Kauai -

Kalalan lookout, Kauai

Get in

Lihue Airport (LIH) is Kauai's main airport, a small terminal served by inter-island flights by Hawaiian and Aloha, and by American and United Airlines offering non-stop service from the U.S. West Coast.

Tip when flying into Lihue: For the best incoming view, select a window seat on the left side of the aircraft. More often than not you'll be landing to the north thanks to the trade winds. From that angle you will see a dramatic cliff view off the left side on final approach.

There is now also a deep water port at Nawiliwili for cruise ships. Norwegian Cruise Lines offers cruises between the islands that start and end in Honolulu.

Get around

Rental car is the best way to really see the island-- and the only way to get to some remote (and scenic) sites. Most major rental car companies have offices at the Lihue airport or nearby by shuttle bus.

The Kauai bus is perhaps the only other way to get around, but will not go to some rural attractions, such as Koke`e. Still, if you are on a budget, this bus will get you around and between the major population centers, such as Lihu`e and Kapa`a, and the major resort/beach areas.

One other option for transport on the island is bicycle. The east side of the island (including Lihue and Kapaa) has plans for a major bike path under development as of early 2005. Parts of this path exist, but the major connections between towns are still along the major highways. Eventually, the entire east side of the island will be connected by exclusive bikeways, making non-automobile transportation a real option.

There are two main highways on Kauai, both starting in Lihue. Kaumualii Highway (state route 50) heads to the east, through the towns of Kalaheo, Hanapepe, Waimea, and Kekaha before ending at the Na Pali Coast. Kuhio Highway (state route 56) heads north from Lihue, through Kapaa, Kilauea, Princeville, and Hanalei, ending at the other side of Na Pali.

Waimea Canyon, Kauai


The major regions of Kauai can be defined by their location on the island relative to the prevailing trade winds. The north and east sides of the island are on the "windward" side of the island, where the winds blow onto the shore. These parts of the island tend to get the most rain, and as a result, are the greenest and most tropical parts of the island.

The south and west sides of the island are on the "leeward" side of the island, which is tends to be sunnier and drier, since most clouds have already dropped their rain on the windward side of the island.

However, all parts of the island have points of interest for all visitors. Both the rainy and dry sides of the island have fine resorts and beautiful beaches.


  Kauai Visitors Bureau - Extensive information for visitors
  Kauai County Tourism - The county covers the entire island of Kauai - good visitors information
  Kauai Vacation Guide - A variety of suggestions and helpful tips for vacationing on Kauai
  Kauai Chamber of Commerce - Complete list of businesses throughout the island - contact info only

Dancer in Kauai

Kauai (or, more properly, Kaua'i) is the northwestern most and oldest of Hawaii's major islands. Called the Garden Island, it is covered with lush greenery and tropical plants, watered regularly by abundant rainfall. As the oldest of the islands, it has been changed the most by the forces of erosion, and this has resulted in natural wonders such as Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali Coast. It is also home to more sandy beaches than any other major island in the Hawaiian chain.

In many ways, Kauai is different from the rest of the islands. It's almost as if you've stepped into a separate kingdom, and for many years Kauai was just that in relation to Hawaii. Kamehameha I was able to conquer all the islands by force, except Kauai. Two separate campaigns to take the island ended in failure. In the end, it took diplomacy, a royal kidnapping, and an arranged marriage to bring Kauai into the kingdom of Hawaii.

Kauai is also known as the place where the sugar cane industry in Hawaii was born. Sugar was once the industrial mainstay of the Kauai economy, and although it takes a back seat to tourism these days, it is still very much a part of the island's heritage.

In short, compared to Oahu, Maui or the Big Island, Kauai is smaller, less populated, more rural, and more laid back. That's why it's the favorite destination for many visitors to Hawaii, and for many Hawaii residents as well. Visitors come to explore the island's beaches and natural wonders, but the multitude of resorts on white sand beaches provide ample opportunity to just sit and do nothing if you're so inclined.

Because tourist development reached Kauai considerably later than the other islands, the island has a larger proportion of timeshares, condominiums, and bed and breakfasts. Also, a strict cap on building heights (hotels can be no more than 40 feet high) prevent the development of the mega-resorts and towering skyscrapers found on the other islands.

