We visited the beautiful island of Kauai in October. We spent 4 full days on the island, but I guarantee we could’ve filled a solid 2 weeks. There are so many beautiful places to see and fun things to do! We filled our days with as much as we could fit in. We spent each day on a different side of the island, which ended up working out quite nicely as it cut down on our drive time. I found a map of which beaches were on which side of the island that we ended up using A LOT. It is super handy to have and you can view it here (pin it for later).
THINGS WE DID
Besides the obvious things you do in Kauai, like go to the beach, snorkel and possibly hike, we planned a few activities. I knew I wanted to see as much of the Na Pali Coast as I could, but you can only access it by hiking it, by air, or by boat. This time around, we decided we’d see it by both air and boat 🙂
- Helicopter tour– We decided to go with Jack Harter Helicopters because you can choose to ride in the helicopter with the doors off! I would recommend this option if you want to get some good photos 🙂 We had plans earlier in the day, so we booked our tour for 3 PM. This tour takes you around the entire island during the hour tour. You see countless waterfalls (including Jurassic Falls), Waimea Canyon, the Na Pali Coast (my favorite), Hanalei Bay, and Mt. Waialeale. The view from above is stunning, so I would definitely do this! If you choose to do a helicopter tour, it is best to do it at the first of your trip- it helps give you a better idea of where places are and where you want to go.
- Na Pali Coast boat tour– One of the only companies that I could find that did tours year round was Liko Kauai Cruises. Being that the ocean starts getting choppier in the winter months, most companies only do tours May through September. Liko Cruises is able to do them year round because they’ve got a larger boat. I knew that the ocean wasn’t going to be super calm; however, I did hear that it is more calm in the morning, so we booked the morning tour. I have nothing but great things to say about this company- knowledgeable guide and captain and a nice, clean boat. This is a 4 hour tour that starts in Waimea and takes you up the entire Na Pali Coast and back. We were able to see dolphins and sea turtles, which was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen with my own two eyes. Weather depending, you are also able to snorkel and go into the sea caves along the coast. The ocean was not calm enough for us to do either of those things, but we were still able to see into the caves. On the way back down the coast, they’ll stop, provide lunch and let you jump into the ocean. If you do one thing in Kauai, do this- hands down, one of the best experiences of my life.
- Kayak the Wailua River and hike to Secret Falls– We rented kayaks from Kamokila Hawaiian Village (located right by Opaekaʻa Falls overlook and the Wailua River Valley overlook) because they were the closest to Secret Falls. You can get a single kayak or a double (which we got, so Justin could do all the work. hehe). From the village, it only took us 10-15 minutes to kayak to the trail head of Secret Falls. From there, it took us about 45 minutes, but it is a fairly easy hike. You’ll definitely want water shoes or other shoes as you will get very muddy. Once you get to the falls, it is well worth it! Since we had time, we also kayaked to the Fern Grotto.
- Queen’s Bath– A tidepool in Princeville on the north side of the island. Arrive early as there is minimal parking (and you will get towed for parking in unauthorized spots). Make sure you’re wearing water shoes or other shoes you don’t care to get dirty as the hike down to Queen’s Bath can get very muddy and is also very rocky. Once you get down the trail, you will take a left. You can swim, snorkel and cliff jump here.
- Waimea Canyon– Some consider this the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”- must see and many gorgeous stops along the road on your way to the canyon.
^^Na Pali Coast from our tour
^^Waimea Canyon Lookout
BEST BEACHES TO SNORKEL
- Ke’e Beach (colorful fish)
- Tunnels Beach (coral)
- Anini Beach (reef)
- Poipu Beach (sea turtles)
- Hideaways Beach (coral); shown below
We rented snorkel gear from Boss Frogs for $9/day or $30/week. We didn’t want to worry about packing it back, so this was a nice option for us.
BEST SUNRISE/SUNSET BEACHES
- Rise/Set- Ke’e Beach
- Rise/Set- Poipu Beach
- Rise/Set- Lydgate Beach Park
- Rise/Set- Kalalau Lookout
- Rise- Coconut Coast
- Set- Salt Pond Beach Park
- Set- Hanalei Pier
^^ Sunrise at Shipwreck Beach
^^Sunset at Poipu Beach
MUST SEE ROAD STOPS
- Kalalau Lookout
- Hanalei Lookout
- Kilauea Lighthouse
- Opaekaa Falls (Wailua River on opposite side; shown below)
- Spouting Horn
- Hanapepe Valley Lookout
WHERE WE ATE
- Merriman’s Fish House– This restaurant is located less than 5 minutes from where we stayed in Poipu. Here you will experience Hawaiian hospitality in a plantation style setting. We had the Kana lobster and crab cakes, the Kailani Farms kale and butter lettuce salad (to die for!) and the fresh island fish special- when fresh fish is available, how can you go wrong.
- Keoki’s Paradise– This is another restaurant located within 5 minutes of where we stayed in Poipu. This place is a little bit fancier, but the prices are more reasonable than some of the others around.
- Savage Shrimp– Located near Merriman’s in Poipu. This was one of our favorite meals of the entire trip. The shrimp tacos coconut shrimp were amazing!!! I’m hungry just thinking about them again…
- Kalypso Island Bar and Grill– Located in Hanalei. We got coconut shrimp and the black and bleu bacon burger (Justin was getting tired of fish. haha!)
- La Spezia– The most darling place, located in Koloa. We had a buffet style breakfast here as we were in Hawaii for our best friends wedding. Friendly service and great food.
- Java Kai– This cute place is serving healthy meal options in Kapaa. If you’re looking for an amazing acai bowl, this is the place to go. We tried the dragon and acai bowl, coconut muffin and the breakfast burritos. We ended up going here twice because we liked it so much!
- Mermaids Café– Right next door to Java Kai in Kapaa. A friend told me about this place and being the mermaid that I am, I had to go. They serve healthy food made with local ingredients.
- Pinks Creamery– Located across from Kalypso in Hanalei. GET THE COCONUT ICE CREAM!!! Lord have mercy it is the best ice cream I’ve ever had.
- Jo Jo’s Shave Ice– This is located in Waimea. How can you not go to Hawaii and get shave ice every single day? I got coconut, strawberry and pina colada with a scoop of mac nut ice cream. Don’t get one of these without the ice cream!
- The Fresh Shave– Located in Poipu, this was another place we visited more than once. They use local and organic ingredients for their syrups and you can really taste the difference- it is a nice, refreshing treat. My fave was the Chevron (coconut & lime).
^^Dragon bowl at Java Kai
^^Mermaids Café!!! I was so excited to eat here
^^I stopped to take a picture of every fruit stand we passed. Justin said “how many pictures are you going to take of fruit?”- a lot, most likely. Ha!
WHERE WE STAYED
We stayed at the Sheraton Kauai Resort in Poipu. This hotel is right on Poipu Beach, which is one of the prettiest beaches I’ve ever been to. We arrived prior to check-in time and since they didn’t have the room we were supposed to have available, they upgraded us to an ocean view room! Our view was SPECTACULAR and was the perfect spot to watch the sun set each night. They’ve got plenty of amenities and activities, including the only luau on the island that is on the beach. We would definitely stay here again, should the opportunity arise.
HOW TO GET AROUND
We would definitely recommend renting a car. Although the island seems small, it actually takes about an hour and fifteen minutes to get from the south side of the island to the north side. If you plan on seeing the entire island, renting a car is the only way to go.
Now go book your trip to Kauai 😉 Thanks for reading; have a fAB day!