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How to Plan a Trip to Kauai: 10 Things to Know

Do you need some advice on planning your first trip to Hawaii? Before you plan a trip to Kauai, find out information that nobody will let you know!
This post about how to plan a trip to Kauai was written by Marcie Cheung (a Hawaii travel expert) 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 friends frequently ask me for suggestions on how to plan a trip to Hawaii. Because I’ve been to more than 40 times in the last 25 years and am generally aware of where to find the finest Hawaii holiday deals, I believe this is the case.

The hardest part of organizing an unforgettable trip to Hawaii is deciding which Hawaiian island is right for your trip.

Despite the beauty of each island, I believe that a vacation on Kauai is the best.

This is true because there are so many activities on Kauai with kids of every age. For visitors seeking simple Kauai vacation ideas and logistics, I have a ton of Kauai recommendations.

Since our children were infants, we have taken them to Kauai very often. As a result, we have learned many insider secrets about the Hawaiian island that we wish we had known beforehand.

We also have a lot of insider knowledge because my mom lives there!

You should read this before your trip, whether it’s your first time to Kauai or planning a Hawaiian vacation for the first time.

For my top travel advice for Kauai, keep reading!

Kauai Travel Guide and 7-Day Kauai Itinerary by top Hawaii blog Hawaii Travel Spot

Kauai Vacation Planning Tips

1. 7-10 Days is the Typical Kauai Vacation Length

You should stay at least a week if you truly want to experience the best of Kauai.

In this manner, you’ll have enough time to see the North Shore, the East Shore, and the South Shore.

Image of hiking shoes on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Na Pali Coast on Kauai
Kauai has some epic hiking trails.

You can take part in several tours and excursions, eat at a variety of tasty restaurants and food trucks, and yet have time for some beach days and poolside relaxation.

You’ll want to be able to fully enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of Kauai without feeling rushed.

2. It’s Easy to Day Trip to Kauai

Although a journey to Kauai should ideally last seven days or longer, island hopping from another Hawaiian island will allow you to see the island in a hurry.

To make the most of your time if you’re taking a day trip to Kauai, attempt to book one of the morning’s first flights and one of the evening’s final flights.

Image of an airplane wing over an aerial shot of Kauai
There are lots of interisland flights to Kauai.

I advise you to create your ultimate list of things to do in Kauai and then reduce it to just one or two items.

Even if some of the Kauai activities are half-day or full-day excursions, you won’t be able to complete them all in a single day.

I suggest looking for activities unique to Kauai (like seeing Waimea Canyon, driving up to Hanalei, or going sugar cane tubing.)

Another option is to simply take in the experience of visiting a different island, indulging in shave ice, going snorkeling, and checking out Kauai’s food scene.

3. The North Shore is the Rainy Side

Because it’s so beautiful up there, many people believe that the North Shore is the greatest spot to stay on Kauai.

The lush, tropical vegetation and gorgeous coastline indeed make it very stunning.

But because it rains so often, there is a lot of greenery.

Image of a green church with stained glass windows with palm trees in the background
The Waioli Mission House is a popular Hanalei attraction.

The road leading to Hanalei may occasionally close depending on how much rain falls. Therefore, if you decide to stay there, you can be detained there for a few days while the route is closed.

Also, check the weather before organizing a day trip there.

In case it decides to rain the rest of the vacation, we normally travel up to the North Shore on the first day that it is sunny and clear.

4. Highway Doesn’t Go All The Way Around

It’s a common myth that you can drive all the way around Kauai.

The Na Pali Coast, a significant impediment, stands in the way of the highway’s ability to connect the North Shore and West Shore.

Image of a lush green mountain coastline leading to the ocean along the Na Pali Coast on Kauai
There are no roads through the Na Pali Coast.

Even though it might not seem important, you should nonetheless make plans for traffic. You see, there is only one way to travel both up and down the shore.

You can use a few bypass roads to speed up your journey during times of heavy traffic, but generally, it will take longer than you anticipate to get from the South Shore to the North Shore and vice versa.

For instance, a trip to Waimea Canyon could take up to two hours if you were staying in Princeville and there wasn’t any traffic.

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5. Reserve a Kauai Rental Car

Wondering how to get around Kauai? You should rent a car in Hawaii in Hawaii regardless of where you stay in Kauai (or any other island).

This is because some of the best things to do in Kauai necessitate driving, and the island lacks excellent public transit.

In addition, fewer tour operators on Kauai will pick you up at your hotel (as opposed to those on Oahu’s Waikiki Beach).

Bringing your own car seat rather than renting one from the rental car agency is one of my top recommendations for families renting a car in Kauai.

In this manner, you can be certain that it fits your child properly and that they are already at ease wearing it.

Image of someone driving a car in the rain on Kauai
It’s so easy to get around Kauai if you rent a car.

Driving a rental car in Hawaii can save you a good amount of time because you won’t need to make as much advance planning and may decide how long you want to spend anywhere.