One look at a map will show you an important difference between Kauai and the more populous islands of Hawaii: Due to the massive Waimea Canyon and Na Pali Coast, no roads circle the island. Once you've made the drive along the south shore to Waimea and seen the canyon, all you can do is turn around and go back the way you came. Same story for Princeville and Na Pali on the north shore. However, if you're truly pressed for time, the island is compact enough that both ends of the road can be seen in the same day.


The word "city" might be an exaggeration for an island of about 50,000 people, but here's some information on the towns of Kauai.
  Lihu`e, on the island's southeast side, is the civic and commercial center of the island, host to the island's main airport, county offices, and largest shopping mall (Kukui Grove Center). The Kauai Museum, located in the old part of Lihu`e, is the island's best museum on the history, geography, and people of Kauai.
  Kapa`a, on the east side, about a 20 minute drive north of Lihu`e, is the second largest population center on the island. It anchors what is known as the Coconut Coast, which hosts many inexpensive to moderately priced resorts and much commercial activity with many strip malls along the highway. The corridor between Lihu`e and Kapa`a is the island's most congested.
  Po`ipu, on the south side, is becoming the major visitor destination for the island, with abundant sun and much resort development. Most of the major hotel/resort chains, such as Hyatt, Hilton, and Sheraton, have their main Kauai resorts here.
  Princeville, on the north side, is perhaps the only master-planned community on the island. It is centered on one of the island's most exclusive resorts and golf courses (consistently ranked among the nation's best). Nearby Hanalei is a slice of old-time Hawaii on Kauai's north shore.
  Waimea, on the west side, is a small town with a flavor of old Kauai. Most visitors pass through town on the way to Waimea Canyon and Koke`e, but the town itself is worth a relaxing visit. Waimea is also home of the West Kauai Tech Center, a major tech incubator. Most research done here is related to the Pacific Missile Range Facility .


  North: Hanalei is a charming Hawaiian village in beautiful country on the north of the island. Hanalei has a nostalgic, romantic quality of simpler times on the Islands. An easy drive to the northwest of Hanalei is the Na Pali coast. Drive to where the road ends, park and hike along the breathtaking cliffs that Steven Spielberg used in the opening sequences of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The hike is generally regarded as among the most spectacular in the world. Day hikes are unrestricted, but camping requires a permit from the parks department. There is a long waiting list, so signing up a year in advance is a good idea. Tour boats can also access the coast; they may be chartered out of Hanalei or other outfits on the south of the island. Snorkeling is very good. Be advised, however, that the area is effectively closed to boats in the winter due to the intense Pacific weather hitting that part of Kaua'i.
  East: Kapa'a is a small, cute, tourist-friendly town on the east side. It features a movie theater, an internet cafe, several restaurants, and a Birkenstock outlet.
  South: The South Shore has a number of great beaches such as Maha'ulepu Beach with its ancient petroglyphs and the rocky Shipwreck Beach, both perfect for snorkeling or scuba diving. Poipu Beach, often ranked as one of the world's top beaches by travel surveys.
  West: A drive up to the Waimea Canyon is highly recommended. (See the See section above)


  Old Koloa town is on route 520 on the way to Poipu. The small, rustic town has a grocery store, ice cream parlor, and some souvenir shops. There's also a small museum about the lives of the Japanese immigrants who worked on Kauai's sugar plantations. In the field across from the grocery store there's a monument to them as well.
  The Huleia National Wildlife Refuge offers stunning scenery and a great place to photograph native birds and animals.
  The elegant and pristine Wailua Falls is a double waterfall, once the site of thrilling cliff diving. It's a short drive from Lihue.
  Kilauea Point Lighthouse and Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, on Kilauea Road off Kuhio Highway (route 56) near mile 23, (808) 828-1413. then follow the road to the end. The lighthouse was built in 1913 and had the largest lens of its kind; it guided ships between North America and Asia until its light was replaced by a beacon in the 1970s. Located in a national wildlife refuge which is a nesting ground for a diverse collection of seabirds, the only one of its kind in the islands. $3 for adults, free for children. National Park Service Golden Eagle Passports accepted and sold.
  Waimea Canyon and Koke'e State Park - Above Waimea on state route 550. From Lihue, take state route 50 west to Waimea. From there, you can take Waimea Canyon Drive (550) or continue to Kekaha turning onto state route 552, which meets route 550 near its 6-mile mark. Both roads are winding. Most popular viewing point of the canyon is just past mile 11 on route 550. Koke'e is located about 4 miles further. (808)245-6001 for weather information in the canyon.
At over 10 miles long, 1 mile wide, and 3,500 feet deep, Waimea Canyon has been called the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific." Indeed, its colors rival that of its Arizona counterpart, except that Waimea Canyon also adds touches of green that would be absent in the desert. Carved and formed over hundreds of thousands of years by runoff from Mount Waialeale at the center of the island, the canyon shows millions of years of geological history.
Camping and hiking are available above the canyon at Koke'e State Park. Best time to go is on a relatively clear day, and then after mid-morning (from about 9:30 a.m. on). Otherwise, clouds and fog may obscure the view.


