Kauai is called the “Rejuvenating Island”, and it truly is. With amazing food featuring their fresh-as-it-can-get seafood to outdoor activities to wake up your inner child, it has a little of everything.
Koloa Landing Resort (a Marriott Autograph Property) – Between the newly renovated pool area which includes an infinity pool, water slides, and a waterfall and the spacious three-bedroom villas they offer (one- and two-bedrooms also available), this place is perfect for families and those looking for a romantic getaway.
The resort’s food is by the world famous Sam Choy and brings fresh seafood and American favorites together and to a new level. Enjoy their newest offering, a luau on the lawn, Tuesday nights and select Saturdays in the summer.
2641 Poipu Road (Koloa)
Kauai Beach Resort (an AQUA Property) – This family-friendly property offers views of their lovely pool and the ocean that’s just a short walk from every room. Don’t miss their beautiful sunrise ceremony that’s a lovely way to start a trip. (And the timing is perfect to go on the first day since the time change will have you up and at ’em early on your first day.)
4331 Kauai Beach Drive (Lihue)
St. Regis Princeville – The first of the St. Regis hotels in the Hawaiian Islands, this gorgeous resort offers incredible views to match their hospitality. With an on-site par-72 golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. , a luxury spa, and five dining options, there’s a little something for everyone.
5520 Ka Haku Road (Princeville)
EAT & DRINK
Shave Ice Tege Tege | This place has AMAZING shave ice made with organic syrups. (Get the strawberry one.) They’re beautiful, too. They’ll sell out by 2:30pm usually, so try to go earlier if possible. Also, you’ll be waiting a while as they only make one shave ice at a time per server and hand crank the ice, so plan accordingly. Shave ice is a very popular product over here, and it’s easy to see why. I reckon you could build quite a successful shave ice business if you put enough time and effort into it.
4-1604 Kuhio Highway
Java Kai | Amazing coffee and fresh, light options for a quick lunch. There’s local art all over the walls, adorable branded merchandise, and a cute (yet expensive) boutique attached
4-1384 Kuhio Highway
Bubba Burgers | This is a great spot for a quick lunch. Get the Kauai Special with pineapple and onion rings. (Oh, and apparently Johnny Depp is a huge fan.)
The Beach House | This is a beautiful spot for a nice, romantic dinner. Make sure to get a table on the windows and watch the ahhhhmazing sunset. Also, at sunset, a ton of parakeets that fly over. Like 500. Not kidding.
5022 Lawai Road
Gaylord’s at Kilohana | Enjoy their Hawaiian fare with their brunch buffet like you’ve never seen. (Live music starts at 11am during brunch.) Visit Jake in the bar for some spectacular twists on Hawaiian cocktails like his version of the Ramos Gin Fizz using aquafaba (chickpea liquid) for his souped-up Piña Colada.
If you can’t make brunch, go in at night for a little Hawaiian fare and have a drink with Rachel in the bar.
3-2087 Kaumualii Highway
Cortado Coffee | This little coffee hut has incredible coffee and offers intriguing specials. When we visited (twice), we walked away with an incredible macadamia nut latte. They even use ice cubes that are coffee, so as the ice melts, the coffee gets richer instead of watered down.
2827 Poipu Road
The Fresh Shave – One of my favorite shave ice options on the island is also a healthier version of my favorite Hawaiian dessert. They use organic, farm-fresh ingredients and hand-crank their ice. And their menu items are all named after mustache styles. S’cute.
3540 Koloa Road (Kalaheo)
Warehouse 3540 – This is a literal warehouse with boutiques featuring local art, jewelry, etc. and a small boutique with beach and surf goodies is a nice place to kill an hour. They close early, so make sure to plan a stop during the day, or look out for a hosted art night.
3540 Koloa Road
Roots in Culture – This food truck that’s usually located outside of Warehouse 3540 offers some really incredible food options like a Wasabi Pea-Crusted Catch of the Day, Crispy Pork Belly, and some seriously amazing Brussels sprouts.
Lihue (Southeast, close the airport)
Konohiki Seafoods | This unassuming grab-and-go sushi shop has the best poké bowl I’ve tried, and it’s outrageously inexpensive. The bowls that ring in around $6-7 each are big enough to share. (Don’t stick around the neighborhood, just go right after tubing and take your food to a beach or park to eat.)
3-4301 Kuhio Hwy #102
Princeville/Hanalei (North Shore)
Tiki Iniki* — This is a fun, little tiki bar. Ask for Jay the bartender and sit in the bar area. (Don’t bother eating here. It’s good, but there are some other, incredible options quite close by. Though having breakfast at a tiki bar may be a bucket list kind of thing.)
5-4280 Kuhio Highway (Princeville)
Wishing Well Shave Ice – This roadside food truck shave ice stand is the winner of the best hipster shave ice spot. They’re usually pretty quick to push out your orders and are quite friendly. Get The Local or the Sunset with papaya and honey (pictured below)!
5-5080 Kuhio Highway (Hanalei)
Bouchons – While they offer decent sushi and cocktail options, the view can.not be beat. While you face the mountains and not the ocean, it’s still quite stunning.
5-5190 Kuhio Highway (Hanalei)
Bar Acuda – Enjoy food here, but stick with simple drinks or beer and wine. If you don’t have a reservation, there are open spots at the bar that will have a line when they open at 5:30pm.
