Fun Around the Island!
Kauai is the island that enjoys simple beauty everywhere. With 16 different climates on such a small island, there is much to see and do. Let’s take a short tour around the island (from North to West shores) with some places I’d recommend based on typical interests of Kauai visitors I come across.
North Shore: Starting on the North shore (‘where the road ends’), you’ll find Ke’e Beach (Kay-ay). Ke’e is reef protected and a great place to spend the afternoon and watch an unforgettable sunset.
For hikers, the Kalalau (Kah-lah-lau) Trail also begins here – 2 stunning miles to Hanakapi’ai (Hah-nah-cop-ee-ii) beach followed by 2 more challenging miles to incredible Hanakapi’ai falls. Pack a lunch and plenty of water – 8 miles round trip!
Traveling south on Prince Kuhio (Koo-he-oh) you’ll next come across Tunnel’s Beach. Tunnels provides some of Kauai’s best body boarding and body surfing during the summer months, as well as snorkeling. As you continue to drive you’ll pass the village of Haena (Hi-enna) and the Wainiha (Why-nee-ha) area before driving by Lumahai (loo-muh-hi) Beach and then into old town Hanalei (Hah-nah-lay).
Hanalei Town features distinctive Hawaiian shops and restaurants, including favorites such as Bar Acuda as well as the famous Tahiti Nui. Both serve dinner and cocktails and have an indoor/outdoor feel. Live music can often be heard at Tahiti Nui on the weekends. Hanalei has terrific shops and restaurants throughout the town. When in Hanalei you must at least check-out Hanalei Bay (Pier photo above).
Hanalei Bay is a stunning crescent-shaped beach with iconic pier. It is part of a famous song (‘and frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Hanalee’) and was once ranked #2 beach in the world. Come see it and you’ll see why. The surf does get higher in the winter months, though.
As you continue to drive south you”ll pass Princeville. Princeville has great hotels, resorts, golf, shopping and dining options. For the best view, try the Happy Talk lounge located in the Hanalei Bay Resort. Great for sports fans – TV’s all around with an incredible view beaches and the Bali Hai mountains and live music nightly.
Just south of Princeville on the Prince Kuhio highway is Anini (Ah-nee-nee) Beach. This beach is a highly recommended beach for snorkeling, stand up paddle, swimming, stunning calm waters. It is reef-protected to about 300 yards from the shore.
South of Anini you’ll pass through Kilauea (Kill-ah-way-uh). Turn left and check out the Kilauea Fish Market (best Ahi on Kauai) or drive until you see the cars parked on the side of the road to catch a true Bali Hai sunset (don’t forget your camera).
Continuing south past Kilauea you leave the unofficial boundary of the ‘North’ Shore and enter the ‘East’ Shore a.k.a. the Coconut Coast.
East Shore/Coconut Coast: Driving south on the Prince Kuhio you’ll next come upon a juice stand on the left side of the road. The Moloa’a (Mo-low-ah-ah) Sunrise Fruit stand is a great place for smoothies, fresh fruits, deli sandwiches, and of course shave ice. Follow the road behind the Sunrise down the hill about a mile and then take the road on the right (Moloa’a Rd) to secluded Moloa’a Beach. Looking for a tropical ocean paradise that is away from it all? A famous TV show was once filmed here (‘If not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Minnow would be lost, the Minnow would be lost..’). Back on the Prince Kuhio driving south you find Anahola (Ah-nah-ho-lah).
About 5 minutes south of Anahola is a ‘MUST STOP’ for chicken lovers everywhere. Along the side of the road on the Prince Kuhio highway is a farmer’s market (open Thurs – Sun) with a sign that reads ‘Huli Huli Chicken’ (pic). Stop in and buy some – and then try and convince me it is not the BEST chicken you have ever eaten! In case you look at the sign and ask what is ‘PAU’ (pow) – it means ‘done/finished’ in Hawaiian.
As you head south from Anahola past Donkey and Kealia Beaches (Kay-ah-lee-ah), you find yourself in the quaint town of Kapaa (Kah-pa-ah). Kapaa is a wonderful town with great juices/smoothies, shave ice, food trucks, beachfront lounges, bike rental, shops and restaurants.
In the upcountry you’ll find gorgeous Hindu Temples, stunning waterfalls, a fabulous hike up Sleeping Giant mountain, as well as the wettest place on earth, Mount Wai’ale’ale (Why-ah-leh-ah-leh).
From Kapaa to Lihue (lee-hoo-ay) you will drive right along Wailua (Why-loo-uh) Bay and over the Wailua Bridge. Watch locals standup paddle surf and enjoying the 2-mile long beach daily.
If you have kids, you’ll want to spend some time at Lydgate Beach. After crossing the Wailua river, turn left on Nalu Road and you’ll run right into it. Huge reef-protected coves make this an ocean pool that also has great snorkeling. Also has public showers and a playground for the ‘keiki’ (kay-kee) (kids).
Lihue is the Kauai county capital. Looking for large retailers? You’ll find them here. Drive down towards the water and you’ll find Kalapaki Bay. From a daytime lunch watching a gorgeous sandy beach or cocktails listening to the surf, Duke’s is a place that locals and visitors ensure to schedule during their stay on Kauai.
As you continue south past Lihue, you’ll drive about 20 minutes and see the sign for ‘Koloa/Poipu’ on your left. You have arrived at the ‘South Shore’ area.
Not soon after, you realize you are driving through the Tree Tunnel. This beautiful 2 mile feature is part of the road that runs to Koloa Town and then on into Poipu (Poy-poo). Koloa features ancient warrior grounds, old plantations, quaint shops and boutiques, as well as restaurants and famous shave ice. About 2 minutes from Koloaa is the beach town of Poipu.
Poipu enjoys beaches for all interests. Looking for somewhere safe for the babies? Try Poipu Beach Park or Baby Beach – each reef-protected and great for infants. Something for the kids? Try Brennecke’s Beach for body boarding/body surfing or Lawai Beach for fantastic snorkeling. Surf lessons? Head over to Wai’ohi (Why-oh-hi) beach and you’ll be up in no time. If you’re looking to just relax and watch the waves I recommend Kiahuna beach – a small sandy beach with rolling waves and coconut trees that looks like a postcard.
Restaurants and shopping are plenty in Poipu with the Beach House restaurant, Kalapaki Joe’s (awesome onion rings) and a multitude of great eateries in the Kukuiulu (koo-koo-ee-ulu) Shops, a gorgeous outdoor shopping mall. Don’t forget to stop by the Brennecke’s Beach deli for a fantastic made to order sandwich for a beach picnic. National Botanical Gardens as well as famous Spouting Horn can be found in Poipu (pic below).
As you drive back up through Koloa town and out to the highway, turn left and head towards Kauai’s ‘West Shore’.
West Shore: Heading south from Poipu you pass the small town of Hanapepe, known for its arts and small restaurants. The weekly Friday Night Art fair is a wonderful evening event for foods and art.
The next ‘must see’ is a drive up into the hills of Waimea (Why-may-uh) to see the Kalalau lookout and Na Pali coast. Bring a coat or long sleeve shirt as the temperature tends to drop about 10-15 degrees as you make your way up to almost 4000 feet above sea level. But the drive is SO worth it! See the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’ as well as the Na Pali coast that you’ve always seen in pictures and you realize you are seeing nature at its finest and most unique.
Come down from the mountain to find your way past Kekaha (Kauai’s driest town at a rainfall of about 3 inches per year) and see/visit Salt Pond or make your way to the ‘end of the road’ and see Polihale beach. Be sure to leave the beach about an hour or more before sunset, as the road to and from is not paved and can be a difficult drive at times. For my money, Poli Hale beach is the most beautiful beach on all of Kauai, ending at a giant mountain that is the beginning of the Na Pali coast.
Come to Kauai and let me know what YOU recommend!