Picture yourself lying on a white sand beach, digging your toes into the smooth sand as the sun blankets your body with warmth. Or imagine yourself hiking to the top of a volcanic rock with breathtaking, panoramic views of the ocean. Sounds pretty amazing, right?
We all love to travel. Traveling doesn’t just create incredible memories and experiences—it also enriches our lives and our minds. When we travel, we are exposed to other cultures, foods, and iconic places that can change the way we see the world.
Whether you’re planning a honeymoon or simply looking to fill your life with adventure, here’s a getaway guide to get you started. For the big spenders, moderate travelers, and even those who are a little more thrifty—no matter your budget, there’s something for everyone on the beautiful island of Kauai, Hawaii.
Getaway guide key
$$$ – LUXURY GETAWAY
$$ – COMFORTABLE GETAWAY
$ – BARGAIN GETAWAY
Where to stay
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Located on the North Shore of Kauai, Princeville at Hanalei is an award-winning, oceanfront hotel surrounded by green, rolling hills, sugar plantations, and cattle ranches. Starting at slightly over $400 a night, you’ll get access to a stunning infinity pool, luxury spa, and breathtaking views. Conveniently, guests of Princeville at Hanalei can also visit the family-operated Princeville Ranch, located within the resort, for some horseback riding, zip lining, kayaking, and offroading.
Another great option is Ko’a Kea Hotel & Resort on the South Shore of Kauai. For about $479 a night, you’ll sleep in an ocean view room and wake up just steps away from the sand and surf of Poipu Beach. Aside from its desirable location, Ko’a Kea also features a pool with scenic views, upscale dining, and a spa. It is also pet friendly!
Find more at Travelocity.com.
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If you’re looking to spend a bit, but not break the bank, there are many comfortable hotels in great locations.
Family-owned Kauai Cove offers private cottages with a kitchenette to make you feel right at home for an extended stay. These bungalows are just steps from Koloa Landing Cove, Baby Beach, and less than a mile from Lawai Beach. Rates range from $149 to $229, depending on when you visit.
Located at the end of Nawiliwili Bay, The Kauai Inn is a tropical oasis that’s just a quick walk from Niumalu Beach. The family-owned, plantation-style inn prides itself on “100 years of Aloha,” welcoming guests with a blend of traditional and contemporary Hawaiian culture. The spacious rooms currently start at $152 a night, and include complimentary breakfast and access to a large pool with beautiful mountain views.
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If you’re looking to keep things thrifty on your vacation, renting a camper or a tent is a great option. Depending on the lease agreement, renting a camper van allows you to explore every side of the island, so you don’t have to commit to one shore! On AirBnB, you can find hundreds of options, from glamping to car camping, depending on your budget. There are plenty of campsites, both private and public, on Kauai. Some of them are not open year round, so be sure to do your research on Kauai.gov before going.
If you’d rather stay in a house, AirBnB also has a lot of affordable options from bungalows to private rooms. This North Shore Hideaway in Waialua accommodates up to four guests and costs just $99 per night.
What to eat
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Winner of Honolulu Magazine’s Hale Aina’s Best Restaurant award for the last 16 years, The Beach House is located on Lawai Beach in Poipu. The stunning, oceanfront location guarantees a spectacular view all day, especially at sunset where you might even catch a glimpse ring-necked parakeets roosting. The menu features Pacific Rim cuisine with an Asian influence. I, personally, recommend the seafood dishes, but there are also many delicious vegetarian and vegan options.
Jo2 is another delicious dining destination. Chef Jean-Marie Josselin’s carefully curated menu reflects an unlimited range of organically grown ingredients, fresh-caught fish, and other ingredients inspired by Kauai’s multi-ethnic community. From three-course, early dinners to salmon ravioli, eating here is what you might call a culinary adventure. Jo2 is nestled in a small shopping center in Waipouli, but don’t let the location discourage you from adding this to your restaurant list.
Grand Hyatt’s Tidepools has unbeatable ambiance. Sitting at the base of a waterfall, guests dine in open-air hale pili (thatched-roof bungalows) that seemingly float above a koi-filled lagoon. From Macadamia Crusted Mahi to salads featuring fresh greens straight from their on-site hydroponic garden, Tidepools’ menu reflects classic Hawaiian cuisine with a contemporary twist. Rated one of the best restaurants in Trip Advisor’s Circle of Excellence, they are only open for dinner or late-night dining so be sure to make a reservation beforehand!
Find more at TripAdvisor.com.
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Keoki’s Paradise at Poipu Beach allows you to dine in a tropical setting with traditional island cooking, exotic drinks, and live music! Surrounded by cascading waterfalls, the open-air restaurant has a contemporary menu with delicious selections at moderate price, making it one of the most popular restaurants on Kauai.
Kalaheo Cafe and Coffee Co. is located in the lush mountains of upcountry Kalaheo, where over 4,000 acres of robust coffee thrive under the Hawaiian sun. Opened in 1994, the restaurant is a favorite for locals and visitors alike, with a famous breakfast menu that features traditional Hawaiian breakfast dishes such as the Kahili Breakfast. They are also open for lunch and dinner, where casual dining and savory flavors are combined for an unforgettable experience.
Garden Island Grille (also known as The GIG) features casual Hawaiian ambiance accompanied with live music every night. The menu consists of fish, shrimp, burgers, and tacos, made with local Kauai ingredients. Dinner is served only until 8:00 p.m., so be sure to get there early to enjoy the delicious food and live music of local bands!
