Olympic Peninsula Road Trip Guide

Olympic Peninsula Road Trip Guide

Olympic Peninsula Road Trip Guide

things to do in the Olympic Peninsula, Blue Eyed Compass

This page contains affiliate links to products and tours that I have used for my own travels, purchased & enjoyed. Clicking these links does not cost you anything, however doing so will support Blue Eyed Compass and allow the site to continue.  THANK YOU!  You can view our disclosure page for additional details

Imagine waking up to sunrise views over peaceful waters and spending your afternoons hiking to views with endless mountain top vistas.

With its own rainforest, set of glaciers and archeological sites, the Olympic Peninsula is a sight to behold for anyone looking for an escape from the hustle of their average 9-to-5 lives.

The best thing about an Olympic Peninsula road trip is that you can experience some of the most beautiful landscapes without having to pay an exorbitant amount in travel costs. This road trip is affordable and full of breathtaking experiences.

Getting to the Olympic Peninsula

The Olympic Peninsula is in the top corner of Washington state, bordering Canada and lies across from Seattle’s Puget Sound. There are a few ways to get to the Peninsula; from Seattle via ferry and by road tripping south of Seattle.

 

Ferry from Seattle:

There is more than one ferry option from Seattle to the Olympic Peninsula.

From downtown Seattle you can drive onto the Seattle-Bainbridge Island ferry or the Seattle-Bremerton ferry.

If you’re coming from Seattle’s northern suburbs, then you will want to take the Edmonds-Kingston ferry.

The ferries complete multiple crossings each day. You can find detailed information on the Washington state ferry website.

 

Road Trip South of Seattle:

From Seattle drive to Olympia to reach Highway 101.

Which direction you take once past Olympia will depend on the direction you choose to drive in for your trip here – clockwise or counterclockwise. Or perhaps you’re more of a ‘go with the wind’ kind of road tripper and you plan to mozy on through the peninsula. This post lists almost everything that you can do and visit on the Olympic Peninsula, but it is shared in a clockwise direction for ease of understanding. Think of it like a loop drive around the Olympic Peninsula, one that you can take in either direction.

If you’re trying to calculate for time saving purposes and choosing between driving south or taking a ferry, be sure to consider the ferry schedules, as well as the boarding and unboarding time. The ferries are a fun experience to enjoy, but can be more time consuming.

Best time of year to road trip the Olympic Peninsula

Like most of the Pacific Northwest area, the Olympic Peninsula has fairly temperate and pleasant weather year round. With summers bringing warm, sunny days with little humidity, and winters providing those snow capped mountains you see in postcards.

The best time of year to road trip around the Olympic Peninsula is dependent on your preferences. However, I would recommend going between May and August (summer months). This will allow you to have warm nights if you’re camping, and be able to experience all of the beautiful hiking trails and beaches without concern for cold or snowy weather.

 

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Early summer will be great for waterfall activity, however the higher elevations are likely to still be snow covered
  • Beaches in the Pacific Northwest are not your standard Florida/tropical beaches. It will be a bit windier and cooler, even in the summer months
  • July through August provides dry & sunny days, but with it comes a larger crowd of visitors. We visited in August and didn’t experience much overcrowding, but something to keep in mind.
  • Be sure to check ahead that the places you want to visit are open. Some beaches and trails will close during the winter months

Best Things to do on the Olympic Peninsula

The Olympic Peninsula offers a whole host of exciting things to do, vistas to soak in and small towns to explore. I’m sharing everything you can do on the Olympic Peninsula. It will be up to you to select the best things to do for you.

Be sure to check out the map at the bottom of this post that shows where every place is located so that you can easily plan your route!

 

 

Skokomish Park at Lake Cushman –

Lake Cushman is a beautiful lake and reservoir that’s open year round. Skokomish Park is an excellent place to camp or spend an afternoon at. There are facilities, picnic tables and plenty of camping availability. The best part is that you can swim at this park, so if you want an afternoon of swimming with the Olympic National Forest as your backdrop this is your place.

 

 

Vance Creek Bridge-

Vance Creek Bridge is an abandoned arch bridge. It’s surrounded by beautifully lush forests. It’s a great stopping point for a quick view and cool pictures. DO NOT  try to climb the bridge as it’s on private property and has not been maintained.

 

 

Aberdeen-

If you’re going to slowly peruse the Olympic National Peninsula, you may want to spend a night in Aberdeen. It’s known for being the birthplace of the famous Kurt Cobain, and while that may be it’s biggest selling point, you can find some good spots for sunset here.

 

 

Ruby Beach –

There is a string of unique Washington beaches to check out on this peninsula. The first one you’ll hit if you follow this Peninsula loop route clockwise will be Ruby Beach. Ruby beach is a stretch of classically rocky Washington beach where the Pacific Ocean pounds into the shoreline. It’s a bit more adventurous than Second Beach, and perfect for those who enjoy checking out marine life and the sound of the waves. There is ample parking and free public restrooms here as well.

Ruby Beach, Olympic Peninsula, Blue Eyed Compass

Hoh Rainforest –

Before you continue along the coastline, you need to explore the Hoh Rainforest. I’m serious, it’s a need-to-visit, one of a kind place.

I would describe the Hoh Rainforest as the eerie and lush forest where you envision fairies take up residence. Not your typical Amazonian rainforest, this place is definitely one of a kind, as well as mysterious and breathtaking. If you want to, you can camp overnight here, I would highly recommend it. There are also plenty of great hiking trails to explore.

The reason this area is so thick with vegetation is because of the Olympic Mountains to the east. They trap the damp air coming from the Pacific Ocean allowing for almost 14 feet of rain per year here! And once you walk around the rainforest you will see how that much precipitation can affect the area by the towering trees covered in bright green moss.

 

 

La Push Beaches –

La Push has a series of three beautiful beaches to explore

 

 

Second Beach –A sandy beach a few miles from the town of La Push. This beach is well known for its tree topped bluffs that are set off the shoreline. You can camp on Second Beach, but you will need a wilderness permit to do so.

There is also a hiking trail called Second Beach Trail that you can easily do. It’s a four mil round trip hike, so if you’re planning to hike with your camping gear, it’s easily doable.

First Beach –

First Beach is another sandy beach and is closer to the town of La Push. It’s a beautiful place for a long beach walk. I would suggest visiting this beach around dinner time as its proximity to the only places that offer restaurant style eating in this part of the peninsula.

*Recommendation- enjoy dinner at First Beach and then camp at Second Beach

Rialto Beach –

Rialto beach is the third of the La Push beaches. It runs next to Mora campground making it convenient for campers to enjoy. Like First and Second Beach, Rialto showcases the beauty of the Pacific Northwest lush landscape with a sandy shoreline.

