We’ve already covered the popular Hawaiian Island of Oahu, but now it’s time to set your sights on the road less traveled. Nicknamed the Garden Isle for its lush landscape, here’s how to spend seven days on the Island of Kauai.
Day 1: Arrive in Lihue
Unlike flights to Honolulu, there are fewer flights to Lihue, Kauai, on the schedule each day. Kauai is definitely not the tourist destination for those craving nightlife and loads of chain restaurants and retail spots. Instead, Kauai is ideal for nature lovers, introverts, and adventure-seekers. Kauai receives considerably more rainfall than many other Hawaiian islands, with Kauai’s Mount Waialeale being considered one of the wettest spots on earth. Deciding where to stay on the island is imperative when it comes to accessing all the island has to offer. With only one highway connecting the northern region of the island to the south, I suggest choosing an accommodation in Kapa’a on Kauai’s southeastern coast. Although not as rainy as northern Kauai’s Princeville, but not as sunny as Poipu in the southwest, Kapa’a is centrally located and is a great middle ground for access to the north and south shores. Kapa’s beaches are not the best for swimming, but its selection of local eateries, proximity to Lihue Airport (LIH), and its plethora of condo rentals makes it one of the most efficient locations on the island.
Day 2: Explore the North Shore
The north shore of Kauai is known for its lush rainforest views and rugged feel. The waves in the north are stronger, especially during the winter months, but snorkeling hotspots are still plentiful. In Hanalei, you’ll find local businesses and restaurants serving authentic poke [diced raw fish served as an appetizer or a main course, one of the main dishes of Native Hawaiian cuisine], farmer’s markets selling tropical fruits, and no shortage of food trucks and shave ice. Sunbathe at Hanalei Bay (you’ve probably seen this on a postcard), or reserve tickets in advance to ride the shuttle to serene and pristine Tunnels Beach (although leave the monk seals alone, please). Spaces are limited for the day, so check www.dlnr.hawaii.gov/dsp/parks/kauai/haena-state-park for availability and tickets. Adventure-seekers can apply for a permit to hike the scenic Kalalau Trail. If you plan to hike, make sure there are no rain clouds in the area, as flash flooding in Kauai can cause numerous landslides and hazardous situations.
Day 3: Poipu Beach
Families flock to Poipu Beach for its still waters, luxurious resorts, and to spend time on the sunniest side of the island. Aside from snorkeling and sunbathing, visitors can find some of Kauai’s best shopping in populated Poipu. Sea turtles are known to frequent Poipu at sunrise, so grab a latte from Little Fish Coffee and spend the morning amidst Kauai’s protected and endangered wildlife.
Day 4: Wailua River State Park
On day four, spend a morning or afternoon kayaking or paddle boarding along Wailua River, as long as no rain is on the forecast. Visitors can also register for guided tours to Secret Falls, which entails a kayak trip and moderate hike to the not-so-secret swimming hole and waterfall. Although the falls are accessible without a guide, tourists are encouraged to choose an organized tour over a solo-adventure, as tour guides are well-versed in knowing the signs of impending flash flooding and helping inexperienced islanders navigate the trail’s river crossing.
Day 5: Waimea Canyon State Park
Skip the beach for the day and head to Hawaii’s Grand Canyon, Waimea Canyon State Park. On the western side of the island, Waimea Canyon offers hikers and viewers stunning red dirt trails mixed with lush green vegetation. A hiker’s dream, Waimea Canyon has tons of trails to choose from, or lookout points for quick-trippers not looking to spend a day in the canyon. Because weather conditions change quickly in Kauai, pack rain gear, snacks, plenty of water, and be sure to check the forecast before your visit.
Day 6: The Na’pali Coast
Kauai’s iconic Na’pali Coast has been featured in many movies, with Kauai being the film location of Jurassic Park. Instead of hiking the treacherous Kalalau trail to set your sights on the stunning rugged coastline of Kauai, many boat tours and helicopter tours are available for tourists with departures every morning and afternoon (weather permitting). Boat tours allow onlookers to relax, take photographs, and take a snorkel break while seeing one of Hawaii’s most famous natural beauties. While a bit on the pricier side, helicopter tours give small groups a more intimate and up-close look at the coast.
Day 7: Stroll the Coconut Coast
Since many flights leaving Lihue to the mainland depart later in the afternoon, if not after 9 p.m., be sure to arrange for a late checkout of your resort, hotel, or condo. Spend the day sunbathing or strolling eastern Kauai’s coconut coast for miles of ocean views with family-friendly biking and walking paths. When it’s time to head to the airport, be sure to wear your coziest airport outfit for a long flight back to mainland USA.