Things to do in Kauai
5 Things I HOPE You Know Before You Go:
- Renting a car is a great way to keep costs low. The island is very accessible by car and the parking is free. It does have some rough dirt roads, a car with 4-wheel drive and high clearance will work best.
- If you go out to a Park and walk almost anywhere you will get muddy! The trails are very muddy and the mud is very sticky. Bring good shoes for getting wet, muddy and not slipping.
- There are a lot of free options here with tons of hikes and beaches. Even the whale watching can be done right from the shore (though won't be as close up as with a tour).
- Prices are high but not unreasonable. An entrée is generally around $20+. Tours are pricey with most over $100 per person. I do think that if all you want to do is chill on the beach there are probably cheaper destinations.
- The Kalalua on the Napali Coast does not have a road through it, but is not vacant. There are helicopters flying through all the time. Boats are skimming the shoreline. There are lookouts and trails that skirt the valley ridge. I say this because I found it less remote and untouched than expected.
Alakai Swamp Trail (Kilohana Lookout)
Koke'e State Park
Lappart's Ice Cream
Limahuli Garden and Preserve
Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail
Polihale State Park
Waipouli Beach Resort
Hanakapiai Trail (beginning of Kalalau)
Lava Lava Lounge
Poipu Beach Park
Alakai Swamp Trail (Kilohana Lookout) and Pihea Trail. The Alakai Swamp Trail was fantastic, if you get a sunny day then hurry up here. You want to avoid an overcast day as you won't be able to see from the lookout and the mud on a rainy day will be crazy.
Hanakapiai Trail is the trail at the head of the Kalalau Trail, so it is really part of the Kalalau. The multiple names makes it a bit confusing. I did not like the number of people on this trail and the constant helicopters. The views were spectacular and just as promised, but the muddy steep and rocky hike was not as enjoyable as many of the other easily available and less busy trails.
Hanalei Beach. Great beach for surfing and relaxing with restaurants and facilities very close by.
Kalalau Lookout. This lookout will allow you to see over the valley that all the hardcore hikers and squatters are camped in. Great chance to get the view of the Napali Coast with the absolute minimal effort.
Koke'e State Park. Lovely little museum and shop here that will help you learn a little about the area and orient you to better understand what you are looking at.
Lappart's Ice Cream. Local creamery that is available all over the Hawaii.
Lava Lava Lounge. I didn't like the vibe of this place, for many reasons. The main issue, I suppose, is the staff wasn't customer service focused.
Limahuli Garden and Preserve. For $20 you can get access to all their gardens and a guidebook. This would be a great stop at the beginning of your journey because you can use the guidebook all over the island to learn about the plants you are looking at.
Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail. Super accessible if you are staying at the Grand Hyatt. All kinds of tide pools, beaches, and lookouts will keep any age busy.
Oasis Restaurant. Quiet spot next to the beach, a perfect spot to watch the whales breaching in the distance. Great dessert here of Apple Banana egg roll and ice cream.
Poipu Beach Park. Beautiful beach and snorkeling, but busy. There are so many beaches in Kauai I think I would avoid this super busy one and try to find some of the less hectic places.
Polihale State Park. This park was a pain to get to as it was a very long dirt road, I missed the Queen's Bath which is also at this beach. If I was to camp in Kauai for a few nights I would probably start or end with this park. Overall the beach was pretty empty and the views of the cliffs were beautiful.
Waimea Canyon. A must in Kauai. The canyon is stunning, the lookouts are frequent, and there are a ton of hikes (short and long) that get you closer to the Kauai flora and fauna.
Waipouli Beach Resort. I really liked this resort. Small with beautiful grounds, lovely pools and hottubs, and a spa. If I could get a good price I would return and stay here. It also has the Oasis restaurant I really liked.
Tunnels Beach. I didn't explore this beach extensively, but from what I did it wasn't anything too special. A great place to prep or wind down from the Kalalau which is just 10 or 15 minutes up the road. The park itself is busy and hard to park in.