Since we traveled to Kauai in the winter, the first few days of our trip called for rain basically all day on the north and east side. Luckily, our plans were based primarily on the south shore also known as the sunny side. In addition to the sites below, this side of the island is also home to the popular towns of Poipu and historic Koloa. Unfortunately we didn't have time to explore these areas but many people choose Poipu as their home base for it's sunny beaches, resorts, restaurants and shopping.
If you've been to other Hawaiian islands, you'll quickly notice that Kauai embraces the aloha spirit to the fullest and has a much more laid back vibe than almost any other place we've traveled before. Instead of large touristy resort areas you'll discover a mix of eclectic small towns each offering their own charm. First up on our south shore adventure was exploring one of these cute towns I'd read so many good things about. So, after eating breakfast at Kountry Kitchen in Kapa'a, we hit the road in search of Hanapepe Town. Hanapepe is a sleepy little town but one that shouldn't be missed. Visitors seem to instantly be transported back in time (or maybe inside a Disney movie as the town served as the inspiration for Lilo and Stitch). Don't miss the chance to cross the Hanalei River on the famous swinging bridge and wander around the cute shops and galleries. If you happen to be in the area on a Friday evening the town also hosts a weekly art night from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m.
Whenever I travel, especially to Hawaii, I always like to book at least one guided tour/excursion. While it's easy to explore much of the islands on your own, guided tours often offer access to areas of the island not open to or easily accessed by the public and the guides always have SO much knowledge about the history and culture that you wouldn't find elsewhere. After much research, the one activity that kept coming up on the "must do" lists for Kauai was mountain tubing - and now I understand why.
Kauai Backcountry Adventures offers the only tubing adventure on the island with exclusive access to the historic irrigation system of the former Lihue Plantation. This ditch and tunnel system was hand-dug in the 1870's and once irrigated hundreds of acres of sugar crops. The tunnels had been unused since sugar was taken out of production in 2000 until Kauai Backcountry Adventures began offering tours in 2003. On the trip you'll tube through the lush interior of the island and traverse through five different tunnels. The total time you spend in the water is around an hour.
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If there's one site you shouldn't miss when visiting Kauai, it's Waimea Canyon. Also called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, this monstrous landmark offers gorgeous deep red and bright green views and is a great way to spend the afternoon. Located on the west side of the island, it took us about 45 minutes to get to the start of Highway 550 from Kapa'a where the journey begins.
Be sure to gas up before you start driving as it's only one windy road up to the top without any gas stations. We also packed some snacks and ate lunch at the halfway point of our hike. The weather can vary greatly and most guides will tell you to try and get there early as it can get quite cloudy which really hinders the views. We didn't get to the start of the drive until about 9:30 a.m. and had a clear view for the majority of the day. But don't fear, in true Hawaii fashion at one point the whole canyon was covered in fog on the way back from our hike only to clear out in 20 minutes.
Having been to three of the four major Hawaiian islands, I can see why Kauai is called the garden isle. The entire island is so lush and green which is mainly a result of all the rain the island gets. In fact, Kauai is one of the wettest places on earth. But like any of the islands, the weather can vary dramatically depending on which side you're on. This was a major factor for us when deciding which area to call our home base for the week. Since we were going in the winter which is during the rainy season we decided to avoid the north shore and opted for the east side which positioned us well to access all sides of the island in decent time.
We ended up staying at Kauai Shores which we booked through Costco (another travel hack to save $$!). The resort had recently been updated and offered a lot of amenities for guests including bike rentals, a pool and hot tub, and direct access to the beach. The hotel is also home to Lava Lava Beach Club which is the only toes-in-the-sand dining experience on the island. My only real complaint was the parking. The spaces were very tight and it was a hassle to find a spot when we would arrive back later at night. They do offer free valet with the resort fee so keep that in mind.
Below I've included a breakdown of how we spent each day of our trip. I will be writing more detailed guides about our time in each area of the island but I hope this post helps you plan out your days and must see sites!
I love creating detailed travel guides to ensure you get the most out of your time. On this blog I'll be sharing some of my past trips in hopes that it helps you plan your next adventure. Pack your suitcase you never know where I'll be heading next!
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