The Blog

Weekend Guide To Kauai
With 97% of the island covered in forests or mountain ranges, Kauai is known to most as Hawaii's "Garden Island". My roommate and I decided to island hop from Oahu for a weekend and spend three days in exploring Kauai.

Tunnel’s Beach Kauai

Sep 28, 2021 | Travel, United States

Weekend Guide To Kauai

Written by mkline

In
With 97% of the island covered in forests or mountain ranges, Kauai is known to most as Hawaii's "Garden Island". My roommate and I decided to island hop from Oahu for a weekend and spend three days in exploring Kauai.

Known as the Garden Island for it’s lush landscape, breathtaking mountains, and dramatic coastline, I can easily see how Kauai is one of the most traveled to destinations. With at least 80% of the island uninhabited, it truly feels like you are living on a tropical island where all your worries will wash away.

Getting There

Because our home base was in Honolulu, there were plenty of flight options to get to Kauai. Like many of the Hawaiian Islands, if you want to have more freedom to explore and do not plan on spending the majority of your time at a resort, renting a car is highly recommended.

*Note: Due to covid-19, rental cars in Hawaii are few and far between. I highly recommend finding a rental car first and foremost.

Flights

From Honolulu, Hawaiian Airlines and Southwest Airlines operate flights every day of the week at multiple times a day. From the mainland, you can fly most major airlines in the continental U.S. to Hawaii.

 

The famous lantern-lined streets of Hoi An, Vietnam

Queen's Bath Tide Pools in Kauai
Queens Bath Kauai
Tunnel's Beach Kauai

Car Rental

The car rental situation in Hawaii of 2021 is a tricky one. Due to Covid-19, supply chain issues negatively impacted the supply and demand of rental cars on all of the Hawaiian Islands. Karly and I searched high and low for available cars, but all cars at every car rental company were completely sold out. We ultimately resorted to using Turo, a peer-to-peer car sharing company. Unfortunately, there were not many cars available on Turo either, but we luckily found one suitable for our island adventures. I recommend avoiding electric cars if you plan on driving to places like Waimea Canyon.

Where To Stay

Karly and I opted to stay in an affordable hotel as opposed to a resort or Airbnb to put any additional savings towards excursions. We stayed at the Kauai Palms Hotel, which looked more like a motel than a hotel, but provided everything we needed to sleep comfortably. It was an affordable and clean alternative to the limited and expensive accommodation across the island. 

The Kauai Palms Hotel is in a great location. It was situated on the East side of the island near Lihue airport and sandwiched between Princeville (the North Shore) and Poipu (the South Shore).

In case you have extra money to spare and are looking for alternatives, I recommend visiting Never Ending Voyage’s blog post on Where To Stay In Kauai. It details out the best places to stay based on location and budget.

Where To Eat

When we arrived in Kauai, it was dinner time. Karly and I dropped our bags off at the hotel and went straight into Kapaa to try the renowned fried fish tacos at the Sleeping Giant Grill. Needless to say, they did not disappoint! 

Trying different restaurants and cafes is one of my favorite parts about traveling. The island has an amazing food scene and it was so much fun to try different island cuisine and support local restaurants. Here is a comprehensive list of where we ate and a few others that are highly recommended:

*Note: You will see stars next to those that we went to. The listings without stars are recommended, but I did not get a chance to personally visit.

Waimea Canyon Kauai
Kauai Coffee Company
Hiking Waimea Canyon
Tunnel's Beach Kauai
Queens Bath
Hiking Waimea Canyon

Breakfast & Coffee

East Side:

  • *Aloha Roastery
    • An adorable cafe near Lihue airport and our hotel. It was perfectly situated on the road up to Kapaa or down to South Shore. It’s minimalist decor made it so comforting to spend a few short minutes in. I opted for their matcha vanilla latte with oat milk and it did not disappoint! The staff was incredibly helpful and kind as well.
  • *Java Kai
    • A delicious cafe offering food and drinks in Kapaa. It is located on a busy street full of shops and other restaurants. Karly and I enjoyed the mouth watering avocado toast and took a stroll down the street, popping in-and-out of shops after breakfast.
  • Sunrise Coffee
    • Another widely reviewed place to get coffee on the East Side of the island. We didn’t get the chance to visit but this quaint little food truck has raving reviews on Google.

