Kauai

Even a nickname like "The Garden Island" fails to do justice to Kauai's beauty. Verdant trees grow canopies over the few roads, and brooding mountains are framed by long, sandy beaches, coral reefs, and sheer sea cliffs. Pristine trade winds moderate warm daily temperatures while offering comfort for deep, refreshing sleep through gentle nights.

The main road tracing Kauai's perimeter takes you past much more scenery