What to do on Kauai
March 3, 2022 9:01 AM   Subscribe

I know this has been asked previously, but the questions are on the older side. We are staying in Koloa (though I am trying to convince my husband to spend 2 nights in Hanalei!). We love to snorkel! We like to frolic in calm ocean waters. We LOVE food (especially tropical fruit and other just-Hawaii items). We like walking and easy hikes. We like a pretty chill and relaxed vacation. Give me your best suggestions! Thank you.
posted by bookworm4125 to Travel & Transportation around Kauaʻi County, HI (23 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Pono Market is kind of a hole in the wall but had the best Hawaiian plate, especially after a long day in the ocean. It’s in Kapaa. And Tunnels used to be fun for diving, probably still is! You used to be able to see sea turtles at Koloa too. Dive shops will tell you good places to go see turtles under current conditions.
posted by terridrawsstuff at 9:24 AM on March 3 [1 favorite]

Incredible taro donuts and Hanakapiai Trail were my favorite highlights.
posted by latkes at 9:24 AM on March 3 [1 favorite]

Years ago a fellow MeFite recommended the Hawaii Revealed guidebooks and my partner at the time and I bought the Big Island and Oahu ones for our trip to Hawaii. They were full of extremely helpful tips and ideas, so I'd recommend getting the Kauai one. Looks like they also have an app now too.
posted by Fuego at 9:44 AM on March 3 [1 favorite]

If you're into that so of thing I found the Limahuli Garden (~20 min west of Hanalei) a gorgeous place to wander around. I believe you do need to call ahead to book a time to visit, they do have some reciprocal membership stuff if you happen to be a member of another botanical garden you might get a discount.

This is obvious perhaps but the hike along the bluffs of the Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail down by Koloa was very pretty. If you don't want to do the whole thing just pick a turnaround point and then go back to the beach.
posted by Wretch729 at 10:15 AM on March 3 [3 favorites]

I've been to Kauai twice to camp/hike on the Kalalau trail. Here are some of my non-camping highlights:

Snorkling trip on the Na Pali Coast. I think this was the company we went through. This type of trip was not available on the dates we were there, but looks even better.

Polihale State Park-On an island full of great beaches, I thought the beach here was wonderful and worth the drive. The "end" of the beach is the best, even though you have to drive down a dirt road to get there.

Waimea Canyon is close to where you are staying and pretty neat

Even if you don't end up staying in Hanalei, you should absolutely drive there at least one day. It is only 90 minutes or so from Koloa, the drive is pretty and the north shore is beautiful

Food: None of this is fancy, but my favorites were:
1. Island taco in Waimea
2. Hamura Saimin in Lihue
3. Pono Market in Kapaa-only open for lunch
posted by mjcon at 11:58 AM on March 3 [2 favorites]

No clue if they're open or what the scene is, but can fully endorse Hamura Saimin.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:18 PM on March 3

Oh the other fun thing was we went to farmers markets 3 times in the week we were there. Great for chatting with farmers and eating amazing local fruit I didn't see in the grocery stores there.
posted by latkes at 12:45 PM on March 3

Yes, I also recommend farmer's markets on Kauai. One we went to had seven different types of pineapple, just for starters. I also second Limahuli Garden for rare endemic Hawaiian plants (there are other botanic gardens full of imported tropicals).

When we first arrived we went to Costco from the airport to pick up several kinds of poke at the poke bar. Sounds weird but it was recommended by someone who lived there and the poke was great.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:24 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]

This was 4 years ago, but my daughter and I really enjoyed Lydgate chocolate farm, with all kinds of flavor tastings (not just chocolate) and a tour of ther farm. Also a boat tour along the Napali coast was fun and included great snorkeling. Also, hiking the Waimea canyon trail. Finally, if you can find Queens bath, that was amazing (should be in the revealed book, which I also recommend.)
posted by j810c at 1:33 PM on March 3

Dolphin/whale watching boat tour. Watching spinner dolphins cavort is amazing. Do a little homework and book a tour that practices ethical, conservation biology informed "Dolphin Smart" tourism (lots of boats disturb dolphins during sleep and permit tourists to do other harmful behaviors). The one we booked departed out of Eleele/Port Allen on the south coast of the island and took us up the Na Pali cliffs.
posted by spamandkimchi at 1:39 PM on March 3

We loved hiking the canyon. And K and I dream about the fish tacos at Da Crack now and then.
posted by advicepig at 1:59 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]

I was just in Poipu to visit family and for some reason my sister in law signed my brother and I up for the Jungle Safari which is basically a cocktail drinking expedition at Kilohana Plantation. I have to say that it was pretty fun.

I like to hit the Kilauea and Hanalei shops and was pretty impressed with some of the new shops in Kapa'a. I didn't get to go to the Warehouse in Kalaheo but that and the Lawai store are favored by family.

