I've been coming to this little island in the middle of the Pacific since I was a kid - I've always been and continue to be completed captivated by it's magic. When Daniel and I met, we bonded over our mutual love for this place where we would eventually get married! I've stopped counting how many times I've been, but each time I discover something new that I've never seen. I think it would take many lifetimes to see every facet of this island. This list is similar to the guidebook I put together for friends and family who made the trip out to Kauai for our wedding - they loved it so much that I thought I would share it with you, in case you're lucky enough to one day visit this special place. xx
East Side - Eats
4-1384 Kuhio Hwy, Kapa’a, HI 96746
This is always our first stop after we land on the island. Great coffee and eats plus the cutest gear! Pro tip: if you’re in a rush, head to Kai Bar in the back of Java Kai!
Kaua'i Juice Co
4-1384 Kuhio Hwy, Kapa’a, HI 96746
Cold pressed locally-sourced juices, wellness shots and healthy eats.
3-4301 Kuhio Hwy #102, Lihue, HI
This gem may not look like much from the outside - but I'm telling you - the BEST poke on the island by far! Also their Ginger Fried Chicken are what foodie dreams are made of. Grab some lunch to-go and head to the beach!
East Side - Shop
4-1384 Kuhio Hwy B-106, Kapaʻa, HI 96746
I literally can't come to Kaua'i without picking up a little something for myself at Shipwrecked. Cutest assortment of beach wear, kinis and homewares. I recently picked up a pair of Beatrice Valenzuela sandals that I haven't taken off since! Best part - it's connected to Java Kai so you can do some caffeine-fueled shopping!
East Side - Adventure
Sleeping Giant (Nounou Mountain) Trail
The Nounou Mountain Trail is one of the most popular hikes on the island and will take you to some amazing 360 degree views of the East Side. The ridge formation resembles a human body laying flat on its back - hence, the popular trail is known as ‘Sleeping Giant.’ It’s only about 2.5 miles each way, but the climb up is pretty steep and strenuous. If you’re down for a sweat, 100% worth it!
Ho’opi’i Falls Hike and Cliff Jump
Ho’oip’i Falls Trail is a short but action-packed hike taking you to 2 waterfalls. The first falls is a great spot for cliff jumping or a refreshing dip. The second falls is one you may recognize from the film Jurassic Park! The trail can be muddy at times but leads you through some unbelievable scenery. Great for all levels. Plan on spending a few hours here so you can jump in the pools and soak in the lagoons.
The Wailua River
This is the longest navigable river in Hawaii. Take ‘Smith’s Boat Tour’ up to the fern grotto or do a kayak rental and you can stop off there on your way up. The kayak is awesome and you can hike to secret falls at the end!
This beautiful stretch of white sand beach is great for bodyboarding and surfing.
South Side - Eats
Koloa Fish Market
3390 Poipu Rd, Koloa, HI 96756
An amazing place to get classic Hawaiian plate lunch and the freshest fish in town! My go-to is the ahi plate lunch with wasabi cream, side of mac salad!
5356c Koloa Rd, Koloa, HI 96756
Nestled in old Koloa Town, this cute little roastery has killer coffee. Their logo-d shirts and hats are super cute, too!
Anakes Juice Bar
2827 Poipu Rd, Koloa, HI 96756
Don't judge this place by it's facade - set in the very back of Kukuiula Market - this juice bar is NOT to be missed. Best acai bowls on the island! The market also has great sushi and poke bowls.
Eating House 1849
2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka Rd A-201 Koloa, HI 96756
Chef Roy Yamaguchi’s newest restaurant - great for a nice dinner out! My recommendations: Kamameshi (Hot Pot Rice Bowl), Haha Burger and the Ramen Bowl!
South Side - Shop
Salt + Sea
2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka St, Koloa, HI 96756
Cutest little boutique that I always hit up when I'm on the South Side - local brands plus favorites like Acacia Swimwear and Flynn Skye.
South Side - Adventure
It may not seem like much of a beach but this spot is great for snorkeling. You can rent snorkeling gear next to the Beach House restaurant above. The grass in front of the restaurant is a stellar place to watch the sunsets!
Situated in front of the Grand Hyatt - I swear, if it's raining EVERYWHERE else on the island the sun seems to peak out at Shipwrecks! Perfect for surfing and bodyboarding - not great for kids unless you’re just planning to hang on the beach (waves can be rough).
You can either access this gorgeous, usually uncrowded stretch of white sand beach by hiking the 2 mile trail from Shipwreck Beach, or by driving down the dirt road that begins where Poipu Rd ends. Road is a bit bumpy (we said adventure!) but was recently paved so your rental car should be safe.
Also known as as Lawai’i-kai. This 80-acre botanical garden is stunning! (Fun fact: this garden has been featured in films like Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean!)
West Side - Eats
9894 Kaumualii Hwy Waimea HI 96796
Touted by locals as some of the best poke on the island. The perfect place to pick up lunch - they’re best known for their poke, sushi and plate lunches. Spicy and wasabi poke and the kimchee cucumber are our faves!
G’s Juice Bar
9679 Kaumualii Hwy Waimea HI 96796
/ closed Friday and Monday
This sweet local juice bar serves up yummy acai bowls and smoothies!
