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10 Must-Read Kauai Travel Tips for First-Timers

10 Must-Read Kauai Travel Tips for First-Timers

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Are you visiting Kauai for the first time? Check out these amazing Kauai travel tips for first-timers that will save you stress!
This list of Kauai travel tips was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

My family goes to Kauai all the time because that’s where my mom lives. I’ve visited Hawaii more than 40 times and about half of those Hawaii trips involved time on Kauai.

Since I love the island of Kauai so much, I figured I should write up some of my top Kauai tips and tricks that I’ve learned from traveling there SO many times over the years.

I hope this post helps you plan your perfect Kauai family vacation!

Traveling to Kauai Tips For an Awesome Trip

Planning Your Kauai Visit

Planning your trip to Kauai is super exciting! When you’re thinking about visiting Kauai, the best time to visit Kauai is really important.

Best Time to Travel to Kauai

If you’re planning a trip to Kauai, picking the best time to visit is key! The best time to go to Kauai is usually from April to June and then from September to November. These months are perfect because you get to enjoy nice weather without too many rainy days.

Image of two boys in front of surfboards that say Lava Lava Beach Club. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung of Marcie in Mommyland
Kauai is pretty fabulous any time of the year. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Kauai is known for its rainy season from December to March, so if you don’t like getting wet, you might want to avoid these months.

Remember, Kauai has lots of outdoor activities, so choosing a time with good weather will make your trip even more fun!

How Many Days in Kauai?

To really soak in Kauai’s beauty, plan to stay for at least a week, ideally 7-10 days. This gives you enough time to see the North Shore, East Shore, and relax on the South Shore.

You can try different tours, eat at cool restaurants and food trucks, and still have chill days at the beach or pool. Kauai is all about a laid-back vibe, so you don’t want to rush.

With more days, you can really enjoy everything at your own pace and make the most of your Hawaiian vacation.

Where to Stay in Kauai

When you’re figuring out the best areas to stay on Kauai, think about what kind of vacation you want.

Poipu, on the South Shore, is sunny and great for beach lovers. It’s got awesome resorts and is perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

Image of a boy going down a water slide at Koloa Landing Resort. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung of Marcie in Mommyland
My kids love resorts with water slides! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

The North Shore, with places like Hanalei and Princeville, is super pretty with lush greenery and amazing views, but remember, it can get rainy.

The East Shore, in areas like Kapaa and Lihue, is a good middle ground. It’s convenient for exploring the whole island and has a mix of hotels and local vibes. Each area offers a unique Kauai experience!

Getting Around Kauai

When you visit Kauai, or any Hawaiian island, it’s a good idea to rent a car. This is because some of the coolest things to do in Kauai are places you have to drive to. Unlike Oahu, where lots of tour companies pick you up, Kauai doesn’t have as many options like that.

If you’re a family with kids, it’s smart to bring your own car seat. You’ll know it fits your child well, and they’ll be more comfortable in it. Having a rental car also saves time since you can decide how long you want to stay at each spot and don’t have to plan too much ahead.

One of the best places to rent a car on Kauai is through Discount Hawaii Car Rental. They get amazing deals on national brands like Avis, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget, Dollar, Alamo, and Payless. Check out the latest prices and more details.

I suggest downloading the Kauai Shaka App. It’s like a tour guide that talks to you as you drive near cool places. It’s not expensive and has so much information. You should really download the app!

Taxis and Ubers

While there are some taxis and Ubers you can call to take you to/from the airport, it’s not a reliable way to get around the island.

Popular Kauai Day Trips

Waimea Canyon

One of the coolest day trips on Kauai is to see Waimea Canyon, nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.”

Image of a boy at Waimea Canyon on Kauai. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung of Marcie in Mommyland
Waimea Canyon is totally worth the drive! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Going to see Waimea Canyon is a fun Kauai excursion, but remember to check the weather first. One time, my friend and I drove there early in the morning, only to find a big fog hiding the view. It was really disappointing. We didn’t think to check the weather before going – don’t make that same mistake!

Since Waimea Canyon is a bit far, plan to spend a few hours hiking there or keep going to Koke’e State Park to see more. There are lots of trails for hiking and great places to take photos.

