Kauai Travel Guide | Things to do, places to eat, sights to see
This post is coming a little later than I would have liked for it to, but better late than never am I right?
About a month ago, my best friend and I visited Kauai! I had never been to any of the Hawaiian Islands before this trip, but after seeing how beautiful Kauai was I definitely want to venture out and see some of the other amazing destinations the islands have to offer.
Many of you followed our trip on Instagram and I got a lot of questions about the things we did, places we ate, etc., so I figured I would write a full guide with all the details of the trip. We were there for six days total and I feel like it was exactly the right amount of time to squeeze in everything we wanted to do. We stayed in Princeville on the North shore, but ventured out quite a bit to explore the whole island.
THINGS TO DO
1. Rent a jeep and drive around with the top down
Seriously, if you rent a car it's 100% worth the upgrade to a Jeep Wrangler with a removable top. Everything on Kauai is fairly spread out and it takes a pretty big chunk of time to drive from place to place, but we didn't mind because the drive itself was a blast! Everything is so scenic, the temperature is perfect, and the wind blowing through your hair while you drive through the trees and by the ocean can't be beat.
2. Sight see at 'Opaeka'a Falls
'Opaeka'a Falls is a gorgeous waterfall in the Wailua River State Park. A lot of the falls in Kauai take a bit of a hike to get to, but you can drive right up to the view of 'Opaeka'a Falls, making it perfect for a quick sight seeing venture and photo op.
3. Hike the Awa'awapuhi trail
This may have been my FAVORITE thing we did the whole trip.the Awa'awapuhi trail is on the west side of Waimea Canyon and is 3.2 miles each way (totaling a near 6.5 mile hike by the end). One thing that's SUPER important if you're planning on doing this hike: go in the morning. Once the clouds start to settle over the mountains, you can't see the incredible view at the end. We started the hike around 9:30 in the morning and got to the end around 11:30, and our timing couldn't have been better. The hike is almost all downhill on the way there, which means it's all uphill on the way back. It can get pretty muddy if it rains, so make sure you have solid and sturdy shoes to navigate the trail. I wore a pair of Skechers Reggae Sandals and they were perfect. The hike to the end is super scenic, with various stops along the way with incredible views. Nothing beats the end of the trail, though, when you reach the cliff overlooking the Na Pali Coast and the sky and ocean seem to blend together. Truly one of the best views I have ever seen!
4. Look out over Waimea Canyon
We got a stunning view of Waimea Canyon on our way up to the Awa'awapuhi trail head. The canyon is 10 miles long and 3,000 feet deep, complete with beautiful rock formations and even a few waterfalls. Definitely recommend driving through if you visit the west side of the island.
5. Set foot on Red Rock Falls
Red Rock Falls is located in Waimea Canyon, and we stumbled across it on our drive up to the Awa'awapuhi trail head. It's pretty hard to miss, and if you're driving up the mountain it will be on your left side of the road (probably packed with people taking photos). The ground is a bold, crisp burnt orange/red color and has a small waterfall and stream flowing through. Definitely a must-stop spot for photos.
6. Spend the morning at Hideaway Beach
Of all the beaches we went to, Hideaway was without a doubt my favorite. The beach itself lives up to its name in the fact that it's literally hidden on the North shore - and takes a trek down a steep path to reach the water. It's very secluded and can't be seen from the road, but the water is so clear and the beach is so relaxing the hike down is definitely worth it! Do make sure you wear shoes good for hiking (not flip flops - I wore my Skecher Reggae Sandals again). This beach also makes a great snorkeling spot because the water is so crystal clear and fairly shallow close to shore.
7. See the Kilauea Point Lighthouse
The Kilauea Point Lighthouse is also on the north shore and makes for a great view! There's no hiking to get to the site, so it's a quick drive down to the lighthouse for a sight to see or a photo. You can actually walk all the way out to the lighthouse, but we just stood at the top of the path and looked out over the water.
8. Go to Luau Kalamaku
There are TONS of luau options on Kauai, but Luau Kalamaku is the most popular. One ticket includes an all you can eat Hawaiian buffet, an open bar, a craft fair with Hawaiian art, and a hula show. It was very well produced and there were a TON of people there. The event lasted around three hours.
9. Take a morning snorkeling adventure with Blue Dolphin Charters
Okay... so maybe my favorite thing we did all trip is a tie between the Awa'awapuhi trail and the morning boat cruise we took with Blue Dolphin Charters. The package we bought was the Deluxe Napali Snorkel & Scuba and it was 100% worth it. Tickets were around $150 and the excursion itself lasts about five and a half hours. The tour starts with breakfast as the captain takes the boat out to the Na Pali coast and snorkeling location. The boat ride to the snorkel spot is super scenic, and the tour guides were great about explaining significant landmarks and locations. Once we got to the snorkel spot, we jumped in to the crystal clear water right off the Na Pali coast and snorkeled with fish and sea turtles for about an hour. Blue Dolphin provides snorkel gear and gives instruction on how to snorkel if you've never done it before. The snorkeling location was perfect and a great opportunity to be out in open water (safely).
