A Local's Guide to South Shore Kaua'i
The South Shore of Kaua’i is the perfect place to beach, eat and shop without ever having to drive far at all. If supporting local small businesses is your jam (as it should be), this is an excellent place to start. While we live here on this side of Kaua’i, we never get tired of the sunny beaches and delicious eateries in our so-called backyard.
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Where to stay in Kaua'i
Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu, Autograph Collection
Surrounded by lush gardens, this resort on Kauai features studios and villas with three outdoor pools and near Poipu Beach.
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa
A quintessential island resort on 50 lush acres of white-sand beachfront on Kauai’s beautiful southern shore.
$100 hotel / resort credit.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
Koa Kea Resort Kauai
A tropical haven offering luxurious oceanfront accommodations, stunning views, and immersive Hawaiian experiences on the beautiful Poipu Beach.
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Things to do in Kaua'i
Kiahuna Beach – This has been my go-to beach for as long as I can remember. It’s usually quite swimmable–plus there are various stretches perfect for young children, boogie boarding and/or surfing. With a few hotels across the long stretch of sand, there are also plenty of options for food and drink if you don’t want to pack it. If you don’t mind bringing your own, note that food trucks and such are within a five-minute drive.
Poipu Beach – Just down the sand from Kiahuna Beach is Poipu Beach. Complete with a grassy area, picnic tables and even a playground! This beach offers easy access to snorkeling as well as a protected cove for young children. If you come back around sunset you’re bound to see some honus (sea turtles) swimming to shore for the night. Just be sure to stay a safe distance away from them as they are protected under the Endangered Species Act as well as the state of Hawai’i.
Baby Beach – This beach lives up to its namesake and is perfect for babies and young children alike. The water is typically both shallow and mellow, like a giant wading pool. The surrounding reef provides plenty more territory to explore with a snorkel and is home to a wide variety of friendly fish and other creatures. Sea turtles and monk seals have also been known to appear here!
Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail Starting at Shipwrecks Beach – This flat trail is two miles each way and packed with plenty of interesting sights and breathtaking views. It is known for its limestone formations and rocky inlets. Our boys love exploring the many tide pools, beaches and caves around each corner. In fact, we rarely ever hike the entire trail because there’s plenty to see and do from the get-go. Finally, during the winter months this trail is an ideal spot to go whale watching as you walk.
Kalalau Trail to Hanakapi’ai Beach – It’s a tough decision, but I am a beach lover and this continuation of the trail (beginning just past CJM Stables) is my favorite of the two “halves.” You get to skip walking around the golf course and you’re mostly traversing along the beautiful sandy shoreline. There are three beaches with turquoise water along this section of the trail–Gillin’s Beach, Kawailoa Bay and Ha’ula Beach. It takes approximately half an hour to go from the first beach to the last one, with plenty of reefs to explore and inlets to dip in. Did I mention that this hike begins at Makauwahi Cave Reserve right next to a tortoise sanctuary? It’s a win-win!
McBryde Garden – Disclaimer: this is more of a stroll than a hike, but it’s well worth visiting at least once (if not more times) on your vacation. Seriously, consider snagging yourself a membership. The majestic trees, the lush vegetation, the stream meandering through the valley–it’s the perfect place to pack a picnic and spend the day in. Park at the visitor center and hop on the shuttle! I highly recommend making a reservation for a guided tour of the adjoining Allerton Garden. It's truly one of the most spectacular places on Kaua’i with a rich and intriguing history to match.
Polihale State Park – Here lies the gigantic stretch of sand that marks the start of the Na Pali coastline and it’s quite a sight to behold. This is our favorite place to camp–we set up in time to watch the sun set over Ni’ihau, roast s’mores under the stars and often wake up with the beach to ourselves. It’s also the perfect spot to hunt for unique shells, paddle around with sea turtles and greet pods of dolphins (if you’re lucky)! Although, you absolutely don’t have to camp here to experience the magic – I recommend trekking out for an afternoon swim and staying for a sunset picnic.
Waipo’o Falls – This is the waterfall that is the most photographed feature of Waimea Canyon. It is 800 feet tall and this hike leads you to the top tier of it! It’s a quick 1.5-mile hike to the top of the falls where mini 15-foot falls and a small swimming hole await. This is a popular family-friendly trail that is suitable for children of all ages (and babies in carriers). The trail has a variety of interesting features that a child’s imagination can run away with and plenty of fantastic canyon views. Note that this trail is not flat throughout and crosses through a variety of terrain types–there is also a final section that’s really quite wide but flanks a steep drop-off into the canyon. Other than that, it’s truly a gem of an adventure.