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For quick-and-delicious, authentic Hawaiian food at affordable prices, Mark’s place in Lihue is a great option. With gourmet plate lunches, bento boxes, salads, and pre-packaged omiyage snacks, you can enjoy your meal on the picnic tables outside of Mark’s or take it with you!
Ishihara Market is a great place to have a quick meal or pick up some food for a beach picnic. Whether you’re in the mood for Hawaiian poke or a hot lunch special, this food market in Waimea is a must-try. This market was founded in 1934 and has been thriving ever since.
Every Wednesday, Kukuiula Shopping Village in Poipu hosts the Kauai Culinary Market from 3:30 to 6:00 p.m. This display of delicious food, drinks, and live Hawaiian music features everything local. You can walk around the vendors or sit down in the wine and beer garden to watch one of the exciting, live chef demonstrations.
Where to adventure
$$$ – LUXURY
There are so many incredible sights that Kauai has to offer, and one way to see them all is with a guided helicopter tour. For $325 per person, Mauna Loa Helicopter Tours takes you on an epic, one-hour adventure from the Na Pali Coast to the gorges of Waimea Canyon to the Manawaiopuna “Jurassic” Falls, and more. This tour accommodates two to three passengers, so it’s perfect for a romantic experience!
If you’re seeking more of a thrill, I highly recommend a scuba diving tour. From first timers to advanced divers, the team from Kauai Down Under Scuba guarantees a safe and memorable experience! You’ll get up close and personal with the fish and wildlife that live in the reefs of Kauai’s warm waters. From training in confined water to diving in open water, this activity costs $550 a person, takes two days, and leaves you with a scuba diving certification.
If you prefer to remain on land, ATV-ing is another great way to explore (and get a little dirty). Kauai ATV offers 23-mile guided tours along diverse off-road trails. Starting at $302 for a 2-person dune buggy, you’ll venture from farmland to a tropical forest with a cascading waterfall, making brief stops along the way to learn about famous movie sites and the island’s rich history.
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There are many fun, affordable activities Kauai has to offer. At Skyline Eco Adventures in Poipu, you can zip line across three different valleys with amazing mountain and ocean views. In 2018, they won Hawaii Magazine’s Best of Kauai Land Activity and Adventure company, as well as Trip Advisor’s certificate of excellence. Be sure to book online to get a $10 discount on their 8-line adventure, which will bring the cost down to a reasonable $129.95.
Kauai Backcountry offers mountain tubing adventures that are truly unique, as they are the only company with exclusive access to the historic irrigation system of the former Lihue Plantation. Your guide will share information about the island as you drive up into Kauai’s pristine emerald green interior where you’ll grab a tube, headlamp, and jump into the gently flowing waters. You’ll float through open canals and amazing tunnels before arriving at a natural swimming hole. This adventure costs $116 plus tax and lasts approximately 3 hours.
Another great way to explore Kauai is through guided boat tours. Na Pali Coast Tours offers tours in Kekaha (West Side) and Hanalei (North Shore). At $239 a person, these 4-hour adventures at sea include sightseeing, snorkeling (gear provided), and complimentary food and beverages.
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Hiking is an incredible way to see the most beautiful sights Kauai has to offer while immersing yourself in nature—and it’s free! On Kauai, you will find hundreds of hiking trail choices for every hiking level. The Mahaulepu Beach Trail is the last stretch of accessible coastline on the south shore that has not been developed. This easy, four-mile hike (total) takes you from the south east corner of Shipwreck Beach along sandune cliffs, limestone formations, and rocky inlets, where you might catch a glimpse of sea turtles or the Hawaiian Monk Seal.
Visit Kauai.com/hikes to discover more!
Snorkeling is another very affordable and enjoyable activity that you can do on Kauai. You can purchase your own snorkeling gear for relatively cheap before you go, or find one of the many places on the island that rent or lend them out. Sometimes, your hotel might even have some they will let you check out, so be sure to ask! If you’re a beginner, try Poipu Beach Park. If you’re a bit more advanced, Tunnels Makua Beach will give you unbeatable views of the coral reef.
For dog lovers, the Kauai Humane society has a special program called Shelter Dogs on Field Trips through which visitors can “check out” a dog for the day. You can take them with you on a hike, to the beach, or to the park. This win-win situation helps the shelter get dogs the exercise and socialization they need, while it helps visitors get their “doggie fix.” It has also helped to increase the number of adoptions each year. There’s absolutely no pressure to adopt, but be careful—you might fall in love and come home with a furry friend!
Can’t get away just yet?
Join iFit Trainer Kirsty Godso in this 4-week Hawaiian Islands Cross-Training Series to get a preview of beautiful sights Kauai has to offer.
Welcome to the Hawaiian Islands Cross-Training Series with iFit trainer, Kirsty Godso. In this program we are going to take you on a variety of muscle-confusion workouts that will keep your body guessing and help you to become a well-rounded athlete. Whether you’re getting back in shape, or starting this journey for the first time, this program is for you. The program incorporates intervals runs, endurance runs, incline runs, and we’ll even jump on and off the machine for some bodyweight workouts, to give you total body results. These workouts will progress from 20-35 minutes and help you to burn calories, tone up, and build stamina. But don’t feel intimidated, these workouts are designed with the beginner in mind.