10. Cruise along the Na Pali Coast
We saw the Na Pali Coast during the Blue Dolphin cruise, but if you don't take a snorkeling cruise I definitely recommend finding some way to see the Na Pali Coast from the water. The cliffs are decorated with flowing green foliage and cascading waterfalls and streams, only to touch the bright teal water at the bottom. In my opinion, it's one of the most amazing views on the island.
11. Watch the Spouting Horn Blowhole
Spouting Horn is located on the south side of the island and is another quick, easy view to hit while you're driving through. The crashing waves and spouting blowhole make a great view accompanied by a relaxing mist of ocean water and the smell of the sea. I've heard the water can spout as high as 50 feet in the air!
12. Drive through the Maluhia Road tree tunnel
This tunnel of eucalyptus trees lines the sides of the highway on the way to the South shore. It lasts about a mile and makes you feel like you're in a rainforest!
13. Jump in to Ho'opi' Falls
We stumbled across this one by accident - but it was a great decision! We were looking for a good waterfall we could get close to, so we asked a local for a recommendation and he pointed us to Ho'opi' Falls. It's a quick hike down to the first waterfall, AND you can jump off the cliffs in to the stream! The water is a gorgeous teal blue color and you can't see the bottom, but the jump was definitely worth it. Apparently, if we would have kept going along the path we would have hit the waterfall that was filmed in Jurassic Park, but we didn't realize that until after we left (oops).
14. Explore Queen's Bath
Queen's Bath is a tidepool on the North shore of Kauai surrounded by black igneous rock. If the tide is low some people get in and swim in it, but it can be dangerous when the waves get high and there are warning signs EVERYWHERE to be careful. We didn't get in, but the view of the tidepool and the hike down to the cliffs were just as rewarding.
15. Hit the driving range at Wailua Golf Course
The Wailua Golf Course was another one of my favorite activities! Whether you're a pro golfer or not, the views of the water from the driving range are unbeatable. A bucket of 60 balls for the driving range costs $3, so it's a pretty cheap way to spend an afternoon.
PLACES TO EAT
1. Lava Lava Beach Club
We ate at Lava Lava Beach Club the first night after we landed and ended up going back at the end of the trip because it was THAT good! It's a super laid back, beachfront restaurant with killer happy hour specials and an amazing dinner menu. I ordered the edamame appetizer and the Spinugula salad with grilled chicken both times we went.
2. Oasis on the Beach
So, I have an OBSESSION with yogurt and granola bowls. It's my all time favorite breakfast, snack - you name it. So in Kauai, where the fruit and granola is fresh, I ordered a yogurt bowl nearly every place we went. But the granola and yogurt bowl at Oasis on the Beach was my favorite! It had local fruit, honeyed greek yogurt and Anahola granola and was absolutely delicious. Oasis on the Beach is another beachfront restaurant and nothing beats breakfast with a view.
3. Island Taco
This taco shack in Waimea was voted best tacos in Hawaii by Buzzfeed and there is a REASON. I can definitely see how Island Taco took the number one spot. I ordered the chicken taco salad, which comes in a big taco shell bowl and all the taco toppings you could possibly imagine. Five stars.
4. Happy Talk Bar & Restaurant
This lounge style restaurant had live music and a view of Hanalei Bay. It was outdoor seating, with a very modern, stylish vibe and aesthetic. The food was AMAZING, and they had everything from burgers and fries to a kale salad to ribs.
5. Brenneke's Beach
I had the best nachos of my LIFE at Brenneke's. And let me tell you, I consider myself a nacho enthusiast so I've sampled quite a few platters - but nothing compares to the Classic Four Cheese Nachos at Brenneke's Beach. Our waiter talked us in to adding pulled pork to the platter and it was definitely a good move. They have tons of appetizer and happy hour drink specials too - the pineapple coladas did not disappoint.
6. Aloha Juice Bar
Aloha Juice Bar is a food stand in Hanalei perfect for a quick snack on the road. If you're looking for a filling, photogenic acai bowl, Aloha Juice Bar is your place. I ordered a peanut butter & cacao bowl (with extra granola, of course).
7. Olympic Cafe
The Olympic Cafe in Kapa'a had such a huge menu it was so hard to choose just one meal. We ended up eating here twice as well. The first time, I ordered a huge cobb salad, and the second time I ordered a fruit and granola bowl. Both were amazing, and massive portions (but I didn't let any of it go to waste, no worries). The restaurant was open to the outdoors, so a nice breeze while we ate made the meal that much more enjoyable.
8. Java Kai
If you're looking for a trendy spot to get a caffeine pick-me-up midday, Java Kai in Kapa'a is your spot. It might have been the best cold brew coffee I've ever had. Plus, they have coconut milk and almond milk options for creamer, which is always nice.