Your first trip to the Garden Isle
Planning Tips and Suggestions for Kauai
First trip or vacation to the island of Kauai? If you love the color green, you're going to be in a little slice of heaven. The very idea of enjoying an afternoon on the beach on a tropical island or exploring the verdant valleys of Na Pali coast, well it's enough to make anyone a little envious at home. But once you actually arrive on this beautiful island, only then do you fully understand just what's in store for you here. Aloha and welcome to the Garden Isle of Hawaii. You may soon become one of the thousands of us who find yourself suddenly addicted to Hawaii - it happens to the best of us. I think back to the first time I visited the lush island of Kauai... I was speechless, and exploring the cliffs above Na Pali in Kokee Park is still enough to take my breath away to this very day. These feelings are to be expected - Kauai is genuinely a slice of paradise and has earned its reputation as one of the most relaxing and laid back islands in the state.
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By the time I was 20, I had traveled to 49 of the 50 United States before I ventured to Hawaii. I think back on my preparation for the trip; little did I know what was in store for me on so many levels. It was a life-changing event that has taken me on a decade-long ride of adventure and both amazingly rewarding experiences, discoveries, and relationships. Your journey is just about to begin... probably in a way you have never expected.
You’ll arrive at Kauai’s main airport – Lihue (LIH). Many flights fly directly to Kauai from the mainland, without a layover in Oahu, so try and catch one of those flights if you can. They can be difficult to find at times, but they are much better than having to switch planes on the last leg of your trip. Believe me, if you're flying from pretty much anywhere east of California, this is a long flight - you'll be more than ready to get to Kauai by that point. Accommodations wise, you’ll discover there is a wide selection of resorts, hotels, condos, b&b’s, and inn’s to fit nearly any size budget. You’ll probably end up staying in South, East, or North Kauai – or if you really want to get away from it all, consider staying in one of the cabins up in Kokee State Park. Check out our article on where to stay on Kauai. We personally love the area just north of Poipu, where we stay at a little place called Kauai Banyan Inn.
The vast majority of Kauai's roads are close to the coastline. Only in a few instances will you head inland on Kauai. In West Kauai, you will have the opportunity, and you should definitely take it, to drive north and up along the Waimea Canyon and through Kokee State Park, peaking out at a little over 4000 ft in elevation near the end of the road. This is our favorite area on the island since we're hikers, you can't find a better selection of hiking trails then up in Kokee. And even if you're not the hiking type, the overlooks are jaw-dropping. Kalalau Valley overlook is a sight you absolutely must see!
Once the bags you've brought with you (remember packing less is better) are unpacked and you’ve recovered from your long flight, get your exploring cap on and head out to discover all that is Kauai. There is a slew of beaches to discover around nearly the entire island - more beaches are easily accessible on Kauai than any other island in the chain. You can view our ranking of the best Kauai beaches. Be sure to be on the lookout for the many waterfalls that grace the island; though if you really want to see all the waterfalls - take a Kauai helicopter flight (TRUST us on this one, Kauai is THE island to take a helicopter flight on). Be sure to check out the Kalalau Trail's first two miles, even if you're not the hiking type - this gorgeous stretch of the trail will more than please the eye. Even if it rains on your trip, and it probably will (hey, it's Kauai), then don't fret, there are plenty of things to do on Kauai when it rains.
As you’ve probably already figured out, there’s a lot to do on this little green island. Be prepared… plan ahead. Doing your research in advance will really pay off when the time comes for you to make your visit. And, not to rub it in, but sending a postcard to your co-workers and friends back home is always a nice gesture. Though some may be quite jealous when you return with that new tan; but hey… who can blame them?
Enjoy your Kauai visit... and Aloha!
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