Kauai Frequently Asked Questions
Part of the Hawaiian Islands, Kauai is referred to as the ‘garden isle’ owing to its lush tropical valleys and picturesque landscapes. Filled with postcard-worthy sights like cloud-covered cliffs, pristine beaches, and waterfall-strewn canyons, Kauai is a vacationer’s paradise. If you are considering planning to travel to Kauai, you may have questions about the island, its most popular attractions, and the most exciting activities to enjoy. Here, we’ll explore some of the most frequently asked questions about vacationing on this enchanting island.
Q: Why is Kauai called The Garden Isle?
A: Well, Kauai is bursting with life-- from green valleys to luscious gardens and jungle hikes. It is also home to the wettest spot on Earth, Mt. Waialeale, which receives an average of 400 inches of rain per year! Kauai is also home to three of the five National Tropical Botanical Gardens- Allerton and McBryde in the south and Limahuli in the north.
Q: Where have I seen Kauai before?
A: Usually when a director wants a tropical paradise or wild, untamed jungle, the Garden Isle is on speed dial. The jaw-dropping waterfall scene from 1993's "Jurassic Park" was filmed on Kauai, as was the large wooden gate where visitors entered the park. Remnants of the gate still remain and you can take walking tours to see them. (Sorry, no dinosaurs on this tour!) Scenes from "6 Days, 7 Nights" and "Mighty Joe Young" was also filmed on the island.
Q: I thought there was only one Grand Canyon?
A: Well, it might not be quite as "grand" size-wise as the national park in Arizona, but Waimea Canyon has its own charms. Dubbed The Grand Canyon of the Pacific by American author Mark Twain, the vibrant colors and rugged landscape of Kauai's Waimea Canyon will make you forget that you are on a tropical island. At 10 miles long, Waimea is only a fraction of the Grand Canyon's size but it still offers a charm all its own. There are plenty of trails to explore and a myriad of plants and animals to admire.
Q: Will I see any volcanoes on Kauai?
A: Kauai is the oldest of the main islands at 5.1 million years old. The lava left her volcanoes long ago as the natural process of erosion took over, eating away at the island's size while at the same time creating unimaginable beauty on the NaPali coast. However, hundreds of miles to the east, the Big Island of Hawaii is home to one of the most active volcanoes in the world.
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Q: What are some of the most popular activities on Kauai?
A: Hiking is especially popular on the Garden Isle because of all the lush scenery. Check out our Kauai Hiking Trails section for a good guide. Water sports such as kayaking up the only navigable river in Hawaii, the Waimea River, or snorkeling at Tunnels Beach also keep visitors occupied. What's the main activity on the island? Relaxation!
Q: Can we hike to Kalalau Beach?
A: The Kalalau Trail, which begins at Kee Beach in North Kauai, is rated a 9 out of 10 for difficulty. The 11-mile journey takes you along some of the most breathtaking coast and valley scenery on the island. However, it is clearly not a one-day trip. Most hikers camp along the trail and again when they reach Kalalau Beach. Just to get a taste of what the trail has to offer, many visitors make the 2-mile one-way hike to Hanakapiai Beach.
Q: When Is the Best Time to Visit Kauai?
A: Most travelers find that the best time to visit Kauai is in spring or fall. The winter months are peak travel times in spite of the wet season rains. During the winter, hotel rates are at their priciest. You can often find great deals on hotel rooms during spring and winter when the weather also tends to be most pleasant.
Q: What Are the Kauai’s Best Beaches?
A: Kauai has slightly more than 60 miles of accessible coastline. Fortunately, visitors will be able to visit a very diverse range of beaches when traveling to Kauai. All of the island’s beaches are beautiful, but what makes one better than another depends on what you might want to do when visiting. For example, Poipu Beach is perfect for safe swimming with its protective reef. On the other hand, if you want to kayak or canoe, the translucent waters of Hanalei Bay are magnificent. Other popular Kauai beaches to check out include:
- Tunnels Beach (snorkeling, diving)
- Ke’e Beach (snorkeling, birdwatching)
- Shipwreck Beach (surfing, sunbathing)
- Kealia Beach (surfing, whale-watching)
- Haena Beach (swimming, snorkeling, beachcombing)
- Kalapaki Beach (swimming, snorkeling, surfing, paddleboarding)
While many of the island’s beaches are patrolled and are safe for swimming, others are not. Always be sure to research the beaches you intend to visit to learn about activities deemed safe for visitors.
