Dear Curious SooN Adults of the Internet,
I absolutely love Kauai. It is my favorite Hawaiian Island — a data set that also includes Hawaii [aka the big island], Maui and Oahu. In total, I have been to Kauai 6 times.
I have pulled together these highlights.
If you visit — I am curious to learn about your SooN Kauai discoveries and hope to hear about them in the comments section!
The main airport, Lihue, is a small international airport. There is basically one main road on Kauai which outlines the island and is shaped like a U. Lihue is at the midpoint of the U opposite to the part of the island that makes up the gap — which is the Nā Pali Coast.
Do not go to Kauai if you are unable to afford car rental. There is so much to do and you simply won’t be able to do the majority of it well if you do not have a car. I typically used Kayak to find the best rate. Before kids, I was particular about my car rental type — going “specialty” and getting a Jeep Wrangler with soft-top. It was incredibly fun to drive around in the Hawaiian sun with a convertible 4×4 vehicle!
One important note: prioritize booking your car. I learned the hard way during my Christmas trip in 2012 that inventory can be limited on this little Hawaiian Island. Following this painful lesson, I started booking our car immediately after booking our airfare.
Two quick call outs:
1. I have personally stayed at each of the locations listed in this category. I feel Poipu is the best location to stay in Kauai because:
a) It is on the South Shore which is the sunny and dry side of the island.
b) There are a ton of beaches that have little to know current so they are safe to swim. Beach access on my beach vacation is sort of a non-negotiable for me.
2. I prefer to stay in a private rental vs. a commercial rental for a few reasons:
a) I don’t actually spend a lot of time INSIDE the property
b) I can cook my own meals in my own kitchen. This is important to me because I feel my food is MUCH better than anything I’ve found in an overpriced Kauai restaurant.
c) Private rentals are often more reasonably priced which gives me more discretionary income for my vacation.
d) Private rentals often include a washer/dryer which is SO HELPFUL because who wants to travel home with a large pile of dirty laundry? [Especially when traveling WITH kids.]
The Princeville Resort Kauai in Princeville| learn more
This was the first place I stayed in Kauai. It is a beautiful resort BUT it constantly rains on the North Shore due to its proximity to Mount Waialeale [which is one of the wettest places in the world]. Since Seattle is already pretty wet, I avoid staying in Princeville all together.
Kauai Shores in Kapaa | learn more
We only stayed here for one night and it was pretty bad. [I would
Lawai Beach Resort in Poipu | learn more
This is the first place I stayed in Poipu.
Kiahuna Plantation #123 in Poipu | learn more
This was the first place that Jason and I stayed together in Kauai. We were on vacation for our second wedding anniversary and I have to say I think that is by far my FAVORITE place that I have stayed in Kauai! The property is directly on Kiahuna Beach which is the same beach as the Sheraton Kauai Resort. The unit itself is really nice, great kitchen and the owners had
Koloa Landing Resort in Poipu| learn more
This is beautiful luxury property had just opened when we stayed there. The only downside is that it is not beachfront. The pool is great and I can see this being a real winner with kids. It was also about a minute drive to the nearby Kiahuna Beach which again is the same beach as the Sheraton Kauai Resort. I would definitely stay here again with our kids.
Poipu Kai #221 in Poipu | learn more
In December 2013 Jason and I stayed here during our winter vacation. My aunt, uncle, his mother
Waipouli Beach Resort in Kapaa | learn more
This is a nice property with modern kitchens and a nice pool area. However, the current on the Coconut Coast is too strong and I felt unsafe swimming in it. I prefer to be in the ocean on a beach vacation vs. the pool which made me realize that the money I saved by staying in Kappa wasn’t worth the longing I experienced by constantly wishing I would have booked somewhere in Poipu.
Provisions & Essentials
Costco | 4300 Nuhou St, Lihue, HI 96766 | learn more
We usually go to Costco which is right next to the airport before we head to our private rental. We load up on essentials like eggs, non-alcoholic beverages [POG – do it!], snacks [Mauna Loa Macadamias], fresh fruit and vegetables [mangos, watermelon, avocados, tomatoes, spinach, etc.], and alcohol [beer, wine, vodka!]. This strategy is both
Walmart |3-3300 Kuhio Hwy, Lihue, HI 96766 | learn more
We have stopped by here a few times for non-bulk and inexpensive purchases such as sunscreen, cheap beach toys
Big Save | 5516 Koloa Rd, Koloa, HI | learn more
This market was a great find for us for non-Costco purchases. We would typically pick up a protein [fish, chicken, beef] for dinner here almost daily.
