Kauai Island Hawaii USA

Kauai Island, Hawaii USA (1/20-1/29/2020)

Beach Allerton Gardens  Kauai
Beach at Allerton Gardens - Kauai
There are many reasons we find the relaxed laid-back Garden Isle of Kauai so wonderful such as: 1) less crowds and still some ‘real’ Hawaii here, 2) no high rise buildings (by law nothing can be higher than the tallest coconut palm tree), 3) oldest island in Hawaiian Islands so more land has been created creating a lush green environment (especially in the north), 4) beautiful tropical beaches with warm ocean water– many not crowded, 5) great dining... and we have FUN!

Amazing Helicopter Rides Kauai
Amazing Helicopter Rides - Kauai
Kauai also offers adventure-seeking visitors snorkeling & scuba diving, surfing, hiking, kayaking, biking, ATV trips, camping, fishing, zip lining, horseback riding, amazing helicopter rides & boat tours (see photo), etc. Relaxing spas are available for those who have some pampering in mind.

Map of Kauai
Map of Kauai
We recommend dividing your stay in Kauai between the south and north shores to better enjoy the features of both. Here are just a few of the outstanding highlights to enjoy on this beautiful island...

Wonderful Kauai South Shore Attractions

Kauai’s south shore has become more developed with nice accommodations and more upscale restaurants. It is a better bet for sunshine, especially during the winter, because it rains more in the north.

Poipu Beach Kauai
Poipu Beach - Kauai
Poipu Beach is Kauai’s best all-around beach for tourists on the south shore. Many would say the best beach overall (see photos). Nice wide and rather long beach with a grassy park next to it overlooking a beautiful post-card ocean scene. Because a reef protects it, normally the waves are small making it great for swimming, snorkeling, and safe for supervised kids. There is good parking and Brennecke’s is a nice restaurant there that also sells food, drinks, etc. for the beach. Try their smoothies – great.

Poipu Beach Kauai
Beautiful Poipu Beach - Kauai
A better place for swimming at Kauai’s Poipu Beach (see photo) due to fewer rocks is to the right (looking at ocean and before the Marriot). Do be careful because less doesn’t mean no rocks. Get some beach shoes and you can swim with much less worry. The best snorkeling is just to the right of the lifeguard station – you will probably see several other snorkelers right where you want to go.

Down the road a few miles, there is another popular Kauai snorkeling place just to the right of the Beach House restaurant.

Waimea Canyon Kauai
Waimea Canyon - Kauai
Driving up Kauai’s Waimea Canyon State Park is a wonderful excursion (see photo). If you don’t start too late, you can have a day with the afternoon spent at a wonderful Kauai beach – paradise! Waimea Canyon extends 14 miles long, one mile wide, and more than 3,600 feet deep. The Waimea Canyon Lookout provides panoramic views of crested buttes, rugged crags and deep valley gorges. The grand-island vistas go on for miles (see photo).

Waimea Canyon Kauai
Amazing Waimea Canyon - Kauai
Stop at the lookouts ($5 parking fee) and let your nature loving begin. Don’t miss the Waimea Canyon Lookout (see photo) with parking lot marked with a sign just past mile marker 10. Walk up the few steps and let it all in. If you want an early glance of beautiful Kauai’s Walmea Canyon, you can pull to the right of the road between markers 3 and 4 and enjoy a wonderful view.

Map Waimea Canyon Kauai
Map of Waimea Canyon - Kauai
We also liked the Puu Ka Pele Lookout in Waimea Canyon (see map) and the view to the ocean at the Pau o Kila Lookout at the top. We found the Kokee Museum (pass marker 15) to be interesting for nature lovers like us. Next door is Koke’e Lodge serving lunch. For the best route to view Kauai’s Waimea Canyon use highway 540 up and back starting at Waimea.

Pat Dunlap Allerton Gardens National Tropical Botanical Garden Kauai
Pat at Allerton Gardens 
- National Tropical Botanical Garden
Spouting Horn Kauai
Spouting Horn - Kauai
Love beautiful gardens? A guided tour of Allerton Gardens in Kauai’s National Tropical Botanical Garden should be very highly considered by nature lovers – we loved it! Your admittance fee helps them preserve endangered trees and plants helping them take a slow march back from the edge of extension. We felt the tour was interesting and well worth the price - knowing it goes to a very good cause makes it even better. Movie lovers will also like the many nature scenes of movies and TV series filmed here. Nearby Spouting Horn is delightful for a quick stop (see photo).

The Dophin Restaurant - The Shops at Kukuiula
South Shore Restaurants... We liked Kauai’s The Shops at Kukuiula, a popular modern shopping and restaurant center. We loved the restaurant The Dolphin (see photo) for its great seafood and outdoor seating – come early 6PM to secure a table. Other nice restaurants here include Eating House 1849, Garden Island Grille, Merriman’s Fish House, The Lanai, and Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Tidepools Restaurant at Grand Hyatt Hotel Kauai
Tidepools Restaurant 
at Grand Hyatt Hotel - Kauai
Just down the road in the Poipu Shopping Center, Keoki’s Paradise offers good food with an interesting ambiance. One of the best and romantic restaurants on Kauai’s south shore is Tidepools in the Grand Hyatt Hotel – well worth the extra cost (see photo). A walk around Grand Hyatt’s beautiful property should be included in your visit there.

