Guide to Kauai, HI. The Ultimate Honeymoon Destination
All you need is a bathing suit… and a raincoat.
Apart from the clear turquoise waters and lush green mountains, there wasn’t much I knew about Kauai before heading there on our honeymoon. This island stole our hearts and truly exceeded every expectation we had. Kauai is a small Hawaiian island where famous films such as Jurassic World, Avatar, The Descendants, and more have been filmed. The island is a mere 25 miles long, with a one lane road for travelers.
Secluded beaches, fresh foods, sights, and a variety of hikes boast this beautiful island. The best part, there’s no crowds.
The hardest part is choosing which part of the island will accommodate all of your needs. In this guide I will compare the North and South ends of the island, where to stay, what to eat, what to do, along with the best tips and tricks you need to know before packing. Whether you are looking to relax, get a tan, grab a drink, eat tapas, or adventure off on a 10-mile hike, Kauai has it all.
Where to Stay
Princeville Resort– Located on the North Shore of Kauai and previously known as the St. Regis Resort in Princeville. The only hotel with its own private beach for guests, breathtaking views of the coast, and a private terrace that turns in to an exquisite dinner spot at night. Perfect for couples or those looking to have a romantic getaway. Truly the best way to experience all of the beautiful views Kauai has to offer.
The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas– Also located on the North Shore, this option is great for those looking for something a bit more affordable with views of the coast. Steps away from the Princeville golf course, and quaint rooms to fit everyone’s needs.
Hanalei Bay Villas– When eating out gets a bit expensive, grab a villa at Hanalei Bay on the North Shore. Perfect for families looking to relax, cook their own meals, and enjoy the private abundance of your own patio.
Sheraton Kauai Resort– Located on the “sunny side” (South Side) of Kauai, this hotel is the only one to host a waterfront luau. While the crowds and the waves are a bit larger here than the North side, the activities are endless and you’re sure to get a sun tan.
What to Do
Hike– While some of the more well known hikes in Kauai are the Sleeping Giant Trail, Wailua Falls, Kalalau Trail, and the Waimea Canyon State Park, most of them were unfortunately closed when we visited. With Kauai being a very lush and tropical climate, that means a lot of rain and flooding, and dangerous conditions for hikers. We did however get the chance to hike the Okolehao Trail off the main road to Hanalei. There are tons of hikes everywhere in Kauai ranging from easy, moderate, to difficult. Okolehao Trail is 2.5 miles each way, and is slightly moderate with a few steep slopes. It was the perfect early morning workout that didn’t leave us exhausted for the rest of the day. It is impossible to visit Kauai without trying at least one of these well known hikes.
Snorkel at Hideaway Beach– Hideaway Beach is Kauai’s most (well known) secret beach on the island. It starts with a hidden trail that then leads to a steep hike down the side of a cliff that can only be reached by holding on to a rope. Sounds scary, but it’s really not. Just make sure to grab tennishoes, a beach towel, snorkel gear, and pack lunch, you won’t want to leave once you get there.
Read on the Beach– On the days we weren’t out exploring the island, we packed our backpacks with beach towels, snacks, and our favorite books then headed down to the beach. There’s no better way to take in Hawaii than slowing down on the beach with a good book, but that’s just my opinion of course! Not to mention you get a sun tan while doing so.
Chocolate Tour– Cacao trees flood the entire island of Kauai, making it a prime spot for the real deal chocolate. For those who are interested in learning all about the cacao pod and how chocolate is made, there is a three hour long tour available at Lydgate Farms. Not to mention it includes tastings and free chocolate at the end (win!). For those wanting to skip the tour and head straight for the chocolate, Garden Island Chocolate shop is open to the public where you can purchase freshly made bars, homemade chocolate milk, chocolate covered macadamias and more. All the chocolates are made with 100% cacao, dairy free, and refined sugar free (another win!).
Queen’s Bath– Located on the North Shore and a very popular spot for visiting tourists. The small trail leads to a unique tide pool where you can watch sea turtles swim and stare at the vast beauty of the ocean. Make sure it’s a sunny day when you visit, the mud can make it very slippery.
Attend a Luau– Recommended to us by our waiter at the Princeville Resort, the Aulii Luau is located at the Sheraton Resort and is Kauai’s only waterfront luau. Tickets run at about $120 per person and is a full night of authentic food, entertainment, and spectacular views of the South Shore. Grab tickets ahead of time as luau’s sell out rather quickly.
What to Eat
Bar Acuda– Known for their Mediterranean- style tapas, every bite is as delicious as the first. Handcrafted cocktails including their signature Mai Tai’s complement the tapas making it a unique Kauai experience. Make a reservation ahead of time for a seat outside to enjoy the views of Hanalei.
Tahiti Nui– For those looking for a laid back environment, live music, and the best Mai Tai on the island, look no further than Tahiti Nui. Fresh caught fish and pizzas are just a few of the items on their extensive menu. Located in the town of Hanalei.
Fresh Bite Food Truck– With all of the fresh food Kauai has to offer, there are food trucks on every inch of the island. Ranging from juice stands, smoothies, tacos, shave ice, and grab and go lunches. The Fresh Bite has a locally sourced menu that offers organic “farm to beach” style. Perfect if you’re a health nut, like me.
North Shore vs. South Shore
Kauai is a small island that is very separated. With a one lane road leading to the North and South Shore’s of the island, there are many differences between the two.
South Shore– Known as the “sunny side” of the island, this is a popular spot amidst tourists. I recommend staying on the South Shore for families, large groups, or those looking to do more swimming and snorkeling. It is also a shorter distance to the local airport in Lihue as well as the Waimea Canyon for hikers. Home for luau’s and shops if you are looking to enjoy a classic Hawaiian experience.
North Shore– While there were still plenty of sunny days on this end of the island, there were just as many rainy ones as well. Travelers looking to honeymoon, have a romantic getaway, or escape from the crowds are most likely to visit the North Shore. This is the only part of the island to see spectacular views of the coast and the lush greenery that’s so famously known in Hollywood. Perfect for hikers, good food, and luxury. While it is much more quiet than the South Shore, be sure to pack a raincoat as the weather can be unpredictable.
- Plan your days ahead of time as travelling can take up a majority of your day. With the roads being one lane, it can take up to an hour and a half getting from the North Shore to the South depending on where you are staying. Also, if you are booking a luau do it ahead of time to ensure you still get a spot.
- Buy snorkel gear at a nearby store and not at a resort. Resorts can spike the prices of equipment making it for an expensive outing. There are plenty of nearby stores that sell basic gear for day out on the water.
- Get a rental car if you are looking to do a variety of activities. Many of the best things to do require a bit of travel time as there are not many places to walk. I highly recommend getting a car for your trip so you can take in all the elements of the island.
- Pack a bag whenever going out. With one activity leading to another, it’s nice to be prepared for any sort of outing. A couple basics I recommend:
- beach towel
- tennis shoes
- extra clothes
- water and snacks