3 Days in Kauai

Explore the hidden secrets of Kauai Island. Here is a 3-day itinerary for you to plan a perfect trip to Kauai

Kaua‘i is a unique place. People who visit here recognize this immediately. There are plenty of places in the world featuring sun and sea, but no other place offers the incomparable beauty, lushness and serenity of Kaua‘i. Living here, we get to see first-time visitors driving around with their jaws open, shaking their heads in disbelief at what they see. Without a doubt, you will never see more smiles than during your visit to Kaua‘i.

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3 Days in Kauai

Resorts aren’t actually rated 5 or 4 stars in Hawaii per se.

We’ll call them the “Top Resorts on Kauai” which are:

- Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa

- Princeville Resort (Formerly St. Regis)

- Sheraton Kauai Resort

Where to stay in Kauai

This list may assist you in planning what to bring. Obviously, you won’t bring everything on the list, but it might make you think of a few things you may otherwise overlook:

If you’re looking to spend the day at a beach, don’t feel compelled to bring everything with you from the mainland. Hawai‘i Beach Time (808-585-1474) rents everything beachy you can think of—from umbrellas to kayaks, beach chairs, surfboards, hammocks, etc. And their prices are fairly reasonable. Spend $50 or more and they’ll deliver it all to you anywhere on the island, for free.

What to Bring

Hiking sticks (carbide-tipped ones are good for boulder-hopping hikes)

Shoes—flip-flops, trashable sneakers, water shoes, hiking shoes

Shorts and other cool clothing

Camera with lots of storage

Light windbreaker jacket (for a trip to Kalalau Lookout or helicopter trip)

Junk clothes for bikes, hiking, etc.

Mosquito repellent for some hikes. (Those with DEET seem to work the longest).

Mask, snorkel and fins

Cheap, simple backpack—handy even if you’re not backpacking

Long, lightweight pants for hiking if you are going through jungle country.

Reef-safe and water-resistant sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher)

Hat or cap for sun protection

Wool socks for walking on hot Polihale sand. (If you’ve been there before, you know what it’s like.)

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Day 1 In Kauai - Kauai Itinerary

If you haven’t checked out our 1-day Kauai itinerary, you can do so here. We show you how to make the most of your first day on Kauai.

Breakfast at Banandi

When you walk in, you think it’s an ice cream shop, but that’s not the reason to come here. They have a small selection of Roselani, a fairly good ice cream made on Maui. The real reason to come here are the crepes. Try the ham and eggs for breakfast, smoked salmon for lunch or the evil Nutella crepe any time. The dining room is hard to describe but works for us.

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Morning Visit to Waimea Canyon and Koke‘e

Waimea Canyon is a spectacular gorge that defies description. Island legend states that when Mark Twain was here, he dubbed it “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” (Unfortunately, when you read his biography, you find that when he visited Hawai‘i, he never set foot on Kaua‘i. Oops, there goes another urban legend.) Regardless, the layers evident on the sides of the canyon are reminiscent of the grander canyon in Arizona. Each layer represents a different eruption and subsequent lava flow. The canyon is 10 miles long, 1 mile wide and more than 3,600 feet deep.

To get to the canyon, take Waimea Canyon Drive from Waimea. They want you to go up from Koke‘e Road in Kekaha because they hope you’ll buy something there, but the views are better going up from Waimea. On your return from the canyon, you can take Koke‘e Road (between mile markers 6 and 7) down for a different view of the coast.

Evening at Hanalei Bay

One of Kaua‘i’s snorkeling nirvanas. This superb beach has a wide-fringing reef that is so large it can be seen from space. There is often a lateral rip current, but it’s normally quite weak, making Tunnels a good snorkeling spot most of the time.

The beach is quite popular, and you will often see SCUBA divers here, as well as surfers and windsurfers. All this makes it sound crowded, but a lack of street parking keeps the numbers relatively low. The kaleidoscope of underwater life is usually profuse and definitely worth your time to explore.

Dinner and a Show at Tahiti Nui Lu’au

If you’d rather have a more intimate experience, Tahiti Nui Lu‘au gives you the feeling of being invited into a (very talented) family’s home. Instead of an audience of several hundred people, you’re in a dining hall next door to the Tahiti Nui bar with 60 (usually fewer).

The seating is shared, the entertainment is decidedly low-tech, and the food selection only takes up two tables. The food isn’t as varied as others but seems higher quality (even the poi tastes better here), and the pig they pull out of the imu is always what you’ll be fed.

Having the restaurant’s well-conceived mai tai rather than the watered-down alternative found at most lu‘au might affect our judgment, but we still appreciate their different approach. The show only has four dancers, and they cover traditional hula all the way through Samoan fire dance.

