Hawaii - Kauai Vacations
Secluded beaches, fragrant flowers, cascading waterfalls, and an unhurried pace make the Garden Island of Kauai a tropical paradise. Numerous geological surprises await you including Waimea Canyon, known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and Mt. Waialeale, located within a tropical rain forest. There's also the rugged Na Pali Coast, which can only be viewed by helicopter or boat. Elsewhere on Kauai you'll find familiar views — Lumahai Beach, where parts of South Pacific were filmed, the mystical Hanalei Bay, breathtaking Bali Hai and the waterfalls used in the opening scenes of Jurassic Park.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Who should go?
Adventure and Outdoor Lovers
Geology hikes, helicopter tours, the Na Pali Coast, and Waimea Canyon are only a few of the things available on the Garden Isle.
Exquisite courses amidst breathtaking scenery
Dramatic natural beauty and sunny beaches
What's the climate like?
December and January have the most rainfall. However, the rain is concentrated on the northern coast, near Princeville.
How do I get around town?
Airport/hotel transfers are available for purchase.
A rental car is highly recommended.
There are two bus lines. However, most routes don’t go near resort areas, but rather go to residential towns.
Many hotels rent bicycles and it is a fun way to see the island. Biking is safer and more convenient than in the past, due to the many miles of bicycle paths on the island’s roads. There is a 17-mile biking/walking path that starts at Wailua and runs south.
Taxis must be called for, as there are no taxi stands. Taxis are good for short trips between hotels and restaurants. Longer distance fares are very expensive.
What kinds of dining and nightlife are available?
Traditional Hawaiian culture, including luaus, is the main form of evening entertainment on the Garden Island. The best luaus are at the Kauai Coconut Beach Resort and the Tahiti Nui Luau. Kauai has an excellent assortment of restaurants from five-star eateries that feature Hawaii regional cuisine to casual restaurants that cater to a world of ethnic tastes.
- Bar Acuda Tapas & Wine
Excellent food and a chic atmosphere have made Bar Acuda a very popular establishment. Enjoy an excellent wine list and a romantic atmosphere. Hanalei.
- Blossoming Lotus
Enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, tofu, brown rice, tempeh, and other Earth-conscious ingredients at this wonderful vegan restaurant. Kapa'a.
- Hanalei Dolphin Restaurant and Fish Market
With its location next to a fish market, you'll find some of the freshest seafood in the Hawaiian Islands. Hanalei.
- Poipu Beach Broiler
A popular spot for couples as well as families, the Poipu Beach Broiler skillfully serves delectable seafood creations in an airy atmosphere. Koloa.
- Tahiti Nui
Feast upon traditional American fare such as steaks and hamburgers as well as Pacific favorites such as sauteed shrimp in coconut-curry sauce.
- Wahoo Seafood Grill & Bar
Enjoy a relaxed, casual atmosphere and choose from an eclectic menu featuring sandwiches, pastas, steaks, and remarkable seafood dishes. Kapa'a.
Where should I go shopping?
Kauai doesn’t have a lot of huge department stores but will, instead, charm you with its little mom-and-pop stores and family-run boutiques. Many resort hotels feature shopping arcades.
Hanapepe is the place for lovers of art and seekers of unique Hawaiian products. Poipu Shopping Village has an eclectic selection of stores and trendy ethnic restaurants. Koloa Town is a charming little place with small shops along its main street. Kukui Grove Shopping Center near Lihue is Kauai’s largest retail center with movie theatres and a complimentary hula show on Fridays at 6 pm. A great place to stop and get all your souvenirs is Hilo Hattie Fashion Factory, near the Lihue airport; they also offer a complimentary shuttle from most hotels. Near Wailua and along the Coconut Coast, visit Wailua Village, Kinipopo Shopping Village, and Kauai Village in Kapa’a. The North Shore offers upscale shops, located in spectacular oceanside settings, that are distinctive and uniquely Kauai. Local specialties include shell jewelry from nearby Niihau, taro chips, and boiled peanuts.
When are the local events?
Check the local newspaper, the Garden Island Times, for listings of other events.
Hanapepe Art Night
Fridays. From 6 - 9 pm participating galleries take turns being the weekly host. Talk with artists, make your own artistic creations at mini-workshops, listen to a poetry reading, or watch an artist sketch passers-by.
Waimea Town Celebration
February. Annual event featuring continuous entertainment, food, crafts, games, beer garden, ice cream eating contest, and Ukulele contest at the old Waimea Sugar Mill. Hawaiian cultural demonstrations at the West Kauai Technology & Visitor Center and many sporting events.
