17 Oct 2019
We are taking a look at various Kauai visitor experiences and giving recommendations for each. The five types of visitors we see most often include:
The Island Explorer — Guests seeking the “authentic” Kauai experience: historical sites, museums, plantations, and restaurants serving local fare.
The Kauai Adventurer — Guests who enjoy athletic activities, like surfing, scuba diving, swimming, snorkeling, hiking, bike riding.
The Spa Lounger — Guests who want to relax completely, visit luxurious spas, and catch up on rest & relaxation.
Kauai After Dark — Guests who want to explore Kauai after the sun goes down, including areas with great restaurants, live music, and even karaoke!
The Golf Enthusiast — Guests who love spending time on all of Kauai’s great golf courses, playing with friends, while creating good times and warm remembrances.
You may identify closely with one of these personas, or maybe several! Either way, there are many ways to explore the Garden Island and getting ready for your vacation is half of the fun!
The Island Explorer
Hanapepe Historic Walking Tour
Hanapepe means “crushed bay,” and the town is named after the cliffs that surround the deep bay area. “Kauai’s biggest little town” is 17 miles south of Lihue Airport and is home to shops, dining, an orchid festival, and a weekly Friday Night Art Night event.
A full-color Historic Hanapepe Walking Tour Map is available at many commercial stores. It shows many of the historic locations to visit and is one of the best ways to see and explore the town. Points of interests include three bridges: the Swinging Bridge on the east end of town, the Concrete Bridge built in 1911 on Hanapepe Road, and the 1938 Bridge on Kaumualii Highway.
The “Talk Story Bookstore & Café” is another favorite attraction, featuring a diverse selection of over 70,000 fine secondhand, new, and out-of-print books – as well as locally made gifts, Hawaiian records, Hawaiian Slack Key & Ukulele lesson courses, and much more!
The Kauai Museum, In The Albert Spencer Wilcox Building
Located in Lihue, “the mission of the Kauai Museum is to inspire and promote in the community an appreciation and respect for the indigenous and immigrant people of Kauai and Niihau and their cultural heritages.” The Museum is home to the largest collection of books about Kauai and includes exhibits of locally made products like Niihau shell leis, Tahitian pearls, Koa products, and quilts.
The Museum’s permanent collection includes:
- The Story of Kauai: Walk through a passage highlighting geological wonders of the island, its natural history, and the coming of the Hawaiian people. Portraits include famous chiefs from ancient times and beautiful examples of Hawaiian culture. Captain James Cook, traders, and whalers lead up to the second floor and the sugar plantation exhibits. Walk through the life-size camp house exhibit and discover the many people from many nations that came to make Hawaii their home.
- The Juliet Rice Wichman Heritage Gallery: See large koa-lined cases display fine kou umeke (bowls), rare and exquisite Niihau shell lei, and possessions once belonging to monarchs and Kauai alii. See beautifully carved furniture, wall plaques, and tableware from the monarchy period. View impressive portraits by Charles Bartlet and Kimo Wilder, of Emma Mahelona Wilcox and Albert Spencer Wilcox – the builder and namesake of the building.
- Oriental Art Gallery: From the early post-contact days, beautiful Asian china, sculptures, and paintings made their way into Hawaiian homes. Now, see many collections from Kauai families now on display in the Museum where the community can Enjoy and learn about Asian art.
Kauai Plantation Railway
Visit the Kauai Plantation Railway in Lihue and start your tour in an authentic Hawaiian train depot. Check in with the stationmaster, explore the unusual train depot shop, and discover many hand-crafted items made here on Kauai.
When the train approaches, step towards the boarding platform and watch as the engine appears right out of the trees. Railway cars are reproductions from the period of King Kalakaua, with elegant hand-finished wood interiors that give way to amazing views. A local guide narrates your journey and calls your attention to over 50 varieties of fruits and vegetables grown right in the region. To learn more about the “train-only tour,” the “train-hike-lunch-orchard tour,” and the “luau & train tour” – click here!
The Kilohana Plantation
Located directly across the street from the Kauai Plantation Railway in Lihue, the Kilohana Plantation includes a 16,000 sq. ft. mansion on the grounds of a working farm surrounded by lush tropical flowers. Be the plantation’s guest of honor while you stroll through the grounds. Visit Kauai’s award-winning Koloa Rum Company’s Tasting room. Shop at the Company Store. Enjoy dinner at Gaylord’s – an award-winning restaurant named after the owner of the plantation: Gaylord Park Wilcox – serving fresh island cuisine.
