I’m really excited to share this Kauai travel guide today because the Hawaiian Islands are basically my happy place and everyone should add them to their bucket list. When we were kids my family used to vacation in Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii so the islands have a lot of really special memories for me. Omied and I recently went to Kauai with his family and I hadn’t been in about six years, so it felt wonderful to be back! Kauai is so beautiful, lush and green and such a special place. I’ve put together this travel guide based on all my favorite spots and eats. If you’re planning a trip there, be sure to check things like opening days/hours when you’re thinking about your itinerary. It’s a small island so sometimes places are closed on random days of the week or close early on certain days. But it’s worth the little bit of extra planning to get to taste some of the most amazing tropical fruits and Hawaiian fish!
What to do in Kauai: Day 1
Check-In. My family always used to stay at the Grand Hyatt Kauai in Poipu and it’s still my favorite place. It’s an incredibly beautiful hotel with wonderful staff. Poipu is on the south shore of the island, and the other popular area to stay in is on the opposite, north side in Princeville. Kauai is so small that you can get from one side of the island to the other in just over an hour, so either spot can easily be your home-base.
Beach. We went nearby to Poipu beaches to relax, but if you’re willing to take the road up north to Hanalei Beach there is a Pier that is a very popular spot and very Instagrammable.
Drinks at the Hyatt Seaview Terrace. Whether you’re a guest at the Hyatt or not, having sunset drinks at the terrace is a great welcome to the island. They have live hula dancing every night (we got up and learned how to do the hula…kinda, haha), the drinks are delicious (omg get one of their smoothies like coconut or macadamia nut, they don’t have alcohol in them but they are the BEST), and the view is gorgeous.
What to do in Kauai: Day 2
Kalalau Trail. The Kalalau Trail is probably my top, must-do thing in Kauai. When I was a kid my parents would attempt to take us hiking here and I didn’t really appreciate it and would get bored, but now I see why it’s always rated as one of the most beautiful hikes in the world. The views of the Na Pali Coast are stunning and the jungle is lush and beautiful. You definitely don’t have to do the entire 11-mile hike. You’ll see beautiful views even just hiking a couple of miles in and turning around. Be prepared for mud and slippery rocks.
Ke’e Beach. Right next to the trailhead of the Kalalau Trail is beautiful Ke’e Beach. It’s a great place to sit and relax and also snorkel and the sunsets are beautiful. Tunnels Beach is also nearby and a popular snorkeling spot too.
Kilauea Lighthouse. The Kilauea Lighthouse is a really popular spot to visit in Kauai and is on the way back if you’re heading to Poipu. It’s also known as the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, so you can spot some Hawaiian birds in their natural habitat.
Banana Joe’s. Omg Banana Joe’s!! I don’t even like bananas, but their banana smoothies are amazing. They use apple bananas, which are smaller and sweeter than regular bananas on the mainland. Even if you’re a banana-hater like me, these tropical bananas are a game-changer.
What to do in Kauai: Day 3
Waimea Canyon. Waimea Canyon State is referred to as “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” and there are some really amazing lookout points that you can drive to. There are also great hiking trails at Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Park if you’re looking to do a hike.
JoJo’s Shave Ice. JoJo’s is one of my favorite shave ice places on Kauai and there’s one in Waimea so it’s great to hit up after leaving the canyon. Be sure to get coconut or macadamia nut ice cream on the bottom!
Fish Express. Fish Express has delicious plate lunches and of course, fish! Don’t miss their delish poke bowls.
What to do in Kauai: Day 4
Na Pali Coast Boat Trip. The Na Pali Coast is so stunning and magical, and it’s pretty amazing to see it by land (hiking), sea (boat trip) and air (helicopter ride). We did a boat trip with Captain Andy’s that took us out snorkeling, stopped in a bay to see dolphins (where I pretty much cried because I love dolphins so much), and up around to the Na Pali Coast.
Keoki’s Paradise. After a long day out at sea, we went to Keoki’s for dinner, which always has delicious fresh fish. And of course, we finished it off with a giant slice of hula pie.
What to do in Kauai: Day 5
Kauai Juice Co. We started our day out with some fresh juices from Kauai Juice Co. Their local, organic juices were delish and I especially loved trying the pretty turquoise one, made with blue-green algae.
Allerton Botanical Garden. There are two botanical gardens in Kauai (McBryde and Allerton), and in my opinion, they’re both worth visiting, but if you have to choose one Allerton is the most interesting. Schedule a tour and your guide will take you down into these amazing gardens where you’ll see plants and flowers you’ve never seen before. The giant Moreton Bay Fig trees (where they shot the scene in Jurassic Park where they find the dino eggs) are a great photo opp and the bamboo forest is the most serene place to walk through.
Wailua River Kayak. Kayaking down the Wailua River is so much fun and so relaxing. You can kayak to Sacred Wailua Falls and get some great photos at the base of the waterfall.
Koloa Fish Market. My other fav food spot on Kauai! This place is tiny and everything is ordered to-go, but the Hawaiian plates and poke are delicious and inexpensive. I could prob eat here every day and not get sick of it because they have so many different options. In the photo above I’m having grilled ahi in a wasabi cream sauce. Yum.
What to do in Kauai: Day 6
Helicopter Tours. Seeing the Na Pali Coast by air is my absolute favorite way to go. There are certain places that are only accessible by helicopter, and it is absolutely breathtaking to fly into a canyon that is covered in lush greenery, with dozens of waterfalls spilling over everywhere you look. Try to go on a clear, calm day.
Queen’s Bath. These large tidepools are really fun to hike to and swim in. The hike is pretty easy, but you’ll still want hiking shoes.
So those are all my hot tips for Kauai, and I’m missing The Garden Island already! I’d love to come back and next time stay in Princeville at the Hanalei Bay Resort and really focus on some of the north shore things, like spending time on the Napali Coast, the Secret Beach or getting up early and doing the entire Kalalau Trail! #goals
If you have some time definitely check out the farmer’s markets around the island. Explore the spouting horn to see a blowhole and be sure to explore any beach parks nearby to see the natural beauty Kauai has to offer!
To really explore what Kauai has to offer it is recommended to spend at least a week. If that is not possible 3 – 5 days will work.
The best months to visit Kauai is between September and November or April to June. These will be when the weather is the best and the prices are lower.
The North Shore tends to be more popular with top-ranking resorts, however, the South Shore also has beautiful options.
December is the rainiest month in Kauai and receives around 5.2 inches of rain