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Kauai Visitors Guide

How to Get There, Things to Do & More

Updated April 2024 ⋅ Written by Vanessa Howard ⋅ Edited by Laura Schulthies

Kauai Visitors Guide
Kauai Visitors Guide

Welcome to Kauai

Kauai, Hawaii, makes a great vacation destination thanks to the lush landscape, magical waterfalls, and delicious food. Whether you are looking to relax on a tropical beach or hike one of Kauai’s famous trails, the island has something for everyone. Use our visitors guide to Kauai to plan your perfect tropical getaway on the Garden Isle.

Kauai, Hawaii, makes a great vacation destination thanks to the lush landscape, magical waterfalls, and delicious food. Whether you are looking to relax on a tropical beach or hike one of Kauai’s famous trails, the island has something for everyone. Use our visitors guide to Kauai to plan your perfect tropical getaway on the Garden Isle.

Kauai Map

Kauai Map

Contents

Kauai Visitors Guide
Kauai Visitors Guide

A Bit Of History

Kauai is unique in Hawaiian history because it is the oldest inhabited Hawaiian Island and the only island not conquered by King Kamehameha in his attempt to unite all the Hawaiian Islands. The history of Kauai begins with Polynesian settlers sailing to the island from over 3,000 miles away. They brought some of the most important plants and foods, many of which remain abundant today in Hawaiian culture and diet. One of the most important being taro, called kalo in Hawaiian. The plant still holds significance in Hawaiian culture and is used to make many foods, including poi, which you will be served if you attend a luau on the island.

Kauai Visitors Guide

Kauai Today

Today Kauai is an island full of splendor, beauty, and culture. This island truly represents the aloha spirit and is a hidden gem of sorts. Around 90% of Kauai cannot be reached by road. The most beautiful part of the island has no road near it, and nature lovers flock to the Garden Isle for that very reason. Kauai has managed to preserve its pristine beauty and laid-back Hawaiian spirit. There are endless activities for everyone on the island, with scenic drives, waterfalls, and more than 60 beaches that dot the landscape.

Where is Kauai?

Kauai White Map

Kauai is an island located in the Central Pacific, part of the Hawaiian archipelago. It lies 72 miles northwest of Oahu across the Kauai Channel and covers an area of 562.3 square miles. It is the northernmost island in the Hawaiian archipelago and is known for its lush tropical landscapes, dramatic cliffs, and sandy beaches. Kauai is approximately 2,600 miles west of California and around 100 miles west of Honolulu.

Kauai Visitors Guide
Kauai Travel Guide : Things to do in Kauai Hawaii

The Best Time to Visit Kauai

As is the case with many of the Hawaiian Islands, if you are looking for the best prices, weather, and the smallest crowds, visit Kauai during the shoulder seasons. The shoulder seasons on this island are September through Mid-November and April through June. October is also a great time to visit for the cheapest flights, hotels, great weather, and fewer crowds. Temperatures generally range from 78-85°F for the high and 65-74°F for the low.

As is the case with many of the Hawaiian Islands, if you are looking for the best prices, weather, and the smallest crowds, visit Kauai during the shoulder seasons. The shoulder seasons on this island are September through Mid-November and April through June. October is also a great time to visit for the cheapest flights, hotels, great weather, and fewer crowds. Temperatures generally range from 78-85°F for the high and 65-74°F for the low.

December – March

Visiting Kauai during this time of year means you will experience one of the wettest seasons. To avoid the rain, consider vacationing on the west and south coasts, which tend to be drier during this time of year. January and February are typically the coldest months on the island, but the low temperatures hover at a comfortable 78℉. If you visit during this time, make sure to book several weeks to months in advance, as this is Kauai’s peak travel season.

April – June

Known as a shoulder season and one of the best times to visit Kauai. The weather is picture-perfect in spring, with highs in the high 70s and low 80s. You will also find great hotel rates and fewer crowds if you book during early spring. Keep in mind that the start of hurricane season is in early June. The season runs through the end of November each year. Hurricanes do not generally affect Kauai. The last big hurricane to hit Kauai was in 1992 when Category 4 storm Hurricane Iniki struck the island.

