Eat, Hike & Explore Natural Beauty on Kauai

Advisor - Cindy Rhee
Curated By

Cindy Rhee

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  • Domestic Travel

  • USA

  • Hawai'i

  • Active Travel

  • Adventure Travel

  • Beaches

  • Nature Escapes

  • Solo Travel

  • Local Culture

  • Hiking

  • Outdoors

Aerial view of green mountains next to sandy beach and body of water during daytime
Curator’s statement

Kauai is one of the Hawaiian islands that keeps drawing me back. I've been there three times this year and I just can't get enough of this lush, green island with beautiful beaches and the stunning mountains along the Nā Pali Coast. It's the island where you most feel you are in sacred Hawaiian land, and where you can find some great local mom and pop restaurants you can't find anywhere else.

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Insider knowledge

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Where to stay in Kauai

Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa

A quintessential island resort on 50 lush acres of white-sand beachfront on Kauai’s beautiful southern shore.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

1 Hotel Hanalei Bay

Luxury resort on Kauai's Napali Coast with world-class wellness amenities and sustainable initiatives.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Resort

Relaxed hotel with modern rooms set on ten beachfront acres on Kauai's Coconut Beach.

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Things to do in Kauai

Trail winding with mountain in the distance next to body of water during daytime

Hike one of the most beautiful places on the planet - the Na Pali Coast. The two mile Kalalau trail hike to Hanakapi’ai Beach has you stepping over streams, rocks, boulders and uneven jungle terrain in one of the wettest places on earth. Be sure to check the weather before you make your advanced reservations on the Haena State Park website and be prepared with hiking poles, hiking shoes or sandals with good tread and layers for sun and rain. Your reservations will give you access to limited parking or a shuttle from Waipa. You will start your hike at Ke’e beach and you may see wild ginger, bananas, guava and wildflowers before you catch the most jaw-droppingly stunning views of the coastline. Then you will start your downhill trek and find yourself scrambling over large boulders to get to the beach or hiking another two miles to get to Hanakapi’ai Falls. This is one hike you will never forget!

For an (almost) private beach day, head to Anini Beach. Instead of parking where everyone else does (the Anini beach campground) go about a mile further on Anini Road and park on the right when you see a good spot (there are many). This beautiful beach on the North Shore is fringed with coral reefs and is shallow enough for some great snorkeling. There are lots of trees near the water’s edge for shade and you can grab a poke bowl or plate lunch from the Kilauea Marketplace to enjoy here. If you walk through the water to the north side, you may see a rope swing hanging off a tree that you can use. Cross the Anini Stream and you will be at Wyllie’s Beach. From there you can take a short trail to your left that will take you through some amazing trees and jungle greens and wildflowers up to the Westin Princeville. This is my perfect beach day!

If you can’t get enough of Kauai’s amazing trees, flowers and plants just driving around the island, reserve a tour of Na’Aina Botanical Gardens and Sculpture Park, a private paradise of so many trees (those monkeypod trees are incredible!!!), flowers, waterfalls, herbs and cacti - many of which you will not have seen before. The self-guided walking tours are on Thursdays and they have other tours that are longer as the property is huge! If you are traveling with children, they have a reservation-only “Splash and Play” day once a month where you can bring your kids to play.

On the East side of Kauai, kayaking the Wailua River is a “must do” for active travelers. The views are gorgeous from everywhere on the river. You can rent kayaks around the island and transport them to the Wailua River Marina, or take a guided tour with a company like Kayak Wailua, where they will provide everything you need to kayak the scenic Wailua River and be able to hike and swim at a waterfall. You will come away from this in awe of the beauty of Kauai.

You won’t want to miss the town of Hanalei on the North Shore when visiting Kauai. It’s a perfect little place to walk around, browse little shops and have a good meal here, from the food trucks (the Holy Grail Donut Truck - oh my!) to upscale Bar Acuda, where reservations are a must. Rent kayaks and stand up paddleboards on the North Shore at Kayak Hanalei at the entrance of the sweet town of Hanalei. Grab an iced coffee, iced chai or shave ice at Wishing Well Shave Ice next door and then rent your kayak or paddleboard to spend time navigating the Hanalei River, to the ocean in one direction or through a wildlife refuge to the other. Go a few blocks toward the ocean to find Hanalei beach, which has the most idyllic and iconic Hawaiian views on the island and the perfect beach for swimming, floating and dreaming...

