Of all the Hawaiian islands, Kauai is by far my favorite. It boasts incredible mountain landscapes, crystal-clear water, quaint restaurants, and beautiful waterfalls. The locals are friendly and tourists don’t seem to linger around on the beaches as much as on Maui or the Big Island, which makes it seem a bit more untouched. Kauai has a little bit of something for everyone: whether you are looking for something adventurous, kid-friendly, or simply relaxing, you’ll certainly find it here!
needed to take it all in
Where to Stay
- Hanalei Colony Resort – if you want to be steps away from the ocean, stay here. It’s located on a quieter part of Kauai’s North Shore and close to Hanalei Town.
- House Rentals – there are plenty of homes for rent on Kauai and they often have a better view than the hotels. I recommend doing a quick google search or perusing Airbnb homes near Hanalei, my favorite part of the island.
- St. Regis Princeville – if you want to splurge, this is the place to do it! The views are breathtaking and the location right on Hanalei Bay is unbeatable.
Where to Eat
- Tege Tege Shave Ice – a must if you like shave ice! They use only organic fruit, and always have unique flavors such as green tea and passionfruit.
- Verde – a cozy Mexican restaurant right off the main road in Kapaa. I recommend their spicy pineapple Margherita and tacos.
- Mermaids Cafe – a great cafe in Kapaa to stop and sit outside for lunch. My favorite is their Ahi Cilantro Wrap.
- Bar Acuda – for fine dining, this tapas bar has it all. Atmosphere and a variety of dishes for every taste will make you want to return again and again.
- Sushi Girl – a local’s favorite hole-in-the-wall, Sushi Girl is perfect to grab lunch to-go if you’re heading north to swim or hike. They have delicious poke and daily specials.
- Dolphin Fish Market – a small kitchen in the back offers tasty to-go options, like crab sushi rolls and poke by the pound. Stop by at night for a sit-down dinner and views of the river.
- Pono Market – the locals love this spot for traditional Hawaiian food. My tip: go early, the Pork Lau Lau is a must-try and often sells out before 12:00pm!
Where to Swim
- Hanalei Bay – the long stretches of beach and beautiful mountain views make Hanalei Bay an easy favorite. When the weather is good, you’ll find surfers at every skill level here.
- Hideaways Beach – if you don’t mind a trek down, Hideaways Beach is often quieter than most beaches on Kauai and has beautiful views. Tip: park for free at the St. Regis or the lot in front of the path.
- Tunnels Beach – this beach gets its name from the lava tubes which lie just below the surface of the water. It’s a great beach to watch experienced surfers, and also has a nearby cave you can explore.
- Polihale State Park – this beach is located on the west side of the island, and you’ll need a four-wheel drive to get there since it requires driving on a dirt road. Once you arrive, sunset views and a long stretch of beach awaits. Beware though: it’s easy to get your car stuck if you drive on the sand (I know from experience)!
- Poipu Beach – when the North Shore is rainy, chances are Poipu Beach on the South Shore is getting hit with sun. It’s a great kid-friendly beach and you’ll often see people snorkeling here.
- Secret Falls – this hidden waterfall is a trek, but so worth it. Prepare to traverse some muddy paths and cross a river to visit this spot!
- Ke’e Beach – when the water conditions permit, Ke’e Beach is great for snorkeling. In the evening, grab a beach towel and watch the sunset along the Na Pali coastline.
Where to Go
- Queen’s Bath – this natural pool will fill up with water from ocean throughout the day and is a beautiful spot to swim. My tip: wear sneakers for the hike down and go early to avoid the crowds.
- Ho’opi’i Falls – it’s a short hike through the jungle to get to Ho’opi’i. You can jump into the lower falls and swim in the river when the water is calm — it’s one of my favorite things to do!
- Waimea Canyon – for incredible views of Kauai’s mountainous landscape, drive to Waimea. You can also hike the Waimea Canyon Trail.
- Hanapepe Town – Hanapepe is a sleepy little town with quaint shops and restaurants on the South side of the island.
- Wailua Falls – a scenic overlook lets you view Wailua Falls from above. You might also catch a glimpse of some wild warthogs here!
What to Do
- Ride in a helicopter. There are a few companies that offer tours on the island, but if you’re feeling extra adventurous I’d book an open door tour.
- Go on a hike. Some of my favorite include the Nā Pali Coast Kalalau Trail, Waimea Canyon Trail, and the Sleeping Giant Trail.
- Take surf lessons. Kauai is a great place to learn! I suggest taking lessons from a local.
- Go paddle boarding. I recommend renting paddle boards in Hanalei town (try Hanalei Surf Co Back Door) and taking them out on the Hanalei River.
What to Bring
- Plenty of swimsuits. My go-to outfit in Kauai is a swimsuit and maxi dress. The relaxed island vibe is the way to go!
- A hat. You’ll need it here!
- A beach bag. A must for beach days, or carrying a change of clothes and hiking shoes.
I hope Kauai is on your travel list! I know I’ll be going back there soon…
What destination do you love returning to? Let us know in the comments below.