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How many places on Earth can you start the day watching a sunrise and end watching a sunset? Kauai is one of those lucky locales—you can drive around the island's rim in under three hours. If you only have one day on this magical Hawaiian island, here is a compilation of top sights and activities you won't want to miss, starting on the East Side and ending on the West Side.

Good for
  • Thrill Seeker
  • Art and Architecture Lover
  • Nature Lover
  • Peace and Quiet Seeker
  • Beach Goer
  • Luxury Traveller
  • Thrifty Traveller
  • Like a Local

10 Places

9 City Tips

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Map

10 Places

Sleeping Giant Trail

Hiking Trails, Lookouts

Princeville Golf Club - Prince Course

Golf Courses

Hanalei Bay

Beaches

Na Pali Coast State Park

Nature & Wildlife Areas, State Parks

Kilohana Plantation Estate

Historic Sites

Wailua Falls

Waterfalls

Poipu Beach Park

Beaches, Parks

Hanapepe Friday Night Festival & Art Walk

Points of Interest & Landmarks

Waimea Canyon

Canyons, State Parks, Lookouts

Polihale State Park

Beaches, State Parks

Rachel H's City Tips

  • Some local markets, cafes, and coffee shops only accept cash. There are numerous ATMs and banks on the island.
  • Most food is shipped from the mainland, so don't be surprised at higher-than-normal prices at the grocery store.
  • Rent a car from the Lihue airport for the easiest and most efficient way to get around.
  • Kauai is divided into four parts: North Shore (Princeville), South Shore (Poipu), East Side (Lihue/Kapaa), and West Side (Waimea).
  • The Na Pali Coast is inaccessible by car—only by foot, boat, or helicopter.
  • Bring a rain jacket or windbreaker, as Kauai gets the most rainfall of any Hawaiian island.
  • Dubbed the Garden Island, Kauai offers some of the best outdoor activities and scenery in Hawaii, so pack your hiking gear and your adventurous spirit.
  • The average temperature ranges between 84 and 69 degrees. Trade winds keep the weather comfortable year-round.
  • Whale-watching season runs from December through May.
  • Sleeping Giant Trail
    Hiking Trails, Lookouts
    See more photos
    Rachel H Says:

    Start your day with a sunrise hike up Sleeping Giant (Kapaa, East Side). Even if you’re not an early bird, you won’t regret this experience. Three different trail heads of varying difficulties lead from the town of Kapaa to the peak of Nounou Mountain. Watch the sun inch its way above the Pacific horizon and cast its first rays over the island—an awe-inspiring panorama.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Beach Goer
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Solo
    • Like a Local
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Bring a flashlight or wear a strap-on headlamp.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #3 of 18 things to do in Kapaa
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • 1000 feet up --- amazing views! great workout! 14/11/2018
    • Nice Hike 11/11/2018
    • Sleeping Giant Trail
    Address:
    Haleilio Road
    Nonou West Trail
    Kapaa, Kauai, HI 96747
    Phone:
    +1 808-464-0840
    Other:
  • Princeville Golf Club - Prince Course
    Golf Courses
    See more photos
    Rachel H Says:

    Golf player or not, it’s hard to deny the beauty of the Prince Golf Course (Princeville, North Shore). It’s been rated one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world by Golf Digest. Located in the ritzy resort town of Princeville—crowned by the impressive St. Regis—this 18-hole championship course is a pristine sprawl, with mountains and the ocean beyond. Check out the multi-story clubhouse while you're here.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Luxury Traveller
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Trendsetter
    • Like a Local
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • The golf course offers sunset tours, where you can rent a golf cart and cruise around the fairways.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #0 of 0 things to do in Princeville
    • Bring your "A" game and lots of balls! 12/12/2016
    • Great golf and even more gorgeous views! 17/05/2016
    • Princeville Golf Club - Prince Course
    Address:
    5520 Ka Haku Rd
    Princeville, Kauai, HI 96722-5214
    Phone:
    +1 808-826-5000
    Other:
  • Hanalei Bay
    Beaches
    See more photos
    Rachel H Says:

    Hanalei (North Shore) has it all: a huge beach with a pretty backdrop, calm waters perfect for swimming, a farmers market, art galleries, and lots of great restaurants and cafes in Hanalei Town. Stop for coffee at Hanalei Coffee Roasters, grab some fresh juice at Java Kai, or enjoy a quick lunch at Postcards Café, Bubba Burgers, or Sushigirl Kauai. On the beach, you can rent surfboards and paddleboards or simply stretch out on the powdery white sand.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Like a Local
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Shopping Fanatic
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nature Lover
    • Foodie
    • Beach Goer
    • Luxury Traveller
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Trendsetter
    Tips
    • Hanalei Bay has a sand bottom, so it's not great for snorkeling.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #23 of 240 things to do in Kauai
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Very scenic 17/11/2018
    • great beach to spend the day at! 17/11/2018
    • Hanalei Bay
  • Na Pali Coast State Park
    Nature & Wildlife Areas, State Parks
    See more photos
    Rachel H Says:

    The crown jewel of Kauai, the Na Pali Coast (North Shore/West Side) offers some of the most jaw-dropping scenery you'll ever see. Rugged, rippled mountains edge their way along the deep-blue Pacific, and wild, mysterious jungles creep inland, with waterfalls tucked away amidst the lush vegetation. It's no wonder Na Pali Coast State Park won star status as the filming location of 'Jurassic Park.' The Kalalau trailhead starts at Ke'e beach, and the first 2 miles to Hanakapi'ai beach is a must-do. Fitter adventurers can continue venturing further to the waterfall (8 miles round-trip). Or skip the hike altogether and appreciate the Na Pali Coast from a different angle on a helicopter tour or catamaran cruise.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • Beach Goer
    • Luxury Traveller
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Like a Local
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Wear proper hiking attire, and bring plenty of water.
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #1 of 1 things to do in Wainiha
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Amazing! 20/11/2018
    • Breathtaking! 19/11/2018
    • Na Pali Coast State Park
    Phone:
    +1 808-335-6833
    Other:
  • Kilohana Plantation Estate
    Historic Sites
    See more photos
    Rachel H Says:

    In its heyday, Hawaii reined the sugarcane industry, until the decline of plantations in the early 1900s. You can get a glimpse into Kauai’s agricultural heritage at the Kilohana Plantation, a National Historic Landmark and one of the best examples of plantation architecture in Hawaii. Take a train ride through the estate, tour the rum factory, and enjoy an elegant meal at Gaylord's Restaurant. The luaus here are wonderful, too.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Must See
    • Luxury Traveller
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Like a Local
    • History Buff
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Nightlife Seeker
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Gaylord's Sunday buffet brunch is highly recommended.
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #8 of 22 things to do in Lihue
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Just An OK Stop 14/11/2018
    • Not worth it 29/10/2018
    • Kilohana Plantation Estate
    Address:
    3-2087 Kaumualii Hwy
    Lihue, Kauai, HI 96766-9505
    Phone:
    +1 808-245-5608
    Hours:
    Sun
    10:30 - 15:00
    Mon - Sat
    10:30 - 21:00
    Other:
  • Wailua Falls
    Waterfalls
    See more photos
    Rachel H Says:

    Just 15 minutes from Lihue (East Side) is the most easily accessible waterfall on Kauai—most others you can only see by helicopter. Drive 15 minutes off the main road to the Wailua Falls lookout point. From the roadside, you’ll get an up-close view of the 113-foot waterfall, which feeds into the Wailua River.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • Luxury Traveller
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Like a Local
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Limited parking.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #4 of 22 things to do in Lihue
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Well worth the trip 19/11/2018
    • White Brownish Water 18/11/2018
    • Wailua Falls
    Address:
    Maalo Rd
    off Hwy 580
    Lihue, Kauai, HI
    Phone:
    +1 808-464-0840
    Other:
  • Poipu Beach Park
    Beaches, Parks
    See more photos
    Rachel H Says:

    Nestled in the Poipu resort area, this lively beach is one of the most popular for tourists, and is especially great for families. A break wall makes for calmer waters, perfect for wading, swimming, snorkeling, and stand-up paddleboarding. Hotel restaurants and bars line the beachfront and are great for afternoon cocktails and appetizers too.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Beach Goer
    • Luxury Traveller
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Trendsetter
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Bring an umbrella for shade.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #4 of 17 things to do in Poipu
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Nice beach for families 19/11/2018
    • Great Beach for the family 19/11/2018
    • Poipu Beach Park
    Address:
    Hoona Rd
    Poipu, Kauai, HI 96756
    Phone:
    +1 808-742-7444
    Other:
  • Hanapepe Friday Night Festival & Art Walk
    Points of Interest & Landmarks
    See more photos
    Rachel H Says:

    The small town of Hanapepe (South Shore) lights up on Friday nights with the beloved Friday Night Art Walk, during which local artists open up their galleries and studios for an evening street festival, with live music, food, and shopping. If you’re visiting on another day, Hanapepe is still worth a visit, with its many cute art galleries, artisan boutiques, old plantation buildings, and cafes. This small town has a lot of character, and served as the model for the Disney film 'Lilo and Stitch.'

    Good for
    • Like a Local
    • History Buff
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Shopping Fanatic
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nightlife Seeker
    • Nature Lover
    • Foodie
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Trendsetter
    Tips
    • Don’t miss the Swinging Bridge.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #1 of 12 things to do in Hanapepe
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Fun to do on a Friday night! 09/11/2018
    • Fun thing on a Friday night. 31/10/2018
    • Hanapepe Friday Night Festival & Art Walk
    Address:
    Hanapepe Road
    Old Town Hanapepe
    Hanapepe, Kauai, HI 96716
    Phone:
    +1 808-335-6469
    Other:
  • Waimea Canyon
    Canyons, State Parks, Lookouts
    See more photos
    Rachel H Says:

    Dubbed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon (West Side) is absolutely stunning. Colorful, ridged canyons expand as far as the eye can see, and the red-sand landscapes make you feel as if you’re on another planet. Drive up to the main lookout point, or continue up to Koke'e State Park to hit a hiking trail for even more phenomenal views.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Like a Local
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Cloud cover is more likely in the afternoon.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #1 of 17 things to do in Waimea
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Stunning Sight 18/11/2018
    • Great scenery on a beautiful day 18/11/2018
    • Waimea Canyon
    Address:
    Koke'e Road
    Waimea, Kauai, HI 96752
  • Polihale State Park
    Beaches, State Parks
    See more photos
    Rachel H Says:

    A 4-mile rugged dirt road delivers you to a vast, secluded beach right next to the start of the Na Pali Coast (West Side). Totally remote and backed by towering mountains, Polihale is the island’s most westerly point. Get some picnic goodies at Ishihara Market in Waimea on the way in, then spread out on Polihale beach to watch the sunset—a perfect end to your day.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Beach Goer
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Like a Local
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Can be cloudy or drizzly, so bring layers just in case.
    • The access road is rutted; Jeep, SUV, or similar vehicle is recommended.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #5 of 17 things to do in Waimea
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Jurassic Park Opening Credits 18/11/2018
    • Beautiful white sand beach. 14/11/2018
    • Polihale State Park
    Address:
    Off Kaumuali'i Highway
    Hwy 50
    Waimea, Kauai, HI 96796
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