The oldest and northernmost island of the Hawaiian Islands, Kauai is often overlooked as a vacation destination in comparison to the far more popular islands of Oahu and Maui. But with more beach area per coastline and more waterfalls and undisturbed tropical rainforest than any other Hawaiian destination, the island nicknamed the Garden Island is more beautiful than its better-known neighbors. Add in an assortment of outdoor activities and an impressive collection of lodging and dining options and Kauai has all the makings of an exceptional tropical getaway. This vacation guide to Kauai introduces many of the best attractions as well as recommended places to stay and dine.
Although there are a couple of hostels for budget minded travelers to Kauai, most hotels and vacation rentals fall into the moderate to luxury price range. The most popular places to stay are primarily located in or near the communities of Poipu, Waimea, Princeville, the island capital of Lihue and the largest town of Kapaa, as well as the Coconut Coast on Kauai's East Coast. Prices for the moderately priced hotels such as the Aston Islander on the Beach and Courtyard Marriott at Coconut Beach typically average about $150, but can be booked for considerably less depending on the day of week, length of stay and/or the time of year. On the high end are lavish spots like the St. Regis Princeville Resort and the Grand Hyatt Kauai, which typically run $400 or more but feature extraordinary swimming pools, superb dining options and dramatic views of the coastline.
- Aston Islander on the Beach (Kapaa)
- Courtyard Kauai at Coconut Beach (Kapaa)
- Grand Hyatt Kauai (Koloa)
- Koa Kea Hotel & Resort (Koloa)
- Koloa Landing Resort (Koloa)
- Lodge at Kukui'ula (Koloa)
- Marriott's Kauai Lagoons - Kalanipu'u (Lihue)
- St. Regis Princeville Resort (Princeville)
- Villas at Poipu Kai (Koloa)
- Waipouli Beach Resort (Kapaa)
Related: Hawaii Vacation Guide For Families
From mom and pop grocery stores to upscale dining, Kauai offers an impressive collection of food options. On the low cost end are legendary spots like Hamura Saimin Stand in Lihue and Ishihara Market in Waimea for some of the island's best poke (raw fish salad) and other fresh seafood selections. On the moderate side are outstanding places like Ono Family Restaurant in Kapaa and Koloa Fish Market in Koloa for traditional Hawaiian treats like shaved ice, poke and spam with fried rice. For fine dining, the high profile resorts are safe bets for outstanding food, such as Tidepools at the Grand Hyatt in Koloa and Kauai Grill at the St. Regis Princeville. But visitors will especially enjoy a glimpse of Polynesian culture at one of the lively luaus on the island, like the Grand Hyatt Kauai Luau and the Smith Family Garden Luau in Kapaa. Here is a list of dining recommendations along with each location on the island:
Unlike other the more visited Hawaiian Islands, Kauai's top attractions are largely comprised of lush tropical rain forests, picturesque rivers and waterfalls, mountain vistas and stunning coastal views. While the Garden Island offers a smaller diversity of attractions and entertainment, there are far less crowds and traffics to encounter, making each spot that much easier to reach. Attractions can be found all around the island of Kauai, with the greatest concentrations along the northern, eastern and southern coastlines. Among the must-see attractions are the Na Pali Coast , Wailua Falls and Waimea Canyon State Park, known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific and by all appearances, clearly lives up to its nickname. For visitors who have more time to spend on Kauai, here is a list of 10 of the best attractions on the island, along with each respective location.
- Allerton Garden (Kalaheo)
- Hanakapi'ai Falls (Haena)
- Kalalau Trail (Na Pali Coast)
- Kauai Path (Kapaa)
- Kilauea Point Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge (Kilauea)
- Limahuli Garden and Preserve (Hanalei)
- Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail (Koloa)
- Na Pali Coast (Kapaa)
- Wailua Falls (Wailua River State Park)
- Waimea Canyon (Waimea)
If visitors were to ask Kauai locals what their favorite beach is, the answer might be quite varied. With so many picturesque spots all around the Garden Island, the top beaches clearly deserve a section of its own. Throw in the fact that Kauai has more pristine beaches than any of the other Hawaiian islands and a popular source for several Hollywood movies, it's easy to understand why it's is often ranked among the best islands in the world.
- Anini Beach (Kalihiwai)
- Hanalei Bay (Hanalei)
- Kalapaki Beach (Lihue)
- Kealia Beach (Kealia)
- Ke'e Beach (Ha'ena State Park, Kapaa)
- Kiahuna Beach (Koloa)
- Lumahai Beach (Hanalei)
- Poipu Beach (Poipu)
- Polihale Beach (Waimea)
- Tunnels Beach (Haena)
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