How much do you know about Kauai, and why haven’t you been there yet?
Kauai is a place where worries vanish in the trade winds. With the golden sands of Kauai’s Beaches and the rain-forests of Koke’s state parks rarest plants and birds, you have arrived in paradise.
The tiny exotic island of Kauai has maintained herself charmed, mysterious, and unconquered. Experience the secrets of The Garden Island as you dive into the natural beauty Kauai has to offer.
From the moment you step off the airplane, the soothing trade winds will remind you, there is no place like the Garden Isle of Kauaʻi. This is how you will be swept away during your gateway to Kauai vacation.
Are you planning a Vacation To Kauai, Hawaii? This Kauai Bucket List travel guide will offer insider information on where to stay, where to eat, what to do, and so much more.
KAUAI BUCKET LIST GUIDE – WHY I LOVE KAUAI
Kauai – Why I Love This Island
I have been to Kauai four times over the past 10 years and by far this is my favorite of the Hawaiian Islands.
I am by all means no expert compared to a local that lives on the island. But, I have explored every part of this lovely Island and know what I love about the Island and want to share my knowledge with every traveler.
August throughout September is the hottest time of year, with an average high of 85°. January is the coolest period with standard highs of 78°, so you’ll find no real off period for your Getaway to Kauai.
And even though it is the wettest place in the world (when considering the amount of water that falls), it does not rain all day, every day across the island. Therefore, don’t be concerned about the rain as it will never ruin your Getaway to Kauai!
How To Get To This Garden Gem
There is only one way to get to this Island and it’s by air serviced by Lihue Airport (LIH).
These following airlines:Air Canada, ANA ,Philippine Airlines, Qantas, Japan Airlines, Jet Blue, EVA Airlines, and Korean Airlines fly into HNL(Honolulu). From there you can puddle jump over to Lihue Airport (LIH) afterward with Hawaiian Airlines.
The short flight towards your final stop to your gateway to Kauai journey is an exciting one anticipating that beginning of the journey.
The links above go directly to the company’s websites for booking your air travel.
Getting Around The Island
Having a rental car for your Getaway to Kauai is pretty essential. Unless you are thinking about staying put at your vacation rental or resort.
A rental car is the most effective choice for getting around Kauai. Having your transport will give you the overall flexibility to explore the island on your schedule.
You can also use Taxi Services or the Kauai Bus as an alternative mode of transportation. Car rentals book-out early and it is best to book your rental in advance to avoid high last-minute prices.
Check the following websites for pricing: Alamo Car Rental, Enterprise Car Rental, Hertz Car Rental, Thrifty Car Rental, Hawaiian Airlines Car Rental, and Priceline (Which I seem to get the best deals from).
Locals call Highways by road name to be familiar with the HWY’s which are described below:
- 50 Kaumuali`i Hwy
- Hwy 51 Kapule Hwy
- Hwy 56 Kuhio Hwy
- Hwy 58 Nawiliwili Road
- Hwy 529 Maluhia Road ( Tunnel Of Trees)
- Hwy 530 Koloa Road
- HWY 540 Halewili Rd
- Hwy 550 Waimea Canyon Drive
- Hwy 552 Kokee Road
- Hwy 560 Kuhio Hwy ( continuation of Hwy 56)
- Hwy 570 Ahukini Road
- Hwy 580 Kuamo`o
- Hwy 581 Kamalu Road & Olohena Road
- Hwy 583 Ma`alo Road
Side note: You can’t travel around the entire Island. Keep this in mind when planning your Getaway to Kauai. Also, be aware of the following road rules:
One lane bridges – One lane bridges are mostly found on the north shore of the island from Hanalei to Haena. There are several one-lane bridges you will need to cross.
Where To Stay In Kauai
According to Trip Advisor, these are the best hotels in Kauai:
- Marriott’s Kauai Lagoons – Kalanipu’u (pictured above)
- Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club
- Koloa Landing, a Kauai, Hawaii Resort in Poipu
- Hanalei Bay Resort
- St.Regis Princeville Resorts
The Prices Vary on the hotels above. I have stayed at Marriott’s Kauai Lagoons – Kalanipu’u, It was a perfect location for families, couples, individuals, literally everyone!
Airport shuttle service, on request, complimentary which is awesome as you don’t need a rental car if you just want to lounge around the Kauai Marriott Resort.
Other Kauai Resorts I would suggest to stay at are:
- The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas
- Whalers Cove Oceanfront Resort
- Courtyard Kaua’i at Coconut Beach
- Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa
- Koa Kea Hotel & Resort
Home or Apartment Rental
If you’re looking for something a little homier than a hotel, you might want to check out VRBO.com, where you can rent someone’s actual home from them.
