Tips for Traveling to Kauai

Last updated April 4, 2024

If you’re craving shimmering white-sand beaches, scrumptious fresh food, wild adventures and piña coladas by the pool, it’s time to travel to Kauai.

Kauai is the oldest and northernmost island in the Hawaiian chain. It is a tropical paradise draped in emerald valleys, mountain spires and jagged cliffs. 

Here’s all you need to know to plan, prepare and execute a smooth and memorable wellness vacation to Hawaii’s Garden Island.

Kauai has four main areas, each with a unique and distinct difference.

What’s great about this breathtaking island is that no matter where you stay, it’s possible to hit any of the other shores and coasts within a couple of hours.

Resorts in Kauai

Resorts are the best in terms of accommodation type and getting the most bang for your buck. There are plenty of beautiful, highly rated resort and timeshare options available around the island.

When staying at a resort, you typically benefit from a wide variety of luxurious amenities. Resort amenities often include a concierge, shuttle services, larger rooms (often with a kitchen unit), a washer/dryer, room service and numerous pools.

Lots of resorts even have their own private beach and delicious restaurants to dine in if you choose to stay close to the room after a few piña coladas. 

North Shore

The North Shore is known for its dramatic scenery. It’s actually named one of the most stunning spots in the world! 

Having stayed in Princeville, I couldn’t recommend it more. This shore is very lush due to the frequent rainfall, so it’s important to avoid peak rain season during the winter months. 

Kauai’s North Shore is also known for being more luxurious, which means it is one of the pricier areas to stay. It is home to many beautiful beaches, hiking trails and incredible views of the coastline.

The top cities in the North Shore are Princeville, Hanalei and Kilauea. 

South Shore

For the best weather, the South Shore of Kauai is the way to go. The South Shore has the most beaches, shopping and dining options. 

This also means that it is most densely populated. Furthermore, the South Shore is a very popular tourist spot. Despite the crowds, Kauai’s South Shore is worth it if you are wanting a dry and sunny trip. 

Some popular cities to stay in are Lawai, Poipu and Koloa. 

East Coast

Also known as the “Coconut Coast,” the East Coast is full of coconut trees, beaches and dozens of attractions that are sure to keep you entertained. 

This coast of Kauai is the most affordable in terms of accommodations. It’s also the most “central” part of the island. 

In comparison to the North and South Shores of the island, the East Coast is not the most attractive part of Kauai. In spite of this, there are many attractions worth exploring on the East Coast. These attractions include the Kauai Path, Wailua Falls and the town of Kapaa. 

Cities to consider for your preferred home base include Wailua, Kapaa and Lihue. 

West Side

Noted as the least popular place to stay on the island, the West Side of Kauai is still home to many remarkable landmarks. What’s more is that it is a dream for hikers and adventure-seekers. 

Due to landslides, it’s important to note that many routes to the West Side have been closed for repair and safety purposes. As a result of this closure, the West Side is the hardest place to get to.

There are limited restaurants and places to stay on this side of the island. It’s dry and desolate. Hence why it is home to the Waimea Canyon.

Fun fact: the Waimea Canyon has been labeled the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.

The West Side isn’t necessarily the best place to stay. It is mainly frequented by adrenaline junkies and backpackers. However, it is definitely worth taking a day trip to explore and adventure. 

The top cities on this side of the island are Waimea and Hanapepe. 

Bonus Points

Now that you’ve done all the steps to prepare for your trip to Kauai, it’s time to jump into the adventures that await you on this island. 

I suggest creating a “must-see” list of top sights, restaurants and activities you want to experience. An itinerary can ensure that you experience everything on your list.

All in all, Kauai is a great opportunity to try new things you’ve never tried before. It is an opportunity to face some fears such as snorkeling, surfing or flying in a helicopter.

Kauai Travel Tips for Foodies

Kauai has some of the freshest food I’ve ever had. Vegan and plant-based cuisine are huge on the Hawaiian Islands (the best being found in food trucks and small shacks!). “Yelp!” is a great tool for finding the top-rated places to dine. 

If you’re a Food Network fanatic, there are lots of places visited by Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

Try not to sleep too long adjusting to jet lag. My tip is to always catch up on sleep in the sun by the poolside or in the sand, just be sure to wake up in time to lather up.

There is so much to see and explore on Kauai you’ll never be at a loss for plans or adventure. 

Wherever you find yourself, it’s sure to be incredible. Here is a quick list of my favorite places on the island: The Queen’s Bath, Wailua Falls (Kayaking Trip), Hanalei, Waimea Canyon, Poipu Beach.

Traveling to Kauai

Do you plan to explore all of the incredible sights along different shores of the island? If so, chances are you’ll want a rental car. I cannot stress this enough. Book that car TODAY.

If your trip is in less than three weeks it is probably too late to find a rental car through Enterprise, Hertz or Budget at a decent price.

Turo Carsharing Service

Fortunately there is a shared car service called Turo. Turo is a website where locals rent out their cars to visitors. It is a direct owner-to-customer exchange. This means that these cars aren’t owned by one branch or company. Rather, they are owned by the individual renting it out.

Turo is a great way to find a car without all of the added fees and stress of renting from a rental car company. This carshare service saved us on our trip. What’s more is that it allowed us the freedom to explore the island.

Modes of Transportation in Kauai

If you’re just going to stay on one shore of Kauai, there are a few other means of transportation you can look into. The first is bike rentals. There are plenty of reliable and affordable bike rental businesses on the island.


