The Islands of Hawaii are a destination on everyone's travel bucket list. Every island is a must visit destination but the Island of Kauai is truly one of the best. Referred to as the “Garden Island”, this island has some of the most beaitfiul and lush landscapes. The 4th largest of the Hawaiian Islands means this island is much quieter than the busier neighboring island of O’ahu. Whether you are looking for a relaxing vacation, an outdoor adventure, or a combination of both, Kauai is the perfect place for your next trip. Below is a complete travel guide of everything you must do and see when planning a trip to Kauai!
The North Side
The North Shore is home to the city of Princeville which has the most amount of hotel options on the island.
A quiet beach with high ridge mountain top back drop and clear blue ocean waters. There is a small parking lot (with a bathroom) but be sure to pack a lunch if you’re going to spend the day as there are no dining options here. Get here early to reserve a spot!
Hanalei Bay & Pier:
A scenic beach on the bay that brings sweeping views of the Mountains and Rainfalls. There is a small pier where you will most likely find some locals fishing.
Turtle Cave, the sea cave along the coastline is VERY dependent on weather and the level of the tide so this not a recommended location for most people. Even I had trouble finding it and accessing the location.
Queens Bath is the essential tide pool on the island of Kauai. Tide pools can be dangerous with the water levels that rise with the changing of tides.
Kauepea Beach, also known as secret beach, is a very large but secluded beach.
Hideaways Beach, a perfect beach for snorkeling but requires some hiking to get to the location.
If you are an avid hiker or adventure enthusiast than the Kalalau Trail is THE hike for you. This 11 mile hike is famous for its views along the Northern Napali Coast. This is usually a multiple day camping adventure which requires permits. If you are up for the adventure then this is a must do activity on Kauai. This trail starts at the North and will bring you all the way down to the West side of the island.
This is an 8.2 mile hike that brings you to a 300foot high waterfall. The hike brings scenic coastal views along the way making it a perfect adventure.
Hanalei - the small rustic town on the north shore with great surf shops and restaurants
The West Side
There aren’t many hotels on the West Side of the island but this is easily the most beautiful part of the island and home to the iconic Na Pali Coast. This terrain is 17 miles of rugged landscape with razor sharp ridges, steep vertical drops, and beautiful beaches.
Na Pali Coast can and should be done by air, land, and sea. Each perspective is unique and brings different views and enjoyment. Take a helicopter tour and enjoy the views without having to break a sweat. Take a boat tour in the morning and you'll enjoy calmer waters and dolphins or a sunset cruise in the evening. Take a hike along the ridge and get your adrenaline pumping as you experience the views and scenic drop offs.
Red Dirt Waterfalls
This little gem is just off the side of the road as you work your way up to the Na Pali Coast. Unique red clay soil with little waterfalls make for a nice break from the drive.
Waimea Canyon State Park
Also known as The Grand Canyon of the Pacific. This beautiful canyon is littered with lush greens and cascading waterfalls. Bring your Zoom lens for this spot! There are also many little viewpoints as you continue your drive with little turn offs to enjoy different perspectives of the canyon.
One of the most rewarding hikes brings you to the edge of the ridge with sweeping views. You will most likely see the helicopters coming in and out of this valley so you know you are enjoying one of the best views. Nearby Nu’aololo Trail will bring you down a different ridge.
Kalalau or Pu’U o Kila Lookouts are at the end of the road and give you amazing views of the iconic ridges without having to do any major hiking.
The South Side
Poipu Beach has great beaches and resorts with little towns for shopping and restaurants. Many of the boat tours of the Na Pali Coast will leave from this area of the island as well.
Glass Beach - this is a kick stop just near the Port Allen Harbor. This little beach is filled with tons of rainbow colored glass.
Poipu Beach & Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail - this beautiful beach is next to this coastal trail which will bring you up beautiful rock formations and let you enjoy some amazing views along the way. Be cautious if you elect to cliff jump off the point at Shipwreck Beach.
Salt Pond Beach Park - a nice beach with calmer waters.
Tree Tunnel - Large Eucalyptus trees line Maliuhi Road at the beginning of Highway 520. If you catch it at the right time the lighting that comes through the trees is spectacular.
The East Side
There are tons of waterfalls on the island and the East side is home to plenty of good ones.
Wailua Falls - beautiful waterfalls right off the side of the road. Be sure to not come here after a storm or it will be a chocolate/muddy waterfall.
Hoopi Falls - a 1.7 mile hike to some scenic waterfalls.
Uluwehi Falls - a 100’ waterfall
Kapa’a - rustic town with beaches and restaurants.
Lydgate Park Pools - nice beach area littered with palm trees
Mountain Float Tubing -a classic of the island which brings you through a tour of the jungle. Don’t forget your GoPro!
Koloa Rum Safari - enjoy some animals and landscapes while tasting delicious Koloa Rum. Win win.
Food Trucks - There are a ton of food trucks that serve Shaved Ice or amazing Poke/Sushi. Be sure to eat all of it!
Places to Stay
The two big areas where most people will stay are the South Shore (Poipu Beach) or the North Shore (Princeville). The Western side of the island is very remote and doesn’t have many accommodations.
Koloa Landing Resort
The Westin Princeville