Suggestions for visiting Kauai

Kauai Recommendations 
We recently visited Kauai for the first time. It was fabulous. We did the VRBO thing and stayed in an oceanfront condo in Poipu. My one recommendation – do the helicopter tour at least once. It was the highlight of the trip for us.

In preparation I went through a lot of posts elsewhere trying to determine what we should see and do. From that collection – and an email from a friend of mine – here is the collection. Sorry for all the choppiness and grammar issues. I just copied and pasted from existing posts.

Places to see:

  • Waimea Canyon – Make sure you drive all the way to the parking lot where the road ends and if it’s fogged over, wait at least an hour to see if it’ll clear out.
  • The falls have a local name but often go by Secret Falls. Good recommendation.
  • Driving through Waimea Canyon.
  • Go see the Waimea Canyon, the Grand canyon of Hawaii. You can drive to the top of it, access is from the south side of the island.
  • For places to visit drive up Waimea canyon to Kalalau lookout. The view is incredible and there are a few other lookout places you can stop at on the way. The lighthouse is another good place to visit.
  • Visit Wailua Falls, you can drive right up to it…but if you are stealthy the fun thing is to jump the fence on the south end and climb down to the falls bottom and swim into the falls. Usually there is a guy sitting there and if you keep it quiet, just ask him where to go (he will be there making little bowls from palm leaves)
  • Visited Water Falls: Opaeka’a Falls Wailua Falls (from Treasure Island TV show). You can drive to both of these.
  • Visited Fern Grotto: You have to kayak to this. Was a little more strenuous than Hanalei River When we did this we also kayaked up to a point (opposite side of the river than Fern Grotto) and hike to Secret falls and went swimming (cold water). I think they have a boat ride that goes to fern grotto. People get married there.
  • Lighthouse at Kiauea: Very was cool. It costs to go to this. I can’t remembe how much.
  • Guava Plantation: There was a guava farm near the light house that we visited.
  • Hanalei Lookout – is cool to see. If you saw “Blue Hawaii”, this is the place. It looks the same as when Elvis Presley sang here. It right along the side of the road heading from Princeville to Hanalei.
  • Tree tunnel: You will enjoy the tree tunnel on 520 (the road that goes to Poipu Beach area).
  • Spouting Horn: Go west on Lawai Rd and visit the Spouting Horn. It was cool. It is real close to where you are staying.
  • Waimea Canyon: A must see. It is really cool looking. It looks like Grand Canyon. In fact they refer to it as the Grand Canyon of the Hawaiian Islands. Dirt is really red. It will ruin white shoes!
  • Hanalei Bay: Where they filmed “South Pacific” the movie. You would recognize it from the movie from the princeville side. There is a very fancy hotel there. If I remember correctly, that is where we recognized Hanalei Bay as the location where it was filmed.


  • Also Polihali State park on the far south west corner of the island is an awesome beach, absolutely huge I think it is something like 17 mile long, and there are very few people there because it is as remote a place as you can go on the island. There is very little shade there though so buy a couple of those cheap beach umbrella’s from the walmart in town to take with you but it is well worth going out there. The last several miles are down a dirt road with a lot of washboard surface, but once again it is awesome, be sure to go there at least once. In fact a good day trip is to go to the Canyon, access is on the south side headed toward Polihale, then after you come donw from the top of the canyon continue west to Polihale since you are 3/4 of the way there already and spend the rest of the day at Palihale. Once again bring umbrella’s but also bring coolers with plenty of drinks and bring food as there is nothing out there to get those things.
  • We loved hiking the Kalalau trail to Hanakapi’ai Beach
  • Hike the grand canyon of the Pacific, tour NaPali coast, kayak trip to waterfall
  • Take a hike, there is a nice, although modestly strenuous one, you can take from the northwest end of the island along the NaPali Coast.
  • Make sure you hike to Waipo’o falls in Waimea Canyon. Go to the end of the road up the canyon, second lookout Pu’u a Hina is the best. Hike to Pihea Peak if you have time go to the swamp.
  • If you are staying for a long time, get a permit and take the Napali coast Kalalau Trail all the way to Kalalau Beach (11 miles each way) you will need to camp to do it. If not hike to Hanakapia’ai Falls. Get to Ke’e beach early to get a parking spot, hike 4 miles into the Falls, swim and hike back out, you can do it in about 4-6 hours. Unbelievable views!
  • Hike: The favorite for my kids over everything was the hike on the Napali coast. You take 560 to the very end, park at Ke’e beach area. I marked it also with an arrow on the sketch above. Make sure you do not park in low areas. The mountain right there is the wettest place on earth. Dips in the road can become a river. The trail is the Kalalau Trail. We hiked up this trail and then took the trail to Hanakapiai Falls (8 mile round trip) . You don’t have to do the whole thing. Just hike along the trail near the ocean is spectacular. You can make it as long or as short as you want.
  • Hike: The favorite for my kids over everything was the hike on the Napali coast. You take 560 to the very end, park at Ke’e beach area. Make sure you do not park in low areas. The mountain right there is the wettest place on earth. Dips in the road can become a river. I believe the trail name is Kalalau Trail. We hike up this trail and then took the trail to Hanakapiai Falls (8 mile round trip) . You don’t have to do the whole thing. Just hike along the trail near the ocean is spectacular.