Rialto Beach, Olymic Peninsula,Blue Eyed Compass

Hole in the Wall Hike –

The Hole in the Wall Hike is an exciting two and a half hour hike that features sea stacks, tide pools and passageways only accessible during low tide (so plan accordingly!). In order to park in the hikes parking lot you will need a national park pass. You can purchase an American the Beautiful annual pass online or visit the Quinault Ranger Station to purchase the pass in person. (*If you choose to visit the Quinault Ranger Station, it will be easiest to do so before heading the Ruby Beach. See the map below for reference). If you’re feeling adventurous, you can climb to the top of the hike for a view of the coast and the beach.

 

 

 

Forks, Washington –

If you’ve read the popular novel series Twilight, then Forks will sound familiar to you, as it’s the actual town where the series is set in. Visiting Forks, WA is more of a ‘check off your bucket list’ item. There isn’t much to do in the town, but you can witness some stores still capitalizing on the successful series. And if you’ve read the books, you’ll be surprised as it looks nothing like it does in the movies.

 

 

 

Ozette Lake –

Ozette Lake is a stunning unaltered freshwater lake that is great for camping and hiking. You can hike alongside the lake or take one of their three-mile boardwalk trails that lead to the coastline.

 

 

 

Ozette Loop Trail –

This 9.4 mile loop hike offers views of Lake Ozette, the coastline and stunning wildlife. There is a beach camp area, Camp Alva, you can spend the night at. This Ozette Loop brochure will provide you with even more information.

*Fun fact about this area – it’s home to one of North America’s greatest archaeological sites! In the 1970’s a storm revealed clay banks near Camp Alva that were holding a forgotten hunting and gathering society. If you want to see the artifacts that were uncovered visit the Makah Museum in Neah Bay.

 

 

 

Clallam Bay –

Clallam Bay is a pretty place for a stop. If you drive from Ozette Lake to Clallam Bay be sure to go slow so you can take in the gorgeous views of the area.

Clallam Bay, Olympic Peninsula, Blue Eyed Compass

Camp at Sekiu –

What started as a panic ride to find a place to stay, led us to stumble upon Seiku. And we could not have been more floored by how epic the morning views were while camping here. You can pay a small $34 fee per night to camp right on the bay’s coastline. We stayed at Olson’s and really enjoyed their indoor, hot water showers (a perk after road tripping for a few days). There is also Van Rippers for paid campsites too.

Neah Bay –

Similar to Clallam Bay, Neah Bay is a great place to stop at for views. On a clear day you can see over to Canada, and if you’re lucky enough to witness a sunset here you will never be the same. There are small beaches that line the road leading from Sekiu to Neah Bay. 

sunset at Neah Bay, Olympci Peninsula, Blue Eyed Compass

Calvin’s Crab House –

If you enjoy fresh seafood, then you need to eat at Calvin’s Crab House. This family owned eatery serves extremely fresh and delicious seafood. They offer picnic tables with bay views. It’s a perfect spot to enjoy a peaceful meal and sunset. Be forewarned though, they run out of certain items and close promptly at 7pm.

Calvins Crab House, Olymic Peninsula,Blue Eyed Compass

Cape Flattery Trail –

The Cape Flattery Trail is a beautifully lush hiking trail that features wooden plank boards throughout for ease of walking. This 1.5 mile round trip hike feels like something out of a fairy tale. Or maybe a science fiction novel… think hobbits wandering around Fangorn Forest… and yes, I did hope for living trees to come to life and speak with me. (Yep, I just referenced Lord of the Rings, not ashamed… not too proud either hah).

Alright back to the trail… There is a small parking lot where you can access the trailhead directly, making it easy for travelers. The end of the trail leaves where the Strait of Juan De Fuca meets the Pacific Ocean. And it’s the most northerly point of the Olympic Peninsula.

*My recommendation would be to arrive here prior to sunset. The majority of the hike is underneath tree coverage, so if you arrive prior to sunset you can come out to coastal views of the sunsetting, and still be able to hike back with natural light.

Cape Flattery Trail view at sunset, Olympic National Park Washington, Blue Eyed Compass

Shi Shi Beach Trail –

If you’re planning on staying in the Neah Bay/Clallam Bay area for more than one day, then I suggest setting aside time to get to and enjoy the Shi Shi Beach Trail. This (almost) 7 mile out-and-back trail features gorgeous wildflowers and has maintained stairs that allow you to safely reach the shoreline. It’s a great option for overnight camping as well.

*Depending on the time of year and precipitation, the trail can be muddy, so be sure to wear proper hiking boots.

 

 

 

Lake Crescent – Nestled in the Olympic Mountains is Lake Crescent. This glacially carved lake is a beauty and great for kayaking and stand up paddle boarding. While there are some rental homes you can stay around the lake, we were enamored with views at Fairholme Campground. If you arrive early enough to the campgrounds you’ll be able to snag a lakefront campsite and wake up to soft lapping waters along the lake’s edges.

Fairholme Campground at Lake Crescent, Olympic Peninsula, Blue Eyed Compass

Lake Crescent offers a whole host of hiking trails, but the one you need to experience is…

 

 

Mount Storm King –

Mount Storm King is a hiking trail not for the faint of heart. It’s a difficult and steep hike, and ends with some interestingly sketchy rope climbing to reach the rocky top. But the views from the top of Mount Storm King are breathtaking. In fact, I would absolutely risk the anxiety driven, hand shaking rope climb to witness the 360 degree vistas from the top of Mount Storm King again. If you’re an early bird this view would be epic for sunrise.

The hike has you ascending over 2,300 feet in elevation in under two miles, so don’t underestimate the time it will take you to reach the top.

If the weather is poor DO NOT go on this hike. As stated, the way to reach the top is with rope climbing and if the weather is not clear it is not safe. From Fairholme Campground it’s a 40 minute drive to the trails parking lot.

view from the top of Mount Storm King, Olympic National Park Washington, Blue Eyed Compass

Sol Duc Falls and Hot Springs Resort –

To reach Sol Duc falls you take a two mile round trip hike. The waterfall is extremely powerful and gorgeous to see in person. If you’re open to spending a pretty penny, you can stay the night at the Sul Doc Hot Springs Resort, which features *you guessed it* hot springs! This resort is very busy in the summer, so if you’re a fan of hot springs, but don’t enjoy the crowds then visit in their low season.

 

 

 

Madison Creek Falls Trail –

This hiking trail is paved and quite quick, so is a perfect stop off destination in between other, more adventurous, places on the Olympic Peninsula.

Madison Creek Falls waterfall, Olympic Peninsula, Blue Eyed Compass

Port Angeles –

Port Angeles is a small town, with a historic downtown area. It’s a good place to go for dinner if you’re camping around Lake Crescent. In fact, there are a few small wineries on the way from Lake Crescent to Port Angeles that are worth the stop for a glass of wine. This is especially great if you hiked Mount Storm King and feel the need to treat yourself with a vino reward.

