Aloha! First things first: if you don’t like thousands of wild chickens and roosters roaming freely, Kauai is not for you! If you’ve checked out my Guide to Maui you must be looking to extend you future stay in Hawaii. We were supposed to spend a full week in Kauai, but we came from a resort in Maui and found that we needed a little more entertainment and relaxation. That being said, you will all LOVE Kauai as it’s an ABSOLUTELY stunning island with some of the most scenic and beautiful areas we’ve ever seen.
We stayed at Nihi Kai Villas in Poipu (the southern most point of Kauai). The sun typically shines a majority of the time down south and the south gets very little rain compared to the northern area. Our condo was great! A little outdated but absolutely live-able and what not. It had everything we needed; a pool and immediate access to the beaches right across the street. There were also a few bars and restaurants within walking distance. We spent very little time at the condo and more time exploring the small island since we cut the Kauai trip short. Unless you plan on being at the condo a lot, cooking your own meals, and entertaining at your condo, we recommend booking a stay at a resort. Koala Landing, the Hyatt, and Princeville were recommended hotels.
Why did we leave Kauai to spend more time in Maui? The last 4 days we originally planned on staying in Kauai called for 70% chance of rain and while you can’t control the weather, we weren’t about to spend the last week in rain. We also came from a resort that was surrounded by restaurants, shops, beaches, pools, tons of people, and plenty of attractions. My husband and I have hiked on the last 4 vacations we’ve been on. When I say hike I mean anywhere from 20-35 miles on a given trip. We wanted to RELAX on this trip, not hike or break too many sweats.
Kauai is a small island, and we were able to see the ENTIRE perimeter of the island in less than 3 full days. Download the app GYPSY for $8.99. My cousins recommended this app and it’s useful because there is a guide who takes you to all the main attractions, view points, scenic areas, and yummy food spaces. A lot of the things people recommend in Kauai only take a few minutes or so to stop and see. In other words, plan on stopping at a lot of little areas, jumping out of your car to snap some photos, and hopping right back in. You have the option to hike as there are plenty of beautiful mountains, but make sure to check how the weather was a few days before. It rains a lot in Kauai, so the hikes can get muddy and slippery. We recommend staying in Poipu and then driving up to the west and north end one or two days throughout your stay.
Things to do in Kauai:
The number one recommendation we have is the Star Na Pali Dinner Sunset Cruise through Cap’t Andy’s! This was one of my favorite experiences of the entire trip (and my favorite in Kauai without a doubt). The tour is a 5.5 hour dinner cruise that takes you up the Na Pali coast starting in Poipu. The views are breathtakingly beautiful! I’ve never seen such beautiful green and prosperous mountains in my entire life. We saw dolphins, fly fish, and a manta ray! You start off with some history from the tour guides, refreshments, and an appetizer. Once you get to the northern area, the crew sets up the dinner and opens up the bar. They also have an amazing playlist while the sunset begins to work its magic. This was about $125 a person (extremely reasonable in our opinion) and 100% worth every single penny. We had a sunny, warm, and calm sea. A man we met on the boat said this was his 5th time on this tour with the same company and the day we went was the smoothest he’s ever seen it. Check the weather before you book the boat, but book it at least a week in advance as it tends to book up fast. I promise you will NOT regret this. Take motion sickness medicine an hour before you leave if your stomach isn’t a fan of boats. The boat takes you to the parts of the island that can ONLY be seen by helicopter or boat. So you should do at least one or the other (or both!!).
Another recommendation was the doors off helicopter. My cousins loved this part of their trip despite taking the tour during a tropical storm (THANKS, BUT NOT THANKS). My husband and I had already taken a helicopter tour in Chicago and didn’t feel the need to take one again. We know what a helicopter feels like, and we already saw the AMAZING STUNNING views from the boat tour. That being said, lots of people love this tour so go ahead and book this tour if this is up your alley! Again, this part of the land can only be seen by boat or helicopter, so definitely try and do at least one (boat in my opinion because it’s longer, you get fed, and you can drink and enjoy lots of company)!
Queen’s Bath ONLY IF YOU’RE THERE DURING KAUAI’S SUMMER! This is a dangerous place, but we watched weather and wave reports to make sure it was safe to go (I would do the same when you’re there). It didn’t rain near Queen’s Bath a few days before, so we decided to go since we knew the quick route might be more dry. It was about a 10-15 minute hike down to the water. The hike was fine, but if it were wet it would have been too slippery and I probably would’ve turned around. There are only about 8 parking spots, so get there early or just camp out in your car until someone comes up to leave. We waited about 30 minutes and it was fine. The waves were ferocious and way too high to go near the actual baths, but we were able to walk the rocks to see some of the well Instagramed areas.
We didn’t end up heading to Waimea Canyon, but this is something we’d recommend checking out. We saw the canyon from a few random view points and felt that it was enough. If we decided to stay longer we would’ve squeezed this in one day. Head to Waimea and rent a kayak to the nearest waterfall. I believe it’s a two mile kayak trip and about a mile hike. Don’t wear anything you don’t want to ruin as this is a muddier trip.
Stop at Spouting Horn on your way back from the canyon (or if you’re in Poipu). Just a little area with rocks that spit out water super high. Nothing crazy but an attraction if you need to kill some time. There were 9000 chickens when we got out of our car. Beware.
Spend a day driving around the island using the Gypsy app to pull over at view points. Wailua Falls was a nice quick stop!
