Kauai Travel Guide: Top 10 Things to Do & See

kauai travel blogKauai made me fall in love with Hawaii all over again. Also known as the “Garden Isle”, Kauai is the greenest of the Hawaiian islands. And one that rarely gets massive cruise ships or crowds of tourists. Those that visit Kauai love nature, crave authenticity, spirituality and minimal commercialization. They come to relax and to reconnect with earth’s elements. I am not a big fan of Oahu’s uber busy, commercialized capital. And though the Road to Hana in Maui is something to experience, I wasn’t head over heels over it either. I had almost given up hope on a Hawaiian island that I would love.. until I met eyes with Kauai the moment we were landing. I had been told by dozens of friends that Kauai is their absolute favorite, so I visited January 2020. Here is your ultimate Kauai Travel Blog Guide.

Kauai has only a local population of about 70,000 and they are known to be friendly and hospitable. While there are endless things to do in Kauai, the last thing you want to do is to rush anything. The best way to enjoy is to take it slow and go with the flow. That is also why I recommend staying for at least a week. Kauai is the inhabited island of Hawaii which has kept its charm and roots down to its core.

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Table of Content:

  • kauai travel blogTop 10 Things to do in Kauai
    • Paddleboard & Yoga along the Wailua River
    • Mountain Rivertubing
    • Hike to and Swim at Queen’s Bath
    • Farmer’s Markets
    • Massages in Kauai
    • Beaches of Kauai
    • Waimea Canyon (helicopter tours)
    • Catamaran, Sailing and Boat Tours
    • Ziplining
    • Golfing in Kauai
  • Planning your Trip
    • Booking your Flight + hacking Credit Card Miles
    • What to Pack
    • Where to Stay
  • Where and What to Eat in Kauai? Read Best Local Food in Kauai

kauai things to do

Kauai Travel Guide: Top 10 Things to Do

Standup Paddle Board + Yoga up Wailua River

paddle board kauai
SUP Kauai in Kapa’a near Wailua River offers Paddleboard Rentals by the hour or day

SUP” = Stand Up Paddle. This 3.5-hour excursion is truly a relaxing, magical experience while also getting a great physical workout in nature. For those that don’t want to do both Yoga and SUP can just rent a paddleboard.

SUP Yoga Schedule:

  • 9:45 am: Meet Alexandria, Samsati Yoga teacher at Kauai SUP in Kapa’a to sign your waiver form and pay for the SUP rental.
    • Address: 4-361 Kuhio Hwy #106, Kapaʻa, HI 96746
  • 10:30: Drive 5 minutes to Wailua State Park. Start your paddleboard excursion up the historic Wailua River, enjoying the Mana and natural Wildlife. Breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the gorgeous view of the mountains. Listen to the sounds of nature: birds chirping, insects, trees and plants.
  • 12: 1 hour of yoga practice. Don’t be intimidated by this if you don’t practice regularly. The poses are very basic and the practice is more meditative with some use of your core than a heavy vinyasa flow. All levels can participate. End Yoga in Savasana and a 15 minute Sound Bath + Meditation by Alexandria.
  • 1 pm: Nibble on some snacks and fresh local fruits after Yoga and then paddle back to shore. End by 2 pm.

kauai travel blog

Cost: $70 for the experience + $25 for 3 hour SUP rental
Book this experience through Samsati Yoga
Website: https://www.samsatiyoga.com – Alexandria also offers Holistic, Health and Lifestyle workshops.

Saṃyoga: a bond; union; association; connection (in Buddhism)
Sati: a Buddhist term derived from the Pali Sati and its Sanskrit counterpart “Smrti”; mindfulness; awareness
Yoga: “To Yoke”. Concentration; unity. Yoga is the practice that aims to join the mind, body and spirit.