If you really want to make your trip an adventure, you can ferry from Port Angeles across the Salish Sea to Victoria, British Columbia.

 

 

Hurricane Ridge –

Hurricane Ridge is a stunning lookout area and a must do activity on the Olympic Peninsula in the summer months. It’s great for sunrise views as it provides gorgeous views of the Olympic Mountain Range – beauce you’re technically right in the middle of it! It’s a 40 minutes drive off the highway to reach and since it is in the mountains you need to check the NPS website for updates on road conditions no matter the time of year you plan to visit. In fact, it’s best to only plan to visit Hurricane Ridge when the weather is clear, or else the views will be obstructed by clouds.

Hurricane Ridge is the easiest way to access the Olympic National Park if you plan on visiting deeper into the park.

 

 

 

Obstruction Point Trailhead –

If you’re already planning to check out Hurricane Ridge then you may as well hike Obstruction Point Trailhead! That is if you enjoy hiking and don’t mind the narrow, gravel road that you need to drive in order to get there.  It’s only an 8 mile drive from Hurricane Ridge to the trailhead. This trail is just under 14 miles and features sweeping views of the Olympic Mountains. There is a company that offers guided tours through the Olympic Mountains here if you would prefer to have professionals guide you on this hike.

 

 

Sequim –

Like Aberdeen and Port Angeles, Sequim is a small town with lots of wholesome charm. And if you’re a fan of lavender fields then this area of the Olympic Peninsula is calling your name. Sequim is known as the ‘Lavender Capital of America’, with over ten different lavender farms that all offer a ‘pick-your-own’ lavender option.

lavendar fields in Olympic Peninsula Washington, Blue Eyed Compass

Dungeness Spit –

While you’re in Sequim you can take a quick stop to see Dungeness Spit. It’s a 5.5 miles long, natural sand spit in the US; which essentially means that it’s a long geologic formation of sand. The Dungeness Spit looks across the Strait of Juan de Fuca toward Canada and the San Juan Islands. And if you’re an animal lover like me, then you’ll love this area as it’s also a wildlife refuge! There are also daily tours at the New Dungeness Lighthouse.

 

 

 

Port Townsend-

Port Townsend is an inception-esque peninsula (a peninsula on a peninsula!) on the northeast corner of the Olympic peninsula (that was a mouthful!). The town is known for its timber & seafood industries, features beautiful historic buildings, and a cute downtown area that you can walk through.

 

 

Bremerton-

Bremerton is the largest town on the Olympic peninsula. It offers a few fun local restaurants, and the Bremerton Marina waterfront area is an idyllic place to walk along.

 

 

*Olympic Game Farm-

Olympic Game Farm was a place I was (at first) excited to check out. It is a drive through wildlife exhibit that when I first read about sounded wonderful. A place where animals have more space than a traditional zoo and are treated with care. But upon further online research I’ve read that their enclosures are quite small and visitors are allowed to feed the animals. While the bread is provided by the business itself, and they are strict that no other food is given to the animals, in my opinion when you transition from a refuge like business to one that lists waving bears and feeding alpacas as the first things to entice visitors, than it no longer serves it’s quality purpose.

Note that it’s also not listed as a refuge or a sanctuary. The animals are previous ‘actors’ who were used in Disney movies back in the 1970’s, but has since become a for-profit business. On their website they do say that any profits are given back to the animals, yet employee’s are listed first on what their funds are for. The decision to visit here is a personal choice that you will need to make on your own, but I wanted to include it here so that you are aware of all options and can make the choice to support them if you choose. And if you do, I would love to know what your thoughts are on their quality of care.

Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing online brand strategist. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

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things to do in the Olympic Peninsula, Blue Eyed Compass
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Top 14 Picnic Spots in San Diego, California

Top 14 Picnic Spots in San Diego, California

Top 14 Picnic Spots in San Diego, California

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This page contains affiliate links to products and tours that I have used for my own travels, purchased & enjoyed. Clicking these links does not cost you anything, however doing so will support Blue Eyed Compass and allow the site to continue.  THANK YOU!  You can view our disclosure page for additional details

Been itching to get outside & have a relaxing afternoon under the San Diego sun with loved ones, but don’t know where to go? Below are the best places to have a picnic in San Diego, and as someone who has been to all of these locations, I can say from experience that each location is perfect for a beautiful picnic outside in SD.

Check out the best picnic spots in San Diego as well as the best local places to stock up your picnic basket with!

San Diego Picnic Spots

No matter where you decide to break bread & picnic in San Diego the views & ambiance at these SD spots will be incredible.

 Kate Sessions Park, Pacific Beach

Kate Sessions Park in North PB has some of the most stunning views of mission bay. The park is 79 acres large and named after an inspirational local horticulturist, Kate Sessions. There are officially two separate park areas here. The first is an open grassy area where you’ll find picnickers, frisbee games and an occasional workout group. This area of the Kate Sessions is ideal for picnics as they offer picnic tables, restrooms and a paved walking path.

The other area of the park features a more enclosed natural habitat area that’s great for light hiking.

Mission Bay

Mission Bay is much larger than you may think, and it offers so many great places to have a picnic in San Diego. Here are three stellar areas you can set up for a nice meal:

The Bahia Hotel beach on Gleason Road: this area features both a sandy beach and grassy area and has views looking towards the Paradise Point Resort, and has a public restroom. There isn’t any shade here, so if you’re sunburn prone like me be sure to bring your own umbrella (Fun fact- it’s also one of our favorite places to push off for Stand up Paddle Boarding in SD!)

Mission Point Park, 2600 Bayside Lane: this park is rarely crowded as it’s quite large. With a large amount of space you have options to be in the shade or under the sun. The park is grass only, has a children’s playground and the views are of the bay and the rock jetty leading to Ocean Beach dog beach.

San Diego Mission Bay Resort: while you can’t picnic at the resort, there is plenty of space surrounding it that is perfect for a San Diego picnic. And a big bonus for the plethora of parking spaces here. Even on a busy Saturday you should be able to easily find parking, as long as your picnic area choice is flexible. From this area you’ll have views of the bay and fiesta island (which on the weekends features lots of jet skiers, aka fun people watching!)

Mission Bay San Diego, top picnic spots in San Diego

Ellen Browning Scripps Park 

Ellen Browning Scripps park is a well known and beautiful park in La Jolla. The park is well loved because of its view of the Pacific ocean & La Jolla’s famous rugged coastline. This park is on all grass and offers some shaded areas.

 

 

Kellogg Park/La Jolla Shores Park

La Jolla Shores Park, also known as Kellogg Park is on both grass and the sandy beach. It’s almost the opposite view of Ellen Browning, as this picnic area is on the beach level (Ellen Browning Scripps Park is above with the higher view). If you prefer your picnics and sunsets from the sand, then this is a great spot for you. There are also public restrooms here and a large parking lot.

