Your Short Guide to Kauai, Hawaii’s Less Trodden Gem

When tourists flock to Hawaii, Kauai is often overlooked in favor of the state’s larger island, Maui. If you’ve been debating whether or not you should spend some of your vacation in Kauai, it is definitely worth it: pristine palm tree–lined beaches. Volcanoes. Colorful mountains. Friendly Hawaiian communities, each with its own unique flavor. If you are going to Kauai for the first time, there are some things you should know.


Kauai is a mecca for beautiful beaches, the most popular being Poipu, Hanalei, and Princeville. Considering that Kauai isn’t as visited by tourists as the other islands, you will find more secluded beaches here that go on for miles. The more prominent beaches are staffed by lifeguards. Whether you merely want to soak in the warm tropical sun, swim in the waves, or go surfing or snorkeling, Kauai beaches are the place to do it.

Canyons and cliffs

When you get tired of the beach, why not explore the rugged terrain of the island? When it comes to landscapes, Kauai is very diverse. Canyons and cliffs (many of which overlook the Pacific Ocean) can be seen everywhere. Waimea Canyon has been called a “mini Grand Canyon”.


If you’re eager to rent a car and check out some of Kauai’s breathtaking scenery, the Kaumuali‘i Highway is the best route to take. This highway moves along the coastline as well as through the middle of the island, where mist–covered mountain peaks and lush fields dominate the landscape. Along the way, you’ll see many plantations, as well as a national historic landmark, known as Russian Fort Elizabeth where the highway crosses a bridge over the Waimea River.


There are many options for hotels on Kauai ranging from five-star resorts to bed and breakfasts to Airbnb. The St. Regis Princeville Resort is located on the north shore of the island overlooking Hanalei Bay. When it comes to luxury resorts, this is the crème de la crème. Another popular tourist hotel is the Poipu Kapali. This hotel is on the south shore and is within a few minutes’ walks of Po’ipu Beach. You can stay in a low-rise condominium that is fully equipped with a living unit.

Exploring the island by helicopter

Yes, it’s true. You can pay to have a pilot fly you around the island on a spectacular tour. Companies such as Island Helicopters Jurassic Falls Landing Adventure offers flights touring Kauai. These trips include a stop at 400-foot Manawaiopuna Falls, which starred in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park movie series. The Na Pali Coast and Mt. Waialeale also looks very impressive from the air.


Dining options are endless. If you’re keen to try some local cuisine, head on over to Nalu Kai Grill & Bar. The Mermaid Café, which is located on Kuhio Highway between Lihu‘e and Princeville, serves up some of the best vegetarian food you’ll find anywhere. For pub food, your best option is The Grove Cafe at Waimea Brewing Company, which is easily accessible on the Kaumuali‘i Hwy.

Planning your trip to Hawaii? See also:

Backpacking Hawaii: 10 Essential Tips