Kauai Travel Guide


One of the best parts of living on Oahu, is the proximity to all the other beautiful Hawaiian Islands! Kauai, Maui, or the Big Island are less than an hour flight away and island hopping is easy peasy at these small airports! It’s hard to pick favorites, but if I absolutely had to choose, Kauai (aka The Garden Isle) is my favorite when it comes to natural beauty. It’s green and lush, but with that also comes more rain, especially in the winter. Kauai is far less crowded than Oahu, and even less crowded than Maui. You won’t find the mega resorts or multiple lanes of traffic, and Kauai definitely has more of that laid-back island vibe. Expect a slower pace of life, restaurants closing earlier than you might be used to, and little to no night life. But the natural beauty more than makes up for it!

When planning your trip to Kauai, you can really stay anywhere, as the island is relatively small. I’ve noted a few of my top spots, where applicable, but in general I recommend browsing AirBnB or VRBO for places on Kauai.The places you’ll likely visit are spread out across the island, and some days will just call for more driving time than others. I recommend choosing accommodations that you love vs. based on a specific location, and in my opinion, a rental car is an absolute must on Kauai. Ride shares are rare to non-existent and I would never rely on it.

But! First things first! When visiting the Kauai, or any of the islands, please remember to respect the land, the locals, and the sea life. Hawaii is an incredibly special place, and deserves to be treated as such. A few basics:

• Practice aloha! This word is so much more than a greeting. It’s also love, peace, and compassion
• Be kind to the people you meet and remember that Hawaii is the Hawaiian people’s home! We are all lucky to be here!
• Leave no trace. Be sure to clean up after yourself and leave things as you found them, if not better. (i.e. pick up that piece of trash on the beach, even if it’s not yours.) Don’t trespass past signs, barricades, or on private (kapu) property
• Try to avoid geotagging specific locations on Instagram. Places that were once sacred and private are becoming overrun due to social media. If you find a special spot, tag it more discreetly using simply “Kauai,” the name of the closest town, or something vague
• Use reef safe sunscreen
• Never touch, approach, chase, or feed wildlife, such as sea turtles, Hawaiian monk seals, dolphins or whales
• Shop small and support local when you can

I’ll break this post up into sections organized by the area of the island:

North Shore (including Hanalei, Princeville, and Kilauea)

1 Hotel Hanalei Bay

Bar Acuda – A go-to dinner spot in Hanalei
Palate Wine Bar – for yummy Italian food and lots of wine options
Postcards – Dinner restaurant with charming “old Hawaii” vibes
Ama – authentic ramen and noodle dishes.
Tahiti Nui – tiki vibes and tropical drinks. A scene from the movie “The Descendants” was filmed here, putting it on the map
Tiki Iniki – another spot for tiki drinks and pupus
Avalon – gastropub with good food
Kilauea Bakery & Pizzeria – pastries and pizza, need I say more?
Nourish Hanalei – little food hut with healthy options and bowls
Hanalei Bread Co – organic bakery and coffee house in the heart of Hanalei
Trilogy Coffee – coffee and snacks and desserts in Kilauea
Holey Grail Donuts – stop at their truck for irresistible donuts!
Fresh Bite Kauai – permanent truck with healthy options. Limited hours/times.
Kauai Juice Co – I always stop here for fresh juice when I’m on kauai! Amazingly delish and they have some light bites/salads to-go too. Multiple locations around Kauai.
Happy Talk Lounge – go for drinks and the nightly entertainment

• Explore the beautiful beaches, including: Hideaways, Tunnels, Lumahai, Kauapea (aka Secret Beach)
• Surf or catch sunset at Hanalei Bay
• Snorkel at Anini Beach
• Hike to Hanakapai Falls, it’s advanced. Or if you’re really crazy, hike the entire Kalalau Trail, advanced planning and permits required
• Hike down to Queen’s Bath and lounge in the tide pools

Bikini Hanalei and I Heart Hanalei – bikinis, bikinis, bikinis!
Hunter Gatherer – lovely home goods and other odds and ends in Kilauea


East Shore (Kapa’a & Lihue)

Sheraton Coconut Coast

J02 – unassuming spot in a strip mall, fancier for Kapa’a, their tasting menu is wonderful
Fish Bar Deli – cute little corner spot in the middle of Kapa’a, wonderful stop and great drinks
Lava Lava Beach Club – right on the water! Go for the views and vibe
Russell’s by Eat Healthy Kauai – wonderful plant based spot with outdoor seating
Scorpacciata – this permanent food truck right in Kapa’a makes incredible pizzas. Picnic table seating or take it to-go
Hee Fat General Store – the tastiest shave ice on Kauai!
Java Kai – coffee and bites

• Take a doors-off helicopter tour
• Visit Wailua Falls
• Hike to Hoopii Falls (and swing from vines!!)
• Kayak the Wailua River to Secret Falls, easiest done on a tour
• Take a ATV tour 
• Hike Sleeping Giant

Seaweed & Sage – clothing, accessories, and lots of pretty girly things!
Shipwrecked – clothing and swim for men, women, and children


South Shore (Poipu)

Grand Hyatt
Ko’a Kea
The Lodge at Kukui’ula

Beach House – right on the water. Excellent views and food
Stevenson’s Library Sushi and Spirits – Upscale spot with great sushi inside the Grand Hyatt

Rainbeau Jo’s – coffee and yummy breakfast options
Da Crack – casual to-go Mexican, can order online
Anakes Juice Bar (inside Kukui’ula Grocery store) – for fresh and healthy juice, smoothies, and smoothie bowls
Little Fish – breakfast foods, smoothies, coffee and drinks
Puka Dog – Hawaiian style hot dogs to go. Try their yummy sauces

• Snorkel or swim in the calm waters at Poipu Beach
• Hike the Maha’ulepu Trail
• Visit Salt Pond Beach for sunset

Warehouse 3540 – stop here for a conglomerate of shops and food trucks!

West Shore

The west shore is the almost uninhabited and very remote to the rest of the island. I probably wouldn’t recommend staying here, but it’s definitely worth a visit. The Waimea Canyon and the Napali Coast are not to be missed!

• Visit the incredible Waimea Canyon and find the red sand waterfall (hint: it’s visible from the road! on your left driving up!)
• Within Waimea Canyon, hike the Canyon Trail to Waipo’o Falls
• At the end of Waimea Canyon road, peep the views of the Napali Coast (you might have to wait for fog or rain to roll out, conditions change rapidly here). If you’re feeling adventurous, hike the Kalepa Ridge (ridge hikes are dangerous and not for the faint of heart)
• Book a book trip to view the Napali Coast from the water! I’ve used Napali Experience, Blue Ocean Adventures, and Captain Andy’s and they’re all excellent. There are other companies too. Choose based on the type of boat, and number or people you’re comfortable touring with. If your budget allows, I recommend a private charter
• Visit and/or camp at Polihale Beach. Incredible at sunset. Advanced preparation required to visit this remote spot

I hope this travel guide is helpful when planning your trip to Kauai! I encourage respectful exploration, so don’t be afraid to find your own favorites! For now, enjoy photos of the gorgeous Bishop Ohana on Kauai’s north shore!

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