  • Anini beach on the north shore is protected by the biggest coral reef in Hawaii and is an excellent place to snorkel.
  • Snorkeling at Tunnels
  • Go snorkeling at Tunnels Beach.
  • Tunnels and Anini are great for snorkeling on the north side of the island.
  • Snorkel : Best snorkeling was at Tunnels beach, lots of fish, turtles. Most of the days it was calm, but there was one day it was a little rough, other than that it was great. It is a double reef. You park at Haena State Park and walk back up the beach to Tunnels beach. I put an arrow pointing to tunnels beach. If you look to the left of it, you can see Haena State Park where you can park.
  • Snorkel: Safest place to snorkel was at Lydgate State Park (there were some fish, not a lot though and the water was a little cloudy ) you will find this just south of Wailua Bay. South of the mouth of the Wailua river. It has a man-made rock water break there.
  • Snorkel: Poipu was ok for snorkeling, there are a lot of people there, the fish were scarce and the water was cloudy It is a good place to swim though.


  • Also go to Palihali beach which is on the far southwest corner of the island. It is an awesome beach, miles and miles long with almost no one there. Bring an umbrella as there isn’t any shade and the surf in February will be big.
  • If I could retire anywhere and money was no object, I’d pick Hanalei… favorite beach ever.
  • Best beaches, Polihale Beach on the west side, all the way you can go. You can hit up Waimea Canyon and Polihale the same day.
  • Donkey Beach is great, Hanalei is an awesome surfer town. North Shore is amazing.
  • Queensbath is awesome, depending on the waves you can get in, but if the surf is high, stay out or you wasily could be swept out to sea. But it is awesome even if you are just watching the massive waves come in. Summertime the swells are smaller on the North Shore.
  • Swam at “Queen’s Bath” – you have to hike down to this. I think there was lava type rocks. It was a little spooky in some places where the water was coming in. Not one of my favorite places. This is in Princeville area.


  • Kauai Helicopter – do at least once
  • Helicopter tour without doors (Jack Harter)
  • Tube through the mountain tunnels…. This is more of a locals thing but others are starting to figure it out, I think there might even be some tours doing it now although I’m not positive about that. Basically there were some tunnels bored through a mountain for a canal to run through it. People float through it on inner tubes, it comes out in a big hidden pool with a waterfall. Frankly it is one of the funnest things we’ve done there. We’ve been to Kauai 7 times so at this point we’ve done almost everything you can think of.
  • Boat tour Napali Coast – should see a ton of whales this time of year
  • I would recommend skipping the Smith Family Luau. It gets decent reviews, but we thought it was cheesy, and the food wasn’t good at all.
  • Captain Andy’s tours of Napali coast
  • That is when the whales are there. Definitely take a NaPali coast cruise so that you can both see the unbelievable NaPali coast and the whales.
  • Go ride tubes through the tunnels, this is a locals thing, I don’t think there are tours for this. You kind of have to figure out how to do that on your own, I think you can google some info.
  • Kayak Wailua river to the secret falls and Fern grotto.
  • Kayak Hanalei River – very easy to do. You rent the boats near the mouth of the river.
  • Surfing Lessons: We took surfing lessons in Hanalei Bay. It was fun, waves were small. Very expensive, but we had fun.
  • Boogie boarding: At Brennecke Beach, Great boogie boarding, however, there were some rocks t the right of the beach that you need to be careful of. You can rent the boards right there, or at least you could when I was there. It is the beach just east of Poipu Beach.
  • Catamaran Ride: We took a catamaran ride from around Waimea around to the Napali coast. It was an enjoyable ride. You get to see areas where Jurassic Park was filmed, and other movie filmed locations like King Kong. I do not remember how much that one cost. We did that one many years ago.


  • Smith Family Luau was pretty good. The food was just OK, but the grounds and show were pretty cool. This was about 8 years ago or so.
  • Go to Hanalei Bay and get some tacos from the taco truck in the parking lot, Pats Taqueria.
  • After Bubba’s in Kapaa, go to Ono Ono Shave ice.
  • Make sure you eat at Puka dog in the poipu shopping village on the south side of the island.
  • Luau: If I remember correctly, the luau we went to was in the Coconut Marketplace area. We liked it. They got all three of my girls up there dancing. By this time Stephanie was already heads and shoulders above anyone there, since she had been Polynesian dancing for years.
  • A MUST: Eat some of the pineapple here. THE BEST PINEAPPLE I HAVE EVER TASTED!!!!!


  • Kauai has my favorite dives, especially off Niihau
  • Hanalei Kauai for church
  • Rent some bikes and ride the beach trail in the morning.
  • Ulewehi (Secret) Falls hike is cool.
  • Spend a day hanging out in Hanalei, also on the north side of the island, its a really cool town down in a valley.
  • Explore, it is a gorgeous island, just go and explore it and discover things. The standard touristy things are easy enough to figure out and find but if you just kind of wing it and go see what you can find it is a lot more fun IMO.
  • I loved waking up in the morning to the sound of birds. Many many birds.
  • You will probably run into wild chickens everywhere. A hurricane scattered them all over the island.
  • Make sure you take your camera and take the great sunsets that you can see from where you are staying. We got some really good ones when we stayed at Lawaii Beach, just west of where you are staying.

Last tips: Reserve the tubes in tunnels and helicopter ride in advance and buy the book. When we went in March we went to sign up for the ride on tubes thru the tunnels, but were told at that point they are booked 3 weeks in advance. Also for the helicopter ride – if you reserve in advance you can get their discounted fares. We did the Blue Hawaiian helicopter. Definitely get the ‘blue bible’ – “Kauai Revealed” by Andrew Doughty and Harriett Friedman.

%d bloggers like this: