Although Kauai is a small island with the friendliest locals, a curious traveler could still use some tips to make the most out of a limited stay. You can drive from North to South in a day, but there’s so much to see that you’ll need to plan well!
Whether you’re a first time visitor or a returning fan, tips on where to stay, what to bring, and what to expect can help you build a fun-packed itinerary.
Here are a few essential tips to keep in mind when traveling to Kauai.
Kauai Travel Guide: 10 Must-Know Kauai Travel Tips
1. Plan accommodations around your activities
The island is split into the North and South Shore – two points that have different ecosystems and weather. To maximize your time on the island, make sure you consider the activities you want to do when you’re picking a place to stay.
Kauai’s North Shore gets a great deal of rain all year long. However, It’s this amount of rainfall that gives the North Shore its gorgeous lush scenery. The North Shore is not a popular choice for beachgoers in Kauai, but it’s where you should go if you love the idea of hiking or zip-lining through the island’s scenery.
The South Shore, on the other hand, is popular for its line of pristine beaches. Also known as the ‘sunny side’, Kauai’s South Shore doesn’t get as much rain as the North Shore and is a great pick if you plan to hit the beach and engage in water activities.
2. Look up information on your itineraries
With the rise of tourism on the island, local organizations are keen on limiting activities in hotspots to continue preserving Kauai’s unspoiled surroundings. When planning your itinerary, you might want to check what kind of preparations you need to do.
In places like Poipu Beach Park, camping is allowed as long as you get passes before your camping date. Some waterfalls and hike trails have limited parking space, and some cultural events may be ticketed. So you don’t miss anything on your list, it’s best to know these things beforehand.
Most of Kauai’s tourist spots and events have dedicated websites for information and bookings. Don’t worry about things getting complicated – it’s simply like letting a friend know you’re coming to visit.
3. Do a weather check
In Kauai, the majority of rain showers hit at night, so you might not think about doing a weather check in the daytime. However, you’re actually most likely to experience rain on your vacation whatever month it is. The weather in Kauai is mostly rainy.
Even if you come in the summer, we recommend doing a weather check before you head out for activities, especially ones involving water and hiking. Some beaches and trails in Kauai become dangerous in bad weather. If you’re booked for an activity and rain is expected, make sure to be prepared with items to protect yourself from the cold, like a light sweater or parka.
4. Get a car rental
It’s highly recommended to rent a car on your stay in Kauai as public transportation is hard to come by on the island. There’s an established bus system but it doesn’t reach most of the places a visitor would want to go.
If you’re staying in a resort for just a day or two, you may be able to get by without a car. Most resorts are situated in areas with a lot of commercial activity. For groups staying a few more days, definitely get a car rental to allow yourselves to see the most of the island as the most special spots are a bit remote.
5. Take a hike
If there’s a place in the world you most definitely have to go on a hike in, it should be Kauai. With most of the island undeveloped, expect to witness picturesque views like you’ve never seen before.
Most of Kauai’s hiking spots offer coastal views and are dotted with interesting archaeological structures. If you’re looking to dive into Kauai’s history on your stay, a hike on the island’s invigorating trails is a must-try.
6. Go on a food trip
Being a cultural hotpot, Kauai not only holds many stories of the past – but the island’s cuisine can also put you on a rollercoaster of flavors.
Along Kauai’s resort line, you’ll find restaurants and cafes offering various dining atmospheres and menus. Going on a food trip around this area is a great option for visitors who prefer upscale dining with gorgeous views.
Farmers’ Markets are also an exciting opportunity to experience Kauai’s gastronomic delights. This option is way cheaper and more casual than dining at a restaurant, but you’ll get to grab tropical homemade goods and support Kauai’s small businesses. There are various farmers’ market events around the island, so make sure to check the schedule around the area you’re staying in.
7. See the island’s highlights
Kauai is home to the most breathtaking sights that tourists could ever lay their eyes on. Yet, more than just the beauty within these spots lies a culture and history preserved for the island’s posterity.
A trip to Kauai would never be complete without experiencing the island’s highlights such as:
- Waimea Canyon – Situated at the West Side of Kauai, the Waimea Canyon is dubbed as “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” and for good reason. Every crevice and every mountain crack is a breathtaking view that travelers could soak up and feast their eyes upon.
- Mahaulepu Heritage Trail – A historic hiking trail that’s teeming with flora and fauna that are natively found in Kauai. Travelers wouldn’t want to miss this once in a lifetime hiking experience.
- Poipu Beach – Voted as America’s Best Beach, this island highlight is a popular spot for birthday parties, picnics, lawn games and family activities during the weekends.
8. Visit waterfalls
Kauai has an abundance of waterfalls that tourists can visit if time permits. If by some odd chance, you are only able to visit one of Kauai’s waterfalls then your best bet would be to visit the Wailua Falls. Located near the Kalepa Mountain Forest Reserve, not far from the town of Lihue, the falls are where the Wailua River splits into two streams before cascading about 100 feet below.
Of course, there are many other waterfalls that you could visit as well. Some of these include:
- Waipo’o Falls
- Mount Waialeale Falls
- Hanakoa Falls
- Opaekaa Falls
- Waipo’o Falls
9. Pack appropriate clothes and gear
This should come as second nature. Though it may be hard to believe, some travelers tend to skip this part or overlook it. Always make sure that your shoes are fit for heavy-duty activities. Grab a pair of hiking shoes if you’re planning to go on a trek to avoid any accidents for yourself and for others.
For the nautical travelers that like to experience the soothing waters of Kauai, do not forget to carry around your snorkeling gear. Also, pack essentials such as sunscreen and other protective body lotions if you’re planning on hitting the beach.
10. Respect life in Kauai
The people of Kauai have taken great efforts into preserving the beauty of their land. This goes for their history, culture, and the wildlife that roam around the island. As a traveler, respect must always be a top priority.
Always clean after yourself – remember that you are merely a visitor on the island. Nothing belongs to you, not even the teeming marine life that has taken shelter on the island. Do not take the animals away from their natural habitat as a souvenir, and most importantly follow the rules that locals kindly request their visitors to observe.
Final Thoughts on Kauai Travel Tips
Now that you’re equipped with advice to make the most out of your time in Kauai, get ready to pack your bags! The island’s great outdoors and sparkly waters await. We hope this helps you have a fun and memorable time in the lovely Garden Isle.
10 Essential Kauai Travel Tips [Infographic]