 

 

Sunset Cliffs

Sunset Cliffs is definitely one of the most romantic places in San Diego to have a picnic. In fact, if you show up on Valentine’s day with a picnic you’ll be surrounded by Galentiner’s and couples who go all out with charcuterie boards and champagne. With stunning cliffs that go for miles, it’s an iconic space in San Diego. Sunset Cliffs is quite large and offers street and small lot parking. Be sure to bring a blanket with you to sit on as the rocky surface is quite sandy.

view of beach at Sunset Cliffs San Diego, top picnic spots in San Diego

Balboa Park

Balboa is San Diego’s gem, and one of the most beautiful parks in America. I like to compare it as our city’s version of Central Park, but way easier to navigate around.  With over 1,000 acres to explore, our infamous San Diego Zoo, a golf course, multiple hiking paths and the cutest dog park, Balboa Park has plenty of space for a picnic. Come here for lush & colorful gardens, unique Spanish-colonial style architecture and lots of well manicured open spaces.

girl dancing in Balboa Park, top picnic spots in San Diego

The best places to picnic in Balboa Park are:

-Botanical Building East & West Lawns

-Moreton Bay Fig Lawn

-Outdoor Organ Pavilion

*there are more areas to picnic, but these are the iconic areas with the best views of the park

 

Coronado Island

Similar to Mission Bay, Coronado Island offers quite a few places to have your picnic. The two places listed below are ones that offer great skyline views.

Tidelands park: Coronado island’s Tidelands Park is quite large and has views of the Coronado Bridge and the San Diego skyline from the southern point of view

Centennial Park – Centennial Park is a bit smaller than Tidelands Park, but has a direct view of the entire downtown San Diego skyline. It’s perfect during dusk or sunset. I love it because it’s where my fella, Marcus, proposed.

dusk over downtown San Diego from Coronado, top picnic spots in San Diego

Waterfront Park, Little Italy/SD Harbor

The Waterfront Park is home to our local legislation offices. On one side of the park is the San Diego Harbor, while the other is within walking distance to the main streets of Little Italy. Waterfront Park offers views of the harbor and has one of the coolest playground areas for children (it makes me wish I was still young & small enough to climb through the ropes courses it has!) There are small fountains that are fun for children to run through and cool down during the warmer summer months, and there are often different festivals here throughout the year.

 

San Dieguito County Park, Del Mar

The San Dieguito County Park in Del Mar is a bit farther north than traditional San Diego, but worth the longer drive. It’s a beautiful grassy park that has plenty of shaded areas and hiking trails. It’s so nice here, that you can even have your wedding here!

Top Picks for a picnic in San Diego

When it comes to setting up a picnic in San Diego you now have the best places to go, so let’s discuss how you can pack an epic San Diego picnic basket with some of the best local goods to enjoy!

Here are great places you can hit up for picnic foods and drinks… because we all know you want to have the best looking, and best tasting charcuterie board possible.

-San Diego farmers markets: there are various farmers markets throughout San Diego almost every day of the week. While the best ones are on the weekends, you can absolutely find one open during the week too. Here is an updated list of our farmers markets.

berries at a farmers market, top picnic spots in San Diego

Bread & Cie: Bread & Cie is a local cafe and bakery that sells their products in various San Diego grocery stores. But if you want really fresh stuff, I say order and pick up directly from their University Heights location. I’d list a top suggestion here, but every time I see them at a local market I try something new and am never disappointed.

 

Venissimo cheese: San Diegans love to support local business owners, and Venissimo Cheese is a stellar success of such support. The owner, Gina, was determined to create a space that she craved – an incredibly delicious cheese shop! Featuring cheeses from all over the world, you will only find the best options when it comes to crafting a great picnic charcuterie board here.

 

-Take Out Sandwiches

Ikes: There are multiple Ike’s locations in San Diego, and for good reason, because they are so popular! We love that Ike’s offers plant based sandwich options that aren’t just veggies on a roll, but hearty sammies that compete with traditional meat based ones. *Be sure to try the Dutch crunch bread!

Rubicon Deli: With fresh bread and delicious (and massive!) sandwiches, Rubicon is another takeaway sandwich store that is locally owned. Their vegetarian sandwich is damn delicious, especially on their pesto bread.

Kebab Shop Wraps: If you’re really hankering for a big meal, then Kebab Shop will make sure you’re full. Their falafel wraps are amazing, and made fresh to order too!

 

-Individual Pizzas: there is something special about having your own self-sized pizza rather than a massive, standard pizza. These two pizza spots are by far the best pizza shops in San Diego and perfect for your next picnic:

Powerhaus Pizza: this female owned business has made our pizza dreams come true by creating healthy AND delicious pizzas. Try their whole grain or protein packed crust and you won’t be disappointed. Plus you can round out your picnic basket with one of their fresh salads or healthy smoothies!

Red House Pizza: a vegan pizza lovers dream was created by Red House. They’ve expanded their vegetarian and vegan menu to include some of the most unique and equally delicious tasting pizzas that I personally cannot get enough of.

 

Extraordinary Desserts: if you’re looking to sweeten out your picnic, look no further than Extraordinary Desserts. This place crafts the most beautiful and delicious desserts you can find in San Diego. Ordering a sweet treat from here will make your picnic feel even more special. Plus! They offer a few vegan dessert options too!

Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing online brand strategist. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

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Best Day Trips from San Diego

Best Day Trips from San Diego

Best Day Trips from San Diego

day trips from San Diego, Blue Eyed Compass

San Diego is so wonderfully located that it’s a perfect place to head out for various day trip excursions. The city is truly surrounded by beautiful destinations such as national parks, beach towns, wineries and islands. So not only is San Diego an incredible vacation destination, but for those who live here, it’s a great place to venture away from and explore other parts of Southern California and Baja Mexico.

The following best day trips from San Diego are organized by area via north, south, east and west of San Diego.

San Diego Day Trips that are WITHIN San Diego County

– San Diego Safari Park –

Distance from San Diego: 45 minute drive north of central San Diego

The San Diego Safari Park is the sister zoo to the world famous San Diego Zoo. Located in the northern area of Escondido, this refuge away from the bustle of Balboa park (where the San Diego Zoo is located) provides much more open space and traditional landscapes for the animals here.

It is well worth the drive for a day trip to the San Diego Safari Park, especially when you arrive at the exhibit that hosts their giraffes, rhinos, antelope and other animals, all in one large open space (larger than I have ever seen in a zoo before).

As a sustainable travel blogger, I am often not a big fan of zoo’s, as they often feature small enclosures and unnatural breeding habits for the sake of making money, but the San Diego Safari Park is no such place. It has become a haven for animals from downtrodden zoo’s and is focused on conservation of their animal species.