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Day 3 In Kauai - Kauai Itinerary

Breakfast at NOM Kaua‘i

A ridiculously easy place to like. Breakfast and lunch served the whole time they're open, so you can have a burger at 7:30 a.m. or banana French toast at 2 p.m. Their burger concoctions are all over the place and combine some pretty novel ingredients (though we didn’t have the courage to try the one that included peanut butter…). They use local beef and other regionally sourced ingredients. The BLR bites—fried green tomatoes, maple-braised pork belly slab, garlic tomato jam on greens—are awesome and display their Southern roots. Breakfast items are unusual and effective. And their version of loco moco is like nothing we’ve seen. Their biscuits and gravy (better yet the southern chick) has the best milk gravy on the island, though be forewarned it has a spice to it. These guys really think outside of the box, and portions are ample. Wash down lunch with some pineapple tea or one of their clever-sounding cocktails.

Read complete review on Hawaii Revealed app. Download from App Store or Play Store

Kayak the Wailua River

Of the four rivers, the Wailua is by far the most popular. It’s very scenic, and there’s a waterfall called Secret Falls on the north fork you can hike to if you like. (Some brochures call it the most spectacular waterfall on the island. That’s bunk, but it’s a nice one just the same.) There’s a more dubious trail just before the falls that goes to the top and exposes you to the more beautiful upper falls, but the trail is pretty sketchy and not recommended. It’s 5 miles round trip and takes most people about 3 hours to paddle plus stopping or hiking time. Since large boats take passengers to the Fern Grotto, kayakers should always stay on the north side of the river. If you want to visit the Fern Grotto, consider pulling ashore after the docks at the so-called kayak landing area. To be honest, the grotto is not the same as it used to be and is barely worth the effort to get there. The best part about kayaking this river is the scenery and hiking to the waterfall. Just enjoy the Wailua for its lushness, and watch out for the large boat tours. 

Lunch at Coconut’s Fish Café

You’re in Hawai‘i, and you want fish without paying a fortune. These are the cats to hit. (The place is named after the owner’s kitty, Coconut.) Simply great seafood tacos, fish burgers, fish and chips (which are not at all greasy), etc., as well as pasta, salads, and soups. Presentation is better than you’d expect for these prices, and if you order a sandwich, your sides will come stacked on top. They make everything on the spot, and they have nice buns if we do say so ourselves.  

Afternoon at Poipo Beach

This is the major center of beach activity on the south shore. The swimming is nearly always safe just to the left of the tombolo/sandbar, which disappears for stretches after major storms and during those times can bring a rip current. To the left is an area semi-protected by a breakwater along with some shade. It’s very popular with children. Park facilities and lifeguard are present. This park is a nice place to enjoy the ocean, though it can get very crowded. The far right side isn’t as protected but features excellent snorkeling with lots of fish and good swimming if the surf isn’t high.

Dinner at Red Salt

The name derives from the strong red Hawaiian sea salt that accompanies many items (and the bread with the unsalted butter). Ambiance is modern with splashes of Asian. Breakfast is a $35 buffet or a handful of pricey items such as lobster Benedict. Try the mac nut Belgian waffles. Dinner is the reason for the ono. Very good and very expensive. Entrées range from steak and lamb to their vanilla bean mahimahi to the one item we can't bring ourselves to order—a $50 burger. (Oh, the list of ingredients explains it, but still…) They have uncommonly good mixed drinks. Sushi also available 

Hawaii Revealed App

That’s a lot of activity packed into 3 days! But we didn’t stop at simply reviewing the resorts, restaurants and activities. We’ve organized them based on prices, regions, and loads of other unique filters in one app. If you wanted to know more information, such as which resorts have an outdoor lanai, which restaurants have live music, and which activities need half a day or more, we’ve cataloged all of that information on our app, which you can filter through.

We have the same custom maps found in the book on our app, only now you can zoom in and quickly see what’s nearby, then tap on the activity to read more. The maps will also show you the distance between a resort and an attraction, making it easy to plan your Hawaii trip.

You can also find the following in our app:

- Sights Information including their locations, pricing, and contact details

- Adventure activities and their reviews

- A planner to save your favourites spots

- Maps to view nearby activities, resorts, restaurants and more.

Download the Hawaii Revealed app to see all the real gems and not to be missed sights on the islands.

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Read complete review on Hawaii Revealed app. Download from App Store or Play Store

Plan your Kauai Vacation with our Hawaii Revealed App

Check out our new Hawaii Revealed app with everything you need to know about where to stay, including unbiased reviews, restaurants, and activities. Download the app for free on iOS to get previews of the best-selling Hawaii travel guides in the palm of your hand. Choose in-app purchases for full access to details on each island.

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