I finally finished my Kauai Travel Guide and tried to collect as many details as possible to help you guys for your own trip Hawaii is my favorite place on earth! We love it so much that we even got married here in October 2018. That’s why I was very excited to visit one Hawaiian Island we have never been before: Kauai!
Wild, wilder, Kauai! Since Kauai is the oldest island of the Hawaiian archipelago, its shape was formed by water and wind for more than 6 million years! Deep canyons, bizarre rock formations and hidden beaches are characterizing Kauai. Only 20% of the island is connected to streets – the rest is pure wilderness and only visible by boat or helicopter.
Our Kauai Itinerary
- Day 1 – The West: Waimea Canyon, Kalepa Ridge Trail, Sunset at the West Coast
- Day 2 – From the East to the North: Larsen’s Beach, Kilauea Point, Hanalei Valley Lookout, Hanalei Beach, Wailua Falls
- Day 3 – Heli Tour & Ha’ena State Park: Helicopter Flight, Ha’ena State Park, Kalalau Trail
- Day 4 – Boat Cruise: Catamaran tour around the island, snorkeling with turtles, dolphin watching
Arrival & Hotel
We arrived to a typical rain shower for Kauai! During your stay you will definitely have some rain – but mostly the showers are very quick and followed by sunshine. The Lihue airport of Kauai is located in the East – only ten minutes away from our hotel: The Hilton Garden Inn. It is located right at the Lydgate Beach Park a public beach which is also popular among locals (especially at the weekend). The waves at this beach are quite strong but it has a little cove with rocks around it which makes it to a calm spot for snorkeling fans and children.
KAUAI TRAVEL GUIDE DAY 1 – THE WEST
For your visit in Kauai you should definitely get a rental car right at the airport. It gives you so much freedom to explore the whole island.
On our first full day we started to drive west to Waimea Canyon. Therefore we drove all the way west along the coast to the little town Waimea. From there a street will lead up to the mountains and after a little while you will already glance the first views into the canyon on your right side. There are several stops to overlook the Canyon. Most of them are free but at the most famous one – the Waimea Canyon Lookout – they will charge you 10 USD per 1-7 passenger vehicles. Therefore you get access to a platform from where you can overlook the canyon and even spot some waterfalls. But be ready for some tour busses stopping here too! If you follow the street further up you will have countless hikes to see the stunning canyon and coast line of Kauai.
Kalepa ridge Trail
This trail is incredible! But no longer official – you have to get around a fence right at the Kalalau view point to find the entry. Unfortunately a huge cloud was hanging in the mountains but we decided to start the hike anyway and waiting for it to clear off. Please only choose this hike if you feel fit and wear proper shoes. It can be very muddy and some times you are walking right at the edge! Even so it’s a quite short way you will need around 45 mins – 1 hour due to the difficult way which gets quite steep at some points.
At the top we waited for around two hours but unfortunately the view over the Na Pali Coastline was hidden by the clouds the whole time. In other blogs I read that the view usually gets better in the afternoon – but not this day. Well at least this gives us a reason to come back to Kauai ! It still has been an adventurous hike but without any views. If you are unsure about this hike, since it’s now officially closed, I can recommend you the Honopu Ridge Trail or Nu’alolo Cliff Trail for similar views (if clear!) which are both officially open!
To the left we were supposed to see the view…
How the view usually looks like… | credit: mikeandlauratravel.com
Sunset at the West Coast
After this little disappointing hike we decided to use the rest of the late afternoon to drive from the South to the West to enjoy the sunset! And wow it has been incredible. The whole coast is a large beach reaching till the beginning of the Na Pali cliffs. The whole atmosphere has been super magical. Even so it’s a really huge beach, we met barely any other people. Just a few campers stayed with their vans at the beach.
KAUAI TRAVEL GUIDE DAY 2 – FROM THE EAST TO THE NORTH
The northeast of Kauai has a lot of empty little beaches. We visited the Larsen’s Beach. After following a gravel road till the end you have to climb down a little path through thick reed. But you’ll only need a few exhausting minutes until you will find yourself at a lonely beach which is perfect to enjoy some sunshine.
In the North you can find the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. The area around the Kilauea lighthouse is protected for seabird nesting like the NeNe (Hawaiian goose) but also for spinner dolphins and even humpback whales which migrate each year to mate at the north coast of Kauai. The entrance fee is 10-, USD which completely benefits the Wildlife Refuge (free entry for children under 15).