Places to eat & drink in Kauai

White sign with red writing next to trees during daytime

Where to eat breakfast in Kauai

Russell’s Eat Healthy Kauai: I love this sweet vegan place right behind the Aloha Roastery (fabulous coffee). Once you are seated in the backyard, you will immediately start to feel at home with the mountains in the background and chickens and roosters roaming freely. The scrambles are flavorful and delicious.

Java Kai: This place gets busy! No wonder - the avocado toast, tropical waffles, acai bowls and mac nut lattes will make you want to come back for more. Enjoy your yummy breakfast and then head around the back to the Kauai Juice Co. to load up on the freshest juices and kombucha for the day.

Kountry Kitchen: I’m still craving the island breakfasts from this busy and cozy place - Loco Moco, Eggs Benedict with Kalua Pork, Macadamia Nut French Toast, Kimchi Omelette and the HUGE Kountry Pancake (enough for four to share!) - all are yummy and the service is quick and cheery.

Where to eat lunch in Kauai

The Musubi Truck: Close to the center of Kapaa town, this truck serves the most delicious musubis made of spam, beef, chicken or tofu. You can also get some fresh poke bowls and enjoy them in the nice yard with (again!) the chickens and roosters, which are ubiquitous on Kauai.

Kilauea Fish Market: North of Kapaa you will find an upscale shopping center which houses this little restaurant, serving fresh lunch plates and fish tacos with whatever the fresh catch of the day is. Order inside eat on the enclosed patio or take your food to go to enjoy at the beach.

Where to eat dinner in Kauai

JO2: You will need reservations for this casual and popular restaurant in a small strip mall in Kapaa. The farm-to-table menu is Hawaiian inspired and you’ll find dishes like Lemongrass Sesame Crusted Mahi Mahi with Crispy Shrimp, Tempura Green Beans with Fennel and Spicy Garlic Sauce and Dylan Farm Coffee Roasted Heirloom Carrots on the menu.

Japanese Grandma’s Cafe: If you venture to the south side of the island, you won’t want to miss having dinner at this one of a kind place in Hanapepe behind a thoughtfully curated clothing and jewelry store. Reservations are highly recommended for this outdoor patio dining experience. They have a solid Japanese menu and live music and the cocktails are amazing! Make sure you walk around this cute little old town, pick up some taro chips at the Taro Ko Chip Company (no worries if they don’t seem open during business hours - just knock on the door and ask if you can get some chips), check out the little art galleries and walk over the Hanapepe swinging bridge. You can also check to see if they are having the Hanapepe Friday night art walks, which are a fun way to spend an evening.

Bar Acuda: Sometimes it can be difficult to get reservations at this popular upscale tapas restaurant in the sweet little town of Hanalei, but it’s well worth calling in advance. You’ll enjoy farm-to-table fresh and innovative dishes like Ahi Carpaccio, Seared Hawaiian Fish with Local Tomato and Macadamia Nut Pesto, Spanish Arancini and Lilikoi Cheesecake, polished service and inventive cocktails.

Ama - This Asian-Hawaiian inspired restaurant is in an absolutely beautiful open-air setting in Hanalei with the backdrop of taro fields, papaya trees and mountains in the background. If it’s raining, you may even be able to see waterfalls coming off those mountains. Skip the ramen bowls here and go for all the appetizers, bao buns salads and cocktails. You can also sit outside but if you do, bring your mosquito spray.

Need to Know

Kauai is an absolutely magical island - it's green and lush and there are incredible views from just about everywhere. There are so many fresh and delicious options on Kauai and so many places you can spend a perfect day. I hope you can experience the beauty of Kauai soon!

Advisor - Cindy Rhee

Travel Advisor

Cindy Rhee

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