Note: If you are looking for accommodations on your gateway to Kauai trip, I would suggest Airbnb. Join Airbnb with this link to Accept Trent’s invite to join Airbnb and you’ll get $45 CAD towards your first trip of $95 CAD or more.
Please note that home and room rentals are generally considered safe, but I highly recommend reading the reviews before committing to stay anywhere.
Great Breakfast Places In Kauai
- Hanalei Bread – The food was so fresh and tasty. I had the fancy toast and breakfast burritos and pastry all made vegan (note: this is a vegan place, but have vegan options) Great flavors and not too big or too small, great size portions.
- Kalaheo Cafe & Coffee Company – My first trip to Kauai I went twice to this place! The service and food are great! I recommend trying the Kauai coffee with any of the breakfasts as it is the best on the Island.Try The Kahili Breakfast which was amazing or the Bonzo burrito that my wife enjoyed. I definitely recommend trying if visiting the island.
- Ono Family Restaurant and Shave Ice – This restaurant was highly recommended by the locals on the island! They really do make you feel like family. So relaxed and comfortable! I love the loco moco and Denver omelet. All the plates are delicious! Plus, you can come back later in the day to get their shaved ice which was also great because they served halo halo, which is a layered dessert consisting of sweetened beans, fruits, shaved ice drizzled with evaporated milk, and ice cream.
Kauai Lunch Places You Should Visit
- Pono Market – Hands down the best poke in Kauai. The selection of local plate lunches here was great! This place is a kind of cafeteria line style, with a variety of entrees, poke, and sides to choose from. I particularly loved the kalua pork with cabbage and the spicy ahi poke so much that I went back for it again two days later!
- Tiki Taco’s – Chorizo taco & spicy kahuna fish taco. Both were easily the best I’ve had on this island for the month and a half I’ve been here. In-house made Tortillas, and the rest of the ingredients keep pace with the same high level of freshness. 2 tacos are more than enough for anyone.Tons to choose from on the menu, so there’s something for everyone. Plenty of seating inside and out.
- Da Crack – You see the line and wonder why. Then you find yourself chilling’ in the parking lot the next day waiting for your tacos. Great staff, great food, eat on the beach down by the Sheraton watching the sun go down. Seriously puts all the other dining experiences to shame regardless of price. Love this place. Grab a souvenir while you are there.
- Bubba Burgers – Great burgers and cool shirts. “We cheat tourists, drunks, and attorneys.” You can’t go to Kauai and not eat at Bubba’s. It’d be like saying you never saw any chickens while you were on the island. I mean did you really even go? I love the Chilli burger.
- Porky’s Kauai – Try The Porky Dog and pulled pork grilled cheese. The dog has pineapple inside and pulled pork and your choice of sweet or sweet and spicy BBQ sauce. The bun is way above average as well. For $9 you get your meal and a drink (Coke or the Hawaii juice drinks). Best value on the island in my mind. Budget shoppers? Go to Porky’s at least once a day.
Kauai Happy Hours You Should Visit
- Kauai Beer Company – For many local residents, Lihue Town is their center of work. Kauai Beer Company’s beers are so tasty, it’s difficult to just stick to one and their 4 oz. beer samplers make it easy to try them all. On Thursdays, Kauai Beer Company invites local food trucks to park street side for patrons to eat and be merry, rotating trucks so each week is different.
- Keoki’s Paradise – 3-5 pm and 9:30-10:30 pm are actually not Happy Hour at Keoki’s Paradise in Poipu it’s Aloha Hour! Aloha Hour means live Hawaiian music, ice-cold 29-degree beer, pineapple mojitos, and pupus for snacking. With the restaurant designed to embody paradise, including flowers, plants, thick bamboo trees and a man-made waterfall with fish pond, the inside of the restaurant is just as tropical as the area outside of the restaurant.
- Tiki Iniki – Tucked away in Princeville Shopping Center on the north shore is a gem of a bar called Tiki Iniki. No visit to Tiki Iniki is complete without trying the mother of all tiki drinks, The Flaming Zombie, made of five different types of rum and lit on fire. Another fun cocktail is The Iniki, created in honor of Hurricane Iniki that hit Kauai in 1992. The umbrella flipped backward of course!
