Romantic sunsets, swimming with sea turtles, and water that’s the perfect temperature. To many, a honeymoon in Hawaii seems like an obvious choice — or a cliché.
And we, like countless newlyweds, decided to venture to the islands to find out for ourselves if it was as beautiful and amazing as everyone says.
Turns out we were right, and our Hawaiian getaway was well worth the risk (if you can call it that). But rather than spend our time at a resort sipping on rum drinks in a cabana, we switched things up and went camping instead. It was the perfect way to add some adventure to our honeymoon and do things differently.
Avoid the Crowds — Go Beach Camping
A private beach at the resort might sound relaxing, but not when that beach is packed with other resort goers looking for the same peace and quiet that you are. Have you ever found your perfect spot, cracked open a book, and re-read the same sentence five times because you’re distracted by crying kids on one side and your neighbor’s music blasting on the other? Well, we have and it’s not our idea of peace. Skip that and find your own stretch of sand by heading out to Polihale State Park on Kauai’s West Coast. Here you’ll find miles of uncrowded coastline, the most amazing swimming hole at Queen’s Bath, and an awe-inspiring beachfront campsite.
We were pinching ourselves!
And yes, to reach this magical destination you have to stray from the beaten path. Make sure you have a solid 4WD vehicle to travel five miles along a bumpy dirt road and then a few more on the sand. Once you’ve arrived at the campsite, you’ll have your pick of options from shaded brush, open-air dunes with picnic tables, or secluded spots for maximum privacy. Have you seen a more idyllic campsite? Polihale State Park was the best spot to kick off our honeymoon, get in the right mindset, and just enjoy being together. Enjoy the most glorious sunset each day, right outside your tent door. Pro-Tip: Bring something heavy enough, like empty bags to fill with sand, to weigh down your tent. We forgot we would be pitching a tent in the sand and luckily found some sticks to bury and hold down the tent corners as our stakes were useless.
Experience Adventure + Joy Together
Even after the joy of our wedding, there was even more joy to be found while exploring the island together on our adventurous Hawaiian honeymoon. Sharing these experiences together as newlyweds deepened our bond and allowed us to create so many special memories. The best part was how simple and small they were — like, enjoying every little sight and smell and sound on the trail. Or, the joy of finding that our tent site was right next to the perfect river swimming hole and jumping right in after hiking in the canyon on a hot day. We had the joy of meeting a kind stranger on the trail and spotting wild goats on the canyon cliffs.
One standout was finally reaching the top of Waimea Canyon in the heat of the afternoon, soaked with sweat, blood pumping, and so proud of each other for getting there.
There was the thrill of flying over Kauai in a helicopter with no doors and feeling the wind in our hair and waterfall spray hitting our faces, and a beautiful moment discovering a sea turtle swimming in the coral reef with us while snorkeling at Tunnels Beach. Nothing can compare to these moments.
Strengthen Your Relationship
During any adventure, you’ve got to be able to listen, rely on, and really trust each other. On our third day in Kauai, our plan was to drive from Polihale State Park, park our rental truck along the side of the road near the trailhead, and hike into Waimea Canyon for an overnight camping trip. We had read about cars getting broken into and were both nervous, but kept assuring each other everything would be fine and left the car in a pullout. Luckily, we enjoyed a stunning (and hot) hike down into the canyon.
At a few points, we were both unsure of the trail but encouraged each other onward until we reached our camping area.
There was trash all over the campsite, and we hadn’t seen a single soul on the trail. Kendall felt leery about spending the night here, and while I felt frustrated about changing our plan, I decided to trust him and his instincts, so we turned back. Eventually, we made it to a previous camping site that we had passed earlier. As darkness approached, we debated if we should stay here or abandon camping altogether to hike back up the canyon. At that moment, we met a kind stranger who had also left her car unattended and planned to camp in the same area. She assured us everything seemed safe and helped us to relax, so we all decided to jump in the river and swim instead of stressing out over the situation. That swim helped us calm down and we ended up enjoying a night of camping.
