Explore the hidden secrets of Kauai Island. Here is a day itinerary for you to plan a perfect trip to Kauai
What part of the island you want to stay on will dictate, to a degree, what kind of vacation you have. Although Kaua‘i is small enough to do a driving tour in one day, where you stay will dominate certain activities. Winter is our rainiest season, but that’s also when you will see waterfalls at their best. The north shore is a more popular place to stay in the summer, and the south shore is more popular in the winter due to rainfall distribution and surf.
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A Day 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.)
1 Day in Kauai - Kauai Itinerary
Now that you’re at your ideal resort and have everything you need for a day on Kauai, including the Hawaii Revealed app, it’s time to get started! Your day begins at 7am with a quick bite of breakfast, before exploring the best of what the Big Island has to offer.
2. 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.
3. Lunch at Hanalei Dolphin Restaurant
This is a north shore tradition that is much more consistent these days than what we’ve seen in the past. They have some outdoor tables on a lawn next to the Hanalei River—very nice at lunch or while waiting for your indoor table at dinner. They are often busy and don’t take reservations—so if waiting bothers you, arrive early or you’re out of luck.
Their seafood selection is excellent. Pick a fish and a side item. The teriyaki ‘ahi is awesome and best ordered med-rare, even if you’re a medium kind of diner. Love it with the asparagus wraps. They have a seafood market, a good place to pick up fish for cooking back at the condo. And the western-style sushi is high quality.
4. Afternoon at Tunnels Beach
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.
5. 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.
Hawaii Revealed App
That’s a lot of activities to choose from on the Kauai! 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 catalogued 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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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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