The Ultimate Guide to Kauai
Trust us when we say there is a lot to do on each of Hawaii’s islands. Kaua‘i, in particular, is made for adventurers and has all the lush jungles, gardens, and waterfalls you can imagine.
Creating an ultimate guide to Hawaii is a full-time job. It takes us two years to produce a first edition book, and in the meantime, we update our mobile app daily with new information on places we’ve reviewed.
But to highlight a few real gems, here are the top places you can’t miss while you’re in Kaua‘i. We’ve rounded up our favourite resorts, sights, activities and restaurants so you’re fully covered and can make the most of your vacation. These places all received A Real Gem or an Ono in our books and app as they stand out from the rest.
We’ve personally stayed at and reviewed every single resort on Kaua‘i, and these are the ones that came out on top. They both receive “A Real Gem” from us because they offer something particularly special. Curious about the other resorts? Download our app for free to read all of our Kaua‘i resort reviews.
Kaua‘i Marriott Resort & Beach Club
From the immaculate, garden-like grounds (complete with birds and koi) to the smashing pool area, this place works. The overall feel is calming. They have tons of artwork strewn around the resort. Marriott has an unbelievable circular pool with a bridge to the center island and spas along one edge. What strikes us as most impressive about the Marriott is the service. They obviously take great pains to provide whatever the guest wants.
Sheraton Kaua‘i Resort
The Sheraton is the perfect complement to the Hyatt. While the Hyatt excels at gorgeous and exotic grounds, the Sheraton boldly embraces the ocean. The Ocean and Beach wings are closer to the ocean than at any other major Kaua‘i hotel. The sound of the surf hitting the rocks below the Ocean Wing is soothing. Kiahuna Beach, in front of the Beach Wing, is wonderfully close and easy to access. The Garden Wing (across the street) is generally lacking but is cheaper, and we’re not as fond of the rooms there.
See all resorts on Kaua‘i in our app. Download Now!
Kaua‘i is where lushness takes on a whole new meaning; where every shade of green imaginable is represented in their myriad plant life, and you can drive through countless coconut trees. While our app features all of the sights to see in Kaua‘i, these are the ones that are not to be missed. You can download our app and use our custom maps to plan your trip around the top sights in Kaua‘i.
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 Hawaii, he never set foot on Kaua‘i. Oops, there goes another urban legend.) The canyon lookout is an awesome vista.
In ancient times (and as recently as 2016, which you can see on YouTube), men would jump off the top of the falls to prove their manhood (which was often left on the rocks below). This test can be fatal. Government maps list the falls’ height at 80 feet. That always bothered us because it sure looks taller. So, a while back we dropped a fishing line and sinker to the bottom from the lip of the falls (boy, did we look stupid) and measured it. To our amazement, it was 173 feet of solid drop. (We measured it twice to be sure.) That’s actually taller than Niagara Falls, though the latter has a tad more water flowing.
Po’ipu – Spouting Horn
This wonderful delight is a small lava shelf where water from waves is thrust through an opening, causing water and air to squirt out a blowhole. This particular site distinguishes itself from other blowholes around Hawaii in that it has an additional hole that blows only air, causing a loud moaning and gasping sound.
If you want more from your Kaua‘i vacation than a suntan, Kaua‘i offers a multitude of activities to keep you happy and busy. Below we list out the more popular activities to do on Kaua‘i, with candid information on each. If you’re itching to see what other adventures await you in Kaua‘i, you can download our app and filter through the activities based on your preference. The app also includes a geo-accurate map you can use offline, meaning you’ll always have a guide to Hawaii in your pocket.
River Kayaking Trips
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 go 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.
If ever there was a place made for helicopter exploration, it’s Kaua‘i. You will see vertical spires and shake your head in disbelief at the sight of a goat perched on top. The awe-inspiring Waimea Canyon unfolds beneath you. A good pilot will come up over a ridge, suddenly exposing the glorious canyon, often timed to coincide with a crescendo in the music you hear in your headphones. You will see the incredible Olokele Valley with its jagged twists and turns and stair-step waterfalls. It is impossible to keep track of all the waterfalls you will see on your flight.
