Welcome to the Garden Isle, where you can walk through lush rainforests, view picturesque waterfalls and see a world-famous canyon only accessible by sea or air. Locals and visitors alike are drawn to Kaua‘i’s small-town charm and its laidback atmosphere. Even if you have just a few days to spend here, be sure to make note of these must-visit spots that’ll make your time on Kaua‘i extra memorable.
Feature Photo: Brandon Linsdell on Wikimedia Commons
Princeville Botanical Gardens
Tucked away in an area of Kaua‘i called Princeville, this botanical garden offers visitors the opportunity to see exotic and endangered flowers, delicious fruit trees and even organic chocolate and honey. There are three-hour walking tours available where you can explore the entire garden and get to sample fresh fruit, honey and chocolate.
More info: kauaibotanicalgardens.com
Kīlauea Lighthouse and National Wildlife Refuge
Visit Kīlauea Lighthouse, a historic beacon built in 1913 with a dramatic white exterior and a vibrant red roof. You can learn about its distinguished history through various exhibits and displays available at the lighthouse’s visitor center. The areas surrounding the lighthouse is also a National Wildlife Refuge, so viewers can walk down trails and stand on viewing platforms to see native birds and other endangered wildlife.
Even if you aren’t on this side of the island, it’s worth making the time to see this 15-mile stretch of towering cliffs and narrow valleys along Kaua‘i’s coast. The safest and best ways to view Kaua‘i’s emerald cliffs and jagged terrain is by sea or by air. You’ll find many options available—rafts, boats, kayaks and helicopters—and many tours will include a narrated history of the island and the significance of Nāpali Coast.
More info: Napili State Park Website
Waimea Canyons State Park
Nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” the epic drive up to Waimea Canyon State Park is an experience itself with a winding, ascending road. This scenic state park overlooks the majestic Waimea Canyon, which stretches over 14 miles and is more than 3,600 feet deep. There are many ways you can tour the canyon, including by bike or even from the sky through a helicopter ride.
More info: Waimea State Park Website
East Side and Lihue
If history is your jam, your travel itinerary should include the Kaua‘i Museum. Here, you can learn everything from the geological formation of the Hawaiian Islands, Captain Cook’s arrival to Kaua‘i in Waimea, the history behind the Hawaiian monarchy and many elements of the Native Hawaiian culture. The museum also showcases the talented work of local artists, sculptors and craftsmen. Guided tours are available upon request.
More info: kauaimuseum.org
Kōloa Rum Company
Located at the Kilohana Plantation in Līhuʻe, the Kōloa Rum Company Store is your chance to experience the atmosphere of old plantation days while sampling single-batch, premium Hawaiian rums and cocktails. You can also shop delicious rum cakes, rum fudge sauce and more. The Tasting Room offers daily scheduled tastings of award-winning premium rums every hour.
More info: koloarum.com
Old Kōloa Town
Experience quintessential Hawaii charm at this town full of quaint shops, restaurants and restored plantation buildings along Kōloa Road. As the location of Hawai‘i’s first successful sugar mill, you’ll find gems of history on every street corner. Stop by the Kōloa History Center to learn about the town’s heritage, cool down with a sweet treat from Lappert’s Hawai‘i and shop local gifts and boutiques.
More info: oldkoloa.com
Poʻipū Beach Park
You can’t visit Kaua‘i and not jump into the beach! Swimming, snorkeling, surfing and all kinds of family fun can be found at Poʻipū Beach Park. Rent a snorkel or surfboard, let your little ones play at an outdoor playground, walk through a sandbar or frolic at a lava rock area where the waters are shallow enough for families to swim.
More info: poipubeach.org