I recently vacationed on Kauai, the fourth largest of the Hawaiian islands. The island — with its waterfalls, canyons, rainforests, caves and secret beaches at every turn — is a nature lover’s paradise. Since I’ve had the pleasure of multiple visits to the “Garden Isle,” I’ve compiled below my top adventures on Kauai. Also, watch the video above for a visual feast of Kauai.
What’s your favorite Hawaiian island, and what are your recommendations for activities there?
1. Take a Hike
According to travel website GoHawaii, 90% of Kauai is inaccessible by road. That’s why hiking is the penultimate activity on Kauai. There are a seemingly endless number of trails of varying distances and difficulty. I have frequently stumbled upon deserted beaches, deep canyons, and waterfalls of all sizes. You’ll encounter stunning scenery on any hike you choose but a must-see is Waimea Canyon on the west side of the island.
2. Go Kayaking
Rent single or double kayaks and paddle through breathtaking scenery accessible only by boat. I rented kayaks through a tour group led by a knowledgeable guide. We paddled down a river, docked our kayaks, and then hiked to a massive waterfall and watering hole. Lunch was included. Check out this Frommer’s article for more details on Kauai water sports.
3. Cruise on a Bike
Kauai offers several bike paths along its coastline for breezy, scenic rides. I rented a beach cruiser and biked on the Ke Ala Hele Makalae trail of Kauai’s east shore. Every time I came upon a lovely setting — a patch of grass, a small grove of trees, a secluded beach — I stopped to take in the view and read my book.
4. Attend a Luau
Previously, I had assumed luaus were expensive tourist traps. But after my first luau experience on Kauai, I think it’s worth experiencing at least once. The key is to attend the right luau. I chose the Smith Kauai Garden Luau because of its location on thirty acres of lush landscapes, including a botanical garden. The food, especially the earthen-roasted pork and fresh tropical fruit, was good. Best of all, the singing and dancing performances were dazzling, as well as educational about Hawaiian history and culture.
5. Indulge in a Spa Treatment
Tropical paradises are for self-indulgence, which is why you should treat yourself to a spa treatment. I got a massage at the highly-rated Grand Hyatt’s Anara Spa. The setting and service were excellent but on the pricey side.
The climate in Kauai is wet and sunny — the perfect environment for rainbows! These optical and meteorological delights appear multiple times throughout the day. Be sure to stop and admire every rainbow you spot because they’re opportunities for celestial enlightenment, according to Hawaiian folklore.
7. Lounge on a Secret Beach
Compared to other Hawaiian islands, Kauai is relatively underdeveloped and thus peppered with plenty of isolated beaches. You’ll encounter these hidden stretches of sea and sand during hikes and boat trips, so pack a picnic and bathing suit. Lounging on a beach with nary a soul will make you feel like you own the island. Check out HawaiiWeb and HawaiiGaga for recommended beaches.
8. Stay in a Condo
Kauai offers a plethora of resorts and hotels across various price ranges. I took the less-traveled path by booking a spacious condo through rental site HomeAway. I’ve had much success with HomeAway and now prefer private accommodations to hotels for vacation travel. The advantage of staying in a condo on Kauai is that you get more for your money. I highly recommend Hideaway Cove, a cluster of nine rentals near Poipu Beach in the south. I stayed in Sea Breeze, a 1600-square foot condo with two bedrooms, two baths, a full kitchen, a private hot tub, ocean views, laundry facilities and a wraparound balcony. Everything — from the furniture, the hardwood floors, to the artwork — was upscale and tasteful.