Kauai Dinners With Fantastic Views
- Beachhouse Restaurant – Incredible views and food. The open-air dining and expansive lawn area are really special. I went for lunch and got to watch surfers out past the point. My wife and I could also see fish in the little tide pools just outside the restaurant. We ordered a pork sandwich, fish and chips, and fish sandwich, all the meals were good. Spare room for pie. I’m not kidding about the pie. It was impressive.
- Sam’s Oceanview – The food was so delicious. The boar sausage was outstanding! Great atmosphere, I will go back soon! I loved watching the waves and eating. The staff provides excellent service. You need a reservation so call ahead.
- Tidepools – Tidepools have blended ambiance & fine dining well. I don’t feel either aspect of this wonderful restaurant outperforms the other. The establishment sets on a koi pond with gorgeous gardens, a waterfall, and amazing seascapes views everywhere. The cuisine is surf and turf, but not taken lightly. The appetizers are none less than the scrumptious dinner dishes. Make reservations if you can.
- Brennecke’s Beach Broiler – We love it here and ate here three times on the last trip to Kauai. It’s probably a little overpriced, but the food is consistently excellent and it’s difficult to beat the view and atmosphere. It’s an excellent taste of island life. The beach it overlooks seems to be a favorite spot for monk seals and sea turtles. I’d recommend purchasing the nachos and/or garlic waffle fries with your meal.
What To Do During Your Getaway to Kauai
On the North Shore, fantastic shoreline snorkeling beaches include the reefs off Kee Beach and Haena Beach Park. Anini Beach offers a lagoon great for beginning snorkelers. Makua, or Tunnels, Beach in Haena also has a wide reef area that’s a treat to the senses.
On the East Side, Lydgate Beach Park offers a protected snorkeling lagoon great for Keiki (children) snorkelers.
On the South Shore, Poipu Beach State Park offers protected areas for snorkelers. Be sure to check ocean conditions and currents before going out, especially during the big north shore swells of the winter.
Wonder in amazement during your Getaway to Kauai journey. Nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon is a large canyon, about ten miles long and up to 3,600 feet deep.
Formed by erosion from the Waimea River, the canyon boasts a colorful array of red, brown and green hues which are complemented by waterfalls and frequent rainbows.
Challenging hiking and hunting trails wind through the canyon.
Two lookouts, the Puu Ka Pele and Puu hinahina, have parking and offer breathtaking views.
Na Pali Coast State Park
Beautiful views grace Napali Coast, State Park. The na pali (high cliffs) reach as much as 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) above the Pacific Ocean.
From this vantage point, you can not only see the Pacific Ocean but also waterfalls and the Kalalau Valley.
Originally built in the 1800s (with some parts rebuilt in the 1930s) the Kalalau Trail crosses five valleys and ends at Kalalau Beach. Hikers will see a lush landscape while traveling through the valleys, as well as tall cliffs aligning the ocean.
The Kalalau Trail is 11 miles long and takes about a day to traverse. The first couple of miles from Ha’ena State Park to Hanakapi’ai Beach are a good day hike. However, completing the entire trail is recommended for experienced hikers.
Kauai Boat Tours
The Napali Coast is the main attraction for Kauai boat tours.
This spectacular 11-mile coastline will leave you in awe as your eyes wander from sea level toward the hanging valleys and razorback ridges thousands of feet above the ocean.
Here are some great companies that will offer a tour of a lifetime:
Booking a Kauai helicopter tour is pricey (it can be up to $250 per person!!), but it is worth it.
Kauai has hidden waterfalls to discover, deep canyons to explore, hidden coastlines and so much more only available to people who want to see it by air!
If you are brave enough this is a memory you will never forget during your Getaway to Kauai journey.
Places That Your Need To See To Believe
Kalalau Lookout isn’t just another Waimea Canyon lookout, as many first-time visitors often believe. It’s a view into the heart of the Kalalau Valley– one of the most-photographed and well-recognized valleys in all of Hawaii.
This is primarily because the valley and surrounding coast have served as the backdrop for countless films including“King Kong” (the original), “Mighty Joe Young,” “Jurassic Park,” and “Six Days Seven Nights.”
Kalalau Lookout is also the highest elevation most people reach in Kauai by road, at 4,000 feet.
Here you will find one of the greatest views in all of Hawaii. Kalalau Valley is the largest valley on the island at two miles wide.
If you’re looking for one of the best North Shore snorkeling beaches, look no further than Tunnels Beach (a North Kauai gem)that has a coral reef so massive it can be seen from space!
If SCUBA diving is more your style, the amazing coral reef, and generally calm conditions mean you, too, will have a spectacular dive. Be aware that there is a slight rip current, but most of the time it is rather weak.