If you’re staying on the southern end of Kauai, plan to spend a day up north. Use the Gypsy app on your way up north or on the way down to stop along some main viewpoints. The Wailua river has a beautiful waterfall that you can see from a quick stop. You’ll drive through a few towns with TONS of food trucks, restaurants, and little shops. Once you get to Princeville, check out Queen’s Bath IF THE WAVES AREN’T DANGEROUSLY HIGH and the weather is warm and sunny! Do not do this mini hike if it rained a lot in the day prior as this is a slippery slope hike. Luckily it was pretty dry for us, but you could see the areas where people had fallen. There’s lots of roots on this hike, so if you’re prone to rolling ankles avoid this. We did this hike and the waves were extremely ferocious. We were able to see the baths but we weren’t able to swim. A local from the area said it’s usually never calm during their winter, so if you’re planning on going during their summer add this to the list. It was pretty cool to see…even with the crazy waves. Again, be careful as this is known to be a dangerous area.
The drive up to Princeville and further north was one of my favorite parts about Kauai. It was stunning! When you’re up north, head to Tunnel’s Beach. My husband and I would rather sit at a pool rather than deal with sandy beaches, but Tunnels Beach was one of our top favorite beaches! It’s a big beach with BIG FEROCIOUS waves, so if you’re looking for a beach to swim i’d avoid this one. The waves tend to be much more bold up north, so maybe stay south for safer beaches. The lifeguards kept running all over the beach to tell people to stay out of the water. On the other hand, if you want to see a bunch of turtles swimming, this beach is for you! The beach is directly in front of a beautiful green mountain with palm trees and lots of sun. It’s the furthest you can drive, so it tends to be a little bit more secluded. There is a cool cave right behind the parking area. Speaking of parking, i’d say get there early to hangout for a little and avoid not having anywhere to park. They’re strict on parking in areas that aren’t meant for parking. Spend some time here and then head back towards Princeville (using Gypsy) to check out some more towns, beaches, and restaurants. We stopped at Queen’s bath on the way back from Tunnel’s. Start at the most Northern point and work your way back down south as you check out the area.
Where to Eat in Kauai:
Plenty of food options here throughout the entire island. We ate around our villa in Poipu the entire time. There are a few outdoor shopping areas in Poipu with tons of restaurant options. We went to The Shops at Kukui‘ula right when we got to Kauai and went back the following night. We got a drink at a outdoor restaurant and then we went to get dinner at Tortilla Republic. GET THE BRUSELAS FRITA!!!!!!!! Sprouts at a Mexican restaurant? Yes! They were DELICIOUS! A little spicy but mostly unique. Go during happy hour if you want a few cheaper drinks and apps, and then order dinner after. The chips and salsa were delicious, and the margaritas were also very tasty. I ordered the VEGETARIANO Enchiladas and they were filling. I wish they sprouts inside would’ve been the same as the appetizer, but they were absolutely fine. The BAJA CAMARONES TACOS my husband ordered were also tasty. We enjoyed the outdoor ambiance and the unique bar as well. We liked this enough to head back the next day for nachos and margaritas.
Beach House Restaurant in Poipu is a must (ran by the same Chef as MonkeyPod that I had mentioned in my Maui post). GREAT customer service. Our waiter was friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable. The views here were beautiful as we overlooked the water and a cute outdoor area as we enjoyed our dinner. I usually never mention I’m a vegetarian when a waiter/waitress asks “does anyone have any dietary restrictions?” because I’ve always been able to find options on the menu, but I happened to mention that I didn’t eat fish and he had an off the menu vegetarian dish! This was hands down one of my favorite pasta dishes of all times. It was the Seafood Linguini option without the seafood, but my husband ordered the Seafood version and we both thought it was outstanding. The sauce was light and the pasta was fresh. I will not forget this meal anytime soon! We certainty did not save room for dessert, but they’re known for their pies so check those out!
We stopped for a quick bite to eat before the boat tour one day at Poipu Shopping Village. My husband got a hot dog from Puka Dog. He said it was good based on recommendations, but he didn’t think it was anything you absolutely have to try if you go. That being said, if you’re looking for a quick bite to eat go grab one of these. I went to Anuenue Cafe to order a skillet bowl (yes, I added avocado). It was good, but not worth the $18 I paid as the portion wasn’t worth the price as it was simply potatoes, eggs, and some veges. That costs about $9.95 here in the mainland LOL! Nevertheless, it had a cute outdoor eating and the other food being served looked delicious!
LITTLE FISH COFFEE! My cousin recommended this place and we loved it so much! It was a cute little hut near the shopping centers. Don’t be turned away by the size of the little shop because their menu is rather large! They are known for their delicious coffee, bagels, spreads, acai bowls, and breakfast options. The plain bagel with the cinnamon cream cheese was delicious! I ordered the Monkey Nuts smoothie both days with a shot of espresso and found it very satisfying. One of my favorite smoothies to make is bananas, ice, peanut butter, cocoa, and sometimes coffee, so this one reminded me of that smoothie. We tried both the hot and iced coffee and both were very delicious! I would recommend starting each day off right here!
Enjoy your stay!
You’ll love Kauai if you’re looking for a laid back and scenic vacation. It’s a great spot too if you enjoy hiking and swimming! Always watch the weather here as hiking can be a little tough with slippery routes. Pack your rain gear as well!