Poipu Bed and Breakfast Inn Kauai
Poipu Bed and Breakfast Inn - Kauai
On Kauai’s south shore, we enjoyed staying at the Poipu Bed and Breakfast Inn (see photo) located just a few miles from most of Kauai’s south shore attractions. Nice relaxing place with just four rooms offering a more authentic Hawaiian experience. A joyful relaxing experience is having breakfast provided outside on the lanai with the river flowing nearby enjoying the songs of exotic birds – now this is the Hawaii we love. Great beds yield some of the best sleep we have had and beach gear is available to borrow. Good restaurants, shopping, and a Long’s Drug Store at the The Shops at Kukulula (mentioned above) are a 5-minute walk away – very nice!

Travel Planning Tip: There is a seasonal pattern on Kauai. During the winter more rainy season (October through April), there is a better chance of sunny days in the south – although we were lucky having glorious weather in the north during January. Summer season (May through September) has better chances of sunny weather. Big waves can make ocean swimming dangerous. Generally, waves are bigger in the North and West during the winter and the South during summer. There are many protected beaches where the waves are small providing safe swimming all year.

Wonderful Kauai North Shore Attractions

Lush Green North Shore of Kauai
Lush Green North Shore of Kauai
When you drive through the Kauai’s north shore (see photo) you can’t miss how lush and green it is – so beautiful! Beaches are wonderful and the mountains in the background provide an exquisite Jurassic Park like atmosphere you will long remember.

Hanalei Town Kauai
Hanalei Town - Kauai
Spending time in Hanalei is a joy – our favorite on Kauai! Located a few minutes west of Princeville below beautiful green tropical mountains (think Jurassic Park), you will discover a serene Hawaiian experience that seems to be lost in time. Hanalei is a lovely small town (see photo) with characteristic restaurants, bars, and shops selling local arts and crafts. The historic one-way bridges along the way add to the charm of this area.

Kee Beach Kauai
Ke'e Beach - Kauai
The beaches on Kauai’s north shore are lovely. Two of our favorites are Ke’e and Tunnels (see photo0. Both have large dangerous waves in the winter and year round due to their popularity, access is limited. Ke’e Beach now requires a reservation for parking or van service. 

Animi Beach Kauai
Animi Beach - Kauai
Not to worry... Animi Beach is (see photo) beautiful and protected by a reef making swimming safe all year with some good snorkeling opportunities. Very long Animi Beach also has lots of free parking available and plenty of natural shade provided by trees. Beach lovers will discover many more lovely beaches on Kauai’s north shore to explore.

Beautiful Birds on Kauai
Beautiful Birds on Kauai
Although you must now obtain parking or shuttle van transportation reservations, a visit to Ke’e Beach and its surrounding Haena State Park is interesting. During the summer, there is nice swimming and snorkeling. This is also the start of the Kalalau Trail along the Na Pali coastline for advanced hikers and campers that plan ahead for this adventure. 

Na Pali mountains and Coastline Kauai
Na Pali mountains & Coastline
From Ke’e Beach you can get a nice view of the beautiful Na Pali mountains and coastline (see photo). Because the number of visitors here became too much to preserve its uniqueness, daily limits are enforced and reservations are highly recommended.

View from the Kilauea Lighthouse Kauai
View from the Kilauea Lighthouse
Some other Kauai north shore highlights include: The views from the Kilauea Lighthouse as well as the Hanalei Valley Lookout are wonderful and worth a stop (see photo).

North Shore Restaurants... The fun and picturesque town of Kauai’s Hanalei has some nice dining options such as: Hanalei Dolphin Restaurant, Kalypso Island Bar & Grill (for local atmosphere), Chicken in a Barrel (causal dining), and Tahiti Nui (for causal fun and nighttime entertainment).

Pool Hanalei Bay Resort Princeville Kauai
Pool at Hanalei Bay Resort - Princeville, Kauai
Tropical Drinks in Heaven
Tropical Drinks in Heaven!
We stayed at the lovely Hanalei Bay Resort (see photo) in Princeville and so glad we did. The beautiful grounds with large pool and heated spa with swim-up bar surrounded by waterfalls and tropical plants made for a relaxing place to return to after a day of exploring Kauai’ north shore attractions and beaches. The on-site restaurant/bar is very nice with a view to iconic Hanalei Bay. Comfortable rooms include a kitchen and nice furnishings. There is a concierge on site to help you with booking fun excursions. You can walk down to the beautiful beach at the Princeville Resort... or if you fell a bit lazy (easy to do in Kauai), just call and they will take you or pick you up with a golf cart.

Travel Tip: We found the Kauai travel book The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook – Kauai Revealed by Andrew Doughty to be an outstanding resource and greatly enhanced our stay in Kauai. 

The recommendations were spot on.

Kauai East Shore Waterfalls

Opaekaa Falls Kauai
Opaekaa Falls - Kauai
Like waterfalls? A couple of very nice ones in along Kauai’s east shore can be accessed by car. We highly recommend visiting 151-foot Opaekaa Falls accessed from highway 580 and 173-feet Wallua Falls on highway 583 – both beautiful. 

When passing through Kapaa, look inland to see the Sleeping Giant outline in the mountain.

Rooster Kauai
Beautiful Rooster on Kauai
Something that adds some ‘fun’ in Kauai is the wild chickens with incredibly beautiful roosters (see photo). You will hear their sound everywhere – local residences will encourage you to take some home. Golfers will like the many beautiful courses to be enjoyed on Kauai. Try some shave ice served around the island – it’s delicious.

Enjoy Kauai – we do!

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