Exploring the Beautiful Garden Island of Kauai

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Advisor - Valerie Mattox
Curated By

Valerie Mattox

  • USA

  • Kaua'i

  • Active Travel

  • Adventure Travel

  • Domestic Travel

  • Nature Escapes

  • Island-life

  • Outdoors

  • Hiking

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Curator’s statement

Kauai has been a personal favorite of mine since my first trip in 1984! It's less busy than Maui with all of the same beautiful locations. The Napali coast should not be missed by water, or if you are adventurous, you can hike into it and camp on an intimate beach location. I could watch sunsets over the water day in and day out. Just kick your feet up and relax or do any number of activities you like: snorkeling, kayaking, surfing, hiking, zip-lining - the list goes on and on.

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Things to do

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  • Helicopter tour and landing at Jurassic Park Falls! The thrill of humming through the Waimea Canyon and landing to jump out and experience these falls up close! Majestic views of Napali Coast and have I mentioned the waterfalls? Too many to count!

  • Take to the ocean! Whether you hop on a catamaran, sailboat or super raft it will not disappoint. You can choose to do a sunset cruise with a large group, speed up the Napali coast to snorkel or rent a private sailboat with Captain and make your own plan.

  • Every trip to Kauai needs to take in the main event for at least a few hours.
    Spend the morning driving up Waimea Canyon. Known as the "Grand Canyon of the West", and for good reason. Make your way to the end of Puu o Kila and get out and take a hike.

  • Spend the afternoon taking a kayak tour of the Wailua River and then hike into Secret Falls. Truly magical, be prepared to hike through lush foliage as you make your trek to find the secret falls. I promise you the hike is worth it. Did I mention Kauai ranks in the top ten wettest places on the planet! Ah, WATERFALLS!

  • Take a surfing lesson at Hanalei Bay. As long as it is not winter anyone should be able to take to the waves and get up, even if it's just for a minute. If all else fails take in the views, the mountains behind the ocean make for some great photo ops!

  • While near Hanalei Bay drive a little up the road to Tunnels Beach Make. Lava tubes form these tunnels underwater and make it a perfect place to snorkel and see all kinds of sea life. True story: there is a cave across from the parking lot that you can walk down into that looks like a tunnel and until this past November I thought that is where the name came from!

  • Visit a working coffee plantation. Kauai Coffee is a fun stop on your way to Waimea Canyon. Walk around the plantation, and sample some locally grown coffee beans.

  • Spouting horn (the local blow hole) is also a fun stop. Wait a few minutes and watch the surf come rushing in and shoot up into the air. You won't spend a lot of time doing this but it is a fun stop especially if your traveling with kids.

  • Zip-line through the lush tropical forest in Koloa. Experience the thrill of flying with the most beautiful views beneath you. They have the longest zip lines on the island.

  • Go beach hopping! Get in a car and make your way around the island one beach at a time. There are some "secret" beaches that you have to hike into, some a few hundred steps, but if you want to enjoy the beach with no one around don't miss this activity. Pick up a copy of The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook or download it to a kindle and find every beach. Make it your week's mission, if you choose to accept!

  • At last, lay by the ocean and count the waves.

Advisor - Valerie Mattox

A note from Valerie

Winter is whale season and it never disappoints to see a whale breaching. Jump on a boat and try to find them. I once chased them in a helicopter - exhilarating!

Places to eat & drink

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Breakfast in Kauai

  • Lililkoi (located in Lihue) - Traditional breakfasts from omelets to pancakes with a little Hawaiian twist, one of the most affordable breakfasts on the island.

  • Kalapaki Joe's (located in Poipu) - Some of the best portions in town, come hungry. All traditional breakfast items along with all of the local favorites think Kalua Loco Moco (shredded pork over rice) and spam! Try it you just might like it!

Lunch in Kauai

  • Honu Pool Bar & Grill (located in the Marriott Waiohai Beach Club) - I usually don't suggest a hotel pool bar but the kalua pulled pork sandwich is to die for! Yes, I have been known to eat it every day poolside.

  • Kauai Sushi Station (located in Lihue) - Did I mention it's a food truck? Live a little, the best sushi and the owners are great!

Dinner in Kauai

  • The Beach House (located in Koloa) - Fantastic sunset views, book your reservation early and time it to capture the sun setting over the ocean. It's a seafood and steak house, but I recommend the seafood - ask for the fresh catch. In Hawaii, it's actually caught that day!

  • Tidepools (located in the Grand Hyatt) - The atmosphere alone is worth it - it has a dreamy lagoon open-air vibe. But the food is not second - it is an upscale seafood and steak house. Macadamia nut-crusted fresh catch is velvety smooth and you should try it at least once on the islands.

  • Steveson's Sushi & Spirits (located in The Grand Hyatt) - Set in what used to be their library and bar, all the Hawaiian wood remains with some great sushi.

  • Brennecke's Beach Boiler (located in Poipu) - A fun local place that survived covid! Great for lunch and dinner, burgers, seafood and steak. Never had a bad meal, and if you're staying in Poipu it's one of the few places with live music and a great little hangout bar! I've been going here since on every trip. Very casual (not that Kauai is dressed up) but you literally can roll off the beach throw your flip-flops on and have a great meal. Nothing better than that.

Need to Know

For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Jen Huyck's guide, The Best of Kauai, Hawai’i.

Advisor - Valerie Mattox

Travel Advisor

Valerie Mattox

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Kauai, and part of our larger series on nature escapes.