An adventurous Kauai “babymoon”

“You’re brave,” a teenaged boy with elaborate dreadlocks and a tattoo of a dinosaur told me as I hoofed it up one of the steeper sections of the hike to Hanakapi’ai beach along the Na Pali Coast.

I shot him a smile. “Oh this is nothing,” I bowed my head with false modesty.

The truth is I was proud of myself for making the relatively difficult four-mile in-and-out trek while six months pregnant and I wanted all the high fives I was getting on that trail. My husband Nick laughed behind me, content to allow me to bask in my pregnant lady glory.

We flew to Kauai, the furthest west of the Hawaiian islands open to the public because we wanted a vacation that would offer at least a little adventure—the kind a pregnant lady can safely get into and out of. This was our “babymoon,” a relatively ridiculous word first coined by an anthropologist in the nineties and popularized by tabloid magazines exploiting celebrity baby bump photos in exotic locations in the 2000s. I was once one of those magazine editors. The word might even be my fault.

But the celebritized babymoon ideal of floating in a pool while my husband enjoyed real alcoholic beverages and the delights of a piping hot Jacuzzi held little appeal for me. I wanted a real vacation, the kind we took before I was pregnant, the kind where I could still do things.

Kauai doesn’t disappoint in that regard. Nick and I spent four long days hiking, snorkeling, sailing and swimming in hidden beaches found at the end of long dirt roads. And no one loves pregnant ladies like the Hawaiians. It’s true that Kauai’s residents are among some of the friendliest people on Earth and they bend over backwards for all visitors, pregnant women in particular. Several times each day I was made to feel like a queen, or Beyoncé.

More Kauai: 5 must-do’s on Kauai, Hawaii’s Garden Island

We opted to stay in a cottage on the beach in the fairly remote western village of Waimea, the first place Captain James Cook is believed to have landed in the Hawaiian Islands. It was a conscious decision to have peace and quiet not available at the larger resorts along the Southern Coast of Poipu. I’m having a baby in three months and until then I want to enjoy the blissful silence of not being surrounded by children.

The Waimea Plantation Cottages  perched along the sea provided the perfect respite from other people’s offspring. Each morning roosters and red-faced cardinals greeted us on the back porch overlooking the grey lava sand beach—the perfect place for a light jog, meditation and early morning writing. In fact, one of the island’s biggest champions, Andrew Doughty, the author of the The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook (a must-read for anyone visiting the island) referred to the Waimea cottages as the “best place to write the Great American Novel,” another feat I am attempting to accomplish before this baby comes out of me.

While there’s plenty of hard core adventure to be had on Kauai, there’s also plenty of soft adventure, and varying degrees of adventure for days when your ankles are too swollen to walk or you don’t want to venture too far away from a bathroom. It’s easy to have a perfect day, no matter your mood or physical condition.

If you’re in the mood to conquer the world

Go hiking. It’s important to note that even the first bit of the Na Pali trek can prove strenuous. The trail contains a good amount of steep inclines and declines and can be quite slippery if it’s just rained. But, if you’re in good shape and up for a four-mile hike that might take five hours, the stunning cliff-side views of emerald cathedral peaks and crystal clear water make it one of the most gratifying day hikes I’ve ever taken.

The reward at the two-mile marker is the stunning Hanakapiai Beach at the base of mossy jungle cliffs, ideal for snapping photos, dipping your swollen feet in the water and laying in the sand, but much too treacherous for swimming. The first quarter mile of the trail (still a steep incline) that overlooks Kee Beach offers incredible views for a less strenuous hike.

The Waimea Cliff trail offers views of a different sort nestled within the island’s interior canyon, a stunning geological marvel nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific for its sheer red cliffs plunging into the Kokee Rainforest. The Cliff trail begins at a trailhead around mile marker 14 on Highway 550, the main road through the state park. There’s a pull-off on the side of the road and you’ll walk about three quarters of a mile down a service road to reach the trail head that will take you another mile and a half along the canyon rim and to the top of the stunning Waipoo Falls, an 800-foot waterfall dropping into the canyon.

If you want to let someone else do the work

There are some days of pregnancy when you just want to cruise, or rather, sail. It’s almost too easy to leave all the work to the crew of Captain Andy’s  during a catamaran tour of the island’s Western shoreline and Na Pali coast.

The majority of the Na Pali coast is only accessible by boat. Most boats and kayak trips are loath to take a someone late in her second trimester. Captain Andy’s smoother sailing trips will accommodate a woman up until 26 weeks of her pregnancy. We just made the cut off.  The tour promises unparalleled views of Na Pali’s cliffs from the water and teases passengers with the potential for dolphin and whale sightings. The boat trip is a bit of a splurge at $139 per person, but it’s the easiest way to see the sea caves and waterfalls of this uninhabited stretch of land.