Authentic Kauai Meals at Koloa Fish Market
The Koloa Fish Market serves lunch and dinner as “take-out” or “delivery” because there are no seats at this local favorite. The menu includes signature dishes, like Hawaiian plates with Laulau, Kalua Pig, Chicken Long Rice, Poke, Salmon, and Smoked Swordfish. Guest comments on Zagat.com say:
Merriman's Fish House in Poipu
Chef-Owner Peter Merriman serves his unique style of Hawaii Regional Cuisine in a casual and elegant setting on an old Hawaii plantation. Pioneering the "Farm to Table" concept, Merriman's Fish House serves fresh food that is 90% grown or caught locally, using only sustainable methods.
Seeing Kauai through the eyes of “The Adventurer” means writing a list of things you’ve thought about doing – and putting it next to your list of things that make your pulse race. Like surfing! Hanging ten. Waxing up the board. Accelerating the waves. Hot doggin’ your vacation all the way through the pipeline. Sound awesome? Keep reading for recommendations for Kauai adventurers.
Kauai's North Shore Surfing School
The Surfing School staff has expert instructors who help you “get up and get surfing” whether this is your first time or you are already experienced. Located in sunny Hanalei Bay, the school also offers Stand-up Paddleboard (SUP) lessons and Snorkel Tours! To book your reservations, visit The Kauai North Shore Surfing School’s website and learn how you can paddle your adventure towards Kauai’s amazing waves – while learning water safety tips and instruction from some amazing riders.
Princeville Ranch Adventures
There is plenty to be said about spending time outdoors – and when your Adventure includes Princeville Ranch, the opportunities seem endless! There is a 1.5 hour Paniolo Ride, which includes horsemanship orientation at Princeville Stables followed by a leisurely ride on a real cattle ranch. Ideal for 8 years and older, up to 7 guests can all join the ride!
If you prefer having your feet on the ground the whole time, take a look at the Kalihiwai Falls hiking expedition! This guided tour takes you to the top of Pu'u O' Henui (a 500-foot gain) where you will enjoy a stunning 360-degree view of the entire North Shore. Then hike the lowland rainforest while learning about Kauai’s history, flora and fauna.
Lydgate Beach Park
Looking for an adventure where you can go to the beach and snorkel on the east side of the island? Lydgate Beach Park is a great place for kids to enjoy their Kauai adventure, while playing safely in the ocean. A lava-rock wall creates a natural swimming pool where you can snorkel, too. If you need it, you can pick up snorkeling equipment, beach chairs, and boogie boards at the Kapaa Beach Shop.
Lydgate Beach Park has plenty of parking and lifeguards on duty. The nearby Ke Ala Hele Makalae "Path that Goes by the Coast" provides hours of Adventure on the “scenic” multi-use path that connects Lydgate Beach Park and Wailua Beach Park. The path provides breathtaking views of Kauai’s “coconut coast” and use is free to the public. Enjoy restaurants, shops, and many amazing beaches along the path that is widely used by walkers, runners, and cyclists. If you need a bike, check out Coconut Coasters and make a reservation for your biking adventure!
Ready for an outdoor adventure that is family-friendly, exhilarating, and educational – all in one? Take a look at Kayak Kauai on the east side of the island! According to their website, the “tour is very relaxing… perfect adventure for all ages. About 3 hours of easy sightseeing, paddling, and hiking.”
This activity is rated "Family Friendly" and includes a guide certified and trained in water safety; PFDs (life preservers); double kayaks with bucket seats, foot pedals and rudders; and a water-resistant bag for your belongings. Remember to bring sun protection, including sunscreen, a light shirt, a bathing suit, appropriate footwear, a towel, and change of clothes.
Poipu Beach Park
Ready for some South Shore adventures? Check out Poipu Beach Park and be ready for an awesome day of sunbathing, swimming, and more! The Travel Channel once named Poipu Beach “America's Best Beach.” Close to shopping, restaurants, and Kauai’s amazing golf courses, Poipu Beach Park is also one of the most popular beaches on the Garden Island. Poipu Beach is perfect for Adventurers who love relaxing, picnicking, and spending the day with the Family. You may also see Hawaii's State Fish, the humuhumunukunukuapuaa!
CJM Country Stables
Lasting about 2 hours, the horseback-riding tours at CJM Country Stables take you through the historic Maha‘ulelpu area, which includes scenery & terrain of coastal & mountain vistas, and agricultural ranch land. The guided tour includes the nearby sand bar and stream, taking you to one of the most spectacular beaches in Hawaii.
