Amidst the vast beauty of the Hawaiian islands surrounded by the majesty of the Pacific Ocean sits the “Garden Island” of Kauai. This unbeatable location is renowned for its prominent cliffs, diverse wildlife, and breathtaking coastline. With experiences to fulfill a lifetime, your one week in Kauai is guaranteed to be packed with activities and cultural insight that will make you consider extending your trip.
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It was truly a dream come true to finally be able to vacation in Hawaii for two weeks where we got to take in the beauty of Maui for one week after one week in Kauai.
There are endless possibilities in Kauai. From exploring the shorelines and its countless beaches to trekking the Nā Pali-Kona Forest Reserve or experiencing the mouthwatering local cuisine. This guide gives you a one week in Kauai itinerary of our top recommendations that includes the experiences we had during our stay in Kauai, some extras for your consideration as well as where to stay and where to eat recommendations.
This island paradise is only 25 miles wide. This guide includes experiences from the north shore to the south shore and everywhere in between. We guarantee to give you the most comprehensive itinerary possible with all the best Hawaii things to do for your one week in Kauai.
One Week in Kauai
It’s no easy feat to fit all of the spectacular sights and experiences of Kauai into one week. Still, it’s more than possible and we’ll be sure to provide a complete and balanced itinerary so you can explore as many parts of the island as possible and head home feeling satisfied of your one week in Kauai.
Kauai is extremely diverse in its natural features, which renders it a prime location for any nature lover.
Whether you prefer to bask in the beauty surrounding you or push your body to its limit on challenging hikes or trails, there is something for everyone in the distinct natural charm of Kauai. Hotspots will include Waimea Canyon, Na Pali Coast, Wailua Falls, and the sleeping Giant Mountain Ridge.
But the pinnacle of Kauai’s experiences doesn’t stop with its lush natural beauty. There are countless attractions and activities that will give you a new perspective on the island’s history, and its culture.
See the location in a way that is utterly unique via boat tours or a helicopter tour. Swing a club on their top-notch golf courses, or gaze at historic archives and artifacts in the Kauai Museum.
A quality meal is necessary to fuel a full day’s worth of activities and experiences. We personally love to cook and both places we rented during our one week in Kauai had a kitchen. That didn’t stop us from trying amazing local restaurants and delicious food. This guide has you covered from dawn till dusk with great options. For each typical mealtime, you’ll find below a local suggestion along with some of their most highly recommended dishes.
Day 1: Poipu Beach Region
Where to eat: Little Fish Coffee Poipu
For a quick morning pick-me-up, stop by Little Fish Coffee Poipu. Here, you can grab a steaming cup of traditional or specialty coffee or indulge with a fresh fruit smoothie.
Accompany your favorite morning beverage with a bagel breakfast sandwich and a juicy fruit salad for a light but filling morning meal.
What to do: Spot Some Seals on Poipu Beach
Poipu Beach is one of the best beaches on Kauai, and some have even dubbed it the best beach in America. Although it is a relatively small beach, it is fantastic for spotting local wildlife such as the Hawaiian monk seal.
And if the seals aren’t there, don’t worry. Poipu Beach is one of the safest beaches in Kauai, with a lifeguard present seven days a week. So, take a dip in the beautiful pacific before heading off to the next attraction.
Something to keep in mind for a relaxing evening activity is that Poipu Beach offers some of the best sunsets in Kauai.
Where to eat: Brennecke’s Beach Broiler
After a fun-filled morning relaxing on the beach, head over to Brennecke’s Beach Broiler. The service is friendly, and the delicious food always pairs well with Brennecke’s World Famous Mai Tai.
We suggest getting a taste of what the local wildlife has to offer with their zingy Catch of the Day Fish Tacos.
What to do: Tee off at Kiahuna Golf Club
After you’re sufficiently fueled up, burn some of those calories on the Kiahuna Golf Club. Considered a challenging course, it is decorated with ancient remnants of an authentic Hawaiian village by architect Robert Trent Jones Jr.