South Shore

  • *Little Fish Coffee Poipu
    • A single-home style cafe and breakfast spot on the South Shore. The drive down here was absolutely gorgeous with floral tree canopies in full bloom. There are a lot of resorts in this area, and Little Fish serves them all, so get there early or be prepared to wait in line. I waited about one hour. The customer service was not great, but I know they were busy.

North Shore

  • *The Spot North Shore
    • A small space located in a shopping center on the North Shore. They serve health bowls, smoothie bowls, and more. It was a great place to stop for a light, healthy lunch to get us through the rest of the day.
  • Saenz Ohana Breakfast
    • Another spot that was highly rated on many blog posts but we did not get to visit. Saenz Ohana Breakfast has affordable food and provides a lot, so it’s great bang for buck with fresh, local ingredients.

*We didn’t eat breakfast on the West Side of the Island, but check-out some of the amazing Lunch and Snack spots we found. I’m sure they have breakfast options as well!

Lunch & Dinner (and snacks!)

East Side

  • *Sleeping Giant Grill
    • If you take away ONE restaurant recommendation from this blog post, let it be this: get the fried fish tacos at Sleeping Giant Grill!! They DO NOT disappoint. Aside from sushi and poke bowls, I don’t eat much cooked fish so was a little hesitant to get the fish tacos here as our first dinner on the island. But boy did they deliver. Sleeping Giant Grill is located just north of Lihue on the East Side of the island. There isn’t much seating but if you can snag a spot outside, it’s a great place to enjoy a delicious, quick meal in Kauai. It is a quick-service type of place and we enjoyed our tacos outside surrounded by the Garden Island’s lush tropical plants.
  • Duke’s Kauai
    • Duke’s is a restaurant chain found throughout the Hawaiian Islands. I’ve never been but it’s highly recommended, especially in Kauai. The mud pie dessert is a must for dessert lovers!

West Side:

  • *G’s Juicebar
    • We came here after Karly’s Blue Ocean Adventure Tour, we went to Gina’s Anykine Grinds Cafe and G’s Juicebar. G’s was great for acai bowls and smoothies, which is exactly what we got there.
  • *Ginas Anykine Grinds Cafe
    • This quaint, counter-service joint offers super friendly staff and the most affordable food I’ve had in all of Hawaii. 
  • Porky’s Kauai
    • Highly rated for Hawaiian style pulled pork! I don’t eat beef or pork, so did not try this spot but it would be remiss of me not to mention this highly rated and renown restaurant on the West Side.

South Shore:

  • *Kukui’ula Fish Hut
    • Located inside a grocery store (and right next to Da Crack Mexican food), Kukui’ula Fish Hut offers delicious poke. You can never have enough poke when in Hawaii! When you walk into the grocery store, it is located on your left.
  • *Da Crack
    • Offering delicious and affordable Mexican food in large portions, Da Crack is the best place to satisfy a craving for Mexican food. As someone who grew up in South Texas and spends a lot of time in Mexico, Da Crack lived up to my expectations. Although they put olives in their burritos, which is so bizarre to me, it was still a delicious meal. 
  • The Fresh Shave
    • A punny (yes, I said punny) shaved ice spot that brands everything to different types of mustaches. Their mission is to serve the best all-natural shave ice on the island. We didn’t get to go but it was at the top of our list for a while. Be sure to check their hours before going!
  • Puka Dog Hawaiian Style Hot Dogs
    • Mouth watering, Hawaiian specific style hot dogs. This is not your ordinary American hot dog you’d find at a baseball game. It will remind you more of a kolache with a savory filling inside. Their lemonade is amazing and they offer vegetarian “hot dog” options as well.

North Shore:

  • *Happy Talk Lounge
    • A great spot to grab dinner, drinks, and watch the sunset over the North Shore. It is located inside the beautiful Princeville Resort.
  • Pink’s Creamery
    • Located in Hanalei, Pink’s serves small batch, homemade ice cream and waffle cones. They also offer dairy free flavors!
  • Hanalei Poke
    • Highly recommended Poke on the North Shore. We didn’t get a chance to try it, but boasting nearly 5 stars on TripAdvisor sounds like it is worth a visit.
Sleeping Giant Grill's Fried Fish Tacos
Little Fish Coffee in Kauai
Poke from Kukui’ula Fish Hut

What To Do

Itinerary

Karly and I were visiting Kauai for about two full days and two half days. I listed our itinerary below:

Day 1 – Thursday

Day 2 – Friday

  • Early wake-up call for Blue Ocean Adventure Tours
    • The Na Pali Coast Raft Tour was highly rated and recommended to us by multiple people. I was so bummed that I couldn’t go on this tour with Karly! I get severely sea sick, and because this was a 4 hour ocean raft tour, I didn’t want to risk it. The tour is conducted on a Navy Seal engine powered raft. Based on it’s high ratings and Karly’s first-hand experience, it is the best thing you can do in Kauai. The Na Pali coast is absolutely incredible, and to see it from the water is something you do not want to miss.
  • Little Fish Coffee for breakfast
    • While Karly was on the Blue Ocean Adventure Tour, I went to Little Fish Coffee to grab breakfast and a matcha latte. I waited about one hour in line. It wasn’t anything special, but it was in the area and highly recommended so I stopped by.
  • Pick up Karly from Blue Ocean Adventure Tour & have lunch at G’s Juicebar and Gina’s Anykine Grinds Cafe
    • Since the Blue Ocean Tours departed from the Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor on the West Side of the island, we stuck around there for lunch and then went to Waimea Canyon in the afternoon 
  • Spend the afternoon in Waimea Canyon State Park
    • We drove straight from our lunch spot to the Waimea Canyon Lookout. It’s a great place to drive up and see breathtaking views of the canyon
    • I unfortunately can’t remember which hike we went on, but we did a 4-5 mile hike down to Kokee stream. It wasn’t too strenuous but we did get a bit lost on the way back. I recommend downloading All Trails maps offline prior to going on your hike, since this will allow you to use maps when you don’t have any service 
  • Da Crack Mexican food for dinner

Day 3 – Saturday

  • Coffee at Aloha Roastery
  • Drove up to the North Shore
  • Went to the Hanalei Farmers Market
    • This farmers market is located on the North Shore and is open on Saturdays from 9:30 am – 12:00 pm
    • They sell local, organic produce and also other items like jewelry, swimsuits, and more
  • Lunch at The Spot
  • Queen’s Bath Tide Pools
    • Queen’s Bath is a favorite summertime activity in Princeville. Getting there involves a short 0.8 mile hike past a waterfall and over the lava landscape. You’ll be greeted with beautiful views of the coastline and the water is quite fun to swim in.
    • There are a lot of warning signs around. Be aware and knowledgeable about when it is safe to swim in the Tide Pools. Many people die each year because they are swept away by the tide and current.
    • Parking is very limited, so get there early or be prepared to wait. We got to the tide pools around 1:00 pm and waited about 20 minutes. We assumed this had to do with the morning crowds leaving for a late lunch.
    • You are not allowed to park in the neighborhood and they are very strict about it (think: fines and towing)
  • Tunnels Beach
    • Tunnels Beach is a great beach to make the drive out to due to its snorkeling and backdrop of the lush jungle and mountains. I was familiar with the beach because it is where Soul Surfer, Bethany Hamilton, lost her arm from a 10 foot tiger shark.
  • Dinner, drinks, and sunset at Happy Talk Lounge

Day 4 – Sunday

  • Breakfast and coffee at Java Kai
  • Wailua Falls Lookout
    • It was raining outside, so instead of the beach we went to check out Wailua Falls. There is a convenient lookout you can drive up to and view the waterfall. If you are hiking any trails, it may be worth going to see, but I don’t recommend it if you have a busy schedule already.
  • Lunch at Kukui’ula Fish Hut (we had poke… yum!)
  • Kauai Coffee Company Tour 
  • Drove to the airport and boarded our flight back to Honolulu

Conclusion

Kauai is an absolutely stunning island. It truly lived up to its name as the Garden Isle and I would go back in a heartbeat. Each of the Hawaiian islands is unique, special, and sacred in it’s own way. I’ve been to the Big Island, Oahu, and now Kauai and I truly enjoyed Kauai for it’s lush landscape, beautiful beaches, and overall quiet, tranquille atmosphere.

Parliament in London, England

Tunnel’s Beach Kauai

Related Articles

Related

A Gettysburg Getaway

The BlogVisiting the historical Gettsyburg, PennsylvaniaContinue Reading: 8min ReadA Weekend In Gettysburg I’d been to Gettysburg multiple times throughout my childhood but never fully appreciated the history until visiting this past Summer. The quaint, little town is...

read more

Join now

Let's Dive In

Share your name and email address below to be added to our email list and stay up-to-date on the latest Texas Coastal Bend related activities and more.

3 + 5 =

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This