Places to eat & drink in Kaua'i
SOUTH SHORE BREAKFAST
Kind Koffee Company We come for two things: matcha lattes and avocado toast. The latter is simple but perfectly spiced and the avocados are always just right. Okay, I lied, we came for three things–the chocolate chip cookies rivaled our own. Their adorable trailer is parked inside Warehouse 3540 in Lawai.
‘Anakē’s Juice Bar açaí bowl heaven. My go-to is the Funky Monkey, but the Poipu Paradise comes in as my second favorite. This gem is tucked away at the back of Kukuiula Store in Poipu where you can also pick up some musubi for the road.
Kalaheo Cafe - If you’re looking for a neighborhood diner vibe, then this is it. The food never disappoints and is always worth the wait. Their Roasted Veggie Bowl is my comfort breakfast. We live walking distance from their Kalaheo spot and order takeout dinner from them weekly–dinner is only served Wednesdays-Sundays.
Kiawe Roots Brunch, lunch, dinner–we’d eat all three here if we could, it’s that good. Lilikoi pancakes, green chile skillet, caesar salad, fried brussel sprouts, smoked cheese pasta, wasabi pea crusted fish and the kalbi are some of our favorites dishes at this Lawai eatery. Make a reservation to guarantee seating, otherwise they have a seamless takeout program as well!
SOUTH SHORE LUNCH
Kickshaws Looking for something delicious and creative? You’ll certainly find it at this favorite food truck in Koloa. The Tremendous Tuna Melt is not to be missed same with the Freakin’ Fantastic Fried Chicken Sandwich. Daniel is addicted to their Wagyu!
Taco Libre - We are Mexican food fanatics and are so thankful that Taco Libre joined the Koloa food truck scene. I am all about their Cali Burrito with fish (with a side of their homemade guacamole, of course) while Daniel always defers to the Al Pastor Breakfast Burrito. Their signature salsas are an excellent addition as well.
Big Monster Sushi - With three locations on island, it's extremely convenient for us to have two on the South Shore. All of their rolls are fantastic, but my favorite by far is the Aloha roll and Daniel’s is the Fire Dragon.
Lawai Market - The perfect spot to grab a no-frills but exceptionally tasty lunch on the go. I usually go for the Falafel Wrap with french fries while Daniel is smitten for their Gyros (with french fries because they’re really quite incredible). Better yet, the chef has recently started offering Sunday Suppers for pick-up, highly recommend!
Kauai Poke Co. - Breakfast or lunch after a trek along the Maha’ulepu trail, yes please! I go through phases where I’m addicted to their Ahi Katsu over salad greens (add avocado, of course). Can’t wait to try more off their expanded menu now that they’re in their very own brick-and-mortar restaurant!
SOUTH SHORE DINNER
Koloa Pizza Kitchen Our top pizza joint on this side of the island, their menu is straightforward and down-right delicious. Even the french fries are next level! My favorite pizza here is the Garlicky White Devil Pizza, give me all the garlic!
La Spezia This is the best Italian joint on Kaua’i, family-owned and cozy to boot. The antipasti are divine. Love the ever-changing Gnocchi and Tortellini. Nonna’s Lasagna, the Short Rib Ravioli and the Wagyu Hanger Steak keep us coming back for more.
The Tasting Room - If sips and bites are your jam, then you’ll find your ideal Kaua’i watering hole here. Better yet, their family also owns the wine shop next door, so if you taste something you like, you can pop over for a bottle (or two). Don’t miss the French onion soup, charcuterie boards or the fresh burrata. And I shouldn’t have to remind you to save room for the panna cotta.
The Beach House - You simply haven’t done dining on Kaua'i right unless you’ve at least had a pau hana here. The cocktails and sunset views can’t be beat – plus the food will satisfy your intro to Pacific rim cuisine dreams. My ideal lineup: the No Ka Oi to sip on and Szechuan Stir-Fry Green Beans to start, followed by the Macadamia Nut Butter Sautéed Fresh Hawaiian Catch.
SOUTH SHORE DESSERT
The Fresh Shave Clearly I wouldn’t send you anywhere else for shave ice. Not when these syrups are made in small batches out of fresh ingredients. The picture-perfect courtyard is a magical place to slow down and enjoy every bite of handcrafted shave ice? My personal favorite off the standard menu is The Chevron–coconut lime syrup topped with a coconut chia seed cream. But the Secret Menu always has my attention, as do the Seasonal Specials.
Need to Know
Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, North Shore Kaua'i Like A Local.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Kaua'i.