Kauai is one of our favorite places in the world. Known as the “Garden Isle ” of the Hawaiin Islands, Kauai lives up to its name with its vast tropical rainforest coverage. This island abodes some of the best hiking in the world with the NaPali Coastline and Waimea Canyon. The fresh seafood and weather will not disappoint you here either. We recommend spending a week here. Here is our quick guide on Kauai, Hawaii.
FYI: This post was written based on a trip taken in mid-August
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What to do in Kauai
NaPali Coast State Wilderness Park
This coastline is gorgeous and one of the most beautiful places we have ever hiked. We hiked part of the Kalalau Trail along the NaPali coastline and after about 2.5 miles, we deviated to the Hanakapiai Falls Trail that goes through the NaPali wilderness for about 2.5 miles before leading to Hanakapiai waterfall. In total, this out and back hike was about 9 miles. We felt this was a good mix of coastline and hiking into the NaPali wilderness. After we finished hiking, we relaxed by the beach at the entrance to the park for about an hour or so.
Tip: The Kalalau Trail is 11 miles long in total one-way (22 miles out and back) and is very dangerous to hike at certain points due to overhangs on the coastline. If you want to hike the entire Kalalau trail, consider backpacking to the beach it leads to and camping there overnight before making the return trip. We do know several people who have hiked it out and back in the same day but they were hiking dawn to dusk.
Looking for great hiking boots? Here are links to the ones we’ve used for 7+ years and highly recommend: Men’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots & Women’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots
Open Ocean Kayak Trip Along the NaPali Coast
This kayak trip is one of the coolest experiences we have ever had! On this trip, we journeyed along the beautiful coastline that can only be accessed by water or air. It was so serene to be in such untouched nature. Our pictures were taken on a disposable waterproof camera and really do not do justice to the beauty of this area.
The 17 mile open ocean kayak trip we completed took us from Hā’ena Beach Park to Polihale Beach. The first part of the journey was four or five hours on the water before you landed at Milolii State Park, which can only be accessed by water, for lunch. The second part of the journey was shorter, maybe 2 hours, and took us to Polihale Beach where we landed our kayaks. We then were picked up by a van that shuttled us back to the other side of the island (only one main road on the island so you go around the entire island) to get back to where we started.
This experience was a small group trip–there were about 6 others (3 double kayaks) and 2 guides on our trip. Our guides were fantastic–very helpful, knowledgeable and funny. You do not need to be a pro at kayaking to do this but you should be in good physical shape as it is a very long day of kayaking. We’d also recommend motion sickness medications for those prone to sea sickness. Below is a link to the company we used.
Link to Open Ocean Kayak Trip We Took
Beware: Sea Kayaking can induce some real motion sickness. For our tips on preventing motion sickness, see our How to Prevent Motion Sickness While Traveling and Flying post.
Also known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” this place looks similar to the Grand Canyon but with more red and green tones. We hiked the steep 5 mile out and back Kukui trail and found it challenging but peaceful. We only saw one other person while hiking. Also, there are several other flatter trails you can hike around the canyon.
A Luau is a fun way to experience Hawaiian culture. We went to the Smith Family Garden Luau in Wailua. The property where this Luau was held had expansive beautiful gardens.
If you are planning to go to numerous islands, we think you could go to a Luau on any of them and get a similar experience.
Nounou Mountain/Sleeping Giant Trail
3.6 mile out and back trail near Kapaʻa with scenic views along the trail and at the summit. We enjoyed hiking this trail in the morning followed by an afternoon of relaxing by our resort’s pool.
Massage at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort Spa
We splurged and got a couples massage at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort Spa (resort directly next to our accommodations). This spa was beautiful and within walking distance of where we were staying. If you really wanted to splurge, you could make a whole spa day out of this experience. With the purchase of the massage, you have access to the spa area for as long as you please. We stayed here for maybe an hour because we had dinner reservations but we could have easily spent a couple hours here relaxing by the spa pool.
Where to Eat in Kauai
Kalypso Island Bar and Grill in Haneli
Delicious food and neat setting overlooking the Hawaiian wilderness. We sat on the patio and enjoyed some delicious tacos as well as pretty views after our long hike along the NaPali coastline earlier that morning.
Beach House Restaurant in Koloa
Nice restaurant with a beautiful setting and delicious food. More expensive than what we typically spend but the food and atmosphere seemed very fairly matched to the price. We like this place so much, we ate lunch and dinner here on seperate days.
Where to Stay in Kauai
Near Poipu Beach
We stayed at a timeshare, Point at Poipu, that Natalie’s aunt and uncle gifted us to use on our honeymoon. We thought this was a nice central location on the island. There are a lot of accomodation options in this area. Lihue would make a good central location on the island as well.
Tip: Rent a Convertible or Jeep
You will need to rent a car while on Kauai. We would highly recommend having a convertible or jeep to explore Kauai. It really added to our experience. We booked an economy car but the rental car company only had convertibles when we got there so we got a convertible for the price of an economy car. Score! See How to Save on a Rental Car for more information.
We hope this post helps you plan your trip to Kauai, Hawaii. Anything else you’d add to our guide on visiting Kauai, Hawaii?
For more information on visiting Hawaii, please see:
- Maui, Hawaii Quick Guide
- Haleakala National Park Quick Guide
- Big Island, Hawaii Quick Guide
- 5 Stops on the Road to Hana
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Quick Guide
- Oahu, Hawaii Quick Guide
We’d love to hear your feedback and questions. Please leave us a comment!
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