Most vacationers planning to visit Kauai are faced with a common dilemma – How can I see the entire island in the available time without missing out on important experiences?
Considering the plethora of options available in Kauai, trying to cover everything in three days may seem overwhelming. But it need not be so.
In this blog post, we will help you plan a perfect 3 day itinerary covering all the important experiences that will make your Kauai vacation memorable. The travel plan is focused on reducing travel time as much as possible so that you can spend time doing what you are planning to do.
One of the many great things about Kauai is its accessibility. The basic requirement to cover the island in 3 days would be to rent a cab. It saves time, offers flexibility and can accommodate for sudden change of plans. While we will help you with an outline, you can change the itinerary depending on where you choose to stay on the island.
The Perfect 3 Day Kauai Itinerary
Day 1: South-Western part of the island.
Take the Napali Coast Boat Tour
Start your day in Kauai with the most important part of your vacation- The Napali coast. Seen in numerous postcards and Hollywood movies, this gorgeous 17-mile long rugged coastline is unique to Kauai and there is nothing like it in the other Hawaiian islands.
The true beauty of the coastline can only be seen by boat and air. Both experiences are best in their own ways. But for a more intimate experience of the coast, we highly recommend a boat tour. The specially designed catamarans and knowledgeable boat crew will help you spot dolphins, enter intriguing sea caves, snorkel with exotic marine life and enjoy a delicious Hawaiian style buffet on-board. The entire tour takes 4 to 5 hrs.
Although Napali coast is located in the north-western part of the island, boat tours depart from the southern ports. While many boat tours operate from Port Allen, our catamarans leave from the Kekaha harbor as it offers the shortest port to coast distance and reduces travel time.
Witness the Waimea Canyon
Opting for a Napali Coast boat tour from kekaha will help you cover another natural wonder on the same day- Waimea Canyon. It is an interesting drive to Waimea Canyon from Kekaha with many lookout points in between.
Waimea Canyon can be seen from the two main lookout points along Kokee road, namely the Puu Hina Hina lookout and Waimea Canyon lookout.
The magnitude and beauty of the Grand Canyon of the Pacific can be intimately accessed by hiking the Waipoo falls trail. It is an easy hike and can be covered in less than 2 hrs. The trail unravels the huge, multicolored Waimea Canyon with every step and ends on the top of Waipoo Falls.
Enjoy Ocean Time on Kauai’s Best Beach
After seeing the Napali Coast and Waimea Canyon, you’ve experienced in one day what most people don’t do in a lifetime. If you have time and energy left after the adventure, head towards Poipu beach on the southern shore of the island. If not, you can keep it for the next day.
Poipu beach is considered one of the safest beaches in Kauai and has been named ‘The Best Beach in America’ by the Travel Channel. It has a protected area for swimming and snorkeling combined with nice surf break offshore for experienced surfers.
While most beaches on the north shore are swelling during winter, Poipu beach is usually calm and sees high traffic throughout the year.
After some fun filled Snorkeling and much needed relaxation time, you can spend the night in one of the condos or luxury hotels in Poipu beach area and dine in one of the ocean front restaurants.
Day 2: The Royal Coconut Coast
Snorkel at Lydgate Beach Park
This is one of the best snorkeling spots on the island. Located near Wailua, Lydgate Beach Park has two man made pools guarded from the ocean by rock walls which, thereby, create a safe swimming and snorkeling area.
Reef fish enter the pools through crevices in the walls and thus provide an excellent snorkeling experience. Protected waters for swimming and snorkeling, lifeguard on the beach and the Kamalani playground nearby, together, make this a great spot for family and kids.
Wailua River Kayak and Hike to Secret Falls
Kayaking over the calm waters of Wailua river amidst lush greenery, offers a much better experience as compared to the challenging ocean kayaking. Wailua river is located just a mile further from Lydgate Beach park.
