Travel Pono on Kauai | A local’s guide to the Hawaiian Islands

Hawaii Trip Planning Guide

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Make the most of your trip to Kauai, Hawaii’s Garden Island.


Visitors to Kauai might be more interested in nature spaces than a late-night party scene. The Garden Island shines with its rugged coastlines, awe-inspiring canyons and tight-knit communities that have prospered here for generations.

So, it’s only fitting that one explores Kauai with Travel Pono, experiencing places with the intention of leaving them better than they were found and aiming to preserve our natural resources, cultures and communities. Start your Kauai journey with these favorite tips.

A car rental will give you the freedom to explore Kauai’s remote roads, but be aware of traffic and drive times.

Plan ahead

Pack right
Flight Attendant Heather Sanchez offers this advice: “Don’t forget to carry reusable items, like utensils, bags and water bottles, and reef-safe sunscreen, along with your hand sanitizer, when traveling. These small individual actions have a meaningful impact on protecting and preserving our island’s natural resources.”

Make reservations
On this small but impressive island, planning ahead is key. Call to book a table at popular restaurants. Reservations are required for non-residents to enter Haena State Park, which will also give you access to Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park Plus, you'll need day-use and parking reservations or camping permits to access the legendary Kalalau Trail.

Rent a car
Find exclusive rates when you book with one of our rental partners. Check traffic and drive times before you go — Kauai has mostly two-lane roadways as well as one-lane bridges that can slow down the flow of cars. Give space to cyclists and pedestrians. Remember you cannot drive completely around the island because of the Na Pali Coast on the leeward (west) side.

Go car free
You can also opt to keep Kauai green by going car free. Local tour companies can shuttle your party to the island’s top attractions while providing insider’s information that you might not find in a book. Taxis are also ready to take you to your destination, and Kauai Bus provides a live bus map online. Bicycle rentals are available at shops like Hele On in Kapaa, where a car-free bike path follows the coastline.

Pair specialty drinks with savory bites at Java Kai in Kapaa — supporting local tastes so good.

Support local

Kauai's shops and restaurants are symbolic of the community’s love for the land and pride in calling the Garden Island home. Supporting local businesses ensures the heart of Kauai beats strong. Here’s some of our favorites.

Make reservations
On this small but impressive island, planning ahead is key. Call to book a table at popular restaurants. Reservations are required for non-residents to enter Java Kai and Kauai Juice Co., whose menus emphasize Kauai's tropical crops, like olena (turmeric), kalo (taro), banana, mango, pineapple, and more — sweet and savory bites that are as good for your body as they are for your taste buds. Kauai Juice Co., which has multiple locations throughout the island, is known for flavor- and health-packed juices. Kapaa’s Java Kai offers a lively and welcoming atmosphere to enjoy a smoothie or coffee and share a meal with a friend.

Koloa Rum Company was founded in 2009 and today proudly sources its staple components for premium Hawaiian rum — coffee, sugarcane and water — from the Garden Island. Visitors can get an up-close experience with Koloa Rum's distilling process at its tasting room and shop at the iconic Kilohana Plantation in Lihue. Rum lovers can learn about the unique taste notes of Hawaiian “tall cane” sugarcane rums, meet with connoisseurs and chose from a wide selection of rum varieties to sample, mix into a cocktail or take home. Best of all, Koloa Rum is one of many local merchant and travel partners where HawaiianMiles members and Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard® cardmembers can earn bonus miles. Click here to find more local entrepreneurs to support and bring you closer to your next Hawaiian Airlines vacation.

Explore Waimea Canyon responsibly by researching the trail before going, heeding caution signs, carrying plenty of food and water and staying on the designated paths.

Gain a sense of place

It's one thing to visit Kauai but another to experience it. So, go ahead, explore the island’s unique outdoor spaces and gain a better sense of a place. Learn about the history of each landscape and feel more connected to the island — and more empowered to help preserve its natural beauty.

Among the island’s many must-do activities is the Kapaa Bike Path, formally known as Ke Ala Hele Makalae (the path that goes by the coast). The trail stretches across nearly eight miles of Kauai’s eastern shore, with oceanfront views and plenty of spots to pull over for a scenic rest. Visitors can walk or jog the path or rent a bike in Kapaa. Remember to pack reef-safe sunscreen, swimwear, towels and more than enough water.

Those venturing to Kauai’s North Shore can experience one of Hawaii’s most pristine locations for horseback riding. The majestic Hanalei mountains surround Princeville Ranch Adventures, a 2,500-acre working cattle ranch and outdoor destination rich in history, waterfalls, native flora and fauna and unforgettable views. Established in the early 1800s during King Kamehameha III's reign, it is one of the first cattle ranches in the state and a staple in today’s local agriculture community. The company offers authentic paniolo (cowboy) experiences with guided rides through rolling country hills and expeditions to an 80-foot waterfall.

Called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” Waimea Canyon is one of Kauai’s most spectacular natural gems. Home to canyons formed millions of years ago, the state park invites nature lovers of all skill levels to take in unparalleled views at its many lookouts, venture down into one of its varied trails, trek to waterfalls and hike through native forests. Research trail conditions before hiking Waimea Canyon and bring a daypack with a mask and plenty of water, food and sun protection. Hikers are advised to respect all park signs and carry out any opala (garbage).