Trip Planner: Kauai

By: Smith Schwartz |

Recently, we found out some good friends of ours are headed to Kauai for their honeymoon. We put together this list of resources and thought it might be a fun thing to share them here. Enjoy!

Before you go

* Guidebook/app: Kauai Revealed. We had both the book and the app- highly recommend. Found some great hidden beaches and trails because of this book- activities are right on- but take restaurant recommendations w a grain of salt- we didn’t always agree. Loved Gillian’s beach on the south side. (They have a guidebooks for other islands also.)

* Unfamiliar Fishes is fascinating and a good beach read. Very highly recommend.

* Before we left, we each bought a pair of Chacos for muddy hiking and swimming in rocky areas. They are super dorky, but I was so glad to have them. Very supportive and functional.

* We used Discount Hawaii Car Rental to book our rental car and got a much better deal than the regular sites. We also checked our normal car insurance that we were covered before leaving as Hawaii has a few different laws concerning car insurance than we do on the mainland.


* It’s worth considering breaking up your stay to include both the north and south sides  of the island. The drive is slow, there’s only one road and everyone’s on it. Getting back and forth in one day might be a pain and there are some real gems on both sides.

* Kalalau Trail- hike to Na Pali coast (you can’t drive there) and it’s so amazing. Best hike ever. Ke’e beach is there to relax when you’re finished.

* Kileua Lighthouse- go early in the morning for the most wildlife- dolphins, whales, etc.

* Second best hike ever was the Waimea Canyon. There are so many hikes to choose from here- you could spend days coming back.

* We also loved the Keahua Arboretum. The bus ride into the Arboretum is worth the whole trip- amazing cliffside views. We did a daytime trip, but they mentioned an evening one (where I think you get to go to an otherwise unreachable beach) that sounded really cool.

* There is a fun “art-walk” in Hanapepe on Friday nights- heard good things but we didn’t make it out to this.

* We heard that the most beautiful beach in all of Hawai’i is on the west side of Kaua’i but privately owned by the U.S. Military. We also head that you can apply for a guest pass for like 20 bucks. They also do weird events like movies on the beach? If I were going back, I’d check into it and apply- you need a couple months advance. Could be interesting on multiple levels.

* Also, surprisingly the thrift shops in Hawai’i are kind of amazing. My guess is people just leave lots of stuff when they move, so there’s lots of amazing things in great condition there. Could find interesting things to bring or ship back.


* Tahiti Nui- not much nightlife on Kauai, but this “downtown” Hanalei Bay joint is really the best spot. Great local music, mai tais, surprisingly excellent food. Owned by same family for 50 years- all the locals will rave about this place, because it rules.

* Kapa’a fish taco truck: Al Pastor Amazing tacos, super nice folks. (Also, behind this truck is another truck of a woman who has cold, baby coconuts, she’ll chop the top off for you to drink, then she’ll scoop out the meat and bag it up for you to take with. Amazing.)

* Waimea fish tacos: Island Taco

* Hawaiian Pizza and pitchers of Longboard: Brick Oven Pizza

* We liked the food here, (they just started doing dinner) but service was soooper slow. Kalaheo Coffee Shop

* If you’re hungry after (or before) your flight, Duke’s Barefoot Bar in Lihue was fun. Beachfront views and good poke. Otherwise, Lihue is pretty industrial, and cheesy touristy. There is a Wal-Mart and Macy’s there if you need to pick up anything.

* Fav grocery store. Good snack stand outside, too. Cute strip of old timey shops, I believe we also found a good fish taco truck near here as well.

* Make sure to try some 100% Kona coffee (Kauai coffe is good- Kona is fantastic)- some hotels and restaurants will serve a dinky 10% blend. 100% is where it’s at.


* We spent our two nights near the airport at The Garden Island Inn. We were glad to have a quick drive to this kitchy spot after 18 hours of travel time to get to Kauai. (Thanks for the delay, LAX…) The decor is a bit quirky, but it’s clean and centrally located. With the ocean in the front and a waterfall in the back, this hotel makes sleeping off the jetlag rather easy.

* We then moved to the mauka (up mountain) side of the highway to the Lawai Valley. Here, we rested our heads at the Strawberry Guava Bed and Breakfast. Our morning breakfast with other travelers and Traci and her family gave us plenty of ideas and inspiration for planning our days. We loved this hidden gem.

* Finally, we stayed up north in Princeville at the Hanalei Bay Resort. By far the fanciest of our accommodations, this condo-style resort shares a beach with the much pricier St. Regis. Not too shabby indeed.

A hui hou kakou, Kaua’i!