Tunnels Beach should be your first stop on your Getaway to Kauai journey.
The beach itself is located nearly directly across from mile marker 8 on Highway 560 going east from Hanalei towards Ha’ena, but we highly recommend you do NOT park on the street, as the police will ticket you for doing so.
Two roads provide beach access – the first is located 0.4-miles past mile marker 8 and the second is 0.6-mile past mile marker 8 (the latter is the better of the two). Parking can be a hassle because you will have to park along the side of a narrow road.
The entrance roads are a bit hard to find, but a few signs placed by residents that clearly let you know which roads do NOT lead to Tunnels Beach.
Please show Aloha and don’t park in those spots.
Koke’s State Park
Just north of Waimea Canyon State Park, Koke’e State Park is a great park for hiking.
There are seven major hiking trails in Koke’e State Park:
- Alakai Swamp Trail
- Awaʻawapuhi Trail
- Kawaikoi Stream Trail
- Nuʻalolo Cliffs Trail
- Nuʻalolo Trail
- Pihea Trail
- Poomau Canyon Lookout Trail
Along the way, hikers can expect to see lush, native vegetation, views of the ocean, and native birds.
Kalalau Valley can also be seen from the park this was the backdrop for Jack London’s short story Koolau the Leper. Stop by the Koke’e Natural History Museum for current trail information and maps.
Hanalei Bay consists of nearly two miles of beach, surrounded by mountains.
In the summer, the bay offers excellent mooring for sailboats, stand up paddleboarding, and swimming.
- Makai Golf Club at the St. Regis Princeville Resort – Makai Golf Club at the St. Regis Princeville Resort consists of two courses; the Makai Course and the Woods Course sitting on a rolling plateau high above the Pacific Ocean and beautiful Hanalei Bay.
- Poipu Bay Golf Course– 18-hole award-winning resort golf course open to the public; designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr; Pro Shop; Practice range; Lessons, club/shoe rental; restaurant; Putting/chipping greens; locker rooms. This is a must-play during your Getaway to Kauai journey.
- Puakea Golf Course – Kauai’s newest 18 holes, Puakea Golf Course, is a spectacular experience. Framed by the Pacific Ocean, Mount Haupu, and the tropical landscape that served as the set for Jurassic Park, Puakea treats golfers to magical Kauai golf.
- The Ocean Course at Hokuala – The Ocean Course winds its way through a mango and guava tree forest, down to the edge of the Pacific, with the finishing green in the midst of a 40-acre freshwater lagoon. Named one of the most beautiful courses in the world by MSN Travel, for the avid golfer, it is reason enough stay and play.
Hawaii is known for its beautiful beaches, but Kauai, according to the Hawaii Official Tourism Site, has the only navigable rivers in Hawaii.
The most popular is that of the Wailua River. Kayaking and canoeing are two popular ways to explore the river. If you are looking for a more relaxing approach to take, guided boat tours are available.
The river is also home to the Fern Grotto, which is a great stop on your Getaway to Kauai journey.
Where To Shop
- Hanapepe Art Night (West Side)– Hanapepe Art Night is a Friday night tradition not to be missed on the West Side of Kauai. Each Friday evening the sleepy little town of Hanapepe comes alive as local artists and artisans display their crafts all along Main Street.Â Happening from 6-9 PM, Hanapepe Art Night is fun for the family, with a festive atmosphere and plenty of outdoor live music and eateries.
- Kukui Grove Shopping Center(Lihue) – an open-air shopping center in Lihue, Hawaii, United States. It is Kauai’s largest mall and only regional mall. This shopping mall features Macy’s, Ross Stores, Kmart, Times Supermarkets, Longs Drugs, and Pier 1 Imports as its anchors. With over 55 shops and restaurants. The mall is located at 3-2600 Kaumualii Hwy, Lihue, HI.
- The Shops at Kukuiula(Poipu) – On the sunny south shore of Kaua`i, nestled in renowned resort playground of Po`ipu, The Shops at Kukui`ula is the island’s premier shopping, dining, and fine art destination. Showcasing architecture that pays homage to Hawaii’s plantation past, the center is home to dozens of unique shops and boutiques, award-winning restaurants, and contemporary art galleries. The Shops is a great stop on your Getaway to Kauai journey.
As you can tell, out of all of the Hawaiian Islands, Kauai is my favorite. With the incredible landscapes, amazing beaches, and incredible restaurants, this quaint little island packs a powerful punch.
Plus, if you are looking for a low key vacation to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the view, Kauai is the place to do that.
I hope that you make Kauai your next travel adventure!
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