Kauai Favorites

By Kate Riley June 5, 2014

After sharing the beach cottage vacation rental last week, several of you asked about favorite stops on our visit. Our travel there in May was our fourth visit in the past thirteen years to this particular island of Hawaii and on each trip we’ve had some really great experiences so I thought I’d share them today in case you want to bookmark for a future trip!

kauai favorite things to do

Kauai is “The Garden Isle”  and sleepier and less populated than Oahu or Maui, although it has been developed more since when we first visited in 2001. Hollywood loves to film movies here where the beautiful beaches are plentiful and the locals so friendly!

kauai map

image via

Poipu & The Southern Coast

On all four of our visits over the years we’ve stayed in Poipu in various vacation rentals, it’s sunny and kid friendly at Poipu Beach Park and we love to hang out at Brennecke’s and consume mai tais and sashimi with a view of the beach! Poipu is a great place to just lounge for a few days on a beach with a great book while the kids play in the surf.

women's swimwear
women’s swimwear

A good restuarant is Keoki’s Paradise (great fish, amazing Hula pie) in the Poipu Shopping Village (lots of free live music and entertainment) across from Kiahuna Plantation (a great place to rent a condo). The Marriott is also on Poipu Beach, various friends have stayed there and recommended it. Splurge on fine dining at The Beach House restaurant (sunset views!).

Right outside Poipu is old Koloa town, with hair wigs shopping  and art galleries. Don’t miss the sashimi and the best ahi poke at Koloa Fish Market, so delicious and a favorite with the locals too.

The West Side

Around the west side you can drive up to Waimea Canyon known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” with impressive views on the journey up and also from the top looking down to the sea.

view of waimea canyon

wiamea canyon


A worthy seafaring adventure from Hanapepe Bay is taking a catamaran Na Pali Boat Tour to view the northern coastline. (Here’s an older pic from 2007). We’ve done it twice, once on a morning trip, once on a sunset cruise; we’ve seen pods of dolphins, sea turtles, tons of fish, and there was a shark sighting once, highly recommended!

napili cliffs

Don’t miss a stop at Spouting Horn blowhole in Koloa a short drive away from Poipu where a giant blast of water comes up through the lava every few minutes. This is also a great place to shop for inexpensive island jewelry at the vendors next to the parking lot !

spouting horn kauai


The Coconut Coast on the East Side:

There are some great food trucks where you can get cheap eats as you pass through Kapa’a on your way to and from other parts of the island, whether you’re headed south to Poipu or north to Princeville and Hanalei. Driving through Kapa’a we always quote this film (one of our favorites).

coconut coast

DON’T MISS the Ono Fish Tacos at Kilauea Fish Market in Kapa’a, definitely the best fish tacos we had in Kauai. (Also try their Ahi Wrap, so delicious.) Next door to the cafe is the Aston Islander, you can walk through the lobby and go eat your tacos to go right on the beach!

Feeling adventurous? You must kayak the Wailua River! After a 45 minute paddle, you land in the middle of the jungle with a guide, then hike up to a 120 foot huge waterfall. We did a 5 hour round trip tour with the kids, it was muddy but we loved it, and swimming under a waterfall should be on everyone’s bucket list !  Most tours provide lunch and special water hiking shoes (which you can also buy), it’s great fun.


kauai waterfall

If you’re not up for such an adventurous hike, visit Wailua Falls near Lihue, it’s an easy walk and you’ll see a beautiful waterfall at the end of the trail. Also there is a Fern Grotto tour which takes you up the Wailua River but we prefer to paddle it!

Kauai has some very family friendly beaches where coves have been created with rock barriers and little keikis (Hawaiian for “kids”) can play in the shallow lapping water. Lydgate Beach Park is a popular one where you can bring a picnic (grab lunch in the nearby Coconut Marketplace in Kap’aa). That’s my little boy at Lydgate in 2007 !

lydgate 2007


Princeville & Hanalei Bay in the North:

The grand Princeville Resort is up on the north shore, the view of Hanalei Bay from their restaurant is amazing. (We’ve never stayed up in the north, so if you have recommendations for lodging, please share!) Past the Princeville you’ll be on your way to scenic Hanalei Bay. This is the lookout view on your way down.

hanalei bay valley

Once you arrive in Hanalei, grab an island smoothie at the Aloha Juice Bar or some sandwiches, right across the street are great burgers at Bubba Burgers, and a few little shops with island themed clothing and decor.

juice shack

  church in hanalei

Just like on other islands of Hawaii, fresh fruit and fish picked and caught that day are in abundance. There are lots of pricey restaurants for fine dining, and you’ll get sticker shock at the grocery stores, but roadside stands and food trucks allow for inexpensive eats.



We also brought beach chairs and spent a few hours at Anini Beach at the public park (clean restrooms and decent snorkeling spots), and you can’t beat Hanalei Beach for serenity, oh the view, you’ll never want to leave.

Anini Beach:

anini beach kauai

Hanalei Beach:

hanalei beach

hanalei bay beach


There is so much to do in Kauai: horseback riding, botanical gardens, hiking trails, zip lines, stand up paddling, and snorkeling, you can’t be bored! Locals or past visitors, chime in!  What were your favorite stops or adventures on the island of Kauai? Got any insider tips you can share?

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  1. Oh how beautiful. Sitting in 74 degrees and damp from a recent shower. Wish we were there!

