- Travel Guide
Flights arrive at Kauai’s main airport, Lihue Airport (LIH) in southeastern Lihue. You may also fly into Honolulu International Airport (HNL) on Oahu first and then head to Kauai. You’ll find everything from bed and breakfasts to luxury resorts in the areas of North Shore (Princeville), East Side (Coconut Coast), Lihue (Kalapaki), South Shore (Poipu), West Side (Waimea).
Once you’ve settled in, break out your sunscreen and head outdoors. Explore Kauai’s beautiful beaches where you can sunbathe, snorkel or learn how to surf. Then visit Kauai’s humbling natural wonders, from Waimea Canyon to the Napali Coast. Take a break in Kauai’s small towns like Hanapepe, Hanalei and Old Koloa Town to get a taste of local food and art, as well as learn about the island’s fascinating history and culture. After a long day, watch the sunset from the comforts of your resort and recharge for another day of discovery on Kauai.
Kauai is Hawaii’s fourth largest island and is sometimes called the “Garden Isle,” which is an entirely accurate description. The oldest and northernmost island in the Hawaiian chain is draped in emerald valleys, sharp mountain spires and jagged cliffs, aged by time and the elements. Centuries of growth have formed tropical rainforests, forking rivers and cascading waterfalls. Some parts of Kauai are only accessible by sea or air, revealing views beyond your imagination.
Beyond Kauai’s dramatic beauty, the island is home to a variety of outdoor activities. Kayak the Wailua River. Snorkel on Poipu Beach. Hike the trails of Kokee State Park. Even go ziplining above Kauai’s lush valleys. But it is the island’s laid-back atmosphere and rich culture found in its small towns and along its one-lane bridges that make it truly timeless. Make your escape to Kauai and discover the undeniable allure of Kauai.
Kauai Geography & Maps
Kauai is separated into five main regions: Lihue, the East Side (Coconut Coast), the North Shore, the South Shore and the West Side. Occupying 552 square miles, Kauai is circular in shape with lush, mountainous regions in its center and beaches covering almost half its shoreline. Kauai’s age makes it one of the most scenic islands in Hawaii from the 3,000-foot elevations of Waimea Canyon to the waterfalls and deep gorges of 5,148-foot Mount Waialeale in the uninhabited center of Kauai, which you can only view by air.
Kauai's most striking geographic feature is the Napali Coast, which rivals any of the world’s grandest coastlines. The Napali Coast's 17-mile coastline took millions of years to form from wind and water erosion. The results are cliffs thousands of feet high, complete with green valleys, towering waterfalls and hidden sea caves.
●Do I need my passport to get to Kauai?Since Hawaii is the 50th state, you won’t need to bring your passport unless you’re visiting from outside the United States or traveling to another country after Hawaii.
●When is a good time to visit Kauai?Anytime of year is a good time to visit Kauai. The average temperature ranges between 84 and 69 degrees. Trade winds keep things comfortable year-round. Whale watching season begins in December and ends in May. Peak whale watching months are between January and early April.
●When and where are Sunshine Markets (Farmers Markets) on Kauai?Get to the Sunshine Markets a little early, giving you first choice at the fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Monday: Koloa Ball Park, Maluhia Road, noon.
- Tuesday: Kalaheo Neighborhood Center, 3:30pm; Hawaiian Farmers Market, Hanalei at Waipa, 2-4pm.
- Wednesday: Kapaa New Town Park (near the Armory), 3pm.
- Thursday: Kilauea Neighborhood Center, 4:30pm; Hanapepe Town Park (behind the fire station), 3:30-5:30pm.
- Friday: Vidinha Stadium parking lot on Hoolako Street in Lihue, 3pm.
- Saturday: Kekaha Neighborhood Center, 9am; Christ Memorial Church in Kilauea, 9-11am.
●Which beaches have lifeguards on Kauai?The following beaches have lifeguards: Kekaha Beach, Salt Pond Beach Park, Poipu Beach Park, Lydgate, Kealia, Hanalei Bay, Haena Beach Park and Kee Beach. We do not advise going to Queen’s Bath because conditions are extremely dangerous.
●Where can I go bird watching on Kauai?For a nominal entry fee, the Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge (at the Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse) is a uniquely special setting for bird lovers. Framed by breathtaking views of Kauai’s North Shore, Hawaii’s endangered birds can be seen nesting in the cliffs, including the Hawaiian Gallinule, red-footed boobies, tropicbirds, albatrosses and frigate birds.
How far is it from Lihue Airport (LIH) to:
- Hanapepe: 30 minutes
- Kalalau Lookout: 1 hour, 40 minutes
- Koloa: 25 minutes
- Poipu: 30 minutes
- Princeville: 1 hour
- Wailua: 15 minutes
- Waimea Canyon: 1 hour, 15 minutes
The average yearly temperatures of Kauai ranging between 84 and 69 degrees. Ocean temperatures are also perfect ranging from 71 to 81 degrees year round.
Kauai offers seven distinct microclimates, from lush interior spots to arid areas on the West Side. Mount Waialeale (elevation 5,148 ft) is at the heart of Kauai's uninhabited interior and is a quintessential rainforest with over 400-inches of rain per year. The rain that falls around Mt. Waialeale generally does not affect the coastal parts of the island, which get far less rain than the central spots (as little as 18-inches a year in western areas). Much of Kauai's rainfall is a nightly occurrence, and the rain showers that do occur are almost always brief. When you do see rain, wait for the beautiful rainbows that follow.
Kauai is the oldest island in the Hawaiian chain. Kauai’s distant past is filled with legends, the most well known tells of the Menehune, a mythical race of small people talented in construction and engineering who created Kauai’s aqueducts and fishponds, often in a single night. They were believed to have lived in the woods and were shunned by Hawaiians. Today, you can still see their work at Hawaiian fishponds like Alekoko, known as Menehune Fishpond, near Lihue.
In 1778, British explorer Captain James Cook landed in Kauai’s Waimea Bay for the first time. Cook’s discovery of what he called the “Sandwich Isles,” named after the Earl of Sandwich, introduced Hawaii to the world. A statue of Captain Cook stands today in Waimea Town.
During this era of western discovery, King Kamehameha I was attempting to unify the Hawaiian Islands under his rule. Kauai and the small neighboring island of Niihau (part of Kauai county) were the only islands to deter his efforts. Eventually, Kauai’s King Kaumualii decided to peacefully unite with Kamehameha and join the rest of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
In 1835 Old Koloa Town opened its first sugar mill. Follow the Koloa Heritage Trail in Old Koloa Town today to learn about Kauai’s plantation past. On the North Shore, tour the Waioli Mission House, on the National Register of Historic Places, to get a glimpse of missionary life in the 19th century. You can also visit the Kauai Museum for a fascinating exploration of exhibits, artifacts and murals portraying the history of Kauai, its people and its unique culture.