and Elie Mehl hiked down the dirt trail in the middle of what felt like a private neighborhood, not another soul in sight, they wondered if their plan to find the “Secret Beach” their Kauai guidebook claimed was “stunningly beautiful” was really worth it.
But after 15 minutes of tripping over lava rocks, dodging low-hanging branches and generally regretting their decision to wear flip-flops, the trail finally ended and the honeymooners were greeted with a gorgeous view. Taking in the sparsely populated stretch of golden sand, wading pools, more volcanic rocks and a small waterfall, all the superlatives from the book seemed quite fitting. But in addition to the pristine beach, the couple noticed something funny.
“Everyone who was there was holding the same book as us!” Elie said.
Clearly, the authors of “The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook” weren’t kidding when they wrote Kauapea Beach, aka “Secret Beach,” was off the beaten path. And it was exactly what the couple, who had just flown in from Los Angeles, was looking for from their Hawaii honeymoon.
A day earlier, Chris and Elie were in quite a different scenario, sitting in a crowded terminal at LAX airport, waiting to board their over-booked flight.
“We’re offering $300 vouchers for any passengers willing to take a later flight to Kauai,” announced the voice over the Terminal 5 loud speaker.
Chris and Elie laughed. “We’re leaving for our honeymoon, we’re not waiting any longer,” they decided. But as the voucher offers increased first to $500, then $600 and finally $800, the practical newlyweds reconsidered.
“For $800 we were able to fly free the rest of the year, and the flight only landed about six hours later,” said Chris, 30.
Six hours might seem like an eternity for some, but the Mehls had already waited a week after their wedding to jet off to Hawaii, spending the time between their nuptials and their honeymoon with friends who had traveled from Elie’s native Kazakhstan for the wedding.
“It was more important to me to show my friends around Los Angeles, since they’d never been, than it was to leave right after the wedding,” said Elie, 36.
That six-hour delay resulted in a pleasant surprise for the couple.
“When we arrived at our hotel it was dark, and when we woke up early the next morning we realized we had an amazing ocean view from our room,” Chris said. “We had seen pictures of the hotel online, but had no idea it would be so beautiful.”
Their hotel, The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas, on the north side of Kauai, has more than just a great view to offer. As a sister hotel to the St. Regis Princeville, Westin guests can take a 5-minute shuttle to the St. Regis’ beach, since like many Hawaiian hotels the Westin doesn’t have easy beach access. Westin guests can also dine in the restaurants at the luxury hotel and charge the meals to their room.
Chris and Elie also enjoyed hopping around the Westin’s four pools, skipping the kiddie pool for obvious reasons, and used the kitchenette in their room to make breakfast each morning. Such an amenity is a great way to save money, since daily breakfasts in hotel restaurants get pricey. As much as they enjoyed their hotel, however, it was important to both of them to get out and explore the island as they did during their day at the Secret Beach.
“Yes, it’s your honeymoon, but you’ve still got to come up for air every now and then,” Elie said. “We used ‘The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook’ to plan excursions each day.”
Chris added, “We didn’t show up with a schedule or activities, we just did what we felt like (doing).”
Those excursions included driving around the island, ziplining, hiking the Kalalau Trail, and exploring Waimea Canyon.
“Waimea Canyon is a must-see, definitely one of my favorite parts of the trip,” Chris said.
It’s easy to understand why. Waimea Canyon has been described as “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific” due to the eroded layers of rock formed by long-ago volcanic eruptions. It’s smaller than its Arizona cousin, but no less striking.
After driving around Waimea, the Mehls indulged in one of their other favorite honeymoon activities: finding an out-of-the-way spot for lunch.
“We stopped at The Mermaids Café in Old Kapaa Town and got some amazing tuna wraps,” Elie said. “The fancy restaurant dinners were nice, but I think we had more fun finding random little spots to eat at.”
This laid-back approach to meals was perfectly fitting for the overall vibe of the locale. Kauai has a reputation as the most relaxed of the Hawaiian islands, and Chris and Elie said their experience lived up to that.
“We would wake up early each day, around 6 a.m., to explore and we’d have dinner early too,” Elie said. “Some places were closed by 7 p.m., and it gets dark on the island early, so we’d just relax in our room in the evenings.”
If you’re looking for nightlife, Kauai isn’t the place, but if you want to mix a little exploring with a lot of relaxing and beautiful scenery, this is where you want to be, the couple said.
Their final words of advice for anyone else heading to Kauai: Do your research and bring a good guidebook like theirs, but don’t over plan.
“Our favorite moments were the spontaneous drives and stops at little out-of-the-way spots that we just couldn’t have scheduled ahead of time,” Chris said. “You’re on your honeymoon; relax and go with it.”
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