After two weeks in New Zealand, we weren’t planning on heading to Kauai this year, but when we came across an Alaska Airlines deal for $318 roundtrip flights to Maui, it became an easy decision. We booked the air travel, adding on a quick island-hopper flight to Kauai, and soon came across a cost-effective yet charming ocean-view studio¬†available at $100 per night. All told, the total costs for airfare and five nights of lodging for two came to only $1536 — not bad! An added bonus was that the owner of the studio let us check out late for our 9pm flight home at no charge.

Beautiful Donkey Beach

The studio, located in the town of Kapaa, offered a full kitchen and barbecue, allowing us to cook most of our meals and save our travel funds for island activities and a few very nice dining experiences. An added plus is that we love cooking in Hawaii, where Mai Tais and sunsets go hand in hand with outdoor grilling. Hawaiian vegetables and fruits are always fresh, and they’re a little different from home. One of our favorites is the purple potato — a somewhat rare commodity on the mainland. The seafood, beef and chicken in Kauai are also ultra fresh and delicious on the grill.

This was our second trip to Kauai. The first time we split our time between family-friendly¬†Kiahuna Plantation in the Poipu Beach area — known as the sunny side of the island — and the beautiful Hanalei Colony Resort, which is at the far end of the road past the town of Hanalei. On that trip, we brought our two sons and wanted to stay right on the sand to maximize our beach time. We also hit all the major attractions, from Waimea Canyon, to the Kalalau Trail and Shipwreck Beach.

Big waves and golden sand at Secret Beach.

But this year, we were going solo, just the two of us, and a studio suited us just fine. We chose to stay slightly away from the ocean, and found it peaceful and relaxing, although we were glad to still have an ocean view.

Staying near Kapaa gave us easy access to all the breathtaking beaches en route to Hanalei, including Moloaa Bay, Secret Beach, Queen’s Bath, Donkey Beach, Sealodge and picturesque Anini. We also spent a few afternoons swimming at nearby Kealia Beach — great for boogie boarding — and ventured away from the coast twice: once to hike the stunning Kuilau Trail, and once to go horseback riding at Silver Falls Ranch, which involved a refreshing dip in a waterfall-filled pond.

Tropical paradise and distance ocean views from the Kuilau Trail

In the end, the entire trip cost well under $2000, all food and expenses included. And after a drama-filled summer at home, it was well worth the investment. It just doesn’t get more relaxing than Kauai, where peacefulness and natural beauty abound.