A Guide to Kauai
Updated: May 26
I have been visiting the Garden Isle of Kauai since 2009. Each time I visit the Island feels more magical than the next. Kauai is known as the 'Garden Isle' because of its lush landscape. Kauai is actually the oldest of all the Hawaiian Islands. It was created by a volcano over 5 million years ago. Of the four main islands in Hawaii, Kauai is the smallest, and my personal favorite of all the Islands I’ve visited. Below I will talk about some must do’s if you are planning a vacation to this beautiful Island.
Na Pali Coast
The Napali Coast is a 17-mile expanse of steep, rocky, gorgeous series of cliffs that stretch along Kauai’s northwest shore. When visiting the Island seeing the Na Pali Coast is a must do. You can experience it on foot, from the water, or from air. I have flown over the coast in a helicopter but my favorite way to experience it is on boat with Blue Ocean Adventure Tours. On this tour, you will go through sea-caves, see dolphins and turtles, and be able to get out of the boat and snorkel along the breathtaking Na Pali Coast.
Waimea Canyon State Park
Waimea Canyon has been nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. This is a 14-mile-long, mile wide, and approximately 3,600 feet deep gorge full of red cliff sides with waterfalls and rivers as far as the eye can see. The easiest way to take in these sights is by car, as there are multiple lookout points of the canyon along the road. You can also hike along trails at Waimea Canyon or get up close and personal by helicopter. My favorite thing to do is to stay until sundown to watch the sun set on the expansive canyon.
Hanalei Bay is a quaint town on the North Shore of Kauai that is about four miles southwest of Princeville. Hanalei Bay is composed of three different beaches: Waioli Beach Park, Hanalei Beach Park, and Black Pot Beach. Since I often stay north of Hanalei Bay, it is my favorite town to bike into to get a smoothie or Acai Bowl at Aloha Juice Bar. There are also good restaurants and happy hours in this town if you’re looking for a relaxing evening to shop and hangout in. Some of my favorite restaurants include, Ama, Kalypso Island Bar and Grill, and Tahiti Nui.
Queen’s Bath is a unique tide pool that is located on the North Shore of Hawaii in Princeville. The pool is a sinkhole surrounded by igneous rock. In the tide pool, you can find fish and tiny sea life such as Hawaiian sea urchins, angelfish, and the so-called 'ghost fish.' Visiting the Queens Bath can be difficult as there is limited parking and often times the trail head is busy. You may have to wait a while to park but it is worth the visit. It is a little bit of a walk to get to the Queens Bath so wear comfortable hiking shoes and clothes you don’t mind getting dirty as the path can be slippery and muddy depending on the time of year you visit.
Koloa Rum Company
If you fly Hawaiian, they will give you a delicious Koloa Rum Punch cocktail at the end of the flight. Koloa Hawaiian rum punch is my favorite beverage to sip on when visiting the island so it was very exciting to visit the Koloa Rum Company. The rum is made from Hawaiian sugarcane, pristine rainwater from Mount Wai’ale’ale, and it is twice distilled in a vintage copper pot still. There is a free tasting room on site of the Koloa Rum Company where you can enjoy a tasting of the smooth and rich rums. It was such a fun experience to learn more about the process of rum making on the Island. Visiting this Koloa Rum plantation is a must for anyone looking to taste the flavor of Hawaii.
Limahuli Garden & Preserve, National Tropical Botanical Garden
There are many Botanical Gardens on Kauai but the Limahuli Garden & Preserve is my favorite to visit on the North Shore. This botanical garden is one of the most biodiverse valleys in the Hawaiian Islands. It is home to dozens of endangered plants and birds that are found nowhere else on earth. I love that this garden is a place of refuge, for an ecological system that honors the connections between nature and humanity. The garden tour takes you along a trail and you can self-guide and enjoy at your own leisure. A tip for when you visit is to bring bug spray or use the spray they provide in the shop as there are many mosquitos along the trail.
If you like to snorkel or scuba dive this is the beach for you. Tucked along the north shore of Kauai this crescent shaped bay is the perfect escape to either relax and watch the sunset at, or have a day full of adventure snorkeling and kite surfing on. Kauai has many beautiful beaches but this is at the top of my list for must visit beaches. If you are looking for the best snorkeling, go early in the morning as there will be more fish out, the water will be calmer, and the beach will be less crowded.
Last but not least, drive through the tree tunnel on the South Shore of Kauai in Koloa. The tree tunnel is a beautiful canopy of Eucalyptus trees that line the first mile of highway 520 and create a natural gateway to Kauai’s South Shore. The original 500 trees were planted in 1911 as a gift to the community from Pineapple Baron Walter McBryde. The trees are not only picturesque but feel other worldly. You can enjoy these trees driving in your car, or you can park alongside the road to take in this beautiful canopy of trees.
Remember that when visiting Kauai or any of the Islands that first and foremost this a vacation that should be relaxing a fun! Don’t be overwhelmed if you don’t have time to visit every single destination on your list. Even if your trip consists of sipping Mai Thais on the beach, take it all in, you’re in paradise!