The promise of both dolphins and whales (whale sightings are seasonal, typically possible from November/December to March/April) were ceremoniously fulfilled on our trip. Spinner dolphins led the way as we sailed around the Western Coast. Humpback whales breached just 30 feet from the boat. There’s the option to snorkel, but not much to see unless you’re lucky enough to spot a sea turtle. Most of Kauai’s reefs have been thoroughly bleached from the constant erosion and run off from the island. Still, it feels good to get the belly into the water for an hour. The five-hour tour comes with snacks, a full lunch and plenty of non-alcoholic beverage options.

When you need to lay on a beach

Kauai is more popular now than ever and the beaches get crowded early. Most of the surf around the island is also incredibly rough and the rip current warnings are real. There are still a few calm spots for swimming and floating while pregnant, if you know where to look.

Kalapaki Beach, just two miles from the airport and perfect for a post or pre-flight dip, offers a relaxed inlet for swimming, stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking (rentals are available just a few steps from the water).

Kee Beach at the foot of the Na Pali trailhead is another beautiful option and worth the drive even if you don’t plan on hiking. It’s particularly beautiful at sunset and two lovely Hawaiian gentlemen serve freshly squeezed pineapple-orange juice out of giant mason jars at the beach’s entrance.

The public beaches along Hanalei Bay, just to the east of the pier are also prego friendly and an easy walk from the parking lot and public restrooms.

If you’re game for a five to ten-minute walk, most of it downhill, and ready to go early in the morning, head over to Pali Ke Kua Beach in Princeville, practically on the grounds of the St. Regis resort. There are only about seven parking spaces available and the spots fill up early so you do need to set out first thing in the morning, but the reward is a glorious secluded white sand beach and usually tranquil ocean.

Another secluded gem is Mahaulepu Beach on the island’s south side. It’s a two-mile car trip from the end of Poipu Road, past the Hyatt hotel. The road quickly turns from pavement to dirt, to pock-marked rock that often fills with water. Note: Driving on this road as well as the unpaved road to Polihale will break most rental car agreements. At the end of the road you’ll walk through a small forest to reach a secluded stretch of beach surrounded by sandy cliffs.

No day at the beach would be complete without a good book. Make sure to stop in at Talk Story, the Westernmost bookstore in the United States where the owner Cynthia is more than happy to recommend the perfect reading material for a beach day. All of the fiction in the shop is divided between male and female authors (an equal number of each) to make it easier to find that book you think you remember was written by a man or a woman.

When you feel like eating for two

Oh, I know the idea of eating for two is an old wife’s tale, but when you’re on vacation with another human growing inside you, you deserve to indulge just a little, calories be darned.

Kauai has an all-over-the-place food culture that vacillates between the absurdly healthy and unhealthy, but delicious. Each small town has at least one fresh juice shop with an abundant selection of smoothies, granola and acai bowls. Our favorite was the Little Fish shop in Hanapepe that served a green smoothie bowl of avocado, dates, banana, ginger, spinach and matcha topped with local fruit and homemade granola. They also do a perfect iced decaf latte.

The best tapas, inventive fresh veggie dishes and mocktails on the island are easily had at Bar Acuda in Hanalei, the Hawaiian brainchild of San Francisco chef Jim Moffat. Their locally-sourced Soursop Mint Juice is the perfect pregnancy alternative to the mojito.

Don’t be too bummed that you can’t gorge on the ahi poke bowls. There will be plenty of raw fish in your future. Opt for a stop at the roadside dive the Shrimp Station instead for one of their peel-and-eat platters of Cajun, Thai or Sweet Garlic Chile Shrimp.

There are also plenty of junk food options that shouldn’t be missed. No trip to Kauai would be complete without at least one serving of shave ice. Never compare this local delicacy to a snow cone. When done properly, the finely shaved flakes of ice should melt upon arrival in your mouth. Some of the best shave ice on the island can be found at Jo Jo’s in Waimea, a simple shack with a hand painted sign where they shave the ice over homemade macadamia nut ice cream and top it with a creamy vanilla sauce.

And then there’s Porky’s food truck. Portable kitchens like carts and trucks abound in the Hawaiian Islands and Porky’s is both a local and tourist favorite. We found the Porky’s truck on Friday Art Night in Hanapepe, the weekly nighttime festival where the village’s galleries stay open late and locals crowd the streets eating, drinking and dancing. Porky’s specialty is a grilled pineapple pork sausage on a toasted French roll with sweet onions covered in grilled kalua poke. You can add bacon or Portuguese sausage for an extra dollar. It might be prudent to split this delicacy with your partner to save room for dessert from Popo’s Cookies across the street.

When you just want to Instagram

Sometimes you’re just in the mood to take a beautiful photo or two. The Wailua Falls are a quick drive from the main road and offer a beautiful lookout point of the double waterfall (and frequent double rainbow) just steps from the car.

The majority of Waimea Canyon is also accessible on paved roads, with easy to reach overlooks of stunning canyon and waterfall views all along Highway 550.

No babymoon would be complete without a romantic sunset. Find a scenic lookout about fifteen minutes before the sun goes down to nab a spot for a cuddle.