Kauai is the northwestern most of Hawaii's major islands. Nicknamed the Garden Island, it's covered with lush greenery and tropical plants, watered regularly by abundant rainfall. As the oldest of the islands, it has been changed the most by the forces of erosion, and this has resulted in natural wonders such as Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali Coast. As a consequence of its age, Kauai also has more miles of sandy coastline than the other Hawaiian islands.
Hawaii was one of those places I thought seemed overrated and would be full of tourist with fanny packs and those floppy white sun hat things, but I had the opportunity to visit Kauai and I would seriously wanna live there and could go back over and over and never get sick of it. I've never been to any other Hawaiian islands, but I'm still already pretty sure Kauai's my favorite!
The island of Kauai formed from gradual volcanic overflow approximately 5.1 million years ago. The oldest of the Hawaiian Islands, Kauai has a heritage that is steeped in myth and legend.
There are still no national chain stores, or buildings taller than a coconut tree (this is an actual law on Kauai), and no man who lives here seems to wear a shirt, ever. As night falls, the ring of exquisite beaches framing Hanalei Bay fades to near-black, lit not by high-rises but by the porch lights of a few bungalows on stilts set back in the trees, which appear unassuming but fetch millions.
One look at a map will show you an important difference between Kauai and the more populous islands of Hawaii: Due to the massive Waimea Canyon and Na Pali Coast, no roads circle the island. Once you've made the drive along the south shore to Waimea and seen the canyon, the only options are to go West on dirt roads to Polihale Beach or turn around and go back the way you came. Same story for Princeville and Na Pali on the north shore. However, the island is compact enough that both ends of the road can be seen in the same day. For a sketchy but affordable rental car company, check out -
Nicknamed the ‘Forbidden Island,’ Niʻihau lies west of Kauaʻi and remains an intriguing mystery due to its private ownership and unique isolation. Accessible only to its owners, Native Hawaiian residents, government officials, occasional US Navy personnel and invited guests, Niʻihau is the last bastion of traditional Hawaiian culture.
The island is also home to thousands upon thousands of feral chickens. No matter where you go on the island, you'll find them. So what does Kauai have so many wild chickens? Most people suggest that the feral chicken population can be traced back to when Hurricane Iniki hit Kauai in 1992. It’s been reported that the devastating hurricane destroyed a number of chicken farms. Wikipedia also suggests another possible theory: that sugarcane plantation laborers in the late 1800s and early 1900s brought and raised chickens (for eating and cockfighting) and many got loose over the years and multiplied. Either way, you can't miss them and please don't feed them!
See & Do:
- Drive out to Waimea Canyon - be sure to drive all the way up to ---- and hop the fence to look out over --- and stop a lot along the way to take in the incredible views.
- Na Pali coast - hike it!
- Maha'ulepu Beach with its ancient petroglyphs and the rocky Shipwreck Beach, both perfect for snorkeling or scuba diving.
- annin beach - turtles
- hideaway beach - snorkle
- Tropical Botanical Gardens
- Kilauea Point Lighthouse
- Opaekaa Falls
- Wailua Falls - protip, buy a coconut from the lady and add small thing of rum
- rum tasting
- queens bath - a gleaming tidal pool carved by lava, amid fish crashed in by the waves, or waiting for a sea turtle to swim by before jumping off low cliffs into the ocean. (Don’t consider doing this unless it’s summer and the surf is calm; plenty of people have been swept out to sea.)
Jewelry pairing: Kauai
- turtle hunt at tunnels beach - sweet camp spot
- watch the sunset at KA beach or whatever
- ride bikes in hanaela bay
- Take a boat trip to see the Na Pali coast from the sea - I didn't do it but you probably should.
- find some local swimming holes - not gunna tell because its not too cool to list that kinda shit online ...
- kalalau Trail
EAT & Drink
- Spam Musubi - all day, everyday!$
- Koloa Fish Market is located near the eastern end of the main strip in Koloa and seriously has the best Poke I've ever had! Get the avocado or wasabi flavor and ---- to go and eat it at ---- No seating here, just takeout. $$
- farmers markets
- mermaid cafe
- Pat’s Taqueria
- Hanalei Bread Company
- that insanely amazing juice shop! - stop by every time you drive by!
- Duane's Ono Burger
- that one sushi burrito place
- drinks at sunset at St. Regis in Princeville or brunch
Before making lodging reservations it's best to review a map of the island and plan ahead. Think about the activities and sightseeing you want to do. The one main highway is only two lanes *one each way* and tends to get fairly congested at times. Since Kauai is a pretty small option, there aren't a ton of choices, and things book up quickly, so book and plan ahead if you can! VRBO and Air Bnb have some great affordable home rentals. Another option is camping. There are many county and a state park where camping is allowed. Permits are cheap but required. You can also rent full loaded VW Westfalia campers through Kauai Camper Rental which would be super fun! I would recommend staying on the North Shore, then spending some time staying on the west side of the island to get to know that area and use that as a base to explore the south and Waimea Canyon, etc.
(Kapa`a) – On the east side, about a 20 minute drive north of Lihu`e, is the largest population center on the island. It anchors what is known as the Coconut Coast, which hosts many inexpensive to moderately priced resorts and much commercial activity with many strip malls along the highway. The corridor between Lihu`e and Kapa`a is the island's most congested.
(Lihu`e) – On the island's southeast side, is the civic and commercial center of the island, host to the island's main airport, county offices, and largest shopping mall. The Kaua`i Museum is located in the old part of Lihu`e and is the island's best museum on the history, geography, and people of Kaua`i.
(Po`ipu) – On the south side, branded "the sunny side of paradise", is the major visitor destination for the island. Poipu features beautiful beaches, swimming, snorkeling and surfing, sea turtles, whales, monk seals, trade winds, palm trees, and spectacular sunsets. The Allerton and McBryde National Tropical Botanical Gardens of the Pacific are located in Poipu.
(Princeville) – A planned resort community on the north shore, consisting of homes, condo developments, the St. Regis hotel, and 2 golf courses. Kauai's impressive north shore mountains form the backdrop. Several small beaches are located within Princeville, with many more a short drive away.
(Waimea) – On the west side, a small town with a flavor of old Kaua`i. Most visitors pass through town on the way to Waimea Canyon and Koke`e, but the town itself is worth a visit. Not preferable to stay here since it is a long drive from most other destinations.
(Hanalei) - On the north shore, is home to a quaint little beach town and famous Hanalei Bay, a crescent shaped bay known for its sandy white beaches and world class surf. This area has a relaxed vibe and would be a fun place to stay to explore the