  2. Kauai is our favorite of the islands and I love that we’re only a few hours away via Alaska Airlines. We typically stay up in Princeville at The Cliffs, a condo resort that is, as you would imagine, located on the cliffs. Sunsets from there are OUTSTANDING. I also love that they have a covered gazebo where you can grill your own food while you look out over the horizon.


    Up on the north shore, during the right season there’s also great snorkeling at Tunnels Beach and at Ke’e Beach.


  3. I was there in September…I visited the Kauai Coffee plantation and have since been able to start buying their k-cups on Amazon. So delish and a taste of Hawaii each morning.

  4. I love Kauai. Went for the first time last October. I recommend an ATV tour at Kipu Ranch. Beautiful land. Tour guides present a great history of the island. Looking forward to my next trip. Will try some of your recommendations.

    Thanks for a wonderful blog.

  5. I have been to Kauai 4 times as well in the last 13 years. We love to eat at the Blue Dolphin in Hanalei once during our trip, its a bit pricey, but worth the money. We stay 1 week in Poipu and the second week up north. We always do a zip line and the best for kids and adults is tubing down the mountain with Kauai Tubing Adventure. Hoping to go back next year.

  6. Last September, as part of my husband’s 60th birthday present, going to Hawaii was on his bucket list so I planned a trip visiting both Kauai first then Maui. My niece lives on Kauai and it’s the most ‘Hawaiian’ like of the islands so we definitely planned to visit it. We stayed on a former plantation with a cottage right on the water. It was simply amazing.

    We enjoyed Maui too but Kauai had that true, old Hawaiian island feel we were seeking. Before taking our flight to Maui, we took a helicopter trip of the island, landing where Jurassic Park Falls were and took some amazing pictures. You can see them on my blog in the September/October 2013 timeframe.

    I have enjoyed seeing your pictures, thanks for sharing.

  7. Have been to Kauai twice in the last three years. Love it there. We stayed in Kapaa for the first week each time and love the walking distance to so many places there. Then the next week we stayed at The Marvin Pool House in Princeville. Private, quiet with a pool and hot tub overlooking the ocean and a short hike to a private beach. Heavenly! Took private painting classes on each trip. Look up Marionette Tabonair and Helen Turner. As well I bought beautiful sea glass and sunrise shell jewelry by a local artist named Caitlin Odom. She is at the local markets and also has stuff in Hanalei and Kappa stores. Great island!

  8. We have made 7 or 8 trips here! Our favorite of the Hawaiian islands. Marriott hotel is perfect for small children. Princeville has wonderful views and quaint restaurants. Na Pali Coastline is spectacular.. One must take a trip to see. Bubba Burger is a regular stop too. The most relaxing of all the islands. Any time of the year is PERFECT.

  9. Have never been, but thanks fornprovidingna virtual vacation! It looks awesome.

  10. Love Kauai! Your favorite spots are some of ours. I have been lucky enough to go over twenty times in my 49 years – I never tire of its beauty. I would recommend the tubing adenture (great for kids through senior) and Kipu Ranch ( the atv’s are fun but the land and history is even better). I hope to be back in my favorite spot very, very soon.

  11. Kauai is my favorite place on Earth! I’ve been twice, once in 2005 and again last year. The first time we stayed in Lihue in the Marriott on Kalapaki Bay, and last summer we stayed in a private home in Princeville (rented it from a friend). Seeing your pictures makes me long to be there today! Oh, how I love that amazing place. :-)

  12. Just catching up on my blog reading and this post his a spot…my favorite island is Kauai too and I can’t wait to get back to that place. It just feels like home. I love all the places you mentioned. We usually rent a place. Have stayed in the Waimea Plantation cottages and a place on the North Shore that was divine. Haven’t tried any of the resorts…just not for me. I want to feel like a native! :) Jack Harter’s helicopters with the doors off is amazing for getting an eagle’s eye view of paradise in Kauai. We do the catamarans too and have seen mama whales and babies. Made me cry! Love Oke’s for breakfast and Hamura’s Saimin in Lihue, a little hole in the wall with the best saimin and lilikoi chiffon pie! Lappert’s ice cream…caramel coconut yumminess! Postcards Cafe, The Beach House with the sunset. It’s a wonderful island. Hanalei Bay is a favorite and enjoy the beaches on the North and South shores. You can’t go wrong with Paradise!

  13. Loved reading your post and all the comments. We are going to Kauai for the first time in January. Taking all the kids – ages 9-27, looking to make the best memories ever! Once again a thanks for sharing

  14. We have been to Kauai three times. Last trip was March 2015 with our three 20 something children. We always opt to stay near Kapaa on the Coconut Coast. Reason being is it is centrally located. Easy trip to Poipu or North Shore.
    Our favorites were the Captain Andy Na Pali boat tour and hiking the Na Pali Coast. Captain Mike is a local and gave us an amazing day. Whales, Spinner Dolphins, Sea Turtles and Snorkeling.
    We stayed in the Aloha Cottage near Kapaa Town which is right on the bike path and great walk to town. Place was AMAZING and has been on Fodors List several times..
    We also bought fish from one of the locals and cooked it at the house. Whale watching right out front as we were there in March.
    As far as our family is concerned, this is the only Hawaiian Island for us.
    ? Mahalo. Molly
    P.S. Take the trip to the end of the road to Polihale. Difficult to get there because of rutted road but UNBELIEVABLE! The waves were so ferocious and breathtaking. No swimming. It will blow your mind!!!!

  15. My husband and are are planing our third trip in three years. We’ve aways stay st The Point at Poipu. Always have a great time touring as much of the island as possible. Definitely recommend a catamaran ride along the Napali cost.

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