643 Kaumualii Hwy Waimea HI 96796
This simple roadside shop serves up delicious tacos - blackened mahi mahi, wasabi seared ahi and coconut lime tofu are some of our favorites!
West Side - Shop
3540 Koloa Rd Kalaheo HI 96741
Step inside this old glass factory and you’ll discover a wonderful montage of boutiques and goods from local artisans. Grab a gourmet burger or shave ice (their shave ice is AMAZING) as you stroll through the shops
8309, 2-2535 Kaumualii Hwy, Kalaheo, HI 96741
Cutest surf shop selling everything from boards, outdoor gear coffee mugs and bikinis – their logo apparel donned with the shop’s credo “Aloha Brings Change” – it’s the perfect place to pick up a little piece of paradise!
West Side - Adventure
Waimea / Koke’e
Waimea Canyon, also known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” is truly breathtaking. There are countless hiking rails in Kokee State Park. Our favorite is the Canyon Trail which is 1.8 miles each way
Na Pali Coast Exploring With Na Pali Explorer Boat/Snorkel Tour
If you're going to spend money doing one touristy activity - I would tell you to spend it on a boat tour of the Napali Coast. Stunning doesn't even really begin to describe the 16 mile uninhabited rugged coastline.
Although Waimea Plantation is gorgeous, the black and which in front isn’t the best for swimming. If you want to go find yourself a white sand beach, take Kaumualii Hwy about 5 minutes West and you’ll see the beach on your left hand side
Salt Pond Beach Park
About a 10 minute drive from Waimea Plantation, this beach is protected by an outer reef and great for snorkeling!
Polihale State Park
Head here for a beach day that will end with an amazing sunset. FYI: you will be driving for awhile on a long bumpy dirt road and end up in the middle of nowhere on the longest white sand beach in Hawai’i. Also super fun place to beach camp!
North Shore - Eats
Kilauea Fish Market
4270 Kilauea Rd Kilauea HI 967754
Two words: FISH. WRAPS. We crave these seared ahi wraps on the daily! Pro tip: ask for extra sauce on the side (we’ve asked them for the recipe multiple times - they won’t tell!). A must have while on the island — maybe more than once! Pro Tip: Call head to place your order to avoid 30 min + waits.
5-5075 Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei HI 96714
/ Open every day
This charming restaurant in a garden plantation cottage serves up local vegetarian and seafood dishes, often with an appealing world-fusion twist. Faves include the wasabi-crusted ahi or fennel-crusted lobster tail. Great for a nice dinner out!
5-5134 Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei HI 96714
Tahiti Nui has a local atmosphere in the heart of Hanalei. This place is a ton of fun, with live Hawaiian music every night from 6:30-9pm! Really good local food, too!
Village Snack Shop
5-5190 Kuhio Hwy Ching Young Village Shopping Ctr, Hanalei HI 96714
Casual at its best - this local jaunt is known for their chili pepper chicken plate and the (to die for) chocolate haupia (coconut) pie - both insane. You won’t be disappointed.
The Dolphin Fish Market
5-5016 Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei HI 96714
Pick up some cut maki sushi rolls or fresh poke to-go for your beach day!
Hanalei Bread Company
5-5161 Kuhio Hwy #4, Hanalei HI 96714
Coffee, smoothies, pastries and fresh baked bread … the perfect place to spend your morning.
North Shore - Shop
The Barn 808
080 Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei, HI 96714
I always look forward to paying a visit to this amazing store owned by Donavon and Petra Frankenreiter. It's a clear reflection of the couple's personal aesthetic - a thoughtfully curated mix of ceramics, linens, art, textiles and clothing that feels like it was collected during their travels. I spend my days looking at A LOT of retail and I love that every time I come here I see something I've never seen.
North Shore - Adventure
One of our favorite beaches on the North Shore! The gorgeous bay is lined with Ironwood Trees (perfect for those who like some shade) and is a great place to bring lunch and spend the day. Waves are generally mellow here in the summer, and there are streams toward the back of the beach - perfect for the keiki!
Two miles of white sand beach with stunning views of the rugged beautiful mountains. In the summer it's calm and great for stand up paddle boarding - winter waves tend to be bigger.
Kahili Quarry (aka Rock Quarry) Beach
This beach is nothing short of STUNNING. One of my absolutely favorite places to hang out for the day. This rugged stretch of beach is tucked away between two vegetated cliffs where Kilauea Stream meets the ocean. The stream behind the beach is great for little ones - it even has a rope swing!
If you’re on the North Shore, Tunnels Beach is a must – hands down one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. You may recognize the mountain above from the movie “South Pacific.” About 15 minutes North of Hanalei town. Parking has recently been limited so I suggest going early in the morning and hang for the day.
This hike starts at Ke’e Beach. Definitely is not an easy breezy hike. It’s tough - but totally worth it. 2 miles in and 2 miles out, you will see caves, rivers, beach, views and wildlife. Hike 4 miles longer to see the Hanakapiai falls. Due to a devastating flood that hit the North Shore last year, you now need to get a day permit in advance to do this hike (get one here)
The Okolehao trail is on the North Shore near the town of Hanalei. The whole hike is about 5 miles and is strenuous - it will take you all the way up Hihimanu Ridge - however if you’re not feeling like doing the whole thing you will still get incredible views of the Bay!