Nawiliwili harbor, Kauai’s port of call, is the docking point for many cruise ships passing through the island. If you’re fortunate enough to be cruising along this part of the world, there are plenty of things you can do to make the most of the time that’s available to you.
Kauai is filled with lush green jungles, scenic razorback cliffs, mind-blowing beaches and plenty of avenues for shopping and tasting the local delicacies. Whether you wish to relax on the beaches or choose to go an adventurous hike, you can do it all in Kauai.
Most major cruise lines make a stop at Kauai’s Nawiliwili Harbor. The Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Holland America are some of them. Exploring Kauai requires prior planning and it’s important that you understand the cruise schedule before arriving on the island.
Once you’re docked at the Nawiliwili harbor, there are car rentals and free shuttle services available to take you where you want to go. Exploring Kauai by road is a unique experience as you get to see the island more closely and be a part of the Hawaiian lifestyle.
Here are 8 things you can do in Kauai when you’re on a cruise ship:
1. Head Towards Kalapaki Beach
Located adjacent to the Nawiliwili harbor, Kalapaki beach can be a great headstart to your Kauai Cruise Vacation. The beach fronts the exotic Kauai Marriott Resort and has plenty of food and shopping outlets to soothe your appetite.
If you wish to have some water fun, this is one of the safest beaches to be swimming on. Kalapaki beach is partially protected from the ocean by a large break wall, which makes the water calm and swimworthy.
Once you’re done with your time on the beach, you can head over to the southern end, cross the footbridge and walk along Rice street for some great street shopping and local cuisine.
2. Visit Kauai Museum
This museum in Lihue has an exhaustive collection of artifacts, photographs and exhibits that make us delve into Kauai’s early days. The museum puts light on the beginning of Hawaiian civilization and the plantation days that shaped the local culture.
The museum also strives towards protecting the immigrant people of Kauai and Niihau and puts their art and craftwork on display for the world to see. At a short driving distance from the Cruise Port, the two museum buildings will help you see all of Kauai in one place.
3. Kayak Along Kauai’s Largest Navigable River
It is one thing to explore Kauai by road and a totally different experience to grab a kayak and paddle around the island. The Wailua River is located to the north of Lihue, and is a short drive from the Nawiliwili Harbor.
While Kayaking allows you to course through tranquil rainforests of Wailua River Park, you also get to hike to the Secret Falls and explore Kamokila Hawaiian village.
Huleia River, Hanalei river and the Napali coast are the other popular kayaking locations on the island that you can head towards if you have time.
4. Drive to Waimea Canyon
Waimea Canyon is about an hour’s drive from the Nawiliwili Harbor. It’s not the distance that matters but the quality of the drive.
While Waimea Canyon is one of Kauai’s most prestigious possessions and reserves a place on the To-Do list of most visitors, the drive to Waimea Canyon is exciting in its own way.
The curvy but easy to drive Waimea Canyon road offers plenty of scenic lookouts along the way. The red dirt waterfall lookout on mile marker 4-5 and the Waimea Canyon lookout at mile marker 10 are definitely worth a stop.
5. Explore Kokee State Park
Driving further up the Waimea Canyon- Kokee road will lead you to Koke’e State park. This trip is advisable only if you have ample time to spend.
Spread across a massive area of 4400 acres, Kokee state park is every nature lover’s paradise as it enthralls visitors with it’s abundant varieties of birds, vegetation and numerous hiking trails that lead to spectacular views.
Along the drive, the Kalalau and Puu O Kila lookout offer spectacular views of the Kalalau valley and the Napali coast. If the view is not clear, make sure you wait till the clouds clear out and enjoy seeing what’s before you.
6. Visit the Kauai Coffee Plantation
Interested to learn the process of coffee making? There is no better place to learn than from the country’s largest coffee plantation- The Kauai Coffee Company.
You can hop on one of their open-air trucks and take a knowledgeable tour of their massive plantation. Once you’re done with the picturesque tour, you can head over to their visitor center and take part in the coffee-tasting session and savour the line of authentic Hawaiian Coffee to soothe your taste buds.
7. Kilohana Plantation
The Kilohana Plantation is a wonderful reminder of the bygone sugar plantation era. Sir Gaylord Wilcox transformed this 16,000 acre estate in the 1930s, which, even to this day, remains as one of the finest examples of plantation era architecture in Hawaii.
The massive plantation estate has an agricultural park, orchard and plantation railway that takes visitors on a knowledgeable tour of the estate.
The Gaylord’s restaurant, Mahiko Lounge and the Koloa Rum Company form the highlights of this visitor destination, only to be surpassed by Luau Kalamaku- The bi-weekly luau celebration that takes place in the estate.
8. Spouting Horn
Located at the end of Lawai Road, on the island’s south side, you’ll find one of Kauai’s most photographed places. Here you’ll see a natural bowhole that shoots water up in the air with enormous pressure, creating a natural fountain.
This blowhole is located on a lava rock coastline and is fed by crevices underneath. Kids will have a great time seeing rainbows created by the water mist and the sunlight.
Spouting horn is best viewed during the south shore swells. There are ample parking spots available and you can find vendors selling souvenirs and handcrafted items here during the day.
Summary and Infographic
In addition, there are plenty of other things you can do with your time in Kauai and we’ll keep the exhaustive list for some other day. Being docked on Kauai during a cruise is a great opportunity to explore the many facets of the island.
Since there is time constraint involved, it is best that you prioritize one or two things you’d like to do the most in Kauai and pursue them. You can always come back to see the rest of the Garden Isle. Don’t be surprised if you develop a special bond with the island and keep coming back for more.