East Side Kauai

Everything you need to know about visiting East Side Kauai

The Garden Island’s East Side — also known as the Coconut Coast — is indeed studded with swaying palms, but it encompasses so much more, from Kauai’s modern population centers of Lihue and Kapaa to ancient temples and historic sites along the broad Wailua River. Shopping centers and commercial strips line the busy highway, where it’s easy to get caught in rush-hour traffic, but quiet beaches and tranquil hiking paths lie not too far away on either side.

A kaleidoscope of dining awaits, too, with clusters of food trucks vying with mom-and-pop diners and upscale purveyors of island favorites—including poke, sushi, fish tacos, locally raised beef and other farm-to-table fare. Families and budget travelers will find many lodging options in the cluster of condos, renovated motels and handful of full-service hotels. And though getting around by car can be slow at rush hour, renting a beach cruiser to ride the Ke Ala Hele Makalae coastal bike and walking path is a fun way to explore the beaches and historic coastal sites from Wailua to Kapaa.

You’ll need to drive to see two of the region’s stunning waterfalls — Wailua Falls (seen in the opening credits of “Fantasy Island”) and ‘Opaekaa Falls — but they’re right off the road. To revel in Uluwehi Falls (also known as Secret Falls), you have to kayak to the start of an often-muddy hiking trail, but the views of green mountain ridges along the way are inspiring. You can also kayak to the Wailua River’s famed Fern Grotto, or enjoy the pleasant open-air boat ride with live Hawaiian music.

History: In 1896, a German immigrant planted the vast coconut grove on what later became the grounds of the Coco Palms hotel. Closed after 1992’s Hurricane ‘Iniki and now in ruins, the hotel lives on in Elvis Presley’s 1961 film “Blue Hawaii.” The last queen of Hawaii, Deborah Kapule, also welcomed travelers when she lived on the leafy site with a lagoon from the 1820s to 1840s.

Where to Stay on the East Side

Kauai's Annual Events

FEBRUARY: Check out the Waimea Town Celebration, the oldest festival on the island.

JULY: You won’t want to miss the Koloa Plantation Days Celebration, which turns Old Koloa Town into a gathering place for food, entertainment and a parade honoring Koloa’s multicultural heritage.

SEPTEMBER: Swing your hips at the Kauai Mokihana Festival, which features a hula competition, performances and cultural workshops. 

OCTOBER: The Eo E Emalani I Alakai Festival in Kokee State Park pays homage to Queen Emma’s journey across the Alakai forest and swamp. It features a three-day hula competition showcasing dancers from around the world.

*Things change, so please check in with the organizers of these events to make sure they are still happening.

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