This is also a great opportunity to see some wildlife such as the endangered Nene, the state bird of Hawaii.
Where to eat: Keoki’s Paradise
Adorned in tiki torches, this local hotspot is appreciated for its quick and friendly service in a quiet and relaxing environment. The restaurant has live music, and customers particularly enjoy the superb desserts on offer, such as the Papalani Sorbetto.
What to do: ʻAuliʻi Lūʻau Oceanfront Luau
If you’re looking for dinner and a show or just want an authentic cultural Hawaiian experience, witness the ʻAuliʻi Lūʻau, the only oceanfront luau in Kauai.
Witness captivating hula dancers, award-winning Urahutia, and breath-baiting Aulii fire-knife dancers as they perform Polynesian arts to the beat of the pahu drums.
Day 2: Lihue Region
Where to eat: Rainbeau Jo’s
This trendy food-truck setup serves all the typical staples of a coffee shop with its own personal flair. Consider getting a jalapeno cheddar bagel with a Jimmy Pesto schmear. Add a Funky Monkey espresso infused granita for the perfect morning pick-me-up.
What to do: Jack Harter Helicopter Ride
You’ve never truly experienced Kauai until you see it from above. Jack Harter Helicopters provides you with a jaw-dropping experience. Hovering over some of the most iconic locations in Kauai, including waterfalls, canyons, sea cliffs, beaches, and more. This was truly one of the best experiences of my life. Absolutely memorable.
Their unique doors-off experience lets you feel the ocean breeze and closer to the natural splendor around you. If you’re going to take up this unbelievable experience, make sure you wear the right clothing items and accessories.
Where to eat: Rob’s Good Times Grill
A fun Hawaiian-American pub, this vivacious eatery is just as entertaining as the food is tasty. While you wait for your meal, step-up for some karaoke, take a spin on the dance floor or enjoy the live music. This location is also great for trying out some local beers and catching up on sporting events.
What to do: Kauai Museum
Take a break from the blissful outdoors and step back in time when you enter the Kauai Museum. You won’t get a more cohesive and in-depth look into the cultural history of Kauai than in this building. Its extensive collection includes textiles, works of art, photographs, and other cultural artifacts that tell the story of the people of Kaua’i and Ni’ihau.
Where to eat: Smiley’s Local Grinds
If you’re looking for impeccable food that is moderately priced with great portion sizes, head over to Smiley’s Local Grinds.
This modest eatery has some of the best Hawaiian-style meats in the region. They also serve great Teriyaki seasoned dishes, or, for those who just want simple American comfort food, they also have the classic burger and fries combo.
What to do: Nāwiliwili Harbor
There are a plethora of night-life options in Nawiliwili Harbor. Prime shopping locations are just a walk away, or you can cast a line for some quality fishing.
If you get here early enough, sail the harbor and beyond as you watch the impeccable sunset and witness a whole galaxy’s worth of stars emerge.
Day 3: Hanalei/Princeville Region
Where to eat: Village Snack Shop
A cute little bakery located in the Ching Young Shopping Center, where you don’t have to limit yourself to a simple breakfast bagel sandwich. Go for the classics such as blueberry pancakes, French toast with bacon, omelets, or try something new and be adventurous with breakfast Loco Moco.
What to do: Queen’s Bath
A great site that matches beautiful views with stunning wildlife. The unique tide pools of Queen’s Bath are surrounded by igneous rock and house some incredible fish and other sea-life a short walk past a roaring waterfall.
Be sure to bring your swimsuit so you can wade in the pools once you’ve completed the short but potentially challenging trek to this esteemed location.
Where to eat: Tahiti Nui
This casual restaurant offers Authentic Tahitian Hawaiian Food and is perfect for sipping a cocktail, while you munch on a freshly made pizza and watch some live entertainment.
