Kauai may be the smallest of the four main Hawaiian islands (Oahu, Maui, and Big Island, being the others) but it’s no less when it comes to fun, vibrant landscapes and relaxation; all packed together into this small paradise. Called the Garden Island, it is definitely one of the prettiest islands out of the four.
First things first, different people have different definitions of an ideal vacation. For some, just relaxing at the beach or the pool might sound like the perfect thing to do. While for others, exploring the place thoroughly and getting the most out of their vacation is their main focus. If you’re the kind who falls in the first group, then voila! Kauai is the perfect place for you. Plan to spend at least a week in Kauai. But, even if you fall in the second category, Kauai has lot of fun things to do as well. You can also combine it with another island and please your explorer self! That’s what we did too, by the way. 🙂
In February 2019, we planned a 10 day trip to two of the Hawaiian islands – Oahu & Kauai. We spent 5 days in Oahu and 5 days in Kauai, and we can certainly say that it turned out to be the perfect vacation for us! Just the right balance between a bustling and a relaxing vacation. We came back home completely content! (Read our Oahu itinerary here.)
To fly into Kauai, you need to take a flight to Lihue – the second biggest town on the island. If you’re renting a car, then all the rental car companies run a free shuttle service from the airport to their locations. The pick up area is pretty easy to find and there are clear directions provided for it all over the airport. Now, you must know that Kauai is not the kind of place where you can just walk out to the street and grab a taxi. So, you absolutely need a car here!
Kauai is very diverse when it comes to its weather. The North Shore is more tropical (rainy) and green, while the South Shore (Poipu) has the most sunshine. Kauai’s Westside is the warmest and driest. So, choose the area where you’d love to stay as per your liking. Two popular areas to stay are Princeville and Kapaa, both are very distinct and beautiful in their own way. The former has a lot more affordable yet beautiful villas to stay in, but the area gets a lot more rain, the latter has fewer resorts but receives much less precipitation. It’s definitely a choice you’ll have to make.
We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Kauai Wailua Bay, near Kapaa, and we can certainly say that our visit was as relaxing as it can be.
The hotel has two pools and a spa tub facing the ocean. The beautiful Lydgate Beach Park is just a few steps away. And to top it all, the stay includes 2 complimentary Mai Tais everyday as well! They’ve got you covered to have the best time you can imagine.
Now, that you have most of the details, let’s get into it. Oh wait, I almost forgot the most important detail – There’s are roosters everywhere! Literally! So, have fun, I guess. 😀
1. Relax your Stress Away
If you follow our mantra then you are sure to be stress free by the end of your vacation! Now, it’s very a complex process, so read carefully.
You need to get up in the morning, have breakfast, fill your cocktail tumblers to the brim, head to the beach or the pool, when you feel there’s enough sand in you, head to the jacuzzi and hang loose as you watch the sun go down and repeat the same the next day. Pretty complicated, right? Well, you can’t get anything in life so easily… oh, unless it’s Kauai!
This was our daily routine, really! 😀
2. Explore the Unique Towns and Neighborhoods
Kauai has many beautiful towns with unique shops and distinctive places for local eats. Kapaa town comes on the top of my list. It’s a small town that mainly runs just along a single street, but it’s still quite unique in its own way.
Make sure to try the local Hawaiian treats here at least once! Of course, start with poke. Pono Market serves fresh caught ahi (tuna) and tako (octopus) poke daily in so many varieties that I have never seen before. Try one kind everyday, maybe?
Have some fresh papayas and some sweet and refreshing coconut water at the Kapaa Farmers’ Market. When you’ve enjoyed all the coconut water, ask for its fresh tender meat as well, and please your eyes watching them do that with so much swiftness!
End with some shave ice of course at Wailua Shave Ice.
3. Sunrise and Sunset Watching
Hawaiian Islands are known for their spectacular sunrise and sunsets, and quite honestly, Kauai has some of the most breathtaking ones. Fortunately for us, we had a ocean view room and we were able to see the beautiful sunrise right from our room.