5-5161 Kuhio Highway (Hanalei)
Beach to mountain horseback ride with CJM Stables – This experience was absolutely incredible. Our guide was friendly, attentive, and had plenty of fun facts to entertain during our horseback riding experience. You’ll get views from high vistas and the chance to ride a horse on a beach (yesss), and a little POG (passion fruit orange guava juice) during the horse break. Again, take bug spray!
Mountain Tubing with Kauai Backcountry – This is a less active, but really awesome experience. It’s a lazy river-type experience that takes you through the irrigation ditches from a former sugar cane plantation and through caves and small rapids. The water is chilly, so wear a rash guard or t-shirt, and make sure to wear close toed water-friendly shoes … and take bug spray. Request Micah as your guide.
3-4131 Kuhio Highway (Lihue)
Zipline tour with Outfitters Kauai – This zipline experience takes you through multiple lines from 800 feet to 4,000 feet! Do the adrenaline package so you can go on the largest (and newest) one on the island. Take bug spray, wear a swimsuit under your clothes, and ask for Mike or Keith as your guide
2827A Poipu Road (Koloa)
Snorkel cruise to Na Pali coast with Captain Andy’s – This half day experience takes you on a nice tour of the Na Pali coast and on a little snorkel adventure. Their lunch is delish, but make sure to save a piece of pineapple from breakfast and have them grill it for your burger! Take plenty of sunscreen, and ask for Lance as your guide. For the second half of your day, if you’re not too worn out, Captain Na Pali Adventures offers a Kauai Napali coast boat tour for snorkeling, sea caves, plus dolphins and turtles.
4353 Waialo Road #1a (Eleele)
Helicopter tour with Island Helicopters – Like Jurassic Park? Take a helicopter ride to the waterfall in the beginning of the movie! The JP tour will land right in front of the waterfall and allow you to get out and take some pictures at the falls and then give you a full tour of the island. If you get motion sickness, prepare yourself.
3651 Ahukini Road #1 (Lihue)
Ultimate Ranch Tour at Kip? Ranch – On this ATV tour, you’ll see a ton of places that movies have been shot-Jurassic Park, George of the Jungle, The Descendants, etc.. They have really great guides and you’ll have a lot of a really epic picture opportunities. You’ll even have the chance to swing into the river that Indiana Jones swings into at the beginning of “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”! Ask for Marlin and Ryan as your guides, and … take bug spray.
235 Kipu Road (Lihue)
Hike … anywhere. – There are plenty of places to hike around the island for anyone from novices-Waimea Canyon, Kilauea, and Kalihiwai-to experts-the Na Pali Coast. Plan a half day hike to one of the easier trails or plan a whole trip around a Na Pali hike. (The Na Pali hike is 11 miles each way with no lodging, and they only allow a certain number of hikers each year.)
Check out the tourism board’s Kauai hiking guide and download the AllTrails app for a little help planning.
- Watch the sunset on “the wall” (Poipu) – A wall along the water behind Koloa Landing Resort … hard to miss
- Check out the Spouting Horn (Poipu) – Make sure to stay on the observation platform.
- Walk the McBryde & Allerton Gardens (Poipu) – You can either go in and do the full tour or just stop in and walk around for free after visiting the Spouting Horn.
- SUP or kayak in Wailua Bay (Lihue)
- Stop at the Kilauea Lighthouse ($5 donation)
Never be in a hurry. It takes a while to get everywhere because there’s just one one-lane road around the island. Anyway, you’re in Hawaii … slow down a little.
See if your hotel has a sunrise ceremony. Some hotels do, and it’s an intriguing experience. If they do … go your first morning since you’ll probably be awake anyway because of the time change
Be prepared to be up early and not stay up late. There’s not too much nightlife.
Upgrade your car (which you’ll need to easily get around the island) to a Jeep! Have them show you how to take the top off and put it back on, too. Don’t try to take Uber just yet as it seems that the network isn’t fully staffed. If you are going to be in Hawaii for a while, or would just rather have your own car there, then contact a car transport company (click here for an example) who could ship your car over to Hawaii for you. There are some stunning roads to drive.
Items to Bring Along
– a fanny pack for activities
– a waterproof phone sleeve (check Amazon … $15/pair)
– close-toed water shoes or crocks
– a sunglass tether
– a waterproof Bluetooth speaker
– a quick-dry towel
Terms to Know
Makai (mak?): “toward the ocean”
Mauka (mowka): “toward the mountain”
Haole (howl?): a non-local (not derogatory)
Howzit (howsit): how is it going?
Brah (bra): brother, sometimes it’s “bruddah”
Some Food Tips
EAT SHAVE ICE ANY CHANCE YOU CAN GET! Shave (NOT shaved) ice is lighter than what we’re accustomed to and often the syrups are made in-house. Shave snow is great, too … it’s just harder to find.
Try some local beef. Some ranches on Kauai raise their own cattle. There is some of the best beef in the world there.
Eat allllll the fish. Obviously, the fish doesn’t have to be transported far to get to your plate, so expect fresh fish and seafood.
Mai tais should be sipped. (No straws.) This is non-negotiable. You’re meant to enjoy the dark rum float.