Like the rest of Hawaii, the plate lunch is ubiquitous in Kauai (see the Eat section in the main Hawaii article for more information). However, many of Kauai's beaches and natural attractions (like Waimea Canyon) have no amenities nearby. Pack a lunch and bring enough water for the day - then stop at the restaurants for dinner.
  Lappert's Ice Cream and Coffee, several locations on Kauai (and on the mainland as well), main location at 1-3555 Kaumualii Highway (route 50) in Hanapepe. The island of Kauai was where the late Walter Lappert retired and created what is arguably the best super-premium ice cream in Hawaii. The ice cream is still made in small batches from the small factory in Hanapepe. About $3 for a single scoop in a cup for cone.
  Jojo's Clubhouse, Waimea. Excellent shave ice, arguably the best, if not in the state, then on Kauai. Over 60 flavors of syrup available. Many people stop there to or from Waimea Canyon.
  Mango Mamas: On the sea side of the highway, just before Kilauea Look for the pink building beside the small school. Very good smoothies made from local fruit and juices. Food is served. Nice outdoor seating. A very casual, "old hippie" kind of place. This has replaced Banana Joe's for us on our drive to the north end.
  Kilauea Bakery: Off main highway in Kilauea, tel: 828-2020, 11am-9pm, closed Sun Fresh bread, great pizza. Sit outside to eat.1 hour drive from Poipu.


  Kapa'a Beach House, 1552 Kuhio Highway, Phone: 822-3313 Prices from $23 (Dormitory) to $50 (Double)
  Kauai International Hostel, 4532 Lehua St. Phone: 823-6142, Prices from $20 (Dormitory) to $50 (Double)
  Camp in Kokee State Park at Waimea Canyon. State Parks Office, T: 808-274-3444. Rental cabins, T: 808-335-6061. Camping information, T: 808-274-3433.

A great way to stay is to rent a condo.
  Aloha Beach Resort, 3-5920 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaa. (route 56 near Lydgate Beach Park just south of the bridge over the Wailua River). Provides family-friendly accommodations, with educational programs featuring various aspects of Native Hawaiian culture. Two pools. Enclosed ocean area at Lydgate Beach Park within walking distance, snorkel gear available for rent. Friendly front desk staff. (Tip: Booking through their website provides the best rates.) Rooms about average size, some wear and tear on the furniture. $85-$259 double with garden and ocean views available. $220-359 cottages.

  Whaler's Cove Whalers Cove Resort in Poipu - Pamper yourself in spacious luxury in private 1-2bedroom condos. The resort is located right on the ocean in Sunny Poipu. Each suite has a large spacious lanai that looks out over the coastline. This private resort will become your tropical home away from home. Tip: you can check the hotel web site for low season discounts. High season rates range from $369-$656.
  Princeville Resort in the north at Hanalei Bay, 5520 Ka Haku Rd., P.O. Box 3069, Princeville, Kauai, HI 96722 T: (808) 826-9644 F: (808) 826-1166. For those who want something spectacular. Even if you do not have the budget to stay here, you can reach the beach through this hotel-- look for spots marked for public access in the parking lot. $405-$615 double, suites from $705.
  Kauai Hyatt Resort - Another excellent destination on the southern tip of the island. Tip: you can get 50% off rack rates by using airline hotel vouchers -- most airlines hand them out as a perk with award flight bookings. They often surface on eBay.

Adapted from WikiTravel under the Wiki License

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