Kaua’i is known as the Garden Isle of Hawaii with lush green plants, waterfalls, mountains, canyons and beaches. You really can see it all on this little island. This Kaua’i travel guide is geared more for the adventurer because to really see the true beauty of this island, you have to be comfortable with going off the beaten path.
Where to stay
We stayed on the East side of the island, which is near the Lihue airport. We stayed at the Aston Islander on the Beach, which we found on Airbnb. It was conveniently located on the East Side which made it easy to drive North or South. Our condo wasn’t anything fancy, but that didn’t bother us much since we weren’t there much and chose to experience the island instead. There are many choices for lodging on the East Side such as condos, Airbnb’s and the Kauai Shores Hotel which is a pretty reasonably priced resort right on the beach.
The North Side of the island is more laid back, but does get more rain and less sun. Check out the town of Hanalei on Airbnb or if you want to splurge, the St. Regis Princeville has some gorgeous views.
Where to eat
I will share more about what we ate in a separate post, but here are some recommendations:
Where to hike
The first hike we tried to do was Sleeping Giant but due to heavy rains the day before, we could hardly walk up the trail because of how muddy and slippery it was. We ended up turning around and hiking to Ho’opi’i Falls. Ho’opi’i Falls has an upper and lower falls with a swimming hole and rope swing. Make sure to bring bug spray (all natural of course), the mosquitos are no joke!
After driving up to the Kilaulau Lookout, you won’t be able to see the Kalepa Ridge Trail head very clearly because it is an old hunters access trail, but I highly recommend doing this hike! Our helicopter pilot, Blake, told us about it and the views did not disappoint! If you arrive earlier in the morning, the clouds should clear and less people will be around. Most of the hike is in the shade, but once you reach the end of the ridge it will easily become one of your favorite hikes. One disclaimer though, if you are afraid of heights, this hike is not for the faint of heart.
Queen’s Bath was one of my favorite parts of the trip and I was honestly surprised because I knew the surf would be high and we wouldn’t get to experience the beautiful, calm pool. The hike down is pretty muddy and crowded with people, so proper shoes will be necessary so you don’t slip. There have also been deaths due to rogue waves when the surf is high, so you need to use caution and please be safe!
We had planned to hike the Awaawapuhi Trail but because of the heavy cloud cover, we decided to do some beach hopping instead. If you get lucky enough for the clouds to clear, they say you will see the best views of the island from this trail. It is moderate to difficult and the trail is very narrow with ridges/cliffs similar to the Kalepa Trail.
Due to the heavy rains and flooding, we were pretty bummed that we couldn’t hike the Kalalau trail which gives you breathtaking views of the Na Pali Coast. The flooding also affected some of the attractions around the town of Hanalei such as Tunnels Beach.
The Waimea Canyon Trail is another option, but we stayed at the Waimea lookout to take in the desert views.
Shipwreck Beach is located near Poipu on the south side and has a cliff side to hike along. We saw lots of surfers, a wedding and a beautiful sunset here!
Secret Beach is the place to go if you want a secluded beach to relax on. The surf was high the day we were here, so we enjoyed watching the surfers.
Larsen’s Beach is a remote beach located on the north side. Near this beach you will drive past an organic farm which is owned by Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook).
Sea Lodge Beach was a little bit of a trek to get to but the water was calm and great for snorkeling!
Kekaha Beach Park was a fun beach that we drove our Jeep rental onto while we watched the surfers!
Hanalei Bay has gorgeous beaches with some majestic views of the mountains. This seemed to be the busiest beach we visited.
Moloa’a Bay Beach seemed to still have some damage from the floods so we didn’t stay very long. Hopefully they will replace the rope swing for some Instagram worthy photos!
The highlight of our trip to Kauai, and my number one recommendation, is the Mauna Loa helicopter tour. If you are extra adventurous, opt for the open door tour. Since the center of the island is not accessible due to the treacherous cliffs and heavy rains, you will only be able to see it from air and it is totally worth it!
The best views of the Na Pali Coast are seen by the water, and after finding Blue Ocean Adventures on Instagram, we knew we had to go on one of their boat adventures. Their tour guides have grown up on the island and share all of the history with you. We did the beach landing tour and got to explore an old fishing village where we tried noni berry and saw sea turtles. We were a little bummed that the surf was so crazy that day because we did not get to do their famous boat jump or snorkel.
I hope you found this Kauai travel guide helpful and that you will be able to travel there one day. Kauai is truly one of the most unique destinations I have ever been to!