Kauai, Hawaii

What you should know about Kauai, Hawaii, before you go.
By: Pam Mandel
Perched on the northwest end of the Hawaiian archipelago, the island of Kauai is exposed to rougher surf and more rain than any of the other islands. Those rains keep the steep cliffs green and make for frequent rainbows, but there are also plenty of gold, sandy beaches. Kauai is the perfect island for active travelers who want to add outdoor activities such as hiking and kayaking to their beach time.
Hanalei Colony Resort
Hanalei Colony Resort

Hanalei Colony Resort

Photo by: Hanalei Colony Resort

Hanalei Colony Resort

Condos at Hanalei Colony Resort have no TVs or phones, making it perfect for an off-the-grid stay. All units have kitchens and either 1.5 or 2 baths. There’s laundry, free parking (rare on the island!) and a swimming pool, but the real draw is the location: The roar of the surf fills the rooms — especially the oceanfront ones — and the views are unbeatable.
Waimea Plantation Cottages
Waimea Plantation Cottages

Waimea Plantation Cottages

Photo by: Holger Leue / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images

Holger Leue / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images

Individual cottages have been moved from a former plantation, lovingly restored and placed in a palm grove with ocean views. Staying here feels like being in a picture postcard of old Hawaii. The cottages are available in lots of different sizes; there’s something for every size family. Fewer tourists make this side of the island their base camp, so it has a nice authentic vibe.
Kauai Shores
Kauai Shores Hotel

Kauai Shores Hotel

Photo by: Aston Hotels & Resorts

Aston Hotels & Resorts

This recently renovated property is beachside in Kapaa. The rooms are decorated in fun, bright colors; there’s a big swimming pool; and the close-to-town location makes it easy to do your souvenir shopping on foot. Breakfast is included, and complimentary outdoor yoga classes are offered 3 days a week.
Tiki Tacos
Tiki Tacos

Tiki Tacos

Photo by: Ereyesleblanc

Ereyesleblanc

Heated arguments occur over who has the best fish tacos on Kauai; Tiki Tacos tops the list repeatedly. Homemade tortillas, fresh local fish, organic seasonal produce in the salsa and guacamole, and a bargain. Be prepared to wait; there’s often a line. It’s casual and kid-friendly, as you’d expect for a strip mall taco joint.
Duke's
Duke's Restaurant

Duke's Restaurant

Photo by: Dan Tentler

Dan Tentler

This spot at the Kauai Marriott Resort is part of a chain of island restaurants, but don’t let that put you off your dinner plans. It has won a stack of awards for its food and service. The menu always has fresh, local fish prepared in a selection of island styles; there’s a variety of mai tais and signature cocktails; and the setting is glorious. Make reservations.
Hamura Saimin
Hamura Saimin

Hamura Saimin

Photo by: Chie Gondo

Chie Gondo

Saimin is a Hawaiian noodle dish that’s a mash-up of Japanese, Chinese and Filipino cuisine; Hamura's has specialized in it since 1951. The restaurant has counter seating and is cash-only, casual and very popular.
Ride the Kauai Plantation Railway
Kauai Plantation Railway

Kauai Plantation Railway

Photo by: MukYj

MukYj

Kids (and grown-ups charmed by trains) love riding the immaculately restored open railcars on the Kilohana Plantation. The route is short, only 2.5 miles, but it’s fun to learn about the history of farming on Kauai and see how sugar, pineapple, tarot and other island crops are grown.
Flight-see the Na Pali Coast
Na Pali Coast

Na Pali Coast

Photo by: Hawaii Tourism / Tor Johnson

Hawaii Tourism / Tor Johnson

Much of Kauai is inaccessible by road; flying will show you places you’d simply not see otherwise. Photographers and thrill seekers may prefer a “doors-off” flight for unobstructed views. Only Island Helicopters lands at the falls made famous in Jurassic Park, so if that’s your deal-breaker, they’re your operator.
Visit Limahuli Garden
Limahuli Garden

Limahuli Garden

Photo by: Hawaii Tourism Authority / Tor Johnson

Hawaii Tourism Authority / Tor Johnson

While the botanical collection at Limahuli is a delight for gardeners and plant lovers, there’s also a lot of Hawaiian cultural history to learn from this site. The focus is on native species and plants that were important to native Hawaiians. If you want to take the guided tour, be sure to reserve in advance. It can be buggy, so wear mosquito repellent.
Hike Waimea Canyon
Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon

Photo by: Hawaii Tourism Authority / Tor Johnson

Hawaii Tourism Authority / Tor Johnson

The sculpted red rocks of Waimea Canyon give way to views of the green cliffs of the Na Pali Coast. Day hikers can stick to the nature trail and viewpoints; those with stronger legs can head down to the base of the canyon, 2,000 feet below.
Attend a Luau
Luau

Luau

Photo by: Hawaii Tourism Authority / Tor Johnson

Hawaii Tourism Authority / Tor Johnson

They’re touristy affairs, but if you’ve never seen the fire dancers or eaten kalua pork roasted in a traditional imu pit, you’re missing out on delicious food and an exciting show. The Smith Family has been hosting a luau on the island for 50 years now. It’s a Kauai tradition.
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