I strongly advise getting the Kauai Shaka App. You can get an audio tour of your driving locations by using this GPS-based Hawaii travel app. It’s inexpensive and jam-packed with knowledge. DOWNLOAD THE APP.

Discount Hawaii Car Rental is among the top places to rent a car on Kauai. They receive incredible discounts on well-known national companies, including Payless, Alamo, Budget, Thrifty, Enterprise, and Avis. Check out the latest prices and more details.

If you don’t have a driver’s license, the best option is to stay at a resort with a shuttle or one where you can stroll to restaurants and activities and reserve tours that include pickup.

6. South Shore is the Sunny Side

Due to its reputation of being on the sunny side of the island, Poipu is the most popular area to stay in Kauai.

On Kauai, it might be pouring outside, but there’s a decent chance you’ll find at least a little sunshine on the South Shore.

Image of two girls holding inflatables at Poipu Beach on Kauai
The South Shore is a popular place to stay on Kauai.

Booking a hotel or resort in Poipu if you’re visiting Kauai in the winter will help you make the most of the bright days during the rainy season. There are also lots of cool Poipu vacation rental options.

Keep the South Shore on hand the rest of the year in case it rains on the North or East Shore.

7. Kauai is a Foodie Island

About ten years ago, Kauai truly advanced in the culinary world.

You can discover a ton of delectable food trucks here (several of which have now opened brick-and-mortar restaurants), as well as casual and fine dining.

Image of a bowl with chopped up raw salmon and green onions
You’ll find tons of poke on Kauai.

In addition, Kauai is renowned for its abundance of organic food, vegan and vegetarian eateries, and farm-to-table establishments.

They also provide some really fantastic Kauai Food Tours that take you to all the top locations to sample some amazing cuisine. Check the latest rates and availability.

8. Can’t go to Haena Without a Reservation

Haena State Park is a well-liked attraction on the island of Kauai. On the North Shore, here is where the road comes to an end.

Image of a beach with a green lush mountain in the background
Ke’e Beach is a gorgeous beach on Kauai at the end of the road.

The hula mound, Ke’e Beach, and trekking trips to Hanakapiai and the Kalalau Valley are popular draws for visitors.

There has long been a parking problem there, so a few years ago they turned it into a park that accepts reservations only.

Each day, they have 100 parking spaces reserved in their lot. However, a shuttle is also available to transport you to the park. Both call for reservations in advance.

Make your Haena State Park reservations here

9. Waimea Canyon Has Fickle Weather

I’ll never forget the time my friend and I went up to the Waimea Canyon very early in the morning only to discover that a sea of dense fog had obscured the vista.

Such a letdown, I tell you.

Image of a woman wearing a tank top sitting at the edge of Waimea Canyon on Kauai
Always check the weather before you head up to Waimea Canyon.

However, because we were inexperienced, we didn’t consider checking the weather before we left. Don’t make that mistake!

Due to the distance, you might want to spend a few hours hiking at Waimea Canyon or continue on to Kokee State Park to explore.

Undoubtedly, it’s among the top things to do on Kauai under $10!

10. Kauai Luaus are Unique

I frequently hear individuals claim that you only need to do a luau once because it is all the same.

I can categorically state that most Kauai luaus are unique in their own unique way because I am a professional hula dancer.

Image of a woman dressed in red surrounded by fire at Smith Family Luau on Kauai
Pele rises from a volcano at Smith Family Luau. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Smith Family Luau is one of our all-time favorite luau experiences on Kauai. You can first take a boat ride to Fern Grotto, then wander through their magnificent garden before going to the luau.  Find best prices and check availability.

Additionally, there is Luau Kalamaku, which offers a train tour through the Kilohana Plantation followed by a theatrical storytelling performance about the arrival of the Polynesians in Hawaii. Find the best prices here.

How to Plan a Trip to Kauai FAQ

How many days is enough in Kauai?

If Kauai is the only Hawaiian island you plan to visit, you should plan on staying there for at least 7 to 10 days. That will leave you with plenty of time to take a couple of day trips, go on a few tours, check out the beaches, and chill.

Do I need a car in Kauai?

To see and do everything on Kauai, you’ll need a car or other motorized vehicle unless you have a reasonably flexible schedule. One major highway goes almost around the whole island (with the Na Pali Coast as the exception).

What is the rainiest month in Kauai?

On Kauai Island, it rains all year long. With an average rainfall of 5.2 inches, January is the wettest month on Kauai Island. With an average rainfall of 1.0 inches, June is the month that rains the least on Kauai Island.

Planning a Trip to Kauai Wrap Up

There you have it, then! My best advice for first-time visitors who wish to organize a trip to Kauai like an expert! With these Kauai travel tips, you’re sure to have a memorable Kauai vacation!

Looking for more Kauai travel resources? Find out how to plan a trip to Kauai, cheap hotels on Kauai, romantic Kauai honeymoon resorts, Big Island vs Kauai, kid-friendly Kauai resorts, cheap and free things to do on Kauai, best things to do on Kauai with kids, and my Kauai packing list.

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