July – August

Summer is peak season in Kauai, and you will find that hotels raise their prices during this season. If you want to take a summer trip to the island, it’s recommended that you book months in advance. Summer weather on the island is perfect for relaxing on the beach, with highs in the mid-80s and lows in the mid-70s. Keep in mind that Kauai does get a bit more humid than many of the other Hawaiian Islands.

September – November

September through November is one of the best times to visit the Garden Isle. During this shoulder season, the summer crowds have left the island, and the fall room rates begin to dip at hotels. There will be fewer tourists as you explore Kauai, giving a more authentic Hawaiian experience. Expect high temperatures in the mid-to-low 80s and the lows to hang in the upper 60s.

December – March

Visiting Kauai during this time of year means you will experience one of the wettest seasons. To avoid the rain, consider vacationing on the west and south coasts, which tend to be drier during this time of year. January and February are typically the coldest months on the island, but the low temperatures hover at a comfortable 78℉. If you visit during this time, make sure to book several weeks to months in advance, as this is Kauai’s peak travel season.

April – June

Known as a shoulder season and one of the best times to visit Kauai. The weather is picture-perfect in spring, with highs in the high 70s and low 80s. You will also find great hotel rates and fewer crowds if you book during early spring. Keep in mind that the start of hurricane season is in early June. The season runs through the end of November each year. Hurricanes do not generally affect Kauai. The last big hurricane to hit Kauai was in 1992 when Category 4 storm Hurricane Iniki struck the island.

July – August

Summer is peak season in Kauai, and you will find that hotels raise their prices during this season. If you want to take a summer trip to the island, it’s recommended that you book months in advance. Summer weather on the island is perfect for relaxing on the beach, with highs in the mid-80s and lows in the mid-70s. Keep in mind that Kauai does get a bit more humid than many of the other Hawaiian Islands.

September – November

September through November is one of the best times to visit the Garden Isle. During this shoulder season, the summer crowds have left the island, and the fall room rates begin to dip at hotels. There will be fewer tourists as you explore Kauai, giving a more authentic Hawaiian experience. Expect high temperatures in the mid-to-low 80s and the lows to hang in the upper 60s.

  When Is Kauai Hurricane Season?

The hurricane season in Kauai, like in the rest of Hawaii, officially runs from June 1 to November 30 each year. However, the peak of the hurricane season in Hawaii is usually from mid – August to early October. While it’s important to be aware of the potential for hurricanes during this time, it’s worth noting that Kauai is not typically affected by direct hits from hurricanes, as the islands are small targets in a vast ocean and the mountains of Hawaii can disrupt the flow of storm systems. Be sure to check weather reports ahead of time and we always suggest getting travel insurance during these months just in case.

Hurricane Season
Kauai Visitors Guide
Kauai Visitors Guide

How to Get to Kauai & Around

Transportation in Kauai is incredibly easy to access and use. There are several options in terms of airports, easy access to taxis and rental cars.

Oahu Visitors Guide

Arrival By Air

Kauai’s main airport is Lihue Airport (LIH), located in Southern Lihue. Many popular airlines now offer non-stop flights to Kauai. You can also fly into Honolulu International Airport (HNL) on Oahu first and then take a short 25 minute flight to Kauai.

  Search for great deals on flights here.

Oahu Visitors Guide

Taxis In Kauai

Rideshares and taxis are a great way to get around Kauai for quick rides. You can find Uber, Lyft, and a locally run rideshare option called Holoholo on Kauai. A ride from Lihuʻe Airport to Poʻipu Beach Park on Holoholo, for example, starts around $41. There are several reputable taxi companies, some of which offer charter services. You can find taxis easily at the airport, but keep in mind that some drivers only accept cash. You can also book taxi drivers for the entire day if you want a personal tour of the island.

  You can easily book ground transportation from the airport to your hotel here.

Rental Cars In Kauai

To make the most of your trip to Kauai, a rental car is a must. For instance, it takes around two hours to drive from Polihale State Park on Kauai’s west side to Hanalei Bay on the north shore. There are only two main roads that encircle the island, and rental cars can be hard to come by throughout the state. You will want to book your car in advance. You will find most major rental companies, including Avis and Turo. You can rent an economy car for around $79 per day or an SUV for between $108 to $130 per day.