Kauai’s North Shore

Exploring Kauai’s North Shore is a top day trip idea. This area is home to the cool surf town of Hanalei and the stunning Kalalau Trail along the Na Pali Coast. It’s super beautiful with all its greenery and amazing coastline.

Image of two boys next to a taro patch on North Shore Kauai. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung of Marcie in Mommyland
The North Shore is famous for its taro fields. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

But remember, it’s green for a reason – it rains a lot! Sometimes, the rain even closes the road to Hanalei, and if you’re staying there, you might get stuck until the road reopens. If you’re just visiting for the day, check the weather first. It’s smart to go on the first sunny day, just in case it rains later in your trip.

Book Kauai Attractions & Tours in Advance

When you visit Kauai, there are so many awesome things to do, but it’s smart to book them in advance. You don’t want to miss out!

One of the most unique things to do on Kauai is mountain tubing. You hop into an inner tube and float down an old irrigation ditch on private property at Mt. Waialeale. It’s the only way to see this special part of Kauai.

Kauai Backcountry Adventures feature's the only mountain tubing adventure on Kauai and it's a fun, kid-friendly Kauai adventure! #kauai #tubing #hawaii | Kauai Mountain Tubing in Sugar Cane Canals featured by top US travel blogger, Marcie in Mommyland
Kids as young as 5 years old can do mountain tubing on Kauai. Photo credit: Kauai Backcountry Adventures

A helicopter tour is a breathtaking way to see the island from above. You’ll get to see waterfalls and stunning coastlines.

For a different view, consider a boat trip along the coast. You’ll get up close to cliffs and maybe even spot some dolphins!

Another fun activity is kayaking the Wailua River. It’s peaceful and beautiful, perfect for a family adventure.

Just a tip: Don’t plan a luau for your first night. After flying in from the Mainland, you might be too tired from jet lag. Save it for later in your trip when you can really enjoy it!

What to Wear on Kauai

Packing for a Kauai vacation? Remember, you don’t need as many clothes as you think. Keep it simple and light! Here’s a quick Kauai packing list to help out:

  • Snorkel Gear: If you love exploring underwater, bring your snorkel gear. It’s a must for seeing colorful fish and maybe even a turtle!
  • Beachwear: Pack swimsuits, rash guards, and flip-flops for those sunny beach days.
  • Light Clothing: Light, airy clothes like shorts, t-shirts, sundresses, and hats are perfect for Hawaii’s warm weather.
  • Evening Wear: A casual dress or a shirt with shorts is enough for dinner out. Kauai is laid-back, so no need for fancy clothes.
  • Hiking Gear: If you plan to hike, bring comfortable shoes, a hat, and sunscreen.
  • Rain Gear: A light rain jacket can be handy, especially if you’re visiting during the rainy season.

Remember, Kauai is relaxed and casual, so pack clothes that make you feel comfortable and ready for adventure!

Dining in Kauai Tips

Kauai has become a great place for food lovers in the last ten years. You’ll find lots of delicious food trucks here, and many have even opened their own restaurants. There are also small snack places and fancy places to eat.

Image of lilikoi ribs at Lava Lava Beach Club on Kauai. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung of Marcie in Mommyland
I’m obsessed with the ribs at Lava Lava Beach Club. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Kauai is known for having good choices for vegans and vegetarians, lots of organic foods, and restaurants that use fresh food from local farms.

Plus, they offer really neat Kauai Food Tours. These tours take you around to try some amazing food at the best spots on the island.

What to Eat in Kauai

Ready to tantalize your taste buds in Kauai? Prepare for an exciting culinary journey with authentic Hawaiian dishes! The island’s eateries serve up some truly scrumptious options.

Image of two boys in front of Hee Fat General Store Shave Ice on Kauai. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung of Marcie in Mommyland
My kids are true shave ice connoisseurs. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Don’t miss out on poke, a beloved Hawaiian specialty featuring fresh, raw fish seasoned to perfection. Another treat to savor are fish tacos, bursting with Hawaiian flavors.

And for a classic island meal, indulge in a Hawaiian plate lunch. It typically includes rice, macaroni salad, and your choice of protein like succulent teriyaki chicken or the traditional kalua pork.

These are just a few of the mouthwatering delights awaiting you in Kauai!