Wailua river to secret falls kayak is a very popular activity on the island. You’ll notice the kayaking and boat traffic once you rent a kayak and start paddling upstream.
Kayak to Uluwehi Falls a.k.a. Secret Falls takes 45 mins after which you’ll have to hike the remaining portion by foot. The short hike ends with a refreshing dip under the falls and is a perfect location for an insta-worthy photo.
If you have time, do check out Fern grotto and Kamokila Hawaiian Village which fall under the same region.
Opaekaa means rolling shrimp. The stream that turns into Opaekaa falls was earlier filled with rolling shrimp and hence the name.
Opaekaa falls is one of the most easily accessible Waterfall on the island and requires no hiking. The falls is a 5 minute drive along Kuamoo road from Wailua river.
The protected viewing area near the parking lot provides excellent photo opportunities. Also, you’ll be treated with great views of the Wailua river valley just across the street.
Island Dining at Kapaa
This will serve as an essential dining break as you’ll be famished after an eventful day at Lydgate Beach and Wailua river. You can stop at Places like Bubba Burgers or Shrimp Station for a tasty Hawaiian meal.
If you are lucky enough to be visiting Kapaa on a Wednesday, you have an opportunity to witness the Farmers market which starts at 3 pm at the Ball Fields. This one is bigger compared to other farmers markets on the island as many people flock to lay their hands on freshly grown Hawaiian produce.
Another popular delicacy to try on the island is Shave Ice. Places like Wailua shave ice and Ono Ono Shave Ice are the best in this part of the island as they offer lots of combinations to try from.
Day 3: North Shore
Visit Kilauea Lighthouse
This old light-beacon, now turned Wildlife Refuge, is located on a rocky peninsula on the northernmost tip of the island. It serves as a protective breeding ground for many Hawaiian seabirds. The lighthouse, surrounding ocean and the local wildlife offer plenty of photo opportunities if you’re an enthusiast.
During winter, the high-rise setting serves as a perfect vantage point to spot humpback Hawaiian whales in full swing as they display their acrobatics.
The lighthouse is closed on Sunday and Monday and you’d want to adjust your itinerary accordingly. Entrance fee is $5 per person 16 years and older, and free for children below 16 years of age.
Take a refreshing dip in Queen’s Bath
Queen’s bath, located near Princeville, is a natural sinkhole lying along an igneous rock shoreline. The sinkhole is larger and deeper than usual and is partially protected from the ocean.
However tempting it might seem, it is better to respect the numerous warning signs in the area and gauge the ocean conditions before plunging into the pool. But when the conditions are good, you’ll be in for a refreshing swim with the small fish that find their way into the pool from the ocean.
If you are traveling to Kauai insuring summer, Queen’s bath is a popular attraction and is not to be missed.
Enjoy the sunset at Hanalei Bay
Located at the base of cliffs, Hanalei Bay is one of the best beaches in Kauai and was featured in the classic film South Pacific. Stretching two miles, it is also the longest bay in Kauai.
Hanalei Bay Is actually split into 4 beaches- Waikoko beach, Waioli beach park, Hanalei Pavilion Beach Park and Black Pot beach. The famous Hanalei pier is located on the eastern end near black pot beach. Do not miss the sunset view from the pier at any cost.
You can also enjoy a wide range of water activities here. The pounding shorebreaks during winter attract surfers from all over the world.
If you have time, take a tour of the taro fields and spend some time shopping and visiting the art galleries in ‘brand-free’ Hanalei town. The local ambience here will give you a typical island experience to cherish for a lifetime.
If you’re a nature enthusiast, The ‘Na Aina Kai Botanical Garden’ is also well worth a visit.
Check out our list of places to see on the north to make use of free time if available.
Equipped with this plan, pack up the car, choose your destination and you will be rewarded with awe-inspiring views of the Garden Isle on every corner.
If you find yourself lacking time, you can keep the activity for the next day and adjust the itinerary based on your comfort.
Do share your Kauai travel experience with us.