  Search for great deals on rental cars here.

Things to Do in Kauai

Kauai's Top Highlights

One of the main draws to Kauai is the abundance of outdoor activities, but the island is remarkable in every way.

Kauai Visitors Guide
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Visit Nāpali Coast State Park
Kauai Visitors Guide
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1. Visit Nāpali Coast State Park

The Nāpali Coast is the gem of the island, and there are 3 ways to visit the Nāpali Coast: by land, by sea, or by air. You will find that Nāpali Coast State Park is filled with pristine beaches, dramatic cliff faces, hiking trails, and extensive archaeological sites. The Nāpali Coast is a place where natural forces are continually shaping the land. With so many ways to explore this pristine coastline, some of the most popular are by air and sea.

  If you are looking for an aerial tour, check out this Kauai Island Air Tour or this Doors Off Air Kauai Helicopter Tour.

  If taking in this stunning coastline by water sounds better to you consider this top rated Leila Na Pali Sunset Dinner Sail or this excellent LUCKY LADY – Deluxe Na Pali Sunset Tour.

Kauai Visitors Guide
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Take A Hike
Kauai Visitors Guide
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2. Take A Hike

Kauai’s west side is perfect for those who love to hike. Although it’s only an hour from popular Lihue, it feels like a completely different island. There are so many great hiking trails on the island, but one of the most popular is the Kalalau Trail. Although this hike is not for the faint of heart, the 22 mile Kalalau Trail is a favorite among experienced hikers. One that qualifies you for bragging rights! This trail takes you through the lush jungles of the NaPali coastline. Advanced reservations are not required to hike this trail.

Other fantastic trails include Kuilau Ridge Trail, Nu’alolo Trail, and Canyon Trail to Waipoo Falls.

Kauai Visitors Guide
3
Explore Waimea Canyon
Kauai Visitors Guide
3

3. Explore Waimea Canyon

Known as the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific,’ the Waimea Canyon is a must visit on any trip to Kauai. The canyon is over 10 miles long with spectacular colorful landscape around every corner. Take the 40 mile round trip Waimea Canyon Road that twists and turns to the top of the canyon. Make sure to stop at as many overlooks as possible so that you don’t miss any of the stunning panoramic views. You can also hike the Waimea Canyon to get a closer look at the beauty of the area.

Waimea Canyon is a fantastic place to get out and have an adventure. Check out this amazing Waimea Canyon Downhill Bike Ride or this top rated Private Waimea Canyon Tour.

  ISLAND LIFE TRAVEL TIP : GET TRAVEL INSURANCE

Travel Insurance is a must in our opinion. Standard health insurance likely doesn’t cover you while outside of the country so travel insurance will cover any emergency medical needs as well as trip cancellation, lost or stolen luggage (it happens), flight delays, missed connections and more. You can easily compare the top-rated travel insurance plans here.

Kauai Visitors Guide
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Marvel At A Waterfall
Kauai Visitors Guide
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4. Marvel At A Waterfall

Kauai has countless waterfalls and you should visit as many as possible. There are so many gorgeous waterfalls all over the island, but one of the most popular is Wailua Falls. These falls split into two separate waterfalls and cascade 173 ft into a crystal clear pool below.

Another great waterfall is Hanakoa Falls on the famous NaPali Coast. These impressive falls stand at a staggering 1,000 feet. The hike to the falls is around 6 miles, and a permit is not required.

Kauai Visitors Guide
5
Visit The Kauai Coffee Estate
Kauai Visitors Guide
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5. Visit The Kauai Coffee Estate

The Kauai Coffee Estate is the largest coffee farm in the United States. While here, you can visit the Visitors Center, take a tour of the farm, watch the roasting process, and take part in a tasting. The guided tour is $25 per person, on the tour you will learn how coffee is made, you’re even served a fresh cup of Kauai coffee before the tour. You can also do the self guided tour for free, where you simply walk the path below the coffee trees at your own pace.

