This complete island tour is designed to be flexible, so you can road trip the way you want. No worrying about where to start or which portion of the island you want to see. Use our suggested itineraries in the tour plan, or divide the commentary to create your own half, full or multi day sightseeing trips.
Not only does the Garden Isle of Kauai’s wondrous set of natural features make it distinctive from the other islands, its place in Hawaiian history makes it truly unique.
There is no road to drive completely around Kauai in a tidy circle. Once you see the amazing Na Pali coastline you will understand why. So we recommend dividing the island into 2 portions for your sightseeing adventures. Each deserves one day of your time.
Feel yourself slip into the friendly laid back personality of the island as you visit North and Eastern Kauai and the beach resort areas of Hanalei and Princeville. The tour continues all the way to the end of the road at Ke’e Beach.
Sample delicious smoothies and shave ice flavored with local tropical fruit, while you stroll the shops in the vibrant town of Kapa’a. A trip to view Wailua Falls, one of Kauai’s most popular, is not to be missed.
In Southern and Western Kauai you can drive under a canopy Tree Tunnel of 500 trees, over a 100 years old, and see the island’s most famous blowhole; Spouting Horn.
Pick up a local souvenir as you wander the shops and galleries in the artsy town of Hanapepe. We travel up Kauai’s volcanic mountains to Grand Canyon of the Pacific, the superb Waimea Canyon and continue to the awe-inspiring viewpoints of Koke’e Park perched above the Na Pali Coast.
It’s also the best place to see endangered monk seals, often lazing on north shore beaches and around Poipu.
North and East
This describes the region that is essentially everything north of Lihue and the Airport and the famous Wailua Falls. This includes the town areas or Kapa’a, Princeville and Hanalei. You can easily fill a whole day exploring this area and the North and East section describes this in more detail.
Feel yourself slip into the friendly laid back personality of the island as you visit North and Eastern Kauai and the beach resort areas of Hanalei and Princeville. The tour continues all the way to the end of the road at Ke’e Beach. It’s also the best place to see endangered monk seals, often lazing on north shore beaches.
A trip to view Wailua Falls, one of Kauai’s most popular and just 10 minutes from Lihue, is not to be missed. Sample delicious smoothies and shave ice flavored with local tropical fruit, while you stroll the shops or watch surfers in the vibrant town of Kapa’a.
There are several excellent and calm (usually) beaches to enjoy as we follow the coastline. Anini and Secret Beach are just a few that will be pointed out.
The views from Kilauea Lighthouse at the northernmost point of the island are amazing and this location also acts as a bird and marine life refuge.
The resort area of Princeville has some secret spots and is also a terrific place to enjoy a sunset. And continuing this way, the hippy-esque town of Hanalei with it’s beautiful cresent shaped sand beach is not to be missed.
The county has introduced restrictions for parking and driving to the end of the road at Ke’e Beach. Pre-book the shuttle for easiest access and take the tour with you for exploring Tunnels, Ha’ena Beach and Ke’e.
South and West
Waimea Canyon and the lookout from the Kalalau Lookout down to Na Pali are the most amazing sights when touring this section of the island. But there are also many great beaches, artsy communities, a blowhole and the resort area of Poipu that are excellent to explore. Expect to spend a whole day to enjoy the many stops.
Heading south and west around the Garden Isle of Kauai shows us the island’s remarkable beauty from its volcanic formation, to the pristine beaches shaped by the ocean.
Start with a short loop through Kauai’s historical and current capital of Lihue and Nawiliwili. We’ll pass one of the best family beaches on the entire island and can see an ancient pond built by mythical characters. If you are here with an appetite, we’ll point you to the legendary local favorite saimin place
Continuing towards Poipu, we’ll drive under a canopy Tree Tunnel of 500 trees, over a 100 years old, and see the island’s most famous blowhole; Spouting Horn. There are also 3 excellent beaches to enjoy in the resort area of Poipu.
Pick up a local souvenir as you wander the shops and galleries in the artsy town of Hanapepe. Do some beachcombing on Glass Beach to find worn down old, colored sea glass that accumulates here or examine the salt ponds and take a refreshing swim at Salt Pond Park.
Did you know that the Russians nearly came to rule Kauai – we’ll share that story and you can visit the crumbling ruins of the Russian Fort Elizabeth just outside of the historically important town of Waimea.
Then we’ll climb up Kauai’s volcanic mountains to Grand Canyon of the Pacific, the superb Waimea Canyon and continue to the awe-inspiring viewpoints from Koke’e Park perched above the Na Pali Coast. Expect to spend at least a couple of hours visiting the variety of viewpoints.
The final option is to continue to the end of the road past the legend of Barking Sands Beach to Polihale State Park, but beware the road is often in poor condition, and you might choose not to venture all the way to the beach.
Driving back, there is all different commentary to keep you entertained.
There are no official start locations for this tour, simply join the route wherever is closest to you. All driving directions are provided in the tour audio.
If dividing the island into 2, we would recommend 5-8 hours for each section. The driving time without stops from Princeville to Waimea Canyon is about 2 hours, so expect to spend a full day out if starting in the north part of the island.
For the north and eastern section, the driving distance is about 40 miles one way from Lihue. From Lihue to Waimea Canyon is approximately 65 miles.
Kauai is Hawaii’s fourth largest island and is also known as the Garden Isle, for its thick tropical rainforest. Kauai’s wondrous set of natural features make it distinctive from the other islands, and its place in Hawaiian history makes it truly unique.
The best months to visit Kauai are the shoulder seasons between September and November or from April to June, when the weather is pleasant and rates are lower. The rainy season from December to March is peak travel season and the most expensive, followed closely by summer.
Kauai is less developed than the other Hawaiian islands, with less flights here and much of the island inaccessible by road. As a result, many people seek out Kauai for an unplugged vacation to avoid the hustle and bustle of the other islands.
Some of the must visit places on Kauai include the superb Waimea Canyon (also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific), the awe-inspiring viewpoints of Koke’e Park perched above the Na Pali Coast, seeing endangered monk seals lazing on the beaches near Poipu and popular Wailua Falls.
While you can see the main attractions of Kauai in two days, you could easily spend a week on this tropical island.
Due to the extremely limited parking availability, you must either reserve a parking space or make a shuttle booking online to access Ha’ena State Park, including Ke’e Beach, Ha’ena Beach and the Kalalau Trail to Na Pali. Bookings open 30 days prior and schedules may vary, visit gohaena.com for more information and to make a reservation.
Reservations are also required to visit Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, where the Kilauea Lighthouse is located. Bookings open 60 days prior and advance bookings are mandatory, reservations typically sellout one week prior. Visit recreation.gov for more information and to make a reservation.