Local Area Guide: Things to do / Activities / Attractions
Kauai Vacation Tips
The following is a flow of suggestions for planning your Kauai vacation, based on our 25 years of living in the Islands and spending time on Kauai at Poipu Shores Condos. Below the travel suggestions you will find suggestions for your dining, shopping and sightseeing pleasure. We know you will have an incredible time on Kauai, especially when you stay in one of our spectacular PoipuBeachCondo.com properties
Tom Biehn - Owner
Parker Biehn - Director
Air Travel to Kauai
Hawaii is hot and seats are a very finite supply, so up go prices. This section is intended to help you get to Kaua'i ACAP (As Cheap As Possible). The airline code for Kauai's airport at Lihue is LIH.
Direct Flights to Lihue, Kauai
Direct flights to Lihue are available from Virgin, Delta, United, Hawaiian and American out of LA and San Francisco. American flies direct out of Phoenix. Hawaiian has many west coast gateway cities, as does Alaska (our current favorite). Many people like getting to Kauai 2 hours sooner by missing Honolulu altogether. The direct to Lihue flights tend to be a little more expensive, but you are avoiding the Honolulu to Lihue inter-island airfare of approx $150 round trip ), so do your homework! Canadian airlines West Jet is now coming direct to Lihue also.
Frequent Flyer Miles, the Cheapest Way to Get Here!
The cheapest way to Kaua'i, of course, is frequent flyer miles if you've got them. Be aware that FF seats on the scheduled airlines go very, very fast for the holidays and summer months. You can book FF seats 11 months in advance of your departure date home from Kaua’i, and we heartily suggest you do so for those periods. FF seats are more readily available other times of the year, but when flying to Hawaii, planning ahead is always the best.
Airfare Pricing and Timing...
Historically Airfares trend south around September 10th. So if you are coming in the Fall, try to hold off until then to buy your tickets. They stay cheap for flights until December 15th and then up they go. Non-holiday, non-summer fares are reasonably cheap if you are trying to get those miles banked up for the free trip back to Kauai next year! The airlines are really gouging for summer and winter fares. Bets to look for fares sales prior to ticketing. If you want to keep abreast of the Hawaii air fare market place we suggest you subscribe to BeatofHawaii.com ... a free blog that always has the most up to date information on fare sales to the island
We travel over 100,00 miles a year and our "hottest" travel tip this year is using hotwire.com for car rentals. We are consistently finding rates over 50% off the rental car sites or places like Expedia.com. The site works like Priceline.com, you don't know who you are renting from and you have to pay in advance, however our experience has always given us a major car company and total satisfaction at a great price! It is easy to check fares on Expedia.com and then compare with a direct link they have toHotwire.com right on the expedia site. If you have any trouble getting a good deal, please call or email us and we will be happy to share any new secrets we have come across. Good luck! If you prefer to use a specific rental car company, we urge Enterprise.
Restaurant Recommends - Our Favorite Places to Eat on Kauai
Kukuiula Shopping Center
This is a relatively new shopping center in Poipu, just off the Poipu "roundabout". There are many fine boutiques, art galleries and a variety of restaurants to choose from. From Hot Dogs to high end cuisine, it’s worth checking out.
The Dolphin Restaurant. Sushi bar and restaurant. Like all fine dining on Kauai prices are steep, but quality and freshness is unsurpassed. Lots of tables. We like to sit at the sushi bar and tell the chefs to just feed us with their specials and favorites. We are never disappointed.
Merriman's is in the Kukuiula Shopping Center as well. I’ve only gone for happy hour in the downstairs area which was good, but self service. Truffle fries are great. High end staek and seafood restaurant on the upstairs.
Tortilla Republic Great Mexican food, upstairs is more upscale and downstairs is a bit more casual. Happy Hour from 3- 5 daily. Visit their website for more information.
The Lanai Newly opened restaurant adjacent to Living foods, which is as close to a Whole Foods as you get on Kauai.
1849 Eating House This is Roy Yamaguchi's (The famous Roy!) new specialty restaurant. A wide and varied menu with unique local local menu items. This is a great spot with fantastic chefs.
Lapperts Ice Cream is the best for ice cream. Tutus Anniversary is my "fav", but all flavors are wonderful.
Poipu Shopping Village hosts a number of mid tier specialty restaurants, including Thai food, Puka Dog (island style hot dogs) the big Olympic Cafe and others. Worth checking out.
The Beach House. The best location for sunset and ocean views (if you are NOT staying at one of our condos!) Good food, good service and that VIEW! Call for reservations for a table about a half hour before sunset.
There are other places in Kukuiula Shopping Village as well as Poipu Shopping Village, but we're just listing our "favs" here.