Kauai Shopping Tips

Looking for some shopping fun on Kauai? Kauai is not just about stunning beaches and lush landscapes; it’s also a great place for some unique shopping experiences.

Head over to the Kukui Grove Shopping Center, an outdoor mall where you can shop under the beautiful Hawaiian sky.

Image of the Shops at Kukuiula on Kauai. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung
The Shops at Kukuiula is a cute outdoor shopping/dining area. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Don’t miss the Shops at Kukuiula, where you can explore a variety of boutiques and grab some stylish resort wear. Plus, there are tasty restaurants to refuel after your shopping spree!

For something more local, check out Warehouse 3540. It’s a cool spot where local artisans and small businesses showcase their amazing work – perfect for finding unique Kauai souvenirs.

Safety and Awareness in Kauai

When visiting Kauai, safety should be your top priority, especially if you’re planning to explore its incredible hiking trails. Kauai, like other Hawaiian islands, has some breathtaking trails, but they can be challenging.

Always check the weather forecast before you go hiking, as conditions can change quickly. It’s important to stay on marked trails and respect nature.

Remember, Kauai doesn’t have extensive public transportation, so renting a car is the best way to get around. But be careful on the roads, especially after dark or in rainy weather. With a rental car, you can safely explore more of Kauai’s stunning landscapes at your own pace.

Kauai Weather

When you’re planning a trip to Kauai, it’s good to know about the weather, especially since it can vary a lot depending on where you are on the island.

Image of a boy in front of Wailua Falls on Kauai. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung of Marcie in Mommyland
Here’s what Wailua Falls looked like during a very dry August. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

On the North Shore, it’s usually wetter, which makes the hiking trails lush and green. This is great for nature lovers, but remember to pack a rain jacket!

The East side, also known as the Coconut Coast, is a bit drier and warmer, perfect for beach days.

Down on the South Shore, you’ll find lots of sunshine, making it ideal for sunbathing and swimming.

The West side is drier and has a unique landscape. It’s also where you’ll find the amazing Waimea Canyon, often called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.”

Just remember, even in sunny areas, it can rain unexpectedly, so it’s always smart to be prepared with rain gear, no matter where you go on the island.

Tips for Kauai Travel FAQs

What are the top things to do in North Shore Kauai?

In North Shore Kauai, top things include exploring Hanalei Bay, hiking the Kalalau Trail, and visiting the Kilauea Lighthouse.

What are the top things to do in South Shore Kauai?

On South Shore Kauai, don’t miss Poipu Beach, the Spouting Horn blowhole, and the historic Old Koloa Town.

What’s the best way to see the Na Pali Coast?

The best way to see the Na Pali Coast is either by a boat tour or a helicopter ride for breathtaking views.

What are the most beautiful beaches on Kauai?

The most beautiful beaches on Kauai include Hanalei Bay, Poipu Beach, and Tunnels Beach.

What are 5 things I should include in my Kauai itinerary?

Your Kauai itinerary should include Waimea Canyon, snorkeling at Poipu Beach, a boat tour of the Na Pali Coast, a visit to Hanalei Bay, and exploring the Wailua River.

Where should I make dinner reservations on Kauai?

Make dinner reservations at The Beach House Restaurant in Poipu or Duke’s Kauai in Lihue for great food with ocean views.

Do I need hiking boots or hiking poles on Kauai trails?

Hiking boots are recommended for Kauai trails for safety and comfort, but hiking poles are optional based on personal preference.

When can I see humpback whales on Kauai?

You can see humpback whales on Kauai typically from December to April during their migration season.

Tips for Visiting Kauai Wrap-Up

Out of all of the Hawaiian Islands, Kauai is a top family vacation for adventurous families. It’s full of cool activities like ziplining, mountain tubing, kayaking, and hiking.

I hope these travel tips help you plan your first trip to Kauai!

Looking for more Kauai travel resources? Check out 25 Things to do on Kauai with Kids, 10 Best Kauai Family Resorts for an Unforgettable Hawaiian Vacation, The Best Shave Ice in Kauai, Kauai with Kids Under 3, Our Kauai Mountain Tubing Experience, Luau Kalamaku: An Unforgettable Kauai Luau for Kids, and Is the Smith Family Luau the Best Luau on Kauai for Families?

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