– Carlsbad, California –

Distance from San Diego: 45 minute drive north of central San Diego

While I consider Carlsbad to be a part of San Diego, its distance north of the main parts of the city leaves many to assume it is its own entity (and it’s possible the residents of Carlsbad prefer it that way too). Carlsbad’s downtown area is quaint yet modern, with plenty of delicious eateries (including one of my favorite San Diego local breakfast chains Swami’s cafe!).

Carlsbad is host to many hiking trails & beautiful beaches with its most popular & easiest to access beach being the Tamarack Beach. The city has also become well known for its Carlsbad Flower Fields that bloom every spring. And while yes, the blooms can bring with them a flock of instagrammers capturing their perfect shot, it’s nonetheless a beautiful place to explore. And for families in the area, Carlsbad is also home to Legoland.

For anyone who loves a good spa escape, Carlsbad’s Omni La Costa Resort will be perfect for you. I’ve walked throughout the property of this resort and it is absolutely stunning.

– Palomar Observatory –

Distance from San Diego: 1 hour & 30 minute drive from central San Diego

Located at the top of Palomar mountain lies the astronomical research center, Palomar Observatory. It hosts visitors year round to visit & learn about the Hale Telescope. Another reason to visit this area is to camp and hike the Palomar Observatory hiking trail. The drive to the hike is curvy, but well worth it as there is a great chance hikers can see wildlife while they hike to the top of the mountain.

San Diego Day Trips that are EAST of San Diego County

– Salvation Mountain –

Distance from San Diego: 2-2.5 hour drive from central San Diego

Salvation Mountain has become a trendy destination for road trippers and San Diegans to take photos of. Salvation Mountain is not actually a mountain, it’s a man made, colorful monument located in the middle of the desert.

The ‘mountain’ was created by Leonard Knight who built it with natural materials and then painted over it with vibrant colors, bible verses & christian phrases. While it may not be the most exciting place to visit in the world, it is a sight to see the bright colors against the beige desert backdrop.

If you chose to visit Salvation Mountain, you are also close enough to explore the Salton Sea. I don’t have it listed here as it’s own day trip destination, as I don’t feel it warrants it’s own trip. Salton Sea has quite a sad tale – the area was once being built out to be a resort destination as the area had become a large lake. But due to agricultural runoff & other issues, the sea/lake became polluted and its salinity levels were too high for animal life. If you drive out to Salton Sea you will see abandoned homes, cars, and more. Imagine an eerie ghost town but with fish skeletons included.

Stay with me here, the remaining day trips from San Diego are much more exciting than Salton Sea…

girl in front of Salvation Mountain California | Day Trips from San Diego

San Diego Day Trips that are NORTH of San Diego

– Laguna Beach –

Distance from San Diego: 1 hour & 15 minute drive from San Diego

If you grew up watching MTV’s ‘Laguna Beach’ then you may already know that Laguna Beach is a stunningly gorgeous destination. The area is like something out of a postcard. The downtown area has adorable shops and is known for its art galleries, but if we’re being honest, you need to visit Laguna for its beaches.

Yes, traveling from San Diego beaches to Laguna beaches sounds redundant, but trust me, it’s worth it. Here are a few of the beaches in Laguna that are well worth the day trip drive from San Diego:

  • 1,000 Steps beach (it’s easy to get down to, and a workout to get back up)
  • Crystal Cove State Park
  • Victoria Beach – known for its Disney princess-like tower
  • Crescent Bay Beach (which may be my favorite beach in Laguna!)
Laguna Beach cove | Day Trips from San Diego

– Catalina Island –

Distance from San Diego: 1.5 hour drive to Dana Point harbor, then a 1 hour boat ride on the Catalina Express

Catalina Island is a romantic escape for many Southern Californians. This rocky island reminds visitors of vacations to the coastal towns of the Mediterranean. Santa Catalina island is the main island of a cluster of small islands known as the Channel Islands of California.

This place is a car-free destination, so visitors can rent bikes, golf carts or boats to explore. There is snorkeling, kayaking, hiking and groups that will take you to find the island bison. The main area of Catalina island hosts quite a few bars & restaurants that are perfect for ending your day before hopping on the ferry boat back to Dana Point harbor. While Catalina Island can be better for overnight stays, it’s close location to San Diego makes it a very doable day trip destination.

Catalina Island | Day Trips from San Diego

– Temecula Wineries –

Distance from San Diego: 1 hour drive from central San Diego (more or less depending on which winery you choose to visit)

Temecula is Southern California’s Napa Valley, it’s our wine country (as is Valle de Guadalupe, discussed below!). The Temecula area has over 40 delicious and beautiful wineries to enjoy. You can also spend time walking around Temecula’s Old Town or finish your day with a hot air balloon ride that Temecula has also somehow become known for… could either be a really fun or potentially dangerous way to end a day of wine tasting, but regardless, a hot air balloon ride would definitely be a beautiful way to catch the sunset.

– Julian –

Distance from San Diego: 1 hour drive NorthWest from central San Diego

Julian is a town known for apples and it’s homemade apple pies. You can start your day picking apples at one of the many apple orchards, and then spend your afternoon exploring the quaint town of Julian. It almost feels like a step back in time with 1960 themed soda shoppes and boutique stores. A day trip to Julian from San Diego wouldn’t be complete without stopping at Mom’s Pies. I suggest you enjoy a fresh slice while there and then bring home a pie to enjoy for later.

Julian is also near Cuyamaca State Park which is a great area for hiking too.

– Disneyland –

Distance from San Diego: 1.5 hour drive north of San Diego

Disney is a household name around the world, so I won’t dive too far into what Disneyland is. However I will share that there are two parks that Disney hosts in Anaheim – Disneyland and California Adventure Park. If you are looking for a traditional Disney experience, then visit Disneyland. If you prefer more rollercoaster-type attractions, then check out the California Adventure Park. As with any major theme park, visiting on a weekday will mean smaller crowds.

Disneyland day trip from San Diego

– San Juan Capistrano –

Distance from San Diego: 1 hour drive from San Diego

San Juan Capistrano is a small historic California city. There is the old town area or Los Rios Historic District to explore, which has small shops & cafes. The main attraction here is the Mission San Juan Capistrano. The mission is an 18th century Spanish chapel that is still beautifully maintained.

San Diego Day Trips that are  SOUTH of San Diego in MEXICO

– Tijuana, Mexico –

Distance from San Diego: 20 minute drive south of central San Diego

With a quick drive south, you can be across the border in Tijuana, Mexico and enjoy mouthwatering food for a fraction of the price in San Diego. Tijuana is a vibrant city that San Diego locals enjoy visiting for delicious lunches and dinners. The main street is Avenida Revolucion, but it’s been suggested that visitors explore areas outside of this main tourist street. My suggestion – enjoy a beer and lunch at Telefonico, a food truck destination that offers vegan options and it’s own brewery!