Hanalei Valley Lookout
Continuing the Kuhio street to the north you have to make a stop at a lovely view point right before Princeville. The views from Hanalei Valley Lookout over the green fields and mountains behind it reminded me a lot of Bali
Just a few minutes later comes a lovely bay – the Hanalei Beach which is a great place to relax. We made a stop here for lunch. The Ching Young Village Shopping Center has great options like poke bowls and really delicious pizza!
Ha’ena Beach Park
The last stop you can make in the North is the Ha’ena Beach Park. If you want to visit the area behind it – the Ha’ena State Park – you have to get a special permission since mid 2019. But read about this below. This Beach is great to watch the sunset and for a swim. It is surrounded by jungle and a local sells fresh coconuts – the real wild Kauai vibes
Since we didn’t know about the permission we decided to drive back to the East coast to visit one must see spot in Kauai: the Wailua Falls. These massive twin falls are truly impressive but unfortunately you can only see them from the viewpoint anymore since the track down to the falls is closed.
KAUAI TRAVEL GUIDE DAY 3 – HELI TOUR & HA’ENA STATE PARK
A visit in Kauai wouldn’t be complete without a helicopter flight to see the Garden Island from above. As already mentioned only 20% of Kauai is connected to streets. The other parts are still pure wilderness but from a helicopter you can see so much more of these incredible landscapes. We did a tour with Island Helicopters and it was so much fun! Our pilot flew into canyons, showed us hidden waterfalls and of course also along the Na Pali Coastline. It was simply unforgettable and is an absolute Must Do!
crazy views of Kauai: deep valleys and lonely beaches
Ha’ena State Park
After this amazing experience we decided to drive back North to Ha’ena State Park. But this time with permission! The access for cars to the Ha’ena State Park is limited for visitors since the reopening in June 2019 after the great flood. The parking is limited to 100 stalls – so you already have to reserve a ticket several weeks in advance to get a spot by register HERE. If you’re too late to reserve a ticket (like in our case) you can still take the North Shore Shuttle. It also has daily limited seats but a way higher availability for a ticket. You can check the stops and book your tickets via THIS LINK – remember that the last shuttle back from Ha’ena State Park leaves at 4.30 pm.
The trail starts right at Ke’e Beach, which is a nice place for snorkeling, and leads into the deep rainforest. The first 40 minutes are a steep way up and after few minutes you will have a first glimpse of the views along the coastline already. The trail is a real adventure and some parts lead you through streams and others right along the edge of the coast. After you reached the highest point of the hike, the way will lead you all the way down to Hanakapi’ai Beach. It is a picturesque beach surrounded by green cliffs. The waves are a welcoming refreshment after the hike. This is the last stop on the trail you can hike without any special permission. The whole hike takes more than two days where you will sleep outdoors. To protect the environment this hike has daily limits as well and you have to register in advance. But most tourist decide for the shorter version.
Kalalau Trail leads through a deep jungle and along the coast line
Our final stop – Hanakapi’ai Beach
From the beach you can take another short trail to the Hanakapi’ai Falls but remember that you also have to hike all the way back to Ke’e Beach before sunset and the last bus.
Kauai Travel Guide DAY 4 – BOAT CRUISE WITH BLUE DOLPHIN
Seeing the Na Pali Coast Line from a helicopter is an absolute highlight. But it’s also quite expensive and not everybody feels comfortable in these heights. In this case there is another way to see the unique coastline: by boat. Many companies offer a boat cruise around the island with a snorkeling stop. On our last day we did a catamaran tour with Blue Dolphin Kauai and it was the best way to end our Kauai trip. Our first stop has been a reef with a high chance of sea turtle sighting. Even so it has been a wonderful spot we’ve been the only boat stopping here. So there were no crowds swimming in the water and we could really enjoy it!
The endangered Green Sea Turtle
After the snorkeling stop and a fresh lunch we continued the rope around the island and our captain showed us the most amazing places, hidden beaches and we even spotted a huge pod of dolphins right before the iconic Na Pali Coast.
Time to say goodbye…
I was so sad to leave Kauai after just 4,5 days – but we did the best to see as much of the island as possible. If you plan a trip yourself I would recommend you to stay at least a week to be able to see all wonderful parts of the island. Also it’s always a great idea to have a backup day due to the unpredictable weather situation. After this trip we can say for sure that we fell a little deeper in love with Hawaii