When you find yourself in a risky situation and have to change your plans or feel doubtful of your decision, it’s important that you and your partner learn to take each other’s concerns into account and trust each other. This practice of being vulnerable with each other, making decisions together, compromising, and communicating openly are all valuable lessons that strengthen your relationship.
Besides not having to pay for a resort condo each night, we saved money by venturing out on our own instead of signing up for guided tours. Yes, it is tempting to pre-plan every minute of every day and book the sailing sunset cruise, snorkeling trip, cave tour, waterfall kayak trip, and the luau show (trust me, we looked into all these options!). It was simply more relaxing and fun to have the freedom and flexibility throughout our week instead.
Plus, aside from a few entrance fees, hiking is pretty much free!
While we did have a plan for our hiking and camping destinations, we decided to seek out suggestions from locals and fellow travelers and go with the flow. By doing this, it enabled us to splurge on a doors-off helicopter tour over Kauai, which we absolutely recommend and would do again in a heartbeat! This is truly the only way to explore every nook and cranny of the island, as a majority of the landscape is unreachable by foot. We flew with Jack Harter Helicopters and had a blast!
Another budget-friendly tip is to rent snorkel gear from a local shop and explore Tunnels Beach yourself, rather than pay for a pricey snorkeling tour. We left early in the morning to secure a parking spot, but we couldn’t find the designated lot, so we drove to the next beach and walked along the sand until we spotted coral reefs underwater.
We ended up having the beach mostly to ourselves, ate fresh mangoes that we’d purchased at the local farmer’s market, and leisurely swam around while taking in the beautiful fish and coral.
We relaxed and took a break to read on the beach, then swam out to the deeper reef in the afternoon. In the reef, I spotted a turtle floating a few feet beneath me and excitedly motioned to Kendall to come check it out. The two of us simply floated there and watched this sea turtle for 5–10 minutes. It was a really special moment that I don’t think would have felt the same with 20 other people in our tour group ogling over the same turtle.
Overall, we had the best time on Kauai and felt refreshed, revitalized, and relaxed after a week of hiking, swimming, and camping.
Some of our Food Recommendations:
- Good-to-Go backpacking meals – These were a lifesaver after a day of hiking and want a hot meal that’s quick and delicious.
- Shrimp Station in Waimea, Kauai – Get the coconut shrimp, you will NOT regret it!
- JoJo's Shave Ice in Waimea, Kauai – Make sure you get an ice flavor that comes with Macadamia nut ice cream as the base. Heavenly on a hot day!
- Tahiti Nui Restaurant in Hanalei – Order a nice seafood dish for a fancier dinner.
- The Dolphin Restaurant in Hanalei – Another fancy dinner option. Go here for sushi and poke!
- The Warehouse 3540 in Lawai – Awesome collection of food trucks and shops selling beautiful local goods. We stumbled upon this place and it was definitely worth the stop!
- Mahiko Lounge in Lihue – This place is a must for happy hour! Every single thing we ate was delicious and this was the best Mai Tai on the island.
NEMO Gear We Loved on This Trip:
Tensor Insulated Regular – This pad now comes with the Vortex pump sack which was so easy to use and fast to inflate! We slept very comfortably on these pads.
Tango Duo Slim – We use this double sleeping bag for every couples backpacking trip we embark on, and it is our favorite! Very lightweight, soft, warm, and you don’t have to sacrifice cuddling on your adventures.
Hornet Elite 2P – To be honest, we were somewhat disappointed when we decided to bring this 2P rather than a 3P tent to have that extra movement and storage space. But it was pleasantly comfortable, great for saving space in our limited luggage, and easy to set up.
- Fillo Elite – Seriously worth having a pillow for sleeping, and also useful on the long flights! It packs so small you have no excuse to leave it at home.
The NEMO GOFAR (Get Outside For Adventure & Research)
Program gears employees up and sends them out to spend time in interesting places in NEMO gear. We believe great design starts with real adventures, and are committed to making sure all NEMO employees get to experience it. As NEMO's Bookkeeper for almost 3 years, Kaitlyn loves traveling and exploring the beautiful natural wonders and cities of the world. Favorite adventures include hiking, biking, and sailing in the sunshine — while her passion for food, yoga, trying new things, and meeting new people all inspire her every day.