Kauai Visitors Guide
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Beach Hop Around Kauai
Kauai Visitors Guide
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6. Beach Hop Around Kauai

The island of Kauai has over 30 accessible beaches, giving you many options no matter where you are on the island. There are about 50 miles of sugary white sand coastline with easy ocean access. Kauai is famous for surfing, but there are also tons of family friendly beaches for building sand castles and boogie boarding.

Some of the top beaches on the island are Makau Beach (Tunnels Beach), Poipu Beach, Shipwreck Beach, and Ke’e Beach.

Kauai Visitors Guide
7
Snorkel and Kayak Kauai
Kauai Visitors Guide
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7. Snorkel and Kayak Kauai

There are so many great places to snorkel on Kauai. At Ke’e Beach you will find cornet fish, sea cucumbers, and butterflyfish. There is also a chance to swim with a sea turtle at this beach.  Tunnel Beach is another popular beach for snorkeling, make sure to go at low tide and in the morning for best visibility for tropical fish and sea turtles. In August of 2022, the State of Hawaii announced that snorkeling in the large inner reef, Makua Lagoon, is now prohibited to protect the fish nursery there.

  There are a variety of options when it comes to snorkeling tours. Check out this top rated Ultimate Guided Shore Snorkeling Adventure (No Boat) or this Na Pali Half Day Snorkel and Raft Adventure.

  One of the best places on the island to kayak is Hanalei Bay. Family-friendly tours paddle the Hanalei River before entering the bay to look for Hawaiian green sea turtles. Like this Hanalei Bay AM Kayak & Snorkel Tour.

Kauai Visitors Guide
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Take A Movie Adventure Tour
Kauai Visitors Guide
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8. Take A Movie Adventure Tour

You can see the Garden Island through a filmmaker’s eyes on a tour of Kauai’s most famous movie locations. Kauai and its beauty have been featured in films for years! You may recognize spots around the island from movies like ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,’ ‘Blue Hawaii,’ ‘Tropic Thunder,’ ‘Castaway,’ and ‘Jurassic Park.’

  There are full day tour options like this Kauai: Hawaii Movie Tours or this half day option Kauai Movie Adventure Tour.

Kauai Visitors Guide
7
Experience The Culture At A Luau
Kauai Visitors Guide
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9. Experience The Culture At A Luau

Experience the spirit of “aloha” at a traditional Kauai luau, where the Polynesian culture is best shared through dance, food, music, fire, and captivating storytelling. This is a uniquely Hawaiian experience that is great for the whole family. Kauai is known for its authentic and less commercial luaus then some of the other islands.

  Some of the most popular luaus on Kauai are the Luau Ka Hikina Luau and the Luau Kalamaku with Plantation Owner’s Dinner & Show.

Kauai Visitors Guide
7
Have An Adventure
Kauai Visitors Guide
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10. Have An Adventure

Kauai is an outdoor adventure lovers paradise, there are so many fun ways to explore the island! Try the ultimate island experience for yourself in Kauai during a relaxed group lesson from a local professional surf instructor. No need for special equipment. Most lessons include a surfboard, rash guard, and water shoes to save your feet from coral while you learn.

  If you want to learn to surf, consider one of these amazing surf lessons, Kauai Learn to Surf Group Lessons or Surf Lesson in Sunny Poipu.

  Ziplining is another great adventure you will find on the island of Kauai. It’s also a great way to get a birds eye view of this beautiful island. Check out this award-winning Koala Zip Lining Tour.

Where To Stay In Kauai

There are all types of accommodations in Kauai. From all inclusive resorts to boutique hotels and more. Location and amenities are the two top things to look for. For great hotel info and recommendations, check out our Kauai Hotel Guide or our Kauai All Inclusive Resort Guide.

Maui Hotel Guide

For hotel recommendations for every budget, check out our Kauai Hotel Guide

What To Pack For Your Trip!

Hawaii is an enchanting wonderland of relaxation and adventure. One can easily have the trip of a lifetime here. Packing for such a vacation shouldn’t be hard, so we’ve put together a list to help you pack and included some of our favorites as well. Check out our What To Pack For Your Hawaii Vacation Guide.

Maui Travel Guide: Things to do in Maui Hawaii

Check out our Packing List For Beach Vacation!

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