Kauai (Kaua’i) is known as the Garden Isle and for good reason. It is the most beautiful place I have ever seen and should not be missed after traveling all the way to an isolated volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. This page includes a variety of experiences, from adventurous days in the treetops to laid-back mornings on the beach, to help you figure out what you simply cannot miss while visiting this island! Let’s get started so you have an idea of what you simply cannot miss within these 562 square miles of beautiful locals, quaint villages, and luscious foliage.
Waimea is located on the West side of the island. The town is home to a great ice cream shop called Super Duper Two (Yelp reviews may be found here) as well as a number of other quaint cafes and shops. The owner, Lisa, is incredibly friendly and helpful; she provided us with hiking tips and sent us off in the right direction for Waimea Canyon State Park. This beautiful state park is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. The park has no cost and a multitude of breathtaking views of the Waimea Canyon gorge. I suggest bringing a picnic lunch and enjoying it alongside loved ones with a view that will last a lifetime. The rads are narrow and windy; take it slow and enjoy every second of every view. If you struggle with motion sickness, be sure to take some Dramamine® before emarking on this journey!
Please do your best to join local farmers and businesses at the Kauai Community Market. The market takes place from 9:30AM – 1:00 PM at the Kauai Community College Campus. My family and I happened upon it by chance and wound up spending the better part of an hour talking to locals and tasting great food. I suggest purchasing a few items for your stay and for a snack. We grabbed several flavored jelly’s for our vacation rental from Monkeypod Jam, fresh honey from Honi Honi Honey (I LOVE honey) and my absolute favorite, from Hole in the Mountain Farm, Kauai Sugarloaf White Pineapple. It’s a low acid pineapple and is the absolute best I have ever tasted. If you are staying in or around Puhi, this farmers market is a necessary stop.
There are many different backcountry adventure organizations on the island that have fabulous reviews and great packages. My family and I chose Kaua’i Backcountry Adventures for our Zip Lining expedition. Our tour guides were amazing. One grew up and spent his entire life in Kauai and the other had vacationed there and left his stateside home to become an adventure tour guide. Both of the men were friendly, informational, and humorous (which is a necessity with the clowns I call family members). In total, the tour we chose (which did not include the waterfall) took about a half day’s worth of our time and it was worth it. Zip lining is obviously exhilarating, the views breathtaking and the family bonding time unbeatable. I would suggest this tour, especially for mid-sized families seeing as we were seven people and the largest tour they can take is 11 people!
A local on the north shore told us about Queens Bath in Princeville and that it was a must-see. Being the go-getters that we are, we halted our shopping venture and got back in our rent-a-cars to see what all the hype was about. After parking on a side
street in a suburban town my family and I took a beautiful 10-minute hike past a waterfall to a volcanic, rocky shoreline. I will suggest doing this short hike in sneakers (not sandals or flip-flops) due to its few steep parts, lush foliage and of course the lava rocks that you will need to walk across. Queen’s Bath needs to be treated with caution, as it can become a dangerous place to be if the conditions are not just right. Click Here for a map of the shoreline explaining exactly where one should and should not swim; the yellow triangle indicates where you will exit the hiking path and the green star is where Queen’s Bath (a popular swimming hole) is located. The letters along the way are unsafe places that are often mistaken for QB. Don’t swim in Queen’s Bath if the surf report is 4 feet or higher, and never play on the rocks between the tide pool and the ocean. Within the pool, you can find beautiful sea life and crystal clear water. Jumping is also not advised seeing as depth levels can change, but we saw other people doing it and joined in on the fun. Whether you swim in the hole or just take in the views, this short trip is a memory maker.
Allerton Garden is one of the National Tropical Botanical Gardens on the south shore of Kauai. My aunt has a serious green thumb and loves gardening so this stop was entirely planned by and for her. We all had a great time. We did a self-guided tour and found ourselves lost (in a good way) in the beauty of this tropical garden. It was really cool to see such lively plants and trees and just meander, without a purpose, around such beauty. Many plants, especially the poisonous ones, had placards which was a nice educational touch. If a guided tour is more your thing, they have a few different options available, such as a sunset tour. This excursion could take as long or as short as you want or need. If you are someone who is in to all things natural, this is a great stop for you!
Rent water sports equipment and/or take surfing lessons! You can’t spend time on a Hawaiian island without surfing or paddle boarding. If the balance and fearlessness aren’t quite there for surfing then you must try to paddle board. Everyone in my family did one or the other, or both! We grabbed our equipment from and scheduled a lesson through Beach Boys Kauai. Our surfing instructor did a great job varying instruction; there were 5 of us, ranging in age from 20 to 12, and all with different athletic abilities, fitness levels, and fearlessness. The out of water instruction was brief but thorough. The in-water session was a blast; despite wiping out more times then actually riding the perfect wave, it was totally fun for me and all of my crazy cousins!
You have to stop by the Kong Lung Historic Market Center in Kauai’s north shore town of Kilauea. Rich in history, the town’s plantation era cottages, and theater merge with chic, contemporary boutiques, a bakery and coffee shop, markets and restaurants, jewelry stores and the center’s award-winning historic photo retrospective. If you don’t mind a quick shopping pit stop, definitely stop into Cake Boutique. This store ties the perfect touch of elegance, local charm and originality all into one. In all honesty, my aunt and I found ‘my future wedding dress’ here and were incredibly tempted to purchase it and stash it away until the time came, however, we settled on a blue striped beauty that I could wear as soon as the next day and have worn a hundred times since. The styles are beautiful and well made, so please keep in mind that you get what you pay for; this boutique is not cheap but it is well worth a quality, useable souvenir! Finally, you can’t miss Daphne, the true star of Kong Lung. This beautiful Umbrella cockatoo is a friendly little lady who will talk to you and loves all of the attention ‘children’ of all ages pay her!
I’m sure there are many other places to see and things to do that I have missed and each person is entitled to their own idea of paradise, but the places I have mentioned have left vibrant memories that I hope will never fade. Enjoy the small towns and laid back atmosphere associated with Kauai. Do everything you can, have an open heart, a thoughtful mind and you will not leave this beautiful piece of paradise disappointed. Aloha Hoaloha!
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