Hamura's Saimin. State-wide, this Lihue saimin (noodle) restaurant is known for its funky atmosphere and a meal that will fill you up and leave your wallet intact. Try the house special saimin, and the teri-stick. Leave room for the lillikoi chiffon pie for dessert! Old linoleum and stationary seats may turn you off, but the saimin cannot be beat! Be prepared to wait, and possibly not even sit together for this informal meal. A local favorite. Take out too.
Pizzetta in Koloa is a good place for pizza, salads and pasta. Nothing special but good food.
Brenneckes at Poipu Beach Park. Great views of the park, but no big gastronomic delight. A fun place to eat and good happy hours
Brick Oven Pizza. In Kalaheo, about a 20 minute drive from Poipu, but the pizza is unsurpassed. No delivery, but there is take out. This pizza parlor has been around for decades, for good reason. The pizza is fabulous! Kids get dough to play with while you wait for dinner. They are also on the east side near the Wailua River.
Fish Express. Our personal favorite in Lihue for take-out and local pupu’s (appetizers or side dishes). You can even get plate lunches here. If you are brave or really appreciate fish, try some of the local dishes. Some are hot and some are just plain amazingly tasty! They have many different kinds of poke. You can also buy fish for the grill here. Sashimi and shrimp cocktails are a bargain. Located on the main road in Lihue across from Walmart.
Koloa Fish Market. Another good fish market if you don’t want to drive to Lihue. Not as large of a selection, but consistent. Plate lunches, laulau, sashimi, poke, and spring rolls. Usually fish to cut and buy for dinner as well. Located on Poipu Road just out of Koloa.. Cash only!
The entire island was thrilled to welcome a full sized, with gas station, Costco in October of 2006. It has changed the face of retail on the island and brought Mainland (well almost) prices to our little rock in the middle of the ocean. The Costco is located on the West side of the Kukui Grove shopping center, (Macy's side), next to the Home Depot! Reasonably near the Costco is now also a 24 hour Safeway...a giant, Mainland style store with everything you will ever need.
There is also Grocery store right in Koloa, Big Save, (which you won’t) but it has recently been remodeled and has a Subway inside as well as fresh sushi! Also enjoy Sueokas grocery store for a more local feel and the Kukuiula store, by the yellow submarine for local and specialty foods.
There are several on the island, different days for each location. The Koloa Farmer’s Market is on Mondays, at noon, actually arrive by 11:45 for parking and to await the opening. Be on time, things sell out quickly. You will find wonderful local produce and we always like to support the local farmers. Flowers are there as well. It is on the road out of town near the Koloa Ball Field.
Saturday mornigs there is a giant market in the parking lot of the Kauai Community College in Puhi...you passed it coming to Poipu, it was on your right just outside of Lihue.
Lately we have seen road side stands selling anything from fresh local fish to deep fried ice cream! Stop and support! Here's the Kauai Farmer's Markets link for more information.
Sports and Outdoor Activities...
Kauai is filled with natural beauty and should be explored to the fullest. Chill out and relax but don’t miss the wonders our island has to offer.
Tennis: The Kiahuna Tennis club is on the way to the Poipu Shopping Village. Public courts are in Koloa next to the ball park.
Golf: All the courses on the island are available for play by visitors. The Hyatt course (to the east), The Kiahuna Golf course has had lots of money poured into it in the past couple of years. Greens are updated and the course is beautiful. Turn into the Poipu Shopping Village and follow the road around to the course. Also the home of Joe’s on the Green, a great restaurant for before or after your round. Our personal favorite, being duffers, is the Kukuiolono Golf Course in Kalaheo. Only 9 holes, the fairways are as wide as they are long, but the cost is all of about $7! Incredible ocean vistas as well. Obviously the Princeville course is pretty famous as well. Lots to offer the golfer in your group. Always be prepared for rain on Kauai!
We are members of The Club at Kukui'ula which is the most gorgeous course in Poipu, maybe the island. It is private and evry exclusive. If you are avid golfers, speak to us about the possibility of getting on there.
Snorkeling: There is a great beginners area at Poipu Beach Park. Just go to the west of the little sand peninsula (called Nukumoi). Also the most popular spot is on either side of the Kuhio Shores condo complex, on the way to the Spouting Horn. If you see the Beach House restaurant, you are there. It’s a bit rocky getting in, but worth the effort. All the way to the end of the road on the north shore is Ke’e Beach. Spectacular snorkeling with amazing views at the beach. Be careful of leaving valuables in your car at any time.
Scuba Diving: If you want to dive, Sea Sport Divers at the original Kukuiula Shopping area has tours, equipment and clothing. They have been there for decades.