Everyday, we would make sure to watch this beauty! It’s just so peaceful. You can also watch an equally stunning sunset at Hanalei Bay on the north shore of the island.
Honestly, Kauai has many places to watch the beautiful sunrise or the sunset. Sunrise – if you’re on the south shore and sunset – if you’re on the north shore. So, just find a spot, and make sure to get up early or check the time for the sunset and behold the spectacle!
4. Watch the Majestic Views at the Waimea Canyon
Waimea Canyon is called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and rightly so! With vivid colors spread throughout the canyon, it is definitely one of the top attractions of the Garden Isle.
Even the drive up to the canyon is beautiful and you’d want to stop almost after every 5 minutes to capture the magnificent views.
Just like this area:
Makes for a great photo spot as well!
Or this area:
One of the best views of the majestic canyon can be attained from Waimea Canyon Lookout Area, offering a huge space to see the canyon from multiple angles.
You can also hike the Cliff Trail to see the waterfall (in the above picture) up close but some word of warning – even though the trail is only a 1.6 miles roundtrip, it is extremely muddy and slippery making it quite dangerous and annoying. There are huge puddles and multiple streams that you may have to cross along the way. And there are absolutely no views through major part of the trail, you will mostly be walking through the forest with steep inclines, of course! Quite honestly, I don’t think it is that worth it. Stick to the Lookout Area for the amazing views.
5. Immerse in the Extraordinary Beauty of the Napali Coast
Napali Coast, located along Kauai’s north sure, is a surreal place defined by its enchanting natural beauty. The backdrop in the film “Jurassic Park”, you sure don’t want to miss these untouched mountainsides.
Even though they are unreachable by land, there are several ways to explore the coast. The most popular one being the Helicopter Tours, giving you spectacular aerial views of the Napali Coast and amazing frame worthy photo shots! The tours usually begin at the Lihue Airport from where they take you up to the coast.
Another option is taking a Boat Tour, which will give you equally amazing views, but from a different angle of course! I’d suggest that if you have an entire day in hand, then consider taking the boat tours and just imbibe the natural beauty.
6. Ride a Bike Along the Ocean
We were lucky enough that our hotel stay included a 2-hour complimentary bike ride along the beautiful coast of Kauai. It was definitely a fabulous experience. But, even if your stay doesn’t include a complimentary one, make sure to head to Hele On Kauai Bike Rentals to rent one and relish the experience. With blue waters running along on one side, and lush greenery on the other side, the entire trail was extremely picturesque.
As you go further along the 7.3 mile trail, you will come across many beautiful hidden beaches. Stop by one of them and just enjoy the soothing sounds of the ocean as the waves hit the huge rocks.
Make sure to wear lots of sunscreen even if the weather is just cloudy, it can get pretty hot and beaming in some parts of the trail.
7. Rum Tasting at Koloa Rum Co.
Now, you will find Koloa Rum bottles at every other ABC store (the Walgreens of Hawaii), and you will probably wonder why they are so expensive compared to the rest. Well, let me answer this right away. It is because the legacy of sugar and rum in Hawaii lives on today only through Koloa Rum.
They are the only licensed distillery in Kauai and have a single factory and just one store on the island. In fact it’s just this one on the entire Hawaiian islands. Their store has a Tasting Room as well that offers daily tasting of their different varieties of rum, and the best part is, it’s absolutely free, yes you read it right, it’s completely free! Who gives free rum?!
They have 10 different varieties of rum and offer a tasting of up to 4 different kinds daily. So, want to go there everyday to try all 10? Yeah, why not!
They have fixed slots for the tasting, which begin as early as 10:30 in the morning and run every 30 minutes. The tasting usually takes about 20 minutes. Trust me, you want to do this. There can never be too much rum, right!
Now, go pack your bags and head out to this serene island. Aloha!