After sharing the
Kauai is “The Garden Isle” and is Matt’s favorite. I love them all equally but he prefers how Kauai is sleepier and less populated than Oahu or Maui, although it has been developed more since when we first visited in 2001. Hollywood loves to film movies here where the beautiful beaches are plentiful and the locals so friendly!
Poipu & The Southern Coast
On all four of our visits over the years we’ve stayed in Poipu in various vacation rentals, it’s sunny and kid friendly at Poipu Beach Park and we love to hang out at Brennecke’s and consume mai tais and sashimi with a view of the beach! Poipu is a great place to just lounge for a few days on a beach with a great book while the kids play in the surf.
A good restuarant is Keoki’s Paradise (great fish, amazing Hula pie) in the Poipu Shopping Village (lots of free live music and entertainment) across from Kiahuna Plantation (a great place to rent a condo). The Marriott is also on Poipu Beach, various friends have stayed there and recommended it. Splurge on fine dining at The Beach House restaurant (sunset views!).
Right outside Poipu is old Koloa town, with shopping and art galleries. Don’t miss the sashimi and the best ahi poke at Koloa Fish Market, so delicious and a favorite with the locals too.
The West Side
Around the west side you can drive up to Waimea Canyon known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” with impressive views on the journey up and also from the top looking down to the sea.
A worthy seafaring adventure from Hanapepe Bay is taking a catamaran Na Pali Boat Tour to view the northern coastline. (Here’s an older pic from 2007). We’ve done it twice, once on a morning trip, once on a sunset cruise; we’ve seen pods of dolphins, sea turtles, tons of fish, and there was a shark sighting once, highly recommended!
Don’t miss a stop at Spouting Horn blowhole in Koloa a short drive away from Poipu where a giant blast of water comes up through the lava every few minutes. This is also a great place to shop for inexpensive island jewelry at the vendors next to the parking lot !
The Coconut Coast on the East Side:
There are some great food trucks where you can get cheap eats as you pass through Kapa’a on your way to and from other parts of the island, whether you’re headed south to Poipu or north to Princeville and Hanalei. Driving through Kapa’a we always quote this film (one of our favorites).
DON’T MISS the Ono Fish Tacos at Kilauea Fish Market in Kapa’a, definitely the best fish tacos we had in Kauai. (Also try their Ahi Wrap, so delicious.) Next door to the cafe is the Aston Islander, you can walk through the lobby and go eat your tacos to go right on the beach!
Feeling adventurous? You must kayak the Wailua River! After a 45 minute paddle, you land in the middle of the jungle with a guide, then hike up to a 120 foot huge waterfall. We did a 5 hour round trip tour with the kids, it was muddy but we loved it, and swimming under a waterfall should be on everyone’s bucket list ! Most tours provide lunch and special water hiking shoes (which you can also buy), it’s great fun.
If you’re not up for such an adventurous hike, visit Wailua Falls near Lihue, it’s an easy walk and you’ll see a beautiful waterfall at the end of the trail. Also there is a Fern Grotto tour which takes you up the Wailua River but we prefer to paddle it!
Kauai has some very family friendly beaches where coves have been created with rock barriers and little keikis (Hawaiian for “kids”) can play in the shallow lapping water. Lydgate Beach Park is a popular one where you can bring a picnic (grab lunch in the nearby Coconut Marketplace in Kap’aa). That’s my little boy at Lydgate in 2007 !
Princeville & Hanalei Bay in the North:
The grand Princeville Resort is up on the north shore, the view of Hanalei Bay from their restaurant is amazing. (We’ve never stayed up in the north, so if you have recommendations for lodging, please share!) Past the Princeville you’ll be on your way to scenic Hanalei Bay. This is the lookout view on your way down.
Once you arrive in Hanalei, grab an island smoothie at the Aloha Juice Bar or some sandwiches, right across the street are great burgers at Bubba Burgers, and a few little shops with island themed clothing and decor.
Just like on other islands of Hawaii, fresh fruit and fish picked and caught that day are in abundance. There are lots of pricey restaurants for fine dining, and you’ll get sticker shock at the grocery stores, but roadside stands and food trucks allow for inexpensive eats.
We also brought beach chairs and spent a few hours at Anini Beach at the public park (clean restrooms and decent snorkeling spots), and you can’t beat Hanalei Beach for serenity, oh the view, you’ll never want to leave.
There is so much to do in Kauai: horseback riding, botanical gardens, hiking trails, zip lines, stand up paddling, and snorkeling, you can’t be bored! Locals or past visitors, chime in! What were your favorite stops or adventures on the island of Kauai? Got any insider tips you can share?