North Shore Kaua'i Like A Local
The North Shore of Kaua’i is the idyllic base to slow yourself down and immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of the island. From lush jungle landscapes to crystal clear water, adventures await around every corner. While we live here on Kaua’i, this is where our family goes to recharge and reconnect with nature.
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Where to stay in Kaua'i
1 Hotel Hanalei Bay
Luxury resort on Kauai's Napali Coast with world-class wellness amenities and sustainable initiatives.
$100 hotel / resort credit.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
Luxury B&B nestled on five private acres with Polynesian-style rooms on the north shore of Kauai.
The Hibiscus House
A single-family home rental in Kauai with walking or bike access to Princeville's shops, beach, ocean, grocery store and restaurants.
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Things to do in Kaua'i
Tunnels Beach – One of our top three favorite beaches on Kaua’i with a seriously stunning backdrop. When the conditions are right, there are plenty of shallow areas to splash around in–my five-year old refers to them as “mermaid pools.” The snorkeling here is also my favorite on the island with so many beautiful creatures to encounter at varying depths. Parking and shade is limited, so prepare accordingly.
Lumaha’i Beach – A short (but steep) hike down to this beach is absolutely worth it, but be sure to check the surf report first. There’s plenty of room, so swim and spread out on the sand. At the northern end of the beach you can explore the shallow area where the river meets the ocean. Fun fact – Some scenes from the movie South Pacific were filmed here!
Hanalei Bay – There are multiple beaches to choose from along this famous bay. Our keiki love the section fronting the pier the most–Black Pot Beach Park–as they enjoy jumping off it (when the water is deep enough, of course). This can be a great spot to learn how to surf. Better yet, it’s a quick five-minute drive from Hanalei town eateries!
Okolehao Trail – This wide, mostly uphill trail is a nice challenge for keiki. You trek through the forest so the trees conveniently provide some decent shade and unlimited opportunities for climbing. It’s just short of two miles to reach the end of the trail where a bench and beautiful views of the bay await. Continue at your own risk to a section of the trail for experienced hikers and involves a few dozen rope-assisted climbs. It is certainly a spectacular full-body workout that takes you high above where the helicopters fly!
Kalalau Trail to Hanakapi’ai Beach – The two-mile hike to the beach is quite challenging, fun and full of breathtaking views of the Napali Coast. There’s plenty to explore on and around the beach–from hopping along boulders to popping in and out of the caves. Note that I wouldn’t recommend this as a swimming beach as the current here is very strong and the break can be quite rough. However, certain times of year the right conditions create an extension of the stream where children can splash around in. *Reservations required for all out-of-state visitors.
Kalalau Trail to Hanakapi’ai Falls – The four-mile hike to this 300 waterfall is spectacular in every sense of the word. I love that the trail winds through jungle, bamboo forests, and stream crossings. There are plenty of opportunities to take a dip and rinse off the mud that you’re bound to be covered in. Pack plenty of water and a picnic lunch so that you can spend some time soaking up the grandeur of the waterfall in front of you. *Reservations required for all out-of-state visitors.
Because you can't go to Kaua'i without having shave ice, so you may as well have the best at The Fresh Shave where everything is made from scratch. You won't find artificial flavors or colors here because their syrups are made from real ingredients! The Fresh Shave is located in Old Koloa Town on the sunny South Shore of Kaua'i, just a few minutes away from beach access.
Places to eat & drink in Kaua'i
Holey Grail Donuts: We’ve been huge fans of these fancy, dense donuts since they first opened. What’s not to love about farm-fresh ingredients with an Instagram-worthy aesthetic to match? They’re menu rotates often and their dairy-free drinks are also worth mentioning–I love their matcha and their chocolate mylk. Order ahead on their app and pick up from their trailer in the Hanalei food truck area.
Hanalei Bread Co.: This bakery has something for everyone in the family! I usually order the brekki sandwich and a monkey juice (sub-coco milk). The avocado toast is certainly a fan favorite for our entire crew too, and 99% of the time we order to-go so we can enjoy our brunch on the beach. Come early or be prepared to wait a while.
The Spot: If you’re staying in Princeville then this is your closest option, and luckily it’s so darn delicious! Everything on their menu is bursting with flavor and decently priced. Since this is one of the only breakfast options in Princeville, I recommend arriving early to hopefully beat the long line.
Swell Bakehouse Bagels are our love language, what about you? If you’re lucky enough to be in town when these folks are baking then I highly recommend scheduling a delivery (order Monday for Wednesday delivery). You can also snatch them up on Fridays at the Wainiha Country Market and Hanalei Market. Don’t miss out on these incredible bagels and cream cheese spreads.
Da Fazenda: Brazilian food on Kaua’i? Yes please! Whether you get the Brazilian plate (we usually opt for shrimp or bacon-wrapped chicken) or the Moqueca, you’re going to be pleasantly surprised and completely full. Their pineapple mint juice is also a favorite of mine.
Fresh Bite: If you’re looking for farm-fresh goodness, then this is where you’ll want to go. When they have their banh mi special then all bets are off! Although I’m a creature of habit and my usual order is the gaucho bowl with steak paired with their classic french fries and homemade buttermilk ranch (note that this combo will run you over $20).
Tiki Tzatziki: Daniel is a gyro connoisseur and he loves them here. Fresh Greek food after a morning at the beach is seriously perfection. While the two spots above are located in the Hanalei food truck area, this gyro stand is right next to Big Save in Hanalei.
Cafe Turmeric: Everyone in our ‘ohana enjoys the curry and naan from here–we usually get the shrimp curry and the vegetable curry! Plus, the post-sunset ambiance around this food truck is a fun experience. Pack some drinks, maybe some candles too and set up on one of the picnic tables.
Bar Acuda: Absolutely positively my favorite date night spot on Kaua’i. I regularly dream about the local cucumber salad–it’s one of the staples on their rotating menu. You simply cannot beat the quality of the cocktails and food here. Reservations are a must.
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Jennifer Gerard’s guide, Exploring the Garden Island of Kauai.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Kaua'i.