Kauai

Travel Guide North America USA Western United States Hawaii Kauai

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Introduction

Kauai (or, more properly, Kaua'i) is the northwesternmost and oldest of Hawaii's major islands. Called the Garden Island, it is covered with lush greenery and tropical plants, watered regularly by abundant rainfall. As the oldest of the islands, it has been changed the most by the forces of erosion, and this has resulted in natural wonders such as Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali Coast. It is also home to more sandy beaches than any other major island in the Hawaiian chain.

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Geography

Kauaʻi's origins are volcanic, the island having been formed by the passage of the Pacific plate over the Hawaii hotspot. At approximately six million years old, it is the oldest of the main islands. The highest peak on this mountainous island is Kawaikini at 1,598 metres. The second highest peak is Mount Waiʻaleʻale near the center of the island, 1,569 metres above sea level. One of the wettest spots on earth, with an annual average rainfall of 12,000 mm, is located on the east side of Mount Waiʻaleʻale. The high annual rainfall has eroded deep valleys in the central mountains, carving out canyons with many scenic waterfalls. On the west side of the island, Waimea town is located at the mouth of the Waimea River, whose flow formed Waimea Canyon, one of the world's most scenic canyons, and which is part of Waimea Canyon State Park. At 914 metres deep, Waimea Canyon is often referred to as "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific". Kokeo Point lies on the south side of the island. The Na Pali Coast is a center for recreation in a wild setting, including kayaking past the beaches, or hiking on the trail along the coastal cliffs.

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Towns

  • Kapa'a
  • Lihue
  • Po'ipu
  • Princeville
  • Waimea

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Sights and Activities

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Events and Festivals

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.

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Weather

Kauai is a popular destination among people looking for great weather. There are however differences throughout the year and even between parts of the island. The southwestern parts are generally much drier compared to the northeastern parts of the island. Most of the rain falls between November and March. It is quite unusual for tropical islands to have the wettest time of year coincide with the slightly cooler months. Oddly enough, the possibility of a tropical storm or even a hurricane is higher from May to November, opposite to the wetter months. Still, such storms are less frequent compared to for example the Caribbean or west Pacific. Temperatures are highest between July and October, around 28 °C during the day and around 24 °C at night. The other months are still nice and warm, between 24 °C and 27 °C during the day and around 20 °C at night.

This website gives a fantastic summary with climate charts and maps of the 4 main islands, which show the differences on each Island, ranging from pretty dry on the main popular coastal areas, to extremely wet on the other side of the islands and even more so on some of the mountain ranges.

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Getting There

By Plane

Lihue Airport (LIH) is located on the southeast coast of the island. From here, Alaska Airlines flies to Seattle, American Airlines and Delta Airlines to Los Angeles, Hawaiian Airlines, Island Air and go!Mokulele to Honolulu (Island Air also to Kahului on Maui), United Airlines to Los Angeles, Denver and San Francisco, US Airways to Phoenix and there are seasonal flights with Westjet to Vancouver.

By Boat

There is now also a deep water port at Nawiliwili for cruise ships. Norwegian Cruise Lines offers cruises between the islands that start and end in Honolulu.

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Getting Around

By Car

A rental car is the best way to get around and enjoys most sites. There are two main highways on Kauaʻi, both starting in Lihue. Kaumualii Highway (state route 50) heads to the west, through the towns of Kalaheo, Hanapepe, Waimea, and Kekaha before ending at the Na Pali Coast. Kuhio Highway (state route 56) heads north from Lihue, through Kapaʻa, Kilauea, Princeville, and Hanalei, ending at the other side of Na Pali.

Traffic in Kauai can be slow, particularly between Lihue and Kapaʻa. Give yourself extra time and be patient when traveling through this area.

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

By Bus

Kaua'i Bus offers services around the island, but will not go to some rural attractions, such as Kokeʻe. Still, if you are on a budget, this bus will get you around and between the major population centers, such as Lihuʻe and Kapaʻa, and the major resort/beach areas.

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Eat

Like the rest of Hawaii, the plate lunch is ubiquitous in Kauai. However, many of Kauai's beaches and natural attractions (like Waimea Canyon) have no amenities nearby. Pack a lunch and bring enough water for the day - then stop at the restaurants for dinner. For a tasty snack, pick up some red lychees from a roadside stand or a farmer's market. Waimea Canyon visitors can drive a few miles further up the road to the Koke'e Lodge , located in the Koke'e State Park next to the museum. It serves breakfast and lunch.

  • Hanapepe Cafe - Vegetarian & Fish in Hanapepe
  • Caffe Coco - Bistro style in Wailua
  • Monico's Taqueria - Mexican/fish in Wailua
  • Banana Joe's - Smoothies/Frosties in Kilauea
  • Tropical Taco - Fish/Mexican in Hanalei
  • Kilauea Fish Market - Fish wraps plus in Kilauea and Wailua (starting January 2011)
  • Kilauea Bakery & Pau Hana Pizza in Kilauea

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Drink

A great place to watch the sun set behind Bali Hai at cocktail hour is the "Library" at the St. Regis Hotel, in the Princeville Resort on the North Shore. At the end of Ka Haku Road.
Sunset from The Point bar at the Sheraton Poipu is great as well. Sit on the patio and nosh some bar food, sip a Lilikoi Lemonade, and watch the sun set behind Niihau and Spounting Horn.

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Sleep

Before making lodging reservations it's best to review a map of the island and plan ahead. Think about the activities and sightseeing you want to do. While it's true that you can drive to any part of the island within an hour or two you'll spend less time in the car if you book your lodging in a spot that's closest to the places you'll spend most of your time.

The "windward" side, especially the north coast can get up to twice rain than the sunny south coast. If you come from a cold and rainy region looking for a sunny Hawaiian vacation you could be disappointed if you stay on the lush, green, tropical - and wetter - north coast. Yes, it will still be warm but more with more cloud cover and showers.

Another option is camping. There are many county and a state park where camping is allowed. Permits are cheap but required.

View our map of accommodation in Kauai

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Accommodation in Kauai

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Kauai searchable right here on Travellerspoint.

Contributors

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This is version 37. Last edited at 10:03 on Jun 12, 19 by Utrecht. 4 articles link to this page.

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