Q: Are There Active Volcanoes on Kauai?
A: While Kauai was created by volcanic eruptions more than five million years ago and is the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands, it is not home to active volcanoes. If you’re interested in volcano tourism, you’ll want to head to the big island of Hawaii, which is home to Kilauea and Mauna Loa.
Q: Is Kauai Home to a Grand Canyon?
A: Once dubbed as The Grand Canyon of the Pacific by author Mark Twain, Kauai’s Waimea Canyon is one of the island’s most breathtaking sites. At ten miles long, the canyon isn’t near the size as the official Grand Canyon in Arizona, but it boasts a visual charm all its own. Visitors can hike its trails to witness its diverse flora and fauna.
Q: Where Are Wailua Falls?
A: Wailua Falls are one of Kauai’s best-loved natural attractions. Located north of Lihue, the dazzling double falls situated at the southern end of the Wailua River. The falls cascade over the sheer rock face to plunge 80 feet down to the pool below. If you’re looking for a fun activity, you might take a guided river tour to the falls that includes scenic temples and lush plant life along the way. On the other hand, the waterfalls can also be viewed from the roadside if you only have time for a short excursion.
Q: What’s the Best Way to View Na Pali Coast State Park?
A: Located in the remote northwestern region of the island, The Na Pali Coast State Park is can be accessed via land, air, or sea. The park is revered for its dramatic cliffs, mountains, and enchanting tropical scenery. Visitors can access and explore the park by land but be prepared for strenuous hiking.
Q: What Is the Kalalau Trail?
A: The Kalalau Trail begins at Ke’e Beach and stretches for about 11 miles to its destination at Kalalau Beach. The trail is regarded as difficult--scoring a 9 out of 10 in terms of difficulty. Many hikers opt to camp during the hike at points along the trail. If you’re an avid hiker, the trail is a must that’s revered for its beautiful coastal scenery.
Q: What Are Some Other Must-See Attractions of Kauai?
A: When developing your Kauai travel itinerary, you may want to set aside some time to visit some of the island’s most popular attractions. As an adventuresome island that’s popular with divers, kayakers, snorkelers, hikers, and surfers, Kauai is certainly celebrated for its beaches, but its mountainous tracts and valleys offer unforgettable sights as well. Consider visiting the following attractions to make the most of your Kauai travel experience:
- Koke’e State Park (famous for its hiking trails, cloud-covered cliffs, and deeper stretches of Waimea Canyon)
- Hanalei (north coast village on Hanalei Bay that’s regarded as the ‘gateway’ to the beautiful Hanalei Valley)
- Makawehi Lithified Cliffs (famous for ancient fossils, petroglyphs, and views)
- Kilauea Lighthouse (the northernmost point of the Hawaiian Islands)
- Polihale State Park (celebrated for its sunsets and views of the Na Pali Coast)
Q: What Travel Essentials Should I Pack for My Kauai Vacation?
A: It’s often cheaper to bring along your essential travel items rather than purchase them anywhere in Hawaii. Prices for staples are higher in Hawaii because items are mainly shipped in. Although your own interests/preferences will necessarily dictate what you pack, most vacationers will want to bring along items such as:
- Beach shoes (i.e. flip flops, water shoes) and comfortable hiking shoes/boots
- Reef-safe sunscreen (some types of sunscreen can be toxic to the coral reef systems of the islands)
- Waterproof camera
- Clothing suitable for hiking or the beach
- Personal identification
Q: Where Should I Stay on Kauai?
A: Kauai is not a large island; many travelers choose to stay between three to five days in order to see the island’s most popular attractions. Often, visitors opt to stay near one of the beaches they plan to spend time at. Kauai features various types of accommodations for travelers that include hotels, resorts, villas, and beach condo rentals. The eastern coast of the island is known for its more affordable options if you’re searching for a budget-friendly rental. If you’re traveling with kids, you’ll want to check out one of the island’s more family-friendly resorts. You’ll also find world-class hotels and resorts with luxury accommodations and amenities like spas. We also have a helpful Where to Stay on Kauai article you should check out.
Kauai is a tropical wonderland with its waterfalls, beautiful beaches, dynamic topography, and lush tropical landscapes. Use this information to plan a memorable trip to this stunning ‘garden isle.’