You can go the more “active” route and rent a normal bike. Or, if you’re going longer distances, you can look into electric bikes. These are very common. Whichever bike you choose, biking is a more physically active way to explore the island.


Another way to see the sights is to travel on Kauai’s bus system. From personal experience, this is probably the least reliable means of commuting. 

While it was a pretty uncommon occurrence, we got stuck on the bus for three hours due to a car incident on the bridge. We couldn’t turn back around since we weren’t in control of the route, so I’d really recommend looking into traffic and construction updates before choosing the bus.

What to Pack for Kauai

Packing for Kauai is not like packing for the other Hawaiian Islands. This island is more laid-back and casual when it comes to attire. 

Most of your trip will most likely be spent in swimwear and activewear. Make sure to pack clothes that you’re comfortable staying active in.

Below is a universal checklist covering all the basics to bring when you travel to Kauai. 

Hiking gear

Make sure you pack clothes comfortable to hike in and that you don’t mind getting dirty. This includes a pair of hiking-specific footwear (Nike sneakers won’t do in this terrain). 

Sunscreen and bug spray

Since most of your time is spent outdoors, you want to be protected. Hawaii sun is next-level. You can get burned in less than 15 minutes (I speak from painful experience). 

Grab a clean, reef-safe sunscreen of at least 30 SPF. Also, grab a bug spray for hiking and kayaking days, otherwise, the mosquitoes will have a field day. 

Supportive swimwear

While stylish and luxury swimwear is always a move, for this trip, I advise investing in supportive swimwear that you can be active in without feeling exposed. 

I chose a variety of swimwear solely for pictures and other swimwear that could double as an outfit when paired with the right cover-up or shorts.

Casual day-time fits

As mentioned before, Kauai is the most laid-back of the Hawaiian Islands. 

You don’t need to dress as if a modeling scout is going to discover you at dinner. A few pairs of nice shorts, casual tops and jumpsuits are perfect. 

It’s smart to pack a “dressy” outfit. There are some occasions that call for a step up from casual restaurants—such as a Luau or fine-dining restaurant. 

For this, I suggest a nice sundress, jumpsuit, button-up with solid shorts or a two-piece set. 

Prepare for rain

Chances are you’ll run into a light shower at least once on your trip. I suggest packing a light rain jacket and a small umbrella just in case.


Okay, yes shoes are pretty obvious. It’s the KIND of shoes you want to be sure to pack. As mentioned earlier, hiking shoes are a must. There is a lot of walking on this island, so the more comfortable the shoe the better. 

It’s also hot, so sandals are a go-to, but, make sure they are ones you can walk in without blisters or foot pain.


Pack a few snacks for the commute to the islands as well as some to have on hand to grab between daily activities. 

I was so happy that I had some of my favorite protein bars and other healthy snack options when I needed a quick pick-me-up between meals. It’s always smart to avoid anyone getting hangry and dampening the vacation mood!

Masks/sanitizing products

Pack a few breathable masks you can hand wash or bring a handful of disposable masks. 

Stock up on wipes, hand sanitizer and other disinfectant products to keep yourselves and those around you healthy and protected. 

Flight necessities

The travel to and from the islands is at least three hours from wherever you’re flying from, so bringing extra things to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable flight is very helpful. 

Consider packing a neck pillow, eye mask, earbuds or headphones, facial spray, chapstick, tissues, books and anything else you may need to make the flight “fly by.”

Tips, Tricks and Getting There

Depending on where you’re traveling from, travel to Kauai can be pretty pricey. For my latest trip, I used some of my saved Delta SkyMiles and paid the difference. However, there are many ways to find affordable flights that won’t break the bank. 

Below are a few resources for flight price checking, experts on budget travel and tips for getting great rates from your preferred airline. 

Download travel deal apps

One way to stay up to date on the latest airline deals is to download apps designed solely for this purpose. Here’s a list of some of the top-rated apps and websites that can help you book a flight for the best possible price:

  • SkyScanner 
  • App in the Air 
  • Kiwi
  • Hopper 
  • Momondo

Follow the experts

Another tip I’ve found very helpful is actually following budget travel influencers on Instagram and TikTok. They’re constantly sharing personal tips and tricks that have helped them travel the world on a tight budget.

Stay on a preferred airline

If you’re a dedicated flyer to a specific airline, fear not. There are still many hacks to saving on flights, it just requires a bit more pre-planning and flexibility. 

Consider opening an airline credit card. This way, any money you spend using this card will go toward paying for future flights. Use this card to buy your tickets and it’s as if you’re directly investing in your next flight. It adds up quicker than you’d expect! 

Be flexible with your dates and times. If you’re looking to travel to Kauai on an exact date at 9 am, chances are there’ll be little to no wiggle room in prices. If you know you want to go around a certain time of year, check far in advance. This is when you can score the cheapest flight. 

There are many other resources beyond what is listed above to guide you in making smart, money-saving flight decisions. If you’re inspired, try a few, or all of these tips. They’re definitely worth a shot and can be used for future flights as well. 

You’re Ready to Go

Kauai is the perfect wellness destination for healthy food, tons of adventure and amazing scenery. It truly makes for the ideal vacation destination. Now that you’ve read these travel tips for Kauai, you are ready to go! 

For more wellness-inspired vacations, be sure to explore all of the incredible destinations Vacayou has to offer. 

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