– Rosarito, Mexico –

Distance from San Diego: 50 minute drive south from San Diego

Drive a bit farther south from Tijuana and you will be in Rosarito, a popular Baja coastal town. Visitors to Rosarito can easily walk around town and walk to the beach. However, I don’t believe Rosarito to be a great place for everyone. It seems to be home to a big party scene and I’ve witnessed horses being used for tourists on the beach, which I strongly disagree with.

If you drive a little outside of the main area of Rosarito you can find some beautiful & quaint resorts to stop at for margaritas and delicious meals.

– Ensenada, Mexico –

Distance from San Diego: 2 hour drive south into Baja Mexico

Ensenada is a seaport town further south from Rosartio, but with a lesser party scene. Ensenada is great for outdoor activities like kayaking and mountain biking, as well as plenty of restaurants to enjoy delicious mexican cuisine.

– Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico –

Distance from San Diego: 1.5 hour drive south east from central San Diego (more or less depending on which winery you choose to visit)

San Diego is happily book-ended with two wine areas, Temecula & Valle de Guadalupe in Baja Mexico. This area of Baja Mexico has over 100 wineries to enjoy (compared to Temecula’s 40+ wineries). You can book a wine tour company to pick you up in San Diego & chauffeur you around to their favorite wineries in Valle de Guadalupe or book a nights stay at a boutique hotel for two days of wine tastings & delicious Mexican food.

Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing online brand strategist. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

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Top Craft Cocktail Bars in San Diego

Top Craft Cocktail Bars in San Diego

Top Craft Cocktail Bars in San Diego

It’s no wonder that there is no shortage of unique & delicious craft cocktail bars in San Diego. As one of the best vacation destinations in the United States, the city has become known for its incredible bar and restaurant industry, keeping locals and visitors excited to try the best quality & most ambient-filled places.

Below is a list of the best cocktails bars in San Diego. And don’t worry, in San Diego our bars don’t choose between ambiance and amazing quality. Here we pride ourselves on outdoing both. So no matter which location you choose to frequent, know that you’ll be getting a feast for the eyes & your taste buds.

Here are the:

San Diego’s Top Craft Cocktails Bars

Starlite

Starlite calls itself a hidden gem, and is true to its word. Few non-locals would happen to wander past their front doors, as it’s not central to the Gaslamp district or Pacific Beach’s beachside bars. And honestly, I’m more than okay with that. Starlite has an incredible architecture design starting with a hexagonal hallway and a sunken bar, and embedded lights throughout to create a truly ethereal experience. Their bar staff craft amazing cocktails & they keep an incredible menu of spirits. Another perk is that they serve drinks until 1am and food until midnight. It’s by far one of the best places to get a late night meal paired with a beautiful cocktail.

Trust

Located in Hillcrest, Trust Restaurant is community forward, with a focus on a fine dining experience that feels approachable. This may be the spot to round out a date night before heading out for the evening in Hillcrest, North Park or University Heights. Come in for fresh, local food fare and order yourself a craft cocktail here… and maybe one of their beautiful desserts as well.

Ironside

Ironside is part of a restaurant group called Consortium Holdings, who creates “public gathering spaces that help cultivate our neighborhoods through the fostering of creativity, dialogue, questions and conversations”. I don’t often put entire quotes in these posts, but their dedication to the San Diego community is felt throughout their spaces. Ironside is well known for their oyster & seafood menu, but as a vegetarian I go for the cocktails & interior design. With their large, open spaced warehouse-like interior that hosts soft teals and the perfect lighting, you’ll feel like you’re under the sea here.

Lion’s Share

Lion’s Share is known for serving uncommon meat options on their charcuterie boards, but more importantly for their deliciously fresh cocktails. Their staff prides themselves on giving customers their undivided attention. When you visit Lion’s Share be sure to keep an eye out for their unique artwork that will be sure to spark up conversation.

Kettner Exchange

Kettner Exchange has become a San Diego must visit due to their beautiful rooftop lounge, that is elegant, yet approachable. The ambiance adds an air of austerity that effortlessly pairs with their refreshing cocktail menu. Seasonal libations and views of Little Italy make Kettner Exchange perfect for an evening out.

The Grass Skirt

The name may give it away, but The Grass Skirt is a Pacific Beach tiki bar staple. This place has some of the best cocktails in San Diego that are perfect for celebratory occasions. It’s also one of the city’s speakeasies, so guests can enjoy the element of finding their way into the restaurant and reward themselves with a tropical cocktail.

Born & Raised

for table side cocktails

Born & Raised is praised as being the best steakhouse in San Diego, but I prefer the title of best cocktails in San Diego instead. Considered to be both swanky and elegant, I feel it’s best to enjoy your craft cocktail on their rooftop with panoramic views of Little Italy. Born & Raised may possibly have the largest scotch menu, but if you prefer a classic martini with your meal you can have it prepared on a rolling cart right at your table.

Tanuki

best saki list

A bit outside of the typical tourist area of San Diego in the Kensington neighborhood lies Tanuki Sake Bar. Tanuki is a great cocktail bar in San Diego, and you can feel confident with that as the owner was once the chef at San Diego’s upscale restaurant, Nobu. Tankui offers over 100 different saki’s, and is also a coffee bar by day!

False Idol

fun cocktails

False Idol hosts a fully immersed environment that celebrates the tiki lifestyle. Their cocktails are beautifully made and range from classic to tiki-eccentric. And better yet, False Idol is another speakeasy bar for you to explore in San Diego.

Craft & Commerce

Another Little Italy top cocktail bar is Craft & Commerce. Craft & Commerce embodies that feeling of ‘enjoying a craft cocktail while lounging in your library staring deep into your taxidermy work’. And not to reveal too much, you could visit both Craft & Commerce and False Idol in one afternoon.

Kindred

Kindred boasts its incredible cocktail menu alongside a delicious vegan menu. Their food menu often reflects their cocktail menu and aligns with seasonal availability, giving patrons a seasonally exciting menu to choose from. Located in South Park, Kindred has some of the most bold and eye-catching interior design in San Diego.

You & Yours

vodka & gin tasting

Personally, I love You & Yours as it’s a female run business that has masterfully intertwined delicious spirits with a beautifully designed tasting room. The tasting room is located in East Village and offers the city’s best vodka and gin tasting.

Sycamore Den

late night

Sycamore Den is a neighborhood staple in Normal Heights that serves classic craft cocktails while embracing a ‘feel at home’ atmosphere.. This place is loved for its 1970’s interior design that pays homage to the living room style of our grandparents, offering a comfortable atmosphere to enjoy your drink.

The Guild Bar

The Guild Bar lays inside the lobby of one of San Diego’s newer boutique hotels, The Guild. The entire hotel was previously a YMCA that’s been completely transformed into one of San Diego’s top hotels, while maintaining its historic 1920’s exterior. Visitors can enjoy their craft cocktails at the chic lobby Guild bar or at Luca, their outdoor Mediterranean restaurant.

