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Ultimate Kauai, Hawaii Travel Guide | Plan an Unforgettable Trip

Nov 16, 2022

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Kauai, Hawaii, is an island gem for a reason. Sure, “The Garden Island” is one of the “wettest” places in the world, but all that extra water is exactly why it’s full of drop-dead gorgeous natural wonders AND PLENTY of activities for the adventurous soul.

So if this paradise is gleaning your interest, you’ve come to the right place! From its epic waterfalls to ridgelines, in this Kauai travel guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to plan an unforgettable trip.

We’ll discuss things like the best time to visit, where to stay, where to eat, and some of the highlight attractions.

When you’re done, make sure you check out my other Kauai and Hawaii posts!

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Best Time to Visit Kauai

For your best shot at checking off all must-sees in this Kauai travel blog, visit in the summer! 

Kauai is one of the wettest places in the world, and it rains A LOT there. Visiting in the summer might give you some more dry days to enjoy.

But below, I’m breaking down Kauai’s seasons so you can decide when the best time to visit Kauai is for you.

Summer

Summer is the perfect time for swimming since the tide will be low and hiking since it’ll be a tad dry out. As stated, Kauai is a wet island. Therefore, summer will give you a wider range of activities to enjoy.

Fall (Shoulder Season)

October is shoulder season and can prove to be an excellent time to visit Kauai. The temperatures can reach around 80 degrees (F), making it warm enough to jump into the ocean.

October to November is also a great time to visit Kauai because fewer crowds and lower hospitality prices will be available.

Winter

Most folks would choose to visit Kauai in the winter because I mean, who wouldn’t want to escape to an island paradise when it’s freezing at home? But winter will be the island’s wettest month.

Therefore, you might spend more days in your hotel room and not get the chance to do things like hiking, helicopter rides, or another Kauai adventure.

Spring (Shoulder Season)

Spring is another shoulder season for the island, making it a great time to visit. You’ll beat the summer crowds and still get fantastic weather!

Yes, there is a higher chance of rain than in summer, but the cost savings associated with spring can be worth it, so you have more money for Kauai attractions!

How Many Days Do You Need in Kauai?

How many days you spend in Kauai depends on what you intend to do on your trip! A popular option is to spend 3 days on Kauai, Hawaii, then hop to a different Hawaii island.

However, 7 days to 10 days is perfect if you want to just explore Kauai.

How To Get To Kauai

To get to Kauai you will want to fly into the LIH airport, located on the East side. 

The airport is relatively small, so flights to Kauai can be pretty expensive.

For the best rates, I love to use a resource like Expedia and recommend you do too. 

Flights leaving Kauai, HI tend to be late in the evening (9 PM to 10 PM), so you’ll have to plan your last day on the island to account for a late departure!

Note: You might have a stopover on Oahu, which will allow you to explore another Hawaiian island too (just an idea)!

Click here to check flights!

Where to Stay In Kauai, Hawaii

This section of our Kauai travel guide will cover where to stay by coast.

The North, South, East, and West shores all have different highlights to consider when planning trip.

What attractions you choose to focus on will ultimately determine where you should stay. Staying South or East will put you closer to most things you’ll probably doing when you get there.

Here are a few vacation rentals I recommend:

  • Ocean-View Studio Rental on South Shore Kauai
    • This studio apartment rental is in the Poipu area on Kauai’s South Shore. The location makes it easy to explore the island. PLUS, it has a full kitchen so you can cook your meals.
  •  Ocean-View Studio Apartment on East Shore
    • Enjoy an ocean view from your home away from home. This studio is located on the East shore, about 6 or so miles from the Lihue Airport. It’s location makes it easy to go to Kauai adventures!
  • Condo at the Cliffs Resort
    • Stay in Kauai’s North Shore with an ocean view condo! You’ll love that this accommodation has a full kitchen, a view and is near Queen’s Bath and Hanalei Bay.

Where to Eat— Kauai Travel Guide Recs

What would a Kauai travel guide be without talking FOOD. Below you’ll find some recommendations for the best places to eat on the island.

Again, breaking it up by shore so this information is nice and organized for you.

North Shore Places to Eat

The Hanalei area has many options, specifically the Ching Young Village Shopping Center. On the North Shore, you’ll have a variety of others from healthy bites to dinner date spots to casual dining options.

Kauai Juice Co — A Kauai CLASSIC and must if you ask me. Basically, it’s a place for juices and healthier eats. I love the nut milks they make and can drink every single one. Their beverages come in beautiful glass bottles too!

Kalalea Juice Hale — Calling all acai lovers! This is the place for you. Kalalea Juice Hale is like a cute little orange place with some of the best acai bowls on the North Shore! They also offer other items, but I recommend eating the acai by the gallon LOL.

Nourish Hanalei — This is another cute little shack that has good bowls/ wraps! AND THE VIEWS. LIKE STAWPPPP.

West Side Places to Eat

There are not TOO many places to eat on the West Side of Kauai, but if you go on a Kauai boat tour, you’ll be HUNGRY afterwards, trust me.

