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Please note that many of these places we have visited personally or they have been recommended by one of the more seasoned travelers within our friends-and-family circle. As someone who was born and raised in Hawaii and then had the experience of being a transplant from the mainland as an adult with a spouse and children, we want to make sure that we recommend things we enjoy or would like to do ourselves. Thank you for your support!
Lush tropical rain forests, stunning beaches, tranquil days under gorgeous blue skies – Kauai is like the hidden gem of the Hawaiian Island chain. Its nickname as the “Garden Isle” is actually a great way to describe this beautiful, green island as approximately 90% of the island is made up of mountain ranges and rainforests inaccessible by car. Upon arrival, it’s noticeable that the island is older than its siblings: Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island. The mountains are not as tall, the island not as big, but it stuns in so many other ways! Kauai is and is the location of 70 films and shows. (To be honest, not all of them are memorable, I didn’t even recognize some of them, but some of the more recognizable films include: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, Avatar, Pirates of Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Jurassic World, Fast and the Furious: Hobbs & Shaw.)
Fun Fact: Kauai is home to the wettest place on earth: Mount Waialeale.
The Lihue Airport is the only airport on the island of Kauai. Kauai is also the smallest of the four main islands and basically has one main road running around the perimeter with Lihue Airport in the middle. With that being said, even Kauai can be divided into four regions: North Shore, South Shore, East Side (also known as the Coconut Coast), and the West Side, home to Waimea Canyon.
North Shore: The North Shore of Kauai is lush, green, and beautiful. It’s typically considered more low-key, and less touristy than the South Shore with small shops, galleries, restaurants, beautiful beaches, and a few golf courses. The North Shore is also home to the famous Napali Coast. The towns of Princeville, Hanalei, and Kilauea are on the North Shore.
South Shore: The South Shore of Kauai is mostly dry and sunny, making it the home to the majority of resorts and hotels on the island. The main towns of the South Shore are Poipu, Old Koloa Town, and Kalaheo. Because the South Shore is geared toward tourists, there are a lot of shopping centers, restaurants, and golf courses.
East Side: Also known as the Coconut Coast, the East Side of Kauai is the most “city” like area on Kauai. It is home to the towns of Lihue, Kapa’a, and Wailua. The East Side also has a Costco and many shops and restaurants in the area as well as Opaeka’a Falls, The Fern Grotto, and Wailua River State Park. Many visitors to Kauai will often stay in this area since it’s more affordable and conveniently, centrally located (without having to pay for a spendy South Shore resort).
West Side: Home to the Waimea Canyon, the West Side of Kauai is more of a place to visit on a day trip rather than a place to stay for the duration of a vacation visit. It’s relatively isolated, making it difficult to see the rest of the island, however, many hikers and backpackers do come out this way because they enjoy the solitude and tranquility. Besides Waimea Canyon, the towns of Hanapepe and Waimea are located on the West Side.
There are basically two main seasons throughout most of the Hawaiian Islands: a warm, drier “summer” season which usually lasts from April to November and a “winter” season which has slightly cooler temperatures and wetter weather. There is no “monsoon” season like in many tropical climates even though it tends to rain a little more in the winter, however, there is a Hurricane Season which is between June through November, with August and September being the most active months.
A bit more on hurricane season: Please note that although some years, it may seem like possible hurricanes keep coming to close to the Hawaiian Islands, we actually have not been hit with a hurricane very often. In fact, since the 1950s, only five hurricanes have caused serious damage to the Hawaiian Islands: Hurricane Nina in 1957, Hurricane Dot in 1959, Hurricane Iwa in 1982, Hurricane Estelle in 1986, and Hurricane Iniki in 1992. It should also be mentioned that sometimes before the hurricanes reach the Hawaiian Islands, they downgrade to tropical storms or depressions but may still cause a lot of rain or flooding.
There’s a reason Kauai has one of the wettest spots on Earth. It rains. Often. Although the “rainy season” is thought of as from December to March, it’s best to assume that it will rain (even a little bit) daily. Usually, the combination of warm weather and brief showers means that Kauai rain won’t usually change up your plans, however, it’s still a good idea to have an umbrella and rain jacket in the car when you go out for the day.
That being said, the North Shore is definitely the wettest side of the island while the West Side is the driest. The South Shore is also usually sunny and dry and the East Side is in the middle – drier than the North Shore but not as dry as the South Shore.
Also, if you’re planning any hiking activities, make sure you check the weather beforehand. Some hiking trails can be more treacherous after or during rainfall (while some will just be muddy! 🙂).
Other Things About Kauai:
Napali Coast: It is important to point out that if you want to see the Napali Coast, there is no way to access it by car, rather, via boat, helicopter, and/or small plane are the primary options available. Some seasoned hikers, may also opt to hike across Napali Coast and there are tours for that as well, however, this option is most suited for the strong, experienced hiker only.
Winter Swim Conditions: In the winter months, many of the beaches in Kauai become too rough for swimming. If you’re planning to do a lot of beach swimming, come in the late spring or summer months.
Transportation: For most visitors looking to maximize their vacation days on Kauai, having a rental car will be the best way to get around the island. While there are shuttles, taxis, and rideshare services to and from the airport and various hotels resorts, many of these services don’t venture beyond that. In that sense, if you’re only planning on staying within a resort area, renting a car may not be necessary; especially because bike and/or moped rental might be an option for you too.
The Kaua’i Bus system consists of 9 bus routes with six fixed routes connecting various towns throughout Kauai and 3 shuttle services for transportation within specific local communities. General bus fare is $2.00/trip with children 6 and under free with a paying adult. Daily passes are $5.00 per day. While the bus system is a cheap way to travel the island, you will need to take into account the longer travel times. Also, some areas may not be easily accessible via bus routes.
Kauai Average Temperature Ranges in Fahrenheit
Basic things about the Hawaiian Islands:
The Basics: Hawaii is the 50th state in the United States. We use the US dollar, we are American citizens, and English is the most commonly spoken language in the Hawaiian Islands. We follow Hawaii Standard Time (GMT -10 hours); Hawaii does not observe Daylight Savings Time. Hawaii has a very ethnically diverse population with 22.9% White, 37.2% Asian, 10% Native Hawaiian and/or Pacific Islander, 1.6% Black, and 25.3% who classify as multi-racial.
Fun Fact: Hawaii is the only state with two official languages: English and Hawaiian. While the Hawaiian language is not as commonly spoken as English, be ready to see a large number of local street names, towns, restaurants, historic sites, and more with Hawaiian names.
Travel: When visiting Hawaii from another state or country, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires a declaration form from each person arriving in Hawaii to comply with rules regarding uninspected plants and animals. There are also restrictions for carry-on luggage for certain fruits and vegetables, plants, and flowers between islands. Please check before boarding.
Please note: The primary reason for this is to protect the local ecosystems which are not always built to protect themselves from invasive pests, plants, and animals. At a minimum, the invasive pests are annoying and costly to remove, and in more severe cases, they can harm or destroy plants and animals native to the Hawaiian Islands. To date, hundreds of plant and animal species have gone extinct with hundreds more on Endangered Species lists.