Share a Huli Huli Chicken pizza with the whole family as local singers and dancers perform nightly, and the amiable staff satisfies your every need.
What to do: Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge
Stop at the Hanalei Valley to see an expansive view of what you’re about to delve into on your way to the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge.
Take the Okolehao hiking trail to get the best view of the area while you get the best photos of the abundant wildlife, including some endangered plants and birds that led to the refuge’s establishment in 1972.
Where to eat: Bar Acuda
With an atmosphere that is fun and innovative, Bar Acuda is a chic eatery renowned for its unique culinary experience.
Although the plates are typically small, they are packed with flavors, unlike anything you’ve ever had before. Split four or five tapas between the table and explore what the locally sourced ingredients have to offer.
What to do: Hanalei Beach
There’s nothing like a quiet walk along the sandy Hanalei Beach as you gaze it is embracing mountain range.
This location is perfect for some sunset surfing, a calm walk with your partner along the coast, or searching for unique seashells in the white sand. The neighboring Hanalei River is also an ideal location for kayaking, paddling, and fishing.
Day 4: Kilauea Region
Where to eat: Kilauea Bakery & Pizza
A quaint spot to either grab-and-go or dine-in, Kilauea Bakery & Pizza has fantastic baked goods, hot coffees, and hospitable staff.
Start your morning with a gooey cinnamon roll and a jolting cup of espresso. Just be sure to come back for their heavenly fresh deserts, especially the coconut crème filled eclairs.
What to do: Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park
Appreciate flora and fauna of Kauai up close in the Na’ Aina Kai Botanical Gardens. You can also take in the creative and profound artwork on display at their sculpture park.
This 240-acre reserve is filled with some unique landscapes. It includes impeccable features such as waterfalls, a Japanese teahouse, and Ka’ula Lagoon.
Where to eat: The Bistro
This restaurant boasts innovative Euro-Pacific Rim fare in a trendy but casual atmosphere filled with live music.
There can’t miss happy hour allows half-off of select food specials paired with half-off all Mai Tais. Next time you stop for lunch, try their iconic Fish Rockets for an exceptional seafood dish with a kick.
What to do: Whale Watching Off of Kilauea Point
The Hawaiian Islands provide some of the best opportunities to see whales at a mere arms-length away.
Embark on a whale-watching boat tour from Kilauea Point. You’ll get to see majestic Humpback Whales as well as other wildlife unique to this region. Just be sure to bring some sunscreen and your binoculars.
Where to eat: Kilauea Fish Market
Your food is guaranteed to be the direct product of the daily catch at Kilauea Fish Market. This eatery has a plethora of seafood. From poke and sashimi salads to Ahi wrap fish tacos and even some deli options.
What to do: Kilauea Lighthouse
An iconic site of Kilauea, the location’s lighthouse has stood proudly on Kilauea Point since 1913. This century-old beacon rises 180-feet above the ocean.
Visitors are free to explore the building on one of its bi-weekly tours. After extensive restoration, the lighthouse finally reflects its original glory. Despite the restorations being unsuccessful in repairing the lights rotating mechanism, the lamp itself is still lit for ceremonial occasions.
Day 5: Wailua Region/ Hanapepe Festival
Where to eat: Waipouli Deli & Restaurant
Make sure you bring some cash if you want to eat at this homey breakfast eatery filled with classic specials as well as Japanese and Hawaiian dishes.
You’re going to need a hearty breakfast to prepare you for this day’s itinerary. Be sure to order the breakfast special, which includes two macadamia nut pancakes, two crispy slices of bacon, and one egg. Combo that with your beverage of choice, and you ready to start exploring!
What to do: Kamokila Hawaiian Village
If you ever wondered what ancient Hawaiian life was like, visit this site where an entire village was recreated in an authentic location. Here you can witness native buildings and experience what routines and tasks filled their everyday lives.
After you explore the village, rent a canoe and paddle through the same river routes, these ancient peoples used on the Wailua River.
Where to eat: Monico’s Taqueria
Explore a little bit of a different culture-vibe at Monico’s Taqueria, where you can munch on some of the best tacos and burritos made with down-to-earth recipes that render them 100% authentic.
Dive-in to the Monico’s Special, which is their own version of a surf n’ turf filled with the most delectable seafood, seasoned meats, and wholesome vegetables.
What to do: Wailua Falls
A staple location of Kauai, you might recognize this gorgeous double waterfall from the opening scene of Fantasy Island. The hike to this unbelievable location is fairly easy, and the pay off is huge.
Not only do you get to see the grandeur of the falls, but they are almost always accompanied by a vibrant rainbow. You will definitely want to bring your best camera for everlasting photos of this memorable sight.
Where to eat: Hukilau Lanai
An optimal restaurant for fine-dining, Hukilau Lanai has dishes infused with innovative Polynesian flavors that pair perfectly with their extensive list of unique wines. Savor the Ahi Pasta dish while you sip a fragrant Frappato and marvel at the live Hawaiian music.
What to do: Hanapepe Friday Night Festival & Art
This festival is a slight drive away from Wailua, but the trip is well worth it. Every Friday night, Hanapepe Town comes alive as the host of the local festival that keeps all the shops bustling and the night-life thriving.
While you shop for some exceptional local art, enjoy the live performers that fill the street to entertain the town’s new visitors that stop by just for this occasion.
Day 6: Nāpali Coast Region
Where to eat: Hanalei Bread Company
This cute and organic bakery thrives on serving fresh products daily. Made from the best local ingredients the region has to offer. Feel free to have a light breakfast of avocado toast and a yogurt bowl, or opt for something heartier like a breakfast burrito or Belgian waffles topped with strawberries. When you’ve had your fill, buy some fresh pastries to snack on the road.
What to do: Kalalau Trail
Start your morning expedition on the Kalalau trail, an 11-mile hike that starts at the Ke’e Beach and allows the only land access to the Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park.
Hardly a hike for beginners, the trail through this rugged region can be challenging, but at every corner is a magnificent new marker of natural beauty from beaches to lookouts, to rivers and more. Be sure to start early to give yourself enough time for this massive trek in addition to the other activities we have set out for you.
Where to eat: Kalypso Island Bar & Grill
A classic Hawaiian hotspot with a casual vibe decorated by a bamboo bar and porch, this restaurant is your go-to spot for tropical drinks and that unique Polynesian taste.
With overwhelmingly positive reviews, you are guaranteed to be satisfied with your service at Kalypso, just as much as their Island Style Huli- Huli Chicken will satisfy your stomach.
What to do: Waimea Canyon
Waimea Canyon is frequently referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. It is a unique experience only available on Kauai, where the dry arid desert surroundings starkly contrast the lush vegetation and vast bodies of water surrounding these rocky cliffs.
Rest-assured, after embarking on some pretty strenuous hikes in Kauai, you can kick back and relax as you take a leisurely drive through the Waimea Canyons and take intermittent stops to take it all in.
Where to eat: AMA Restaurant
Asian cuisine is incredibly common in Hawaii, and no restaurant perfects the culture’s culinary trademarks better than AMA.
Enjoy the beauty of paradise while you slurp some umami-rich ramen noodles and savor the steamed pork Bao Buns unlike anything else you’ll find on the north shore.
What to do: Ke’e Beach
After a hard day’s work hiking trails and traversing canyons, have some quality beach time at Ke’e Beach. You can lay out a late-night picnic of wine and fruits while you watch the sunset. If you arrive before the sun goes down, be sure to explore the beaches’ vibrant reef by snorkeling.
Day 7: Na Pali coast
Where to eat: Saenz Ohana Breakfast
After a career working in some of the best restaurants around Kauai, Chef Juan Saenz has opened his own restaurant dedicated to creating local favorites with fresh ingredients.
Try Kalua pig for the first time with the eggs benedict special paired with a side of French toast pancake sticks and a classic cup of Kauai coffee.
What to do: Awa’awapuhi Trail
A hiker’s dream, this is one of the most popular trails on the island, with some of the most breathtaking views of Kōkeʻe State Park.
This lush mountain-range is filled with waterfalls, panoramic ocean views, and beautiful wildflowers. This hike is 6.7 miles, which should give you plenty of time to traverse the area and take some leisurely stops before you head back for more island experiences.
Where to eat: Nourish Hanalei
The essential creed of this eatery is to provide healthy food that has vibrant flavors and rich organic ingredients.
You can choose to make your meal travel friendly by having it made into a Kaua’i Thai wrap, or you can relax and enjoy the view while you munch on a Ha’ena bowl.
What to do: Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park
This park dominates a vast majority of the north-west of Kauai. This is where you can witness the famed pali, or sea cliffs, and explore up to 5 valleys that cover the region.
This area is inaccessible by cars. You can revel in the knowledge that you might be hiking and experiencing sights few others have. This is also an exceptional section of the island for helicopter tours if that is your preferred way to see as much of the park as possible.
Where to eat: The Dolphin Restaurant
A laidback riverside eatery that has the approval of the locals, The Dolphin Restaurant focuses on serving flavorful seafood, classic nigiri, and quirky roles.
The best way to experience the cuisine here is to share it with the family. Split a dish of scallops, Alaskan King crab, calamari, so you have an array of superb seafood to dine on.
What to do: Honopu Arch
Stroll the Honopu Beach on your way to the distinct Honopu Arch, a common tourist attraction. This giant archway that connects the two beaches is the perfect spot for a vacation photo shoot with friends and family.
The towering 1,200-foot cliffs that rise behind you are the perfect backdrop, as well as the crystal clear Pacific water lapping in the porcelain white beach sand.
Where to Stay During your One Week in Kauai
Although some regions of Kauai are difficult to access unless you are on foot, the majority of the island is easy to traverse in a day.
Distance to the most iconic locations on the island isn’t really a limitation when it comes to deciding where to stay. With an entire island of locations to choose from, how do you narrow it all down if location isn’t a factor and paradise is all around you?
Don’t worry. Here are our top picks for where to stay on your trip to Kauai.
Located in Princeville, Sealodge provides intimate and private ocean access with its divine oceanfront condos. Guests have exclusive access to Sealodge Beach just outside their condominiums. They also get to enjoy fantastic ocean views from their perch on the ocean bluffs.
Princeville is a bustling region of Kauai, as seen by the numerous restaurants and attractions previously mentioned that reside here.
Another spectacular option for water-front lodging is the Wailua River Cottage. Located in Wailua, it provides an utterly unique experience that is decorated to the height of Hawaiian style.
You also have access to complimentary paddleboards and kayaks to help enhance your island experience and promote waterway exploration.
Wailua is another local hotspot filled with beaches and natural splendor. Hike The Sleeping Giant for a panoramic view of the area, or visit the Fern Grotto, a unique cave-structure formed from lava rock and covered in a blanket of ferns and other plant life only found in Kauai.
We stayed at both during our one week in Kauai. You could easily stay at either for the duration of your stay on the Island if you prefer to stay at the same location for your full one week in Kauai.
Final Thoughts for your One Week in Kauai
Exploring the Hawaiian island of Kauai is the trip of a lifetime. Although one week in Kauai might not seem long enough, it packs in all the activities you could possibly want.
This itinerary should help you see all of the top attractions of the regions while still having an array of impactful experiences, from hikes to helicopter and wildlife tours, to blissful walks along the beach.
You’ll definitely have enough fun-filled activities to keep you going from dawn till dusk during your one week in Kauai. When you’re feeling completely worn out, retreat to one of the paradise lodging options mentioned above for a well-deserved rest.
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