Truthfully, the food options near Waimea are expensive and not THE best because they’re trying to cater to tourists.

So make sure you look at reviews for places before eating there!

Below are a couple of recommendations for you.

Island Taco — Nice place to grab a couple of tacos for lunch or right after a boat tour! Did I mention they have homemade tortillas?

G’s Juicebar — A must for acai bowls here! They have so many fun options with nut butter and other toppings.  

South Shore Places to Eat

The South Shore is full of places to eat! However, some of the options are similar to what you can get on the North Shore, meaning you’ll have some fancier places, casual takeout, and healthier island fare. 

Da Crack — Da Crack is kind of a must if you’re in the South Shore. They made good burritos and other Mexican food. Prepare to have the biggest food baby of your life if you go here.

Little Fish Coffee Poipu — Amazing acai bowls! You’re going to want like 10 of them.

East Side Places to Eat

The East Side has so many options for food! You can get everything from poke to tacos here.

Tiki Tacos – They have a great selection of vegetarian and vegan Mexican food that’ll make your heart melt a little bit! 10/10 would grab a taco, then head to the beach.

Konohiki Seafoods – If you’re looking for some grade-A poke bowls, look no further! Everyone RAVES about how great the poke at Konohiki is.

Java Kai – This is a bomb @$$ breakfast place with fantastic acai bowls too! Plus, their coffee is 10/10.

Wailua Shave Ice – This place is a staple for getting shaved ice on the island. GET IT WHILE U CAN.

Things to Do

Below is a shortlist of the best things to do on the island. Consider these the highlights.

For a more complete list, make sure you check out my blog: Best Things to Do in Kauai for an Epic Adventure

Hike the Kalalau Trail—A bucket list backpacking trail on the North Shore. You can hike parts of it to highlights like Hanakapi’ai Beach or Falls.

Explore Princeville—A cute town on the North Shore with lots of places to eat and shopping.

Hanalei Bay—A romantic bay area with mountain views and a beautiful dock to enjoy.

Kalepa Ridge Trail—A short hike in Waimea Canyon that will give you some amazing Na Pali Coast views.

Waimea Canyon—Also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, it’s THE place for hiking and exploring.

Na Pali Coast—One of the main highlights of Kauai. Go here for boat or air tours!

Click here to check out this once-in-a-lifetime Kauai air tour!

Shipwreck Beach—A popular beach on the South Shore with a hiking trail.

Poipu Beach—A popular beach for snorkeling and spotting sea turtles. Click here to check out this bestselling Kauai snorkel tour!

Kayak Wailua RiverKayak to secret waterfalls or just enjoy the river!

Sleeping Giant—A hike on the East side known for the mountain formation that looks like a sleeping giant.

ZiplineZipline through the Garden Island and enjoy some epic views!

Sail the Na Pali CoastGo on a snorkel tour along the Na Pali coast in a sailboat!

Private Helicopter Tour—Enjoy all of Kauai’s gorgeous views from above on a private helicopter tour—top Kauai travel guide recommendation!

Best Kauai Hiking Trails

Planning on hiking a bit? Below is a quick list of the best hikes in Kauai.

  • Kalepa Ridge Trail
  • Kalalau Trail
  • Waimea Canyon Trail
  • Awaawapuhi Trail

Easy Hikes in Kauai

Here is a shortlist of easy Kauai hiking trails just in case you’re not in the mood to hike 7+ miles on your vacation!

  • Kalepa Ridge Trail
  • Mahaulepu Heritage Coastal Trail
  • Kuilau Ridge

Kauai Travel Guide FAQ

Let’s cover some frequently asked questions about visiting Kauai, Hawaii.

What is Kauai, Hawaii Known for?

Kauai, Hawaii is best known for its natural beauty. Attractions like Waimea Canyon and the gorgeous Kalalau Trail are just some of the many wonders that make this island special.

What is the Best Month for Visiting Kauai?

The best months to visit Kauai are during shoulder seasons: September to December or April to June. Summer months are popular and usually the most expensive.

How Many Days is Enough on Kauai?

7 to 10 days is the perfect amount of time to explore Kauai, Hawaii, and see most of the island’s features.

Is Kauai or Oahu Better?

Oahu is more touristy and has a healthy mix of activities for a first-timer Hawaii traveler to enjoy. However, if you love being outdoors and like an adventurous trip, Kauai is probably for you.

Do You Need a Car in Kauai?

Yes! Having a car in Kauai is recommended. Everything on the island is pretty spread out.

Click here to check rental car prices!

Kauai Travel Guide—Final Thoughts

That concludes this Kauai travel guide! I hope this post helps you has out all your trip details so you can truly have an unforgettable vacation to The Garden Island.

Don’t let the plans stop here! Read these next:

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I'm a burrito loving explorer who got fired from corporate America and turned that into my dream career as a photographer and blogger. Now I'm here to help you explore life's magic. Thanks for stopping by!