Kauai is known as “the Garden Isle” because of the tropical rainforest that covers most of the island and less than 5 percent of Kauai is commercially developed. It’s the oldest Hawaiian island out of the eight main islands. Multiple movies have been filmed in Kauai including Jurrasic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean, Soul Surfer, A Perfect Getaway, Lilo & Stitch, and many more. If you’re looking for a naturally beautiful island, here’s my list of beaches, hikes, canyon, coastline, and amazing foods in Kauai:
The beautiful coastline of Na Pali Coast is like nothing I have ever seen before. There are 3 ways to see it: by land, by air, by sea. Kalalau trail is 22 miles roundtrip and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers who aren’t scared of cliff edges with a 2,500 feet drop. If you’re not a hiker, you can drive to Kalalau Lookout or Pu’u o Kila overlook where you can see over the Kalalau Valley. Numerous helicopter and boat tours will take you to Na Pali 11 miles coastline with hanging valleys and razorback ridges thousands of feet above the ocean. We decided to do the boat tour which was the most cost-effective and least strenuous.
What Have I Learned: If you decide to do the Kalalau trail, you’ll have to pay for a $20 per-person per-day permit. Only 60 people are currently allowed on the trail at any one time so get the permits early because they do sell out. The State normally issues the permits 90-days out but due to Covid-19, reservations can be limited to 30 days or less out.
Cost: 20 USD per-person per-day (Kalalau trail permit), ~200 USD per person for a sunset boat tour & ~300 USD per person for a helicopter tour
Hour: Open 24 hours
When you see this canyon, you’ll know exactly why it is known as the “Grand Canyon Of The Pacific”. We drove through Waimea Canyon and stopped at multiple lookout points including the popular Waimea Canyon/Waipoo Falls (Mile Marker 10 – main viewing area) and Puu Hinahina (Mile Marker 13 – perpendicular viewing area). There are also many trails including the Cliff/Canyon trail where you can end with a refreshing dip in Waipoo Falls. Make sure to check out the Red Dirt Waterfall which is a small waterfall but it’s surrounded by gorgeous red soil.
What Have I Learned: Kokee State Park is a short drive from Waimea Canyon to Kalalau Valley, you have to check out Kalalau lookout where you’ll be able to see the tall cliffs of the Na Pali Coast (Mile Marker 18) and Puu o Kila (Mile Marker 19) where you can hike down a small ridge for more vantage points.
Cost: 5 USD per person
Hour: Open daily during daylight hours
This is the longest bay on the island located in the north stretching about 3 miles long with a crescent-shaped beach and mountains in the background. Make sure you stop at the Hanalei Valley Lookout where you can see the beautiful waterfalls and lush taro (heart-shaped leaves) fields.
What Have I Learned: If you’re looking for a great place to catch the sunset, go to the center of Hanalei Bay. Also, if you look closely at the mountains, you’ll see the shape of a sleeping dragon with the head resting on the western side of the beach
Hour: Open 24 hours
Kauai Coffee Company – You can take a tour and learn about their coffee-growing process and sample some joe.
Kīlauea Lighthouse – This lighthouse sits on a cliff that extends out on the Southside of Hanalei Bay in Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. The lighthouse lets you borrow binoculars to try to spot sea birds nesting in this area and you may also spot whales during whale season, sea turtles, and dolphins.
Queen’s Bath – This natural tide pool is a sinkhole surrounded by igneous rock. The trail to the pool can be muddy and slippery so be careful. Please note there are several warning signs to watch the waves so you don’t get swept in. Many people have died from being washed out into the ocean so please be very cautious if you do go.
Poipu Beach – This golden sand crescents beach is great for snorkeling, swimming, boogie-boarding, and surfing. It’s also a favorite basking spot for sea turtles and the critically endangered Hawaiian monk seal.
Wailua Falls – This beautiful double 140-foot waterfall is a short drive from the highway. The views are just a short walk from the parking lot.
Opaekaa Falls – This is another easily accessible waterfall that is a short walk from the parking lot. “Opaekaa” means “rolling shrimp” because there the stream was full of shrimp at one point in time.
Puka Dog ($) – This Hawaiian-style hot dog place makes their own homemade Hawaiian sweet bread with your choice of a Polish sausage or a veggie dog (8.49 USD). The fan favorites according to their website are Kauai Special, Pineapple Field, and Waimea Canyon. One of the things I loved about this hot dog place is their choice of fruit relish: mango, pineapple, papaya, coconut, banana, or star fruit. Mon to Sun: 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM Menu
Keoki’s Paradise and Duke’s Kauai ($$) – These two restaurants are part of the T S Restaurants group which is known for its Hula Pie (13 USD) made with macadamia nut ice cream stacked high on a chocolate cookie crust. Try their Poipu Pina (20 USD) that is served in a local pineapple with pineapple, mint, rum, passion fruit & coconut cream. Keoki’s Hours: Mon to Fri: 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM/ Sat to Sun: 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM Duke’s Hours: Mon to Sat: 11:00 AM to 9:00PM/ Sun: 9:30 AM to 8:30 PM Keoki’s Menu Duke’s Menu
Koloa Fish Market ($$) – This family-owned fish market has been serving island fresh fish, assorted poke, bento, local plate lunches, and desserts since 1994. We loved their famous poke bowl with one poke and two sides (small – 10.50 USD) and the Hawaiian Combo lunch special with Lau Lau and Kalua (15.50 USD). Mon to Sat: 10:00 AM to 3:00PM/Closed Sunday Menu
Kountry Style Kitchen Restaurant ($$) – If you’re looking for brunch food, this restaurant has been making delicious brunch food since 1975. The top three dishes to try according to Yelp are their French Toast, Loco Moco, and Eggs Benedict. Thur to Tues: 7:00 AM to 1:00 PM/Closed Wed Menu
Hamura Saimin ($) – This local restaurant has a winding countertop seating where you can see them make the Simin (noodle soup) in front of you. The two things you have to order here are the Saimin (medium – 8.00 USD) and a slice of their melt in your mouth Lilikoi (passion fruit) Chiffon Pie (4.50 USD). Mon to Thurs: 10:00 AM to 10:30 PM/Fri to Sat: 10:00 AM to 12:00 AM/Sun: 10:00 AM to 9:30 PM Menu
Mark’s Place ($$) – This place has been serving local food since 1998 and was voted Kauai’s favorite lunch plate spot. If you love a good Loco Moco (15.29 USD/ no salad – 12.79) spot as I do, check this place out. I would also give their beef stew (14.29 USD/ no salad – 11.69 USD), chicken katsu (14.39 USD/ no salad – 11.99 USD), and Korean chicken (14.39 USD/ no salad – 11.99 USD) a try if Loco Moco isn’t your thing. Mon to Fri: 10:30 AM to 7:30 PM/Closed Sat & Sun Menu
Chicken In A Barrel BBQ-Kapaa ($$) – This place is known for its BBQ chicken that’s tender, flavorful, juicy with crispy skin. Chicken in a barrel plate (13.50 USD) comes with 1/4 chicken and a side of brown rice and chili beans. There’s also a sampler plate (19.65 USD) with a little of everything: smoked bbq chicken, beef, pork,& a baby back rib. Mon to Sat: 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM/Closed Sun Menu
Pono Market ($) – If you need a snack, get their fried chicken bowl (4.75 USD) and poke bowl (6.95 USD). You can also get a Hawaiian plate (varies 11.50 to 14.00 USD) with 2 scoops of rice, 1 entree, 1 poke, and 1 side. People also recommend the Kalua pork which sells early in the day so get there early. Mon to Sat: 6:00 AM to 2:00 PM/Closed Sun Menu
How many days do you need in Kauai? 3 to 4 days
What is your main transportation in Kauai? Car
How long did it take to get to Kauai? 47 minutes direct flight from Oahu, Hawaii
Where did you stay? Kauai Beach Resort in Lihue
Is Kauai expensive? $$$ The most expensive thing in Kauai is the Na Pali sunset cruise we did which was about ~200 USD per person.
When did you go to Kauai? December 2014