Rendezvous

Located within the historic US Grant hotel, lies Rendezvous, a vintage French cocktail bar in San Diego’s Gaslamp district. This hotel bar offers a historic feeling as it was opened just after Prohibition was repealed and continues to offer the quality of service and cocktails that many feel has been left in the past.

Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

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Travel Guide to Kauai Hawaii

Travel Guide to Kauai Hawaii

Travel Guide to Kauai Hawaii

This page contains affiliate links to products and tours that I have used for my own travels, purchased & enjoyed. Clicking these links does not cost you anything, however doing so will support Blue Eyed Compass and allow the site to continue.  THANK YOU!  You can view our disclosure page for additional details

Kauai is one of the smaller islands that travelers frequent in Hawaii. It’s known as the ‘Garden Isle’, and for good reason – this island is extremely lush & still feels a bit wild. We loved the wildness of Kauai, especially since it’s the oldest of Hawaii’s islands, and travelers can still enjoy a less crowded Hawaiin getaway (compared to Oahu’s Waikiki beach).

Who is Kauai best for?

Kauai is best for those looking to explore the great outdoors. There are endless hikes that lead to gorgeous view points, and stunning beaches worth the two hour drive to get to for beautiful snorkeling & scuba diving.

While you can, of course, enjoy some epic lounge time at a five star hotel in Kauai, if you visit here you should enjoy the lush landscape that locals proudly boast about.

Getting to, in and around Kauai

As it’s an island, you need to get to Kauai via airplane. You can fly from another Hawaiian airline or from the US mainland.

If you need help finding great airline deals save your destinations & dates here.

The Kauai airport is quite small, which makes it easy to navigate for travelers who feel anxious when traveling. The airport is shaped like the letter ‘T’ with the airport gates essentially being open spaced/outdoors.

Visitors to Kauai will immediately notice that the whole of Kauai is stunningly green as soon as they walk out of the airport doors. If you’ve visited any other Hawaiin islands then you know there will be frequent sightings of wild chickens. Well in Kauai, the wild chickens are even more prevalent!

Enough about the adorable wildlife… Kauai does not have a ton of infrastructure (which is something to love about the island), so you will need to rent a car if you wish to explore the island beyond your hotel.

If you’re a fan of saving money & good deals, then I’d recommend renting a car through your Costco membership.

 

There seems to be two versions of getting around Kauai; either seamlessly with no traffic or being stuck in traffic behind the same car for hours. This is because Kauai has only a few main roads on the island. Single lane roads, not highways. So, when it’s commuting time for the locals, traffic will be dense. Keep that in mind when you drive around on your trip to Kauai. *Also, as much as we innately dislike traffic, try to keep an open mind & love the fact that Kauai is still somewhat underdeveloped compared to its counterparts like Oahu & Maui. You can still enjoy a more laid back and authentic time in Kauai than you can elsewhere. Embrace that!

Top things to do in Kauai

Every Hawaiin island has so much to offer to travelers, and Kauai is no different. Except, think of Kauai as the wild, older sister to the other islands. There are over 60 beaches & so many less traveled hikes waiting for you to explore them!

This list of top things to do in Kauai is in no particular order, so be sure to create a map to visualize the best way to spend your time here.

Enjoy cocktails at Lava Lava Beach Club

Located at the Kauai Shores Hotel Club, Lava Lava Beach Club is a beautiful mix of hotel comfort without the extreme price tag, plus it’s the only ‘toes in sand’ restaurant you may find in Kauai.

I’m still in awe over their ‘Skinny Dipper’ cocktail that has fresh passion fruit juice & mint. Order one of those bad boys and sit at one of the tables in the sand under their gently swaying string of lights. All while enjoying your view of the ocean, Kauai’s mountains, and live music strumming in the background. 

*Dress is low key

Catch sunrise on the beach in Ka’paa

The sun rises near Ka’paa so it’s the best area to catch a gorgeous sunrise 

 

See Kalalau Valley from above

Drive to the Kalalau lookout & witness the view point that’s been in many feature films. This peak into the Kalalau Valley is what any novice Hawaiin traveler would expect to experience, and an excellent way to fall in love with Hawaii easily.

View Waimea Canyon from above & below!

Waimea canyon is known as ‘The Grand Canyon of the Pacific’! And it does not disappoint.

It’s located about one and a half hour drive from Kapaa. If you aren’t a fan of hiking you can enjoy the gorgeous views of the canyon at the Waimea Lookout. There is a short trail to get to the good view point & it can get muddy, but is only a short five minute walk from the parking lot.

There are multiple hikes down into the canyon. I almost always use the All Trails app to find hikes when traveling. You can find Waimea Canyon hikes here.

Relax on Kekaha Beach

I love that Hawaii has a variety of beach types, but I know many who prefer those miles of soft sand, smooth water type of beaches – which is exactly what Kekaha beach is like.

Spend an afternoon lounging at Kekaha’s long, soft sand beach and teal, calm waters.

When you’re ready for refreshments at Kekaha go to…

 

Waimea for lunch

There are only a handful of local joints in Waimea, and I can happily recommend the thai food place. They offer fresh smoothies & coconuts which will make any vegetarian traveler happy.

Visit the Na’pali Coast

Visitors can explore the 15 mile stretch of the Na Pali Coast from a boat or hikes. The hikes are quite strenuous & will require careful planning to do, where as a visit by boat is much more manageable for many.

Capt Andy’s was recommended by quite a few people when we researched which boating company to use in Kauai. And they have a great compilation resource about hiking around Na Pali here

Be adventurous & get to Palihua Beach

I love this wild beach. The journey to get to Palihua beach is a blast (worth the laughs & jostling) and you never know what kind of weather you will get here.

Be sure your rental car can handle terrain, as driving to Palihua beach requires three miles of dirt road and then some sand. In fact, once you find the large tree near the beach, park your car there. We found a poor guy who tried to drive the sand dunes & got his car stuck. Insert hilarious video of Marcus helping with the car.

Palihua is a long, sandy beach with gorgeous views. However, as it’s on a more secluded side of the island has the possibility of lots of wind.

Don’t let the dirt road or the wind deter you. As Palihua is more difficult to reach, it means you will basically have this beach to yourself. If you know of or have experienced Over Tourism before then you know that having a beautiful Hawaiian beach to yourself is a rarity.

Stock up on Kauai Coffee

Once you leave Palihua beach you’ll be close to the Kauai Coffee Company! Yes, there will be tour groups here, and there is a strong possibility it will be a lot of elderly, but there are free samples of every flavor they offer, and typically a bulk discount. Imagine, a one stop shop for all of your souvenir gifts for friends & family!

 

Hike the Sleeping Giant Trail for sunrise

I’m a sunrise lover, sorry to those who aren’t fans of early birds. But, I promise hiking in mud, in the dark, is worth it to get the sunrise views at the top of the Sleeping Giant Trail.

