Travel insights from Jenna Buege, contributing editor of The Compass

The Travel Agent’s Ultimate Guide to Kauai

The northernmost and fourth-largest island in the Hawaiian chain, Kauai, aka the Garden Isle, is lined with impressive mountains, lush valleys and jagged cliffs. Travelers visit Kauai for the chance to experience unforgettable nature and to create lifelong memories.

Kauai Basics

  • Getting there – Travelers looking to visit Kauai can arrive by plane at the Lihue Airport located on the southeast coast of the island. Nautical-loving travelers can also visit the islands via cruise ship or ferry where they will dock at the Kauai Cruise Port.
  • Location – The U.S. state of Hawaii consists of a chain of islands and is located 3,758 miles from the mainland. Kauai is Hawaii’s fourth-largest island and is divided into five regions: the East Side (Coconut Coast), The West Side, the North Shore, the South Shore and Lihue.
  • Climate – Kauai is blessed with pleasant temperatures year-round with averages around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The Garden Isle of Kauai has a dry season in the summer months and a rainy season from November to March.
  • Currency – Since Hawaii is part of the United States their currency is the U.S. dollar.
  • Language – Fun fact: Hawaii is the only American state with two official languages: Hawaiian and English. In addition to speaking in two native tongues, many Hawaiians also use a form of slang called Pidgin.

Lodging

Most visitors stay at one of Kauai’s many local resorts or beach villas during their trip. There are also many rental properties available throughout the island.

Food

Kauai has a lot to offer when it comes to food, from fine dining to local fare, foodies can’t get enough of the Kauai food scene. Travelers won’t want to miss breakfast at Anake’s Juice Bar where they can savor delightful smoothies, acai bowls and kombucha made from the freshest of island fruits. Those looking for a quick bite must visit Porky’s Kauai, a food truck that serves buttery pulled pork and perfectly gooey grilled cheese. And of course, a trip to Hawaii wouldn’t be complete without some fresh seafood; past visitors recommend Makai Sushi for delicious poke and sushi rolls.

Fun

  • Adventure – Fun in Kauai means nature and exploration. Two popular hiking choices in the area are the Napali Coast and Opaekaa Falls. The Napali Coast is a 17-mile stretch accessible only by foot, boat or helicopter. Visitors love the Napali Coast for its vast cliffs, beautiful valleys and stunning waterfalls paired with a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean. Travelers looking to get their feet wet can wade in the waters of Opaekaa Falls, one of the area’s most accessible waterfalls. In addition to these exciting hikes, Kauai is also home to some significant natural and man-made formations such as the Alekoko Menehune Fishpond, a 900-foot lava rock wall built by the Menehune people 1,000 years ago, and the Fern Grotto, a natural lava rock grotto surrounded by lush tropical greenery.
  • Entertainment – Kauai is famous for its laid-back vibe, so travelers should not be expecting any wild ragers that go until 4 a.m. on this island. While this might not be the place for party people, visitors can still enjoy a multitude of classic Hawaiian luau dinner shows at various venues or listen to some live music at one of the local stages.
  • Shopping – Popular shopping spots are located in three different geographical spots on the island: the South Shore, the East Side and the North Shore. The South Shore is home to Poipu which features an open-air garden with an array of shops and restaurants perfect for travelers looking to purchase some new jewelry or artwork. The largest retail area on the East Side is the Kukui Grove Center; here visitors can browse well-known stores like Macy’s or Sears and even catch a movie. Last, but not least, is the North Shore where travelers can peruse the plantation-themed Princeville Shopping Center with more than 35 shops and restaurants.

History and Culture

  • The Kilohana Estate – Once home to the island’s most prominent families and a large sugar plantation, travelers can visit the famous Kilohana Estate for tours, shops and fun at the Koloa Rum Company. Today the estate acts as a working farm complete with its own tropical garden.
  • Wailua River State Park – A site with major historic significance, Wailua River State Park is where royalty was born, literally. Here travelers can see two large birthstones where mothers gave birth to the ancient nobles of Kauai such as King Kaumualii.
  • Malae – The largest remaining temple on Kauai, Malae was once a popular site for ancient Hawaiian ceremonies.

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