Kauai Travel Guide :
Kauai is not one of Hawaii’s larger islands, but it may be Hawaii’s most beautiful. In fact, it is often referred to as the Garden Island because of its lush tropical landscapes and waterfall filled valleys.
Kauai’s beautiful green landscape is shaped by the fact that it is the oldest Hawaiian island. There are no active volcanos and Martian like lava fields, but deep valleys, relatively wide rivers and green fields.
As a result, Kauai is the Hawaiian island that lends itself most to outdoor pursuits. Kauai is truly a hikers paradise rather than a destination for beach goers and surfers. You can do these activities too, but Kauai is not the best choice if a surfer vacation is what you’re looking for.
Instead, Kauai is laid back, rural and dotted with a number of small towns.
Enjoying Poipu Beach
Located on Kauai’s beautiful southern coastline, the Poipu beach area features a number of beautiful reef formations and sand beaches. Not only are the beaches beautiful, but you’ll find the best beaches for swimming, boogie boarding, surfing, snorkeling and scuba diving.
Because Poipu is better suited to beach activities than other areas of Kauai, Poipu is also where most of the large tourist hotels are located. If you’re traveling to Kauai with kids and you want to be located close to good beach then Poipu is absolutely the best place to stay.
And for whatever reason, the weather around Poipu always seems to be better. So if you are staying on the east side of the island and its raining then consider the quick drive to Poipu. Chances are the sun is shining here.
Visiting Hanalei Town
Hanalei Town, on Kauai’s north shore, is one of the most beautiful and relaxing locations on Kauai. In fact, Hanalei is my favourite location on Kauai.
Hanalei Town is rustic to the point of being unreal. It has great restaurants, beautiful shops and cultural sites all thrown into the mix.
The town is also located on Hanalei Bay, which has one of the north shores only swimming beaches.
Exploring the Streets of Kapaa Town
Kapaa Town is east Kauai’s best spot for food and shopping. This old style Hawaiian town is as quaint as it is relaxing. It’s a great place to put up your feet, relax and maybe get that Hawaiian shirt you know you wanted to buy.
Kapaa Town also has a fantastic outdoor market and is a great spot to meet and mix with local Hawaiians. It’s much less commercial than the Poipu Beach area of Kauai.
Waimea Town and Waimea Canyon State Park
Waimea Town is located on the west side of Kauai and is one of the least touristy towns on Kauai. It also happens to be where Captain James Cook landed for the first time on the Hawaiian Islands. So the town has some real historical significance.
Waimea Town is a great stop, particularly if you are doing it conjunction with a visit to Waimea Canyon.
Hawaii is full of surprises. One of the most amazing is Waimea Canyon. Waimea Canyon is nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. And its huge. Waimea Canyon is about ten miles long and up to 3,600 feet deep.
Waimea Canyon was formed by erosion from the Waimea River. Its rich green and red colours are striking, as are the beautiful waterfalls which tumble from steep cliffs. Its unlike anything you are likely to see anywhere else.
There are two popular lookout spots with parking, at Puu ka Pele and Puu hinahina, as well as a number of hiking trails if you’re so inclined.
Chasing Kauai Water Falls
The uplands of Kauai are among the wettest places on earth. In fact, the name of the shield volcano Mount Waiʻaleʻale ( pronounced – why ah lay ah lay) is Hawaiian for overflowing water.
Because of the volume of rainfall, there are many beautiful waterfalls worth visiting in Kauai. If you are looking for waterfalls easily accessible by car and parking lot, then consider Opaekaa Falls or Wailua Falls.
If hiking is your game then both Hanakapiai Falls and Secret Falls need to be on your Kauai waterfall bucket list.
Fern Grotto and Wailua River Boat Tours
Hawaii has a navigable river. Who knew? Indeed, Kauai’s Wailua River is fed by Mt. Wai’ale’ale and flows into the Pacific close to Kapa’a.
On the Wailua River you can enjoy a boat cruise. On the two mile journey operated by Smith Family, you can float upstream while listening to a guided tour as well as songs and stories from Hawaii. You can also rent small boats and paddle the Wailua River.
At the end of the journey is the beautiful Fern Grotto, a fern-covered lava cave. This geological wonder was once an incredible popular location for weddings. Weddings still happen here apparently!
Kauai Whale Watching
Between December to May, you might get lucky and catch a glimpse of a humpback whale from Kauai’s shorelines. The humpbacks visit the warm Hawaiian waters every year to breed and give birth.
If you really want to get close and personal with a humpback whale, there are many whale watching tours that operate out of Port Allen on Kauai’s south shore. We went with Kauai Sea Tours and hey… we saw whales! There’s no guarantee you will see a whale on your tour, but you will still get a fantastic perspective on Kauai and some of the historical sites visible from the boat.
Hopefully you’re faster with your camera than I am!
Remember to bring a tip for the crews of the whale watching boats. They do a fantastic job on these tours!
If you are looking for a guide to visiting Honolulu, check out my travel guide here.