Safeway Lihue | 4454 Nuhou St Suite #301, Lihue, HI 96766 | learn more
— or —
Safeway Kapaa | 4-831 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaa, HI 96746 | learn more
Depending on your location, it can be helpful for non-Costco purchases as well.
I honestly can’t recommend anything from the North Shore or Kapaa. Overpriced and underwhelming restaurant food is the main reason why I prefer to cook in my own condo and minimize eating out. I now only eat out twice in Kauai: a dinner cruise and a luau which is outlined in the Adventure & Entertainment section. That said, here are
Lappert’s Ice Cream & Coffee | 5242 Koloa Rd, Koloa, HI | learn more
Get the Coconut Macadamia Nut Fudge – AMAZING! We seriously go every night!
Puka Dog | 2360 Kiahuna Plantation Dr, Koloa, HI 96756 | learn more
I’m not a big fan of hotdogs but these are not bad and it is a quick/easy lunch if you need.
Adventure & Entertainment
Two quick call outs:
1. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook: Kauai Revealed. I found paperback easier
2. There is tons of stuff to do and it would be impossible to do it all. I do make it a priority to split each day between beach/relaxing and adventure/activity. For instance, a hike in the morning followed by
These are my “must dos” EVERY time we go:
Captain Andy’s Napali Dinner and Sunset cruise [aka Southern Star Na Pali Sunset Dinner Sail] | learn more
This is a great way to see that Napali coast and enjoy the sunset. Jay and I do it every time we go and have also recruited other family/friends to join us. There
The “Secret” Beach Mahaulepu Beach [aka “Gillins beach] | learn more
BYOC [bring your own chairs] I always have a great time on this secluded beach and see tons of sea turtles!
Smith’s Tropical Luau and Show | learn more
If you have never been to a luau, this is the one to go to. The grounds are also beautiful and great for pictures — you can also check them out during the day. I’ve heard the Fern Grotto is cool but we haven’t been on that yet.
Allerton Garden | learn more
I thought this was going to be lame, but it was actually really great. It is a guided tour and if you can swing it, go on the tour with the Italian guide. He is the best!
Waimea Canyon | learn more
I recommend stopping at all the lookout points [as well as packing some snacks for the drive]. There is an incredible view from the last stop — enjoy!
Beach House Restaurant | 5022 Lawai Road, Koloa, HI 96756 | learn more
This is that great spot across from the Lawai Beach Resort that I mentioned. I’ve never eaten here so I can’t recommend it as a restaurant. I do like to grab some cocktails and then watch the sunset [and surfers]. The cove right next to it is one of the best South Shore snorkeling spots.
Snuba | learn more
Snuba! It’s snorkeling with an oxygen tank! I loved this because I always felt like I had to come up for air just when I was getting to the good part while snorkeling [departs next to the Beach House].
Irrigation Tunnel Tubing Tour | learn more
This was pretty interesting — it is a tour via innertubes of the irrigation ditches they made to tap into Mount Waialeale’s water for the sugar plantations.
The Kalalau Trail | learn more
Some people travel to Kauai JUST to do this 22-mile hike. It is amazing but not for everyone [we only made it to the first milestone which is 2-miles in and then 2-miles out, 4 hours of hiking!] Here is a great article from the HuffPost on why this is one of the most sought-after hikes in the world. If you are going to go for the full hike — get your camping permits early because they are limited and go quick!
Ha’ena State Park | learn more
This is right next to the Kalalau trail and is the last spot you can take your car before the Napali coast begins. It is a beautiful beach with great reefs and snorkeling.
Hire a professional photographer
Professional photos are a great way to memorialize your special occasion. As long as you don’t mention the word wedding — there are plenty of local photographers that will be reasonably priced. I typically
5 Private Rental Must Pack Items
- Fire TV/Roku | hook up to the rental wifi
- Echo/Bluetooth speaker | make your dance party portable
- A great chef’s knife | all rental knives are predictably dull
- Your favorite spices | pack small
quantiesso you don’t have to spend a fortune on garlic powder etc.
- Coffee | we consume ~1 pound a week and grew tired of paying the 3x island markup
Feedback? Input? Questions?
We cannot wait to hear from you!