Kauai Museum Lei Day Celebration
May. May Day is Lei Day. Wear a lei, give a lei, or make a lei and enter it in the annual lei contest.
Prince Albert Music Festival
May 1. Annual music festival held in Princeville on Kauai's spectacular north shore. Features the finest in classical and Hawaiian music and dance, a children's hula, choral groups, antique quilt display, artisans, art show, lei contest, and a silent auction.
Taste of Hawaii
June. The largest, oldest, and best food and beverage tasting event in Hawaii. More than 50 chefs from all the islands prepare signature dishes. Continuous entertainment.
Koloa Plantation Days
July. A week-long tribute to Kauai's plantation heritage on the south shore. A parade and festival in Koloa Town with great entertainment, local food, and crafts.
Kauai Aloha Festival
October. Festivities include a parade, dance, and street fair. This festival, which is Hawaii's largest, is more than a half-century old. If you're in Kauai during the festival, you literally won't be able to miss it.
Annual Festival of Lights
December. Watch the lighting of Christmas decorations on the grounds of the Historic County Building. This family event includes local entertainment, Christmas caroling, and a parade of floats.
What are my golf and recreation options?
Puakea Golf Course
Set at the base of Mt. Huapu and offering 18 holes of play through deep ravines with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean.
Visitors who enjoy freshwater fishing can fish for rainbow trout at Pu’ulua Reservoir at Koke’e State Park in August and September. For deep-sea fishing enthusiasts, there are excellent fishing grounds off Kauai, especially near Ni’ihau. Charter boats are berthed at Nawiliwili Harbor with some on the northern coast. The waters are host to marlin, tuna, and mahi mahi.
Snorkeling + Scuba Diving
Snorkeling can be done safely in the shallow fish-filled waters off several of Kauai’s beaches, however, not all beaches are safe for swimming, so be sure to check with your hotel or the local tourist board before diving in. Snorkelers visiting the west side should head to Salt Pond Beach Park near Hanapepe. The park’s two rocky points are home to hundreds of different types of tropical fish. Keoneloa Bay, also known as Shipwreck Beach, offers good snorkeling but rip currents and surf conditions here can be unpredictable. Anini Beach on the north coast is one of the best snorkeling spots for beginners and veteran snorkelers alike.
Dive companies provide introductory lessons, certification, and refresher courses and lead guided dives. The best beaches for diving are along the northeast coast from Anahola to Ke’e. For certified divers, the reefs off Poipu are a must dive. Caverns, with its series of lava tubes, tropical fish, and lobster are a local favorite.
Peak season is January/February when thousands of humpback whales migrate to Hawaiian waters. This is an experience not to be missed. Watch for whales at Poipu, Na Pali, or Port Allen.
First Trip to Kauai
There are several must-see places and must-do activities for any first-time visitor to Kauai. Be serenaded by Hawaiian musicians at Fern Grotto. Take in the view from Waimea Canyon, and see the Spouting Horn and watch the ocean spray up to 50 feet in the air.
The Garden Isle is known for its amazing landscape and views. For the best views, take an eagle-eye perspective and embark on a helicopter tour. The scenery you'll see is some of the most breathtaking in the world as you fly over 100-foot waterfalls and the Na Pali Cost.
Peak season is January and February when thousands of humpback whales migrate to Hawaiian waters. The best vantage points are near Poipu, Na Pali, and Port Allen.
Kauai is filled with challenging golf courses for everyone from beginner to expert, but for one of the most spectacular golf experiences anywhere on the planet, head to Princeville. Here, the Prince Golf Course tests golfers with a demanding layout climbing slopes and careening down hills.
Two or 22
If you love to hike, don’t miss the Kalalua trail, which has some of the most stunning views of all the Hawaiian Islands. The total trail runs 22 miles and is a difficult route along sheer cliffs of the Na Pali Coast and should only be attempted by experienced hikers. On the other hand, just about anyone can handle the two-mile hike to Hanakapiai Beach.
Get Off the Beaten Path
Enjoy the flexibility that a rental car affords. With a rental car, you can tour Waimea one morning and spend the evening in Hanalei or visit the unpopulated, out-of-the-way beaches.
For those interested in the history of the Hawaiian Islands, visit the Captain Cook Monument in Waimea. This location is where Captain James Cook became the first Westerner to set foot on the Hawaiian Islands in 1778.
Good to Know:
|April – November
|Spring and Autumn
|Kauai is four hours behind Central Standard Time and five hours behind Central Daylight Time
|None needed for U.S. citizens
|Leave 15% or 20% if the service was excellent.
|Hawaii is very casual. Shorts are allowed at most restaurants, except fine dining establishments.