Of all the Hawaiian Islands, none offers more trails or better hiking than Kaua‘i. You could spend an entire month on Kaua‘i, hiking every day and not see half the trails that the island has to offer. And those are just the officially maintained trails. We have lots of hikes on our mobile app. We’ve also GPSed all the trails to assist on specific hikes. Additionally, there are several excellent hikes listed on the app in the Adventures section since they’re a bit…different.
See all activities on Kaua‘i in our app. Download Now!
We’ve reviewed over 200 restaurants on Kaua‘i and marked those that stand out from the rest with an “ono” symbol. Here are a few of our top-rated restaurants, but if you’d like to see more you can download our app and filter through them all based on cuisine and price. Our app acts as your personal guide to Hawaii by locating each of Kaua‘i’s restaurants on our custom maps and showing the distance between you and a restaurant worth your while.
Art Cafe Hemingway
An old school, artsy atmosphere unlike any other on the island. The menu changes twice a week, depending on which owner is cooking. (Mon.–Thurs. is owner A, other days is owner B.) They have a brunch from 8 a.m.–2 p.m. that brings some cool egg dishes as well as a few surprises. For instance, the kabocha (squash) coconut curry stew, which includes edible hibiscus flowers, is worth trying.
A Japanese ramen noodle house that has a fairly small selection, but what they do offer is outstanding. Though their signature dish is the Ama Ramen, our favorite is the Tori Mazemen, which has a touch of spice. For pupus, they have several kushiyaki skewers, but we usually order their Nuoc Cham fried Brussels sprouts. (We ate here with a fervent Brussels sprout hater who was stunned that he couldn’t get enough of them.) Overall, an ono for their tried-and-true ramen and great outdoor setting with awesome mountain views if you eat dinner early enough.
A peaceful plantation-like setting on the outdoor lanai, this place specializes in seafood, and they usually deliver it well. (No dolphins on the menu, but they do have dolphinfish—the other name for mahi-mahi.) They keep things simple here. Fish is either charbroiled with their special seasonings or blackened with cajun seasonings, both with drawn butter. The exception is the teriyaki ‘ahi, which is awesome and best-ordered med-rare, even if you’re a medium kind of diner.
If you’re hungry for more real gems on Kaua‘i, our app has them all plotted on our custom maps which can direct you to each location. The maps will even show you more attractions nearby and will tell you if it’s a real gem or not. Our maps can be downloaded for use offline, perfect for a hike on Kaua‘i! Meaning this guide to Hawaii actually guides you to the sights and activities found on Kaua‘i, and you can gain access to the other major islands as well: Maui, Oahu and the Big Island.
More information awaits you in our app, which you can download on your Apple or Android device.
See all restaurants on Kaua‘i’s in our app. Download Now!
Guide to Hawaii – Kaua‘i
Kaua‘i has it all, accommodation-wise, and as you consider where you want to stay—hotel or condo, by the beach or with a mountain view—you might find it intimidating to wade through the vast number of choices.
So here’s what we did. We have personally reviewed every resort on Kaua‘i. We have exhaustively cataloged all the amenities, formed opinions on what different properties have to offer and created comprehensive reviews. Sure, you can go online and look at reviews by people who have been to one or maybe two resorts. But none of those sources knows them all and can compare one to the other.
Because this information is so exhaustive, there isn’t enough room in our book to include it all. So we have put all of our reviews in our smartphone app, Hawaii Revealed, and made that portion available for free. There you can sort and sift through the resorts in a matter of minutes using our special filters. We also include our own aerial photos, so you’ll know if oceanfront really means oceanfront.
For instance, you might say, I want a hotel on West Shore Kaua‘i, on a beach, that’s good for families, has an outdoor lanai, a children’s pool, and takes service animals. Oh, and a swim-up bar would be nice. With the filters in our app, you can cut through the 76 or so resorts and get to exactly what you want by reading our in-depth, brutally honest review. How’s that for cutting through the noise?
More things to reveal in the app, your ultimate guide to Hawaii:
- Reviews on Hawaii Resorts with their locations
- Reviews on every single beach on the islands
- Interactive maps of Kaua‘i, Maui, Oahu and the Big Island
- Details to help plan your visit to Hawaii’s best sights, tours, activities and more