Other Yoga Classes in Kauai:

  • Sunrise Yoga at Makai Golf Course: Monday, Wednesday, Friday 7:30-9 am – $20
yoga classes kauai
Sunrise Yoga at Princeville Makai Golf Course

Mountain Rivertubing

Book your Rivertubing excursion through Backcountry Tubing Adventures for $120 per person, a 3-hour experience. You’ll meet at their factory headquarter first to register and get your gear: helmet, gloves and water shoes if you want to rent ($5).

Note: I recommend packing water shoes for your overall trip to Kauai as it will come in handy.

You will then board this van for 45 minutes through a scenic drive into the mountains. The friendly guide will take you through a thorough yet fun history lesson on Kauai. Backcountry Tubing Adventures is the only company in Kauai that offers Mountaintubing and has been family owned and run for decades.

mountain tubing kauai mountain tubing kauai

mountain tubing tour kauai kauai travel blog

 

Queen’s Bath in Princeville

queens bath kauai kauai sea life

This is a beautiful beach in North Kauai not to be missed. But How Do You Get to Queen’s Bath?

  1. Your google map will take you into a housing community in Princeville (across from the Makai Golf course).
  2. The official gate into “Queen’s Bath” is typically locked with some scary warning signs (enter at your own risk, etc etc).
  3. Instead, look to your right just about 20 feet over and you will see a small entrance that you can take. This hike can be muddy depending on the rainy season. (Wear Hiking Shoes or Water Shoes. Plastic sandals will make it even slippier; in which case you will be better off barefoot.)
  4. After a 20-25 minute hike, you’ll hit a beautiful waterfall. You’ll then know that you are just steps away from the gorgeous view of the north shore.
  5. Hike further down to your left along the black lava rocks, and you’ll find smaller pools protected by rocks where you can jump in and swim. The waves can be pretty huge here and forceful so be careful.
  6. But nonetheless, Queens’ Bath is an absolutely stunning sight and a gem to see. You can easily spend 2-3 hours here relaxing (very meditative!).

queens bath kauai

hiking queens bath waterfall kauai

hiking to queens bath queens bath kauai

Shop at Farmer’s Markets

There is no better way to support the locals than to shop at the number of Kauai Farmer’s markets throughout the island. Virtually one every day of the week, simply do light research before going. And as expected, the ones on the weekends are typically more lively! Here are just a few though there are dozens happening throughout the week:

  • Sunday: Anahola Farmer’s Market – 10 am to 2 pm, is a lively Farmer’s Market. Considering it’s on Sunday, many go after church. Live music and a variety of shops and artisans set up shop.
  • Monday: Koloa Sunshine Market at Koloa Ball Park (Knudsen) Maluhia Road – 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm. Produce only.
  • Tuesday: Waipa Farmer’s Market (near Hanalei Bay in the north) – 1:30-4:30 pm. Beautiful mountain backdrop. Selling clothes, produce, handicrafts, fresh coconut juice, and more.
  • Wednesday: Kauai Culinary Market (at Kukuiula Shopping Village) – 3:30 to 6 p.m. Beautiful outdoor setting with live music, local produce and gifts.
  • Thursday: Kilauea Neighborhood Center Ball Park (north). Produce only.
  • Friday:
  • Saturday: Hanalei Farmers Market. 9:30 a.m. to noon. Produce, food artisans, and handmade crafts.

Farmers Markets Open throughout the week:

Kauai Open Air Markets (south)- 10 am to 7 pm. Set on a 5,000 square-foot lot just off Weliweli Road (behind the main stores on Koloa Road) (Tuesday to Sunday)

Warehouse 3540 (south) – 10 am to 3 pm (Tuesday through Saturday). New Kauai farmers market that’s more like a popup.

kauai farmers market kauai farmers market

For a more accurate list and a seasonal schedule of Kauai Farmers’ Marketshttps://www.kauai.com/kauai-farmers-markets

 

Aunt Angeline’s Lomi Lomi Massage

For $160, you get 2 hours of a steamed bath, scrub, and massage in a super peaceful garden setting. This is truly a unique Kauai experience.