I'd recommend a tour at Kaua'i Sugarloaf if you're interested in things like that - they're really nice people who grow delicious pineapple.

I also recommend the Dolphin Fish Market in Hanalei but don't wait until just before closing or they will be very sold out.
posted by rdnnyc at 2:20 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]

For excellent plate lunch, or to pickup a dinner for 3-4 people, if you go to Mark's Place you will be very satisfied and happy. Unfortunately it's all takeout, with perhaps two picnic tables outside. I'm so jealous that you'll be in Kauai. Have fun, just relax and enjoy the cooling ocean breezes.
posted by honey badger at 7:51 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]

My wife and I went to Kauai and Maui for our honeymoon back in 2011. One of our favorite places we ate on Kauai was Wrangler's Steak House in Waimea, stopping for lunch on the way back from the canyon. I had fish and chips, and the fish had a dense texture more like chicken. They told me they got whatever was good at the market in the morning and the day I was there, it was striped marlin! For fish and chips! Place still has good reviews according to Google.
posted by kindall at 9:27 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]

2nd'ing Hanalei as one of the more peaceful moments in my life was catching sunrise on the dock there.

We were really enamored with the Na'Pali coast and ended up doing a helicopter ride as well as a sunset catamaran. Both were worth it, IMO.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 10:08 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]

My wife and I had a lovely time taking a kayak upstream to a waterfall tour. We did the timeshare presentation to make it free, and it was lovely (I don't have a problem saying no.) Tunnels was fantastic for snorkeling. The whole island was lovely, really. Have a great time!
posted by Happydaz at 10:34 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]

Where are you staying? In a condo with a kitchenette, or a hotel room?

The advice to go to Costco is absolutely correct; especially if you're in a condo-style lodging. You don't want to do all your shopping at Big Save in Koloa. Both in terms of prices and selection. Also a good idea to get what you need in terms of sundries and etc. while in Lihue (at Longs or Walmart).

Either way, the Koloa Farmer's market is worth going to, especially for fruit. Ideally you want to get there shortly before opening.

(I've heard there's a new farmer's market at the new mall at Kukui'ula but I haven't been back since it started and its page is currently 404.)

Don't miss the Koloa Fish Market either.

For diving on Kauai, Fathom Five, Bubbles Below and Kauai Seasports are all reputable. I've done all my diving with Fathom Five, but some of the staff I've known there are now at the other shops.

For a more elaborate Na'Pali cruise out of Hanapepe (vs. a small boat out of Hanalei) there's Captain Andy.

For kayak and bike rental (or guided tours) there's Outfitter's Kauai. They're in Lihue now, but that's in the direction you'd go for most excursions (except Waimea).

I can go on at length about restaurants if you're interested; with the proviso that I don't know what things have been like since Covid. I know there are staffing issues and a lot of tensions around resumption of tourism.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:01 AM on March 4

You used to be able to see sea turtles at Koloa too

The Waikomo stream outlet reliably gets turtles at feeding time, around sunset (which is also very pretty facing that way). The best place to watch for them are the rocks alongside Whaler's Cove, accessed by walking up the stream or via the side path from Whaler's.

Koloa Landing is a shore-accessed scuba/dive spot a little further out than the stream outlet that can also get them (at any time), but boat accessed sites are more reliable for that. There's almost always some sleeping in or hanging around the Sheraton Caverns midday.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:22 AM on March 4

Hawaii Revealed guidebooks

I'd recommend Ultimate Kauai, (which may be the same series?) just keep in mind that a lot of places will have inevitably closed due to a lack of tourism during Covid (even since the 2021 revision).]

Looking the recent reviews, though, it may be better to just buy the companion app (if you don't feel like you need a book).
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:35 AM on March 4

holy shit get a puka dog in Poipu
posted by ersatzkat at 8:49 AM on March 4

we also went to that place in Lihue for saimin and it was OUTSTANDING - we were the only non-locals there
posted by ersatzkat at 8:50 AM on March 4

I've been to Kauai twice, pre-Covid. I dived with Bubbles Below both trips and had good experiences.

Queen's Bath was one of my favorite places, if you don't mind a bit of a hike to get there. I was there during winter so the trail was a little muddy, but definitely worth the effort if you step carefully.

I really like visiting Anini Beach. There's not much to look at underwater, but it fits your quiet waters qualification. The reef breaks very far out from shore so it's like a giant warm shallow wading pool to float around in and the beach is perfect for setting up with a good book. Go during the weekdays to avoid the kid crowd.

Hanalei has some fun shops and restaurants. Hanalei Gourmet has delicious fish sandwiches.
posted by E3 at 10:56 AM on March 4

Response by poster: These are truly all favorite answers! Thanks so much; can't wait for our trip!
posted by bookworm4125 at 7:58 AM on March 5

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