We took the Nounou Mountain WEST trail, so I can’t speak to the other trails to the top. The west trail was muddy, involved rock climbing (not very high, at most four feet tall) and stellar views. And I can’t forget all of the wild chickens we saw!

Check out the viewpoints of Wailua River State Park

Soak in the views of the Wailua river on one side & ocean views on the other

 

Spend a day (or more!) in Hanalei Bay

Hanalei definitely feels like a local neighborhood. Located on the northern side of the island, it requires driving a winding road to get down to the bay. En route you’ll experience stunning views and quite a few scenic overlooks.

*If the weather is rainy or stormy the main road to get to Hanalei Bay could be closed.

Relax on the beach at Hanalei Bay – you may even catch a local surfing competition. The north side of Kauai has much moodier weather than you may anticipate any Hawaiin island to have. It reminded me of the beaches in the US Pacific Northwest, but the low key vibe is extremely relaxing, so worth a visit regardless of clouds.

Taste the local flare at the Hanalei Bay food trucks

While all of the food trucks had delicious sounding menus we chose Fresh Bite & Tumeric for vegan & vegetarian friendly fares. My advice, try the house made hot sauce from Fresh Bite (I may have tried to convince them to sell me a bottle of it, it’s that good).

 

Make your way to Makua “Tunnels” Beach

Makua Beach is best known for its stellar snorkeling, and gorgeous backdrop of the island. It’s located near Hanalei Bay, so plan your trip to this area accordingly. Parking can be difficult to find at the actual beach, so if you see a spot at Haena beach park there and walk to Makua.

Enjoy Kauapea Beach

Kauapea beach is a bit difficult to get to but so worth its secluded views. Set your GPS to the trailhead at Secret Beach. You can park your car along the dirt path. Wear shoes you’re comfortable getting dirty since you have to hike down a muddy path to get to the beach. (I did it in men’s flip flops – typical hawaiin lifestyle where I forgot my shoes at home – and was fine on the hike down, albeit shaky). Once down to the bottom you’ll enjoy a relaxing afternoon soaking up the sun on this secluded & pristine beach.

Sample local kombuchas at Potions

Potions is a kombucha bar located near Kapaa town. Each one is handmade by the owner & delicious.

 

Walk around Kapaa town

The store fronts in Kapaa town are reminiscent of an old western town but with far more color. Here you can find restaurants, water adventure rentals, an antique shop & so much more.

 

Walk along Shipwreck beach & the Heritage Trail

Located on the Hyatt’s property, Shipwreck beach is the start of the Heritage Trail – if you go to one, you might as well visit both. The trail offers beautiful coastal views & is a nice easy walk along the cliffs. Know that the currents at Shipwreck beach are powerful so it’s not ideal for casual ocean swimmers.

Snorkel at Poi’pu beach

Poipu beach is such a fun & cute beach area. There will be more tourists here, but that’s because the water is clear and calm. Be sure to bring your snorkel gear to Poipu! There are two bay areas that combine to form Poi’pu beach. One is best for children & novice snorkelers… I’ll be frank, I’m a fan of calm waters for snorkeling, so feel confident knowing I swam in both. Visitors can easily find parking across the street.

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Where to Stay in Kauai

You can read about where you should stay in Kauai, Hawaii in this post:

Where to stay in Kauai, Hawaii

Tips for visiting Kauai

✔ Stock up on fresh food & snacks at Papaya’s Natural Food Store, outside of Kapaa town. Kauai is expensive at many restaurants, so enjoy local fruits & vegetables and splurge your money on water adventures instead. Papaya’s has a fresh made to order area too that was great for our flight home.

 

✔ There is only one road to all places on Kauai, so there may be traffic. Plan your days accordingly so you don’t waste time sitting behind the wheel of your car.

 

✔ Kauai is a much more laid back hawaiin island compared to Oahu and even Maui. I would suggest visiting Kauai if you are interested in lush settings, lots of outdoor activities & discovering hidden beaches.

Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

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Where to stay in Kauai

Where to stay in Kauai

Where to stay in Kauai

This page contains affiliate links to products and tours that I have used for my own travels, purchased & enjoyed. Clicking these links does not cost you anything, however doing so will support Blue Eyed Compass and allow the site to continue.  THANK YOU!  You can view our disclosure page for additional details

There is no one answer for where you should stay in Kauai. The best answer you could get would be- it depends! It will depend on your personal preference & travel style based on the type of accommodation you prefer, what activities you want to do while there and the overall vibe of the area you’d like to experience.

Overview of the areas/regions of Kauai island

There are four main regions to the island of Kauai:

North Shore

South Shore

East Coast &

West Side

Each area of the island has its own unique vibe, typical weather & sights to see.

Keep reading for details on each area to help you choose where to stay in Kauai.

North Shore

South Shore

East Coast

West Side

Hanalei Bay

Kilauea

Princeville

Koloa

Lawai

Poipo

Kapaa

Lihue

Wailua

Hanapepe

Waimea

Don't Forget to Pack:

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Zip Up Snorkel Top

Flowy Boho Dress

Reusable Cloth Bags

Where to stay in Kauai

NORTH SHORE

✔ beautiful, lush greenery & mountain backdrops

✔ waterfalls

rainy from November through March

 

Most well known for Hanalei Bay, the north shore area of Kauai is the most verdant on the island. Upon entering this area you’ll see waterfalls and mountainscapes as your backdrop, and be well within the more popular beaches such as Kee & Haena.

*Keep in mind that ‘rainy’ weather in Hawaii can often mean rain for a few hours & then sunshine soon after.

Check out these sustainably made travel backpacks! – Sustainably Made Travel Backpacks

SOUTH SHORE

✔ sunny & dry year round

✔ plenty of beaches to enjoy

✔ lots of dining available

beaches are popular with visitors, so they can feel crowded compared to other parts of the island

 

The south shore of Kauai is home to the warmest & driest parts of Kauai. It’s definitely popular with travelers, but you can’t beat the stunning beaches here.

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EAST COAST

✔ more affordable lodging compared to other areas of the island

✔ in between the North Shore & West Side, so is convenient to access most of the island

many beaches here are local – some think they are less beautiful/accessible compared to the North & South parts of the island

 

The east coast of Kauai is the second most popular area of the island which means there are lots of accommodation options. It’s also close to many beautiful areas such as Wailua Falls & Wailua River and the Fern Grotto

WEST SIDE

✔ great home base for those looking to do lots of hiking

much more isolated than the other parts of Kauai

 

You could technically split the west side into northwest & southwest.

The northwest area, also known as the Napali coast, is essentially inaccessible save for boats, which makes it a beautiful place to experience as there is no infrastructure there. Whereas the southwest part of the west side is dryer and has beaches like the stunning Polihale beach.

This area isn’t built for tourists, so it still maintains that local Hawaiin vibe.

With so many beautiful options to choose from where would you choose to stay in Kauai?

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Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing online brand strategist. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

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