Website: http://www.angelineslomikauai.com – Call to make an appointment as they book up fast 808-822-3235

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Kauai Beach Guide

There is no shortage of beautiful beaches to snorkel, surf, Kite Surf (depending on wind!), swim, bodyboard and paddleboard. But doing some research before to match what you want to do most would help save time and optimize your time here. If you aren’t on a specific agenda to snorkel or catch the best waves, I suggest just driving and stopping at whichever beach fits your current mood and vibe.

North Kauai (both public beaches that are also great for snorkeling):

  • Amini Beach
  • Tunnels Beach

East Kauai: 

  • Nawiliwili/Kalapaki Bay is surrounded by restaurants and mellow surf. This is a favorite surf spot for many locals, where you have turtle companions in the water. This is in Lihue by Harbor Mall (which has the best macadamia nut ice cream at Skinny Mike’s).
  • Kealia Beach
  • Lydgate Park has the “Sunrise Portal” of the island, a spot of sacred history and heiau. This is a beautiful park and beach, kid/family friendly with an ocean “Keiki Pool“.

South Kauai: The south is generally the most touristy part of Kauai. It would be the most convenient place to stay if you want the action and lots of restaurants and activities to choose from.

  • Poipu Beach and it’s surrounding areas are easy to get to and bathe at.
  • Glass Beach (located west of Poipu) is not the prettiest beach. But it’s worth visiting as it’s a cool (and tragic) site to see and photograph. Pieces of glass have washed ashore from all the broken bottles and cars in the ocean.

best beaches in kauai

West Kauai: Polihale is an absolute local favorite located in west Kauai. It can be a pain to get to if you are staying in the West or North but for many, it’s worth the trek. Only about a 50-mile distance, the drive can take about 2 hours from the North. There is no direct route from North to West so you’ll have to drive down the highway through the east, south back up to the west. The roads to get there are unpaved and an SUV or 4×4 is highly suggested.

 

Waimea Canyon

Many call Waimea Canyon the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. The drive up is truly stunning. For avid hikers, there are plenty of adventurous trails. For those like me who are terrified of heights, walk down through the Waimea plantation cottages and find the only Black Sand Beach in Kauai. Taking a Helicopter tour over Waimea Canyon is another option, there are several companies you can find on TripAdvisor.

 

Zipline in Kauai

As mentioned, Kauai is filled with just as many adventure activities as there are also places to completely relax for a week. Princeville, Poipu and Waimea are areas that offer Ziplining.

 

Catamaran, Sailing and Boat Tours

Try Blue Adventures Boat Tour for experiences up the Napali Coast. Boat companies like this offer everything from Whale Watching, private Sailing, Snorkel, Sunset and general Boat Tours fit for families, couples or friends. There are typically more catamarans taking off from the south all year long though the north does offer it depending on seasons.

More Boat Tours: Try Na Pali Catamaran, Captain Sundown or Captain Andy’s.

 

Golfing in Kauai

There are several golf courses in Kauai. The most popular one is the luxurious Princeville Makai Golf Course (with the most spectacular views) located in the north. 18-holes will cost you around $230.

If you do plan to golf more than once, I recommend bringing your own clubs. Even if it means checking in a bag for $50-60 roundtrip because it costs around $75 to rent a set per day.

Website: https://www.makaigolf.com

princeville makai golf
Hole 7 Oceanview at Princeville Makai Golf Course

Planning your Trip to Kauai

Booking your Flight

Lihue is the main airport in Kauai, located in the east.

If you know at least 3 months in advance that you’ll be visiting Kauai or any Hawaiian islands, I recommend applying for a Hawaiian Airline Credit Card. You will earn 60,000 points after spending $2000 in 3 months. Typically, a roundtrip flight to Hawaii costs around $35,000-40,000 miles. This means that you get your roundtrip flight for free + a one way for your companion. In addition, you get:

kauai travel blog
Hawaiians are known to be happy, friendly, hospitable people. Kauai is no exception. In many ways, they are even more laid back than neighboring islands.
  • 50% off companion fare for a roundtrip flight
  • First check-in bag free
  • No Foreign Transaction Fee

And the best of all this is that Hawaiian airline has incredibly friendly flight attendants and service which gives you a glimpse into the typical hospitable Hawaiian culture!

Things to Know Before Boing to Kauai:

  • Kauai, as with the rest of the Hawaiian islands, is more expensive than most of the US states. Though you can budget and spend less, I wouldn’t say it’s easy to go on a budget. There are busses and shuttles though you’ll be limited with their schedule. The best advice is to rent a car ($30-50 a day). You will then be able to stop where you desire. Stay as long as you’d like. Heck, even camp out if weather permits.
    • PACK: Bug spray, hat, sunscreen
  • Kauai sees tons of tropical rain throughout the year, which on the upside is why it’s also so lush and green. Depending on the season, sometimes it’s just some sprinkles, other times, it’s massive rain. The upside is that there are way more sunshine than rain. That is why it’s important to check weather days before going and pack accordingly!

What to Pack for Kauai

  • Lotions:
    • Sunblock & Bug Spray (though if you are not checking in a bag, you can just purchase at the store for $10-15)
      • Kauai and the surrounding Hawaiian islands are on a mission to ban toxic sunscreens that harm people, marine life and nature. Consider using “reef-safe Sunblock” which avoid these ingredients:
        • Oxybenzone • Octinoxate • Octocrylene • Homosalate • Octisalate • Avobenzone • Parabens • Phthalates • Cocamide DEA • Propylene Glycol • Phenoxyethanol • Nano-Particles • BHT • PEGs • Parfum / Fragrance
      • Buy from Hawaii Peeps Skincare or Safe Sunscreen Coalition
    • Aftersun Serum and/or Aloe Vera
  • Rainjacket: Kauai rains often though sometimes it’s just a 10-minute sprinkle
  • Shoes:
    • Water Shoes
    • Hiking Shoes
    • Comfortable Flip Flops
    • Cheap Flip Flops for the beach
  • A sturdy backpack for longer days and a light backpack for the brief hikes and beach days
  • Hat

Where to Stay in Kauai

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Daily view from our drive from Princeville to Hanalei Bay

It all depends on the vibes you’re looking for. If you want more action, restaurants, nightlife (but not much of it at all in Kauai) and convenience to adventure activities, staying in Poipu (south) or Kapa’a (east) may be your best bet. For those that want a much quieter, serene getaway, stay in Hanalei Bay or Princeville. Though Princeville is known to be the “poshest”, most “expensive” area of Kauai, you can find Airbnbs for about $200 a night (which is average for the island of Kauai).

We loved the Airbnb we stayed at in Princeville called the “Asia House“.

princeville kauai airbnb kauai budget accommodations

Here’s the link: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1069531
If it’s your first time using Airbnb, use my referral link for $55 off your first booking!

If you are staying in Kauai longer, consider getting an Airbnb with a kitchen as dining out can get expensive. Minimum spend would be at least $12 a meal upwards to $20+.

Camping: This is an option as I did drive by designated campgrounds in Hanalei Bay for example.

 

Getting Around Kauai

kauai travel blog
Rent a 4×4 while visiting Kauai so that you can get to some off the beaten path excursions

You definitely need to rent a car when visiting Kauai. Easily search ahead of time on Trip.com or Expedia for the best deals. They will typically cost $30-$50 a day for a rental. It is best to get a 4 wheel drive for some off the beaten path excursions. The most common rental car for tourists is the Jeep Wrangler as you get the 4×4 and an SUV convertible which makes the breezy drives so perfect.

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Sunset in Kauai is just as beautiful as everything else in Kauai

 

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