Hiking: There are books galore on hiking on Kauai and so many wonderful hikes that we really can’t list them all here. Our favorite one is to Hanakapiai Beach, at the end of the road to the north shore. (Ke’e Beach) It’s a two mile hike and considered strenuous. Don’t bring those lily white shoes, they will never be the same! The views from the half mile point are some of our personal favorite views in the entire world. Our suggestion is that if you are into hiking and want to do several hikes, it’s worth it to buy the Ultimate Kauai Guidebook prior to your arrival and do your homework. Always know that the weather can change your plans, the north shore can get pretty wet and treacherous. In 2006 two women were killed when they hiked a “hidden and secret trail” on Kauai. The trail is really no more than a wild boar path, and had been touted by several hiking books and websites. These trails are not maintained and can be extremely dangerous. Please use marked and maintained trails for your safety.
Horseback Riding: We haven’t used any of the stables on the north shore, but have ridden with CJM stables on the south shore. Great ride into areas on the south shore that you wouldn’t normally see. Good guide with information on the area as well. Part of this area is owned by Steve Case of AOL, unfortunately he is doing some wrangling of his own to develop this area, which is very significant archeologically, environmentally and has some ancient Hawaiian significance.
Fishing and Boat Excursions: We haven’t done any fishing on charter boats here, just with friends with boats, so we can’t recommend any specific charter. As far as snorkeling tours up to the north shore, we love Liko Kauai. Try to get a charter out of the Kikaola Harbor on the west side. Summer is the best time to go, they may not even go very often in the fall, winter and spring due to the surf swells, which can be pretty large. The tours will take you along the Na Pali coast, which is unaccessable by car or hiking. The views are so dramatic, you will be so happy that you took the tour.
Helicopter Tours: WE HEARTILY RECOMMEND THAT YOU DO A HELICOPTER TOUR IF IT IS IN ANY WAY FINANCIALLY POSSIBLE. It’s expensive, but so worth the money. Best money we ever spent on the island (next to real estate of course!). So much of the island cannot be seen any other way and the sights you will see will stay with you forever. Waterfalls and dramatic vistas that confirm that God saved his best work for Kauai! We used to recommend Will Squires, but have gotten some mixed reviews about the service. It is still accident free, thank goodness! Jack Harter is another one that we hear good things about.
Zip Line Tours: This is new on the island and we haven’t done it yet, but have heard wonderful things about it. Being afraid of heights doesn’t help, but we have heard that it is very peaceful and they work you up to the long line after getting used to the program. A good company is located in the Kukuiula Shopping Center and there is one in Koloa a bit behind the ice cream store. They also have ATV excuroions which are really a good time.
Tube Rides on the Irrigation Ditches: We did try this one and it is very peaceful and fun! Nice lunch to go with it and fun guides to give you the local information.
You have to bring gifts home, so we have come up with some suggestions for your trinkets. Wal-Mart and K-mart have all the usual trinkets, but they both have a good selection and good prices. If you are looking for something a bit more special, we recommend the Hawaiian Trading Post. They have the largest selection of Niihau Shell Leis on the island, and it’s worth a stop just to see the incredible work by the women on Niihau. Truly and art form that is best appreciated when you see how small the shells are! They also have a huge inventory of all kinds of jewelry and one side of the store has beautiful monkeypod wood bowls, shirts, and other items. They are personal friends of ours and are very honest and not overpriced. High quality merchandise. Look for them in Lawai.
Here are some of our favorites, but you will probably find some special locations on your own.
National Tropical Botanical Gardens. One of only four (I believe) NTBG’s in the United States, one on the north shore, one in Maui and one in Florida. Well-informed docents lead you on the tour, which is guided, and you have to have reservations. You will find out so much about the way our islands evolved and what the plant life on Kauai is all about. Highly recommended.
Polihale State Park. You will think you are lost as you head out to the park, on sugar cane roads which seem to lead to no where! Go as far as you can without getting stuck in the sand and you will find one of the most magnificent beaches ever. This beach has graced the cover of several magazines, with its wide white sandy beach and towering pali (mountains) as a backdrop. Be careful however, the waves can be dangerous. This entire stretch of beach is one of the longest in the Hawaiian island chain.
Waimea Canyon. Go early to this spectacular spot. The clouds come in later in the day to cover some of the view. Mark Twain called Kauai's canyon the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Be sure to go all the way to the end of the road to Koke’e State Park, and then to the Kalalau overlook. Breathtaking.
The North Shore. So many places to stop along the way, but go all the way to the end of the road, to Ke’e Beach. This is the trailhead to Kalalau, and Hanakapiai Beach. If you are a good hiker, the Hanakapiai trail is about 2 and ½ miles long, and considered strenuous. (Kalalau, on the other hand is 9 miles and is a long one day hike in, permits are needed to spend the night.) If you just want a taste of the trail, go ½ mile into the trail to Windy Point. You will be rewarded with one of the most spectacular vistas on earth. Or at least we think so. Let us know if you want more information on these hikes as we have done them all. The rest of the north shore has so much to see. Kilauea Lighthouse, is beautiful. The Guava Plantation, Princeville, Hanalei, Lumahai Beach and other sights along the way.