Kokee State Park
Say hello to Kokee State Park, home to miles of hiking trails that provide panoramic views of canyons, valleys, and forests. Located 15 miles north of Kekaha on Kokee Road (Highway 550), the park has an elevation of 3,600 feet and connects to Waimea Canyon State Park. Kokee State Park offers commanding views of the lush, amphitheater-headed Kalalau Valley from a 4,000 foot elevation. Enjoy wildland picnicking, hiking in Kauai’s native rain forest, and observe native plants and forest birds. Services include restrooms, outdoor showers, picnic areas, and drinking water.
Trails leading through Kokee State Park include Alakai Swamp Trail, Awaawapuhi Trail, Kawaikoi Stream Trail, Nualolo Cliffs Trail, Nualolo Trail, Pihea Trail, and Poomau Canyon Lookout Trail. Remember to always take precautions while hiking on Kauai. Tell your friends and family which trails you are taking, bring plenty of water with you, and always use good judgment.
The Spa Lounger
Having the Kauai Spa Lounger experience starts with taking in a big breath, letting it out slowly – and letting go of all the thoughts in your mind. It’s about being in the now moment. Being in a space where everything is possible, and being present to the goodness all around you. Yes, this means letting go of all the things that were happening before you decided to take a vacation – and once you get here, your vacation is all about enjoying all the wonderful things you can do on Kauai.
Kauai Yoga On The Beach
According to Kauai Yoga on the Beach, you can "practice [yoga] on the mystical beaches of Kauai and feel the ocean spray invigorate your senses." That’s your wake-up call when you join Kauai Yoga on the Beach in Kapaa. Classes are offered on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday.
Nanea Restaurant and Bar
After rebalancing your energy on the beach, treat yourself to a rich and delectable meal at the Nanea Restaurant at the Westin Princeville Resort. Choose exclusive catches from the Princeville Market. Experience the restaurant’s fine dining ambiance and let your stomach also receive the treats it deserves. Lunch specialties include Short Rib Loco Moco, Hanalei Taro Wrap, and the Bleu Room bacon cheeseburger. The dinner menu includes Huli Huli Chicken with Molokai Purple Mash, Seafood Fettuccini, and Rib Eye Steak. Before your meal, indulge yourself at the Wailele Bar located right beside Nanea, and Enjoy a wonderful tropical beverage.
The Beauty Shop
If you are staying near Kapaa or Kilohana, spend some time at The Beauty Shop! Lauri is the owner and she is known for providing expert and professional nail service. If you missed your chance to get a mani-pedi before you left home, Lauri will make sure your hands and feet are fully ready for the Spa Lounger experience.
The Spa Makaiwa is located at Kauai Coast Resort in Kapaa Town. Treat yourself to a Hawaiian Lomi Lomi or Pohaku Lomi Hot Stone Massage. There is also the Raindrop Therapy massage, which is sure to leave you in "a deeper sense of peace" through essential oil, warm stones, and full-body massage.
Kauai Hawaiian Luaus
Let’s fire up the magic inside of you with a celebration of food and joy that comes from an authentic Kauai Luau. King Kamehameha II established the first Hawaiian luau as an event where men and women could celebrate with food, song, and joy. Relive that magic and Enjoy a luau from The Smith Family Luau, the Luau Kalamaku, and the Kauai Luau at the Grand Hyatt. Each treats you to a feast, Polynesian dances, and the history of the Hawaiian people. Depending on which of our vacation accommodations you are staying at, find the one closest to you – or indulge yourself and try them all!
Kauai's Hindu Monastery
Kauai Aadheenam, also known as Kauai's Hindu Monastery, is a traditional South-Indian style monastery-temple complex nestled under a sacred volcano. Painted with waterfalls, rainbows, jungles, and flowers; this is a true place of peace. Here, the sounds of the world fade away until all that's left is the flowing river, singing birds, rippling leaves, and the resounding echo of the soul. Visit the monstery's website for visiting information — the temple and monastery grounds are private, but there are tours and open hours.
Kauai After Dark
That’s right! On Kauai, you can maintain a smooth, mellow pace all day long. Then, when the sun goes down and you have that urge to put on the “going out” clothes you brought along on your trip, Kauai is just as magical by night! Musicals, Luaus, Lounges, Art Walks – just a few of the exciting things to do and see after dark that keep adding to your amazing Kauai vacation.
The Stars Shine With Karoke!
Karoke is so much fun. Have you ever done it? Here’s the thing. For everyone who has a favorite song, loves to sing, or just sings in the shower at home – here’s your opportunity to be a star for the night! Every Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night, Rob’s Good Times Grill rolls out the Karaoke lyrics in an atmosphere of fun with music. Known as “Kauai’s Only Real Sports Bar,” Rob’s is also a great place to hear “live” music, enjoy swing dancing, grab a tasty meal, and watch your favorite game.
“Get Fired Up” for Kauai’s only theatrical Luau at the Historic Kilohana Plantation! A Luau is a great way to celebrate the Kauai nightlife with the family. According to Luau Kalamuku’s website, performances are “the hippest thing since the hula.”
Enjoy Smooth Jazz At The Hukilau
The Hukilau is a wonderful restaurant that features ingredients and products from Kauai and neighboring islands. Handcrafted cuisine is made from scratch and the restaurant also serves a gluten-free menu that includes food, wine, deserts, and more! There is live music nightly from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.
On your night out, enjoy lobster curry bisque, BBQ short ribs, and calamari appetizers before jumping into a Hukilau Mixed Grill platter of seafood. After dinner, join the fun in the Lounge called Wally’s Lobby.
Tahiti Nui In Hanalei
According to the website, Tahiti Nui on the North Shore is “the most beautiful place on Earth!” For fifty years and still goes strong, Tahiti Nui still provides visitors a place to go for a good time, to hear good music, feel completely at home – and get a taste of the "local Hanalei" while having a phenomenal dinner.
Located on the main road that goes through Hanalei, the sign is easy to see. The menu is mouth-watering and the Lounge features nightly dinner entertainment Monday to Sunday, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Hanapepe Friday Night Festival & Art Walk
Every Friday evening in Old Town Hanapepe from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., enjoy the Friday Night Festival & Art Walk. The town lights up with a festive atmosphere where you can meet local artists and gallery owners, while listening to music and enjoying great food.
Dinner At The Beach House
Want to have an delicious dinner with a wonderful sunset and amazing view of the South Shore? Get ready to dine in style at the Beach House! Enjoy crispy calamari, succulent braised pork, and some heavenly crab cakes that make your mouth water.
Enjoy fresh fish, local produce, meat from neighboring ranches, baked goods from local artisans and more.
The Golf Enthusiast
Kauai is a Golfer’s dream come true. Every morning, awaken to a new adventure that includes award-winning courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones, Jr., and Robin Nelson – all set amidst lush Garden Island landscapes. As the sun rises, feel the fresh sea breeze heighten your senses while you perfect your game surrounded by breathtaking scenery and ancient Hawaiian history. This is your time to unwind so grab your golf shoes and let’s take a tour of Kauai’s one-of-a-kind courses.
The East Side
In Lihue on the East Side is Kauai Lagoons Golf Club, which offers 27 holes designed by Jack Nicklaus. According to the official website, “The Kiele championship ocean 18 holes takes you through Kauai's own "Amen Corner" playing through mango and guava tree forests. The outward Kiele Mauka Nine [is] the longest stretch of continuous ocean holes on Hawaii with over 1/2 mile of stunning oceanfront golf.”
The Waikahe Nine is another great course that provides a forgiving layout especially suited for juniors, families, or those who are just looking for a relaxing 9 holes of golf.
Pull up to the Puakea Golf Course in Lihue and experience majestic views of the ocean and Mount Haupu. Designed by Robin Nelson, one of Hawaii’s most prolific golf architects, the course plays around deep ravines and mountain water-fed streams. One compelling feature of Puakea is how its play varies day-to-day based on sun, wind, and how much fun you are having. This course is a great location to achieve that awesome birdie!
On the South Shore
Poipu Bay Resort Golf Course is a championship-level course on the South Shore, designed by renowned golf architect, Robert Trent Jones, Jr. The course was home to the PGA Grand Slam of Golf from 1994 to 2006 and has won numerous awards. It features a breathtaking view of the rock formation “Mahaulepu,” which is one of the most spectacular and cherished undeveloped coastal areas in the Hawaiian Islands.
The North Shore
On the North Shore sits the award-winning Prince Golf Course at Princeville. With its setting above the Pacific Ocean with views to the majestic mountains of the north shore of Kauai and the ocean, the Prince Golf Course at Princeville is any golfer’s dream to play, especially after the multi-million dollar renovation overseen by the original architect, Robert Trent Jones, Jr.
Also on the North Shore is the Makai Golf Club at The St. Regis Princeville Resort, considered one of Hawaii’s premier championship layouts with 27 holes of golf in the spectacular Princeville Resort. Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., the Makai opened in 1971 and has, over the years, been ranked as one of Hawaii’s top golf experiences, appearing on numerous “Top 100” lists.