Hawaii (Kauai)

Part of a shield volcano rising three miles above the ocean floor, Kauai is the oldest of the major Hawaiian islands and arguably the most beautiful. Through its rich volcanic soil, the island features an enormous amount of vegetation, hence its Garden Island nickname. Add soft, sandy beaches, beautiful blue water, and a long list of amazing natural sites, and it's plain to see why Kauai ranks as one of the world's most spectacular destinations.

Kauai is the smallest and least developed of the four most popular Hawaiian islands, but still manages to attract an impressive amount of visitors thanks to its wild, lush, and mountainous terrain. The island, rugged throughout but only reaching about 5,000 feet in top elevation, can also be separated into several distinct areas.

Lihue is the island's business hub, yet still retains a certain charm and sleepiness. In the south, Poipu features gorgeous beaches and the biggest conglomeration of resorts and hotels. From Lihue to Kapaa on the eastern coast, you'll find a decent amount of resorts and plantation-era mansions. Also, the north shore is an outdoorsman's paradise with incredible surfing, hiking, kayaking, and golfing at Hanalei.

The most developed destination area is Poipu on the southern shore, the location of many hotels and businesses. Despite the development, the area still manages to feel intimate. And while the beaches perhaps aren't quite as soft and sandy as those on Oahu and Maui, there are plenty of beautiful stretches ideal for romantic walks and picturesque views.

What to Do

Kauai Hawaii cave underwater

  • Kayaking - From the Wailua River Valley to the Huleia River, and to miles of ocean terrain, Kauai boasts some of the most remarkable kayaking pursuits in the world. For instance, paddlers can take the meandering Huleia River into Huleia National Wildlife Refuge to visit hidden waterfalls and spot rare tropical birds. Paddle out with Kayak Kauai or Outfitters Kauai, two of Kauai's most reputable tour companies. Outfitters Kauai offers a variety of different kayaking trips (e.g. waterfall tours, sea kayaking, inland river outings, and more), including full-day tours of the Na Pali Coast complete with food, drinks, and first-rate equipment.

  • Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park - A can't-miss destination while visiting Kauai, Waimea Canyon is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific due to its 3,000-foot gorges. While there's numerous lookouts scattered throughout the park for road trippers, visitors can truly experience the canyon through its miles of hiking trails. Notable paths include KuKui Trail, Iliau Nature Loop, and the Alakai Swamp Trail (great for up-close views of rare plants and birds). Also, make your way over to the Kokee History Museum to plan out your hiking treks.

  • Na Pali Coast Excursions - These soaring and majestic cliffs are only accessible by rugged trail, boat, or helicopter. For a deserted island-type experience, be sure to head to the remote sands of Polihale Beach. Avid hikers will want to make their way along the Kalalau Trail. The unforgiving cliffs here make it impossible for a road to continue west of Kee Beach, but hikers can follow this trail along the coastline for more than 11 miles. It's easily one of the most beautiful hikes in Hawaii. You'll notice how the trail gets drier as you proceed west. For instance, hikers will first trek through dense, green vegetation with dramatic views and have options to make detours inland to gorgeous spots like Hanakapiai Falls.

  • Kauai Water Sports - With stunning beaches, tropical waters, famous waves, and an abundance of sea life, it's no surprise that Kauai boasts fantastic water sports opportunities. Newlyweds looking to hang ten should test their mettle at Poipu Beach. Head out with Windsurf Kauai, which rents out boards and offers lessons to beginners and even more advanced surfers.

    Looking to charter a boat? Look no further than Captain Andy's, which provides romantic sunset sails, rafting expeditions, snorkel tours, and even whale watching tours during the winter months. Meanwhile, for the best snorkeling and diving experiences, check out Anini Beach, Kee Beach, Poipu Beach Park, or Salt Pond Beach Park during your visit to the island.

Where to Stay

Kauai luxury hotel resort

  • St. Regis Princeville - Located on the gorgeous north shore of Kauai and overlooking picturesque Hanalei Bay and Makana Mountain, this five-star luxury resort is well worth the splurge. Highlights include renowned oceanside dining, a private beach with water sports center, and a 5,000-square-foot infinity pool open 24 hours a day.

  • Koa Kea Resort Hotel at Poipu Beach - This smaller boutique property is geared directly toward honeymooners and overall a great accommodation option while visiting Kauai. The hotel is located right on the beach and in the middle of the popular Poipu resort area. In addition to excellent service, notable amenities include a fitness center, a full-service spa, pool, poolside bar, beach rentals, and free Wi-Fi.

  • Kauai Beach Resort - Kauai Beach Resort is a great alternative to the island's larger, more expensive resorts. Guests will particularly enjoy the hotel's four swimming pools (complete with cascading waterfalls), three restaurants, Rainforest Spa, and modern fitness center. Meanwhile, the attractive property is situated on a rural stretch of Kauai's eastern coast, ensuring picturesque views and a peaceful stay.

Where to Eat

Kauai Hawaii restaurant

  • Brunch at Makana Terrace - Situated on the grounds of the St. Regis Princeville, the Sunday brunch at Makana Terrace is the perfect dining spot to celebrate your recent marriage. The restaurant features a carving station, handcrafted sushi, and specialty omelets, among dozens more options. With panoramic views of the lush mountains of Kauai and nearby Hanalei Bay, this oceanside dining experience is truly spectacular.

  • The Garden Cafe at Common Ground - Ideal for breakfast and lunch, this lovely cafe outside of Hanalei serves up delicious and nutritious dishes made with sustainably grown food. Menu options range from salads to sandwiches to breakfast specialties like huevos rancheros.

  • Caffe Coco - Situated on the Coconut Coast, this charming cottage cafe features a lovely garden area perfect for al fresco dining. Menu highlights include fresh fish, local produce, and creative bistro dishes.

Getting There

Lihue Airport (LIH) is Kauai's main airport and provides regularly scheduled flights to and from other Hawaiian Islands, plus several other designated U.S. cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The airport is located on the eastern side of the island and close to many of Kauai's top tourist areas such as Poipu Beach and Nawiliwili Bay. You will find all of the major rental car companies, plus taxi service, bus transportation, and hotel shuttle service on the premises.