Hopefully y’all aren’t too sick of us talking about Hawaii, because we have a couple of more posts to share with you. Mainly, we want to put our itineraries out there in hopes that when you are planning your Hawaiian vacation you can reference our blog and get some good information. [
Editor’s Lainey’s note: Emily really rocked out the scheduling, and we had non-stop adventure and fun. If you are planning a trip to Kauai, you need to bookmark this post now!]
We spent 3.5 days in Kauai and, in my opinion, we got a great taste of what the island is about. You could easily spend your entire vacation here, but if you only have a few days, here’s our itinerary.
We stayed at the Waipouli Beach Resort near Kapaa. After doing a lot of research, we felt this was the most central location to all sides of the island and would minimize the time in the car.
Warning: this itinerary is very active and can be modified more beach time if needed.
Day 1:Beach and Waterfalls
We landed at the Kauai airport around 10am and were off on our adventure by 11! I strongly suggest getting a rental car – there is so much to see around the island and this will give you the most flexibility.
Opaeka’a Falls & Wailua River Lookout & Poli’ahu Heiau
This was an easy drive from the airport (10-15 minutes) and all 3 sites are near each other. These are gorgeous photo stop opportunities and depending on how many pictures you like to take shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to hit all 3.
This stop was one of the highlights of the entire trip! You do a fairly short and easy hike (30 minutes depending on picture stops) and then get to the first set of waterfalls. Keep going on the trail until you get to the second set of falls.
Getting to the swimming hole at the bottom of the second falls was a little confusing (you have to go further down the path than you think and climb down some rocks), but there were people around to give us instructions. I would plan on allowing for 2-3 hours for this stop.
Our condo wasn’t quite ready when we got there so we went to the beach at the resort until it was ready. It was Hawaii. It was the beach. It was awesome.
We had dinner at Hukilau Lanai and it was one of our best meals. Order the lobster wontons, lobster curry bisque, and whatever fish special sounds good to you. Yumm!!
Day 2: Waimea Canyon Day
Waimea Canyon is called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Now I’ve never made it to the real Grand Canyon, but this one was definitely grand! We started the day in Kalaheo and had breakfast at the Kalaheo Cafe & Coffee Company and it was delicious!
Then we made a stop at Sueoka’s Store to pick up supplies for a picnic lunch. We got some prepared sandwiches and chips aand we picked up some fabulous chocolate dipped macadamia nut cookies.
We then headed out to our canyon adventure. To get to Waimea canyon you basically take Hwy 550 the whole way. As you drive there are several lookouts and scenic spots to park – stop at them! You definitely want to hit Waimea Canyon Lookout (mile markers 10 and 11) and Puu Hina Hina Lookout (markers 13 and 14). You really can’t miss these stops, but stop along the way and enjoy the scenery changes.
Once we saw the lookouts over the canyon we had our picnic and then did the hike to the Upper Waipo’o Falls. From Puu Hina Hina you just keep driving up 550 until you see the sign for the trail (or when Google Maps tells you to stop). This hike was 2 miles each way and was pretty strenuous. You go through a lot of different terrain and there are some spots at are not shaded – it got hot. The cool thing about this trail is that you end up on the other side from the lookouts you just stopped at so you get a different vantage point. Bring a lot of water and reapply sunscreen often…it’s hard but definitely worth the effort.
We finished the day watching the sunset at Polihale State Park/Beach. You will drive down the longest dirt road (20 minutes at least). Here you will see the most magnificent sunset – this one stood out among all of the other amazing sunsets.
Day 3: North Shore
Before leaving Kapaa, we grabbed breakfast at Java Kai. They had delicious bagel sandwiches (ask them to add cream cheese) and kailua pork breakfast burritos. It was so good we went back on day 4!
We then drove to the North Shore to hike along the Na Pali Coast (we saw the other side the day before at Polihale). Our first stop was the Kalalau Trail to Hanakapi’ai Beach. This is a 2 miles each way and was extremely difficult. The payoff was getting to see the secret beach – and it was gorgeous. You are advised to not swim at this beach due to the strong rip current – they deter tourists by keeping a running tally of the lives lost so far this year (it was up to 88 when we were there). If you don’t feel like you can do the full hike, I strongly suggest going to at least the 1/2 mile marker. There you get an amazing view of the coast.
After the hike, we headed to Ke’e beach which was right at the trail-head. The beach was fairly crowded but we were able to get a shady spot and get some swimming/snorkeling in. The sand was ridiculously hot – just an fyi.
After Ke’e beach, we grabbed a burger at Bubba’s (a hawaiian burger chain that is really good) and walked around Princeville a bit. Then we headed to the St. Regis Princeville for their traditional champagne sabering and toast. They do it every evening and sunset and you want to get there early for a good seat.
Day 4: Spouting Horn and Rum
Our flight didn’t leave until 5:30 so we had a good part of the day to finish exploring Kauai. First we stopped at Spouting Horn Park and perused some souvenir stands. Spouting Horn doesn’t have to be a long stop – check out a few spouts and get a few pictures and then go on with your day.
Our second stop was the Kilohana Plantation to do a Koloa Rum tasting. There are tastings every half hour and they fill up pretty fast so you may have to wait. While you are waiting you can explore the plantation’s house, each room is a different shop and there is also a restaurant and bar. The plantation is pretty close to the airport so it worked really nice for us.
There’s a lot we missed out on seeing (darn, I guess I’ll have to go back), but I loved every minute of Kauai. When planning your days, you definitely want to consider drive times – in order to get anywhere you have to drive around the perimeter of the island so even being centrally located, we were hour and change from the north shore and Waimea canyon.
If you are planning a trip to Kauai and have any questions, please let us know!
~Emily & Lainey