Running as fast as we can at 6:00 a.m. is not on our list of favorite things to do. Unfortunately, that was our first major checklist item upon landing on Kauai. Truth is, our schedule wasn’t going to ease up much after that, so we had to rally. Since this visit to the Garden Isle was carefully crafted to be all about adventure, taking us to several points across the island, we had no choice but to go full speed ahead, kicking it all off with a half marathon.

With just over 24 hours before that brutal 6 a.m. Kauai Half Marathon start time, we had a lot on our plate. In addition to picking up our registration packets and closely scoping out the racecourse, we needed to carbo-load (easy!) and rest. Our first accommodation on the island, Koloa Landing, proved to be the perfect pad for pre-race chowing and chilling. Our huge, modern villa’s gourmet kitchen provided an ideal setup for cooking our own healthy meals (pineapple and kale salad, anyone?). Measuring in at well over 1,000 square feet, the unit also offered several places for staying off of our feet. Many pre-marathon smoothies (and post-marathon mai tais) were gulped down on our massive lanai, overlooking one of the property’s pools, gorgeous grounds, and the ocean in the distance. Next time, we’re coming here with friends to make proper use of the villa’s space.

After the Kauai Half Marathon

We chose an old friend, the Grand Hyatt Kauai, as our post-marathon recovery hotel. With an uber-aloha vibe and some of the best service on the island, this gem is one of our favorites. We spent many hours lazing around the hotel’s network of lush pools and lagoons, recovering and jabbering to anyone who would listen about what a fantastic event the Kauai Half Marathon was. I think our description of the relatively gentle course and motivating views convinced even a few non-runners to take up the sport. If the Grand Hyatt Kauai is in your future, don’t skip their Anara Spa. The spa’s promise of “pure bliss” is no hyperbole, and we owe it a debt of gratitude for successfully prepping us for our next adventure: hiking the Grand Canyon-like Waimea Canyon. Even if you’re not up for a hike, this 12-mile long slice of Kauai is worth a visit. The red lava beds, interesting shadows, native plants, and canyon views will take your breath away.

Viewfinder Tip: Plan to spend time on both sides of Kauai (north and south).

We couldn’t let our fascination with this area deter us. We still had the north side to tackle. On our way to accommodation number three, St. Regis Princeville Resort, we stopped off to take in Kauai’s best helicopter tour. As two guys who prefer to discover things on foot, we went in with a few reservations. Our attitudes turned around within five minutes. Swooping over Waimea Canyon and then along the Na Pali Coast (where we were heading next), our helicopter adventure heightened our desire to explore even more of the island. The best part? Doing a tricky landing at Manawaiopuna Falls; the 400-foot marvel that you likely remember from Jurassic Park.

Several adventures in, we really needed to ease up a bit to prep for what was ahead, hiking the Na Pali Coast’s Kalalau Trail. The St. Regis fit the bill perfectly. Although the polished service, innovative restaurants, and first-class spa were fun to experience (we had the best lomi lomi massages on our personal score sheet), the star of the show was this resort’s stunning placement on the island. If you go, we dare you to tear yourself away from the sensational views of Hanalei Bay. Day and night – by the pool, noshing on breakfast on our lanai, and sipping cocktails in the lounge – we couldn’t get enough of what’s often referred to as one of the best views on the planet.

Sunset from Princeville

The call of Kalalau did pull us away for a day of hiking the 22-mile round-trip trail. We started at sunbreak because we knew (from our shorter hike there a few years back) that it was moderately strenuous and that we’d be stopping to snap pictures several times a mile. A cool breeze was responsible for our win in the weather department and our ability to make so many tracks in a single day. Unfortunately, our camera wasn’t as excited about the moist weather, conking out before the end of our extreme trek. Even still, we were able to get our fair share of pictures (see header photo!).

Our last hotel on the island was a return to old Hawaii. When Hanalei Colony Resort says, “unspoiled, unplugged, unforgettable,” they mean it. This condo rental property’s two-story, plantation-style buildings are delightfully modest and inviting. Our unit, as close to the ocean as you can get, seemed only a high tide away from being an overwater bungalow. On our last morning, while enjoying breakfast on the lanai, another guest called to us from the sand below. “Isn’t this paradise?,” she said. “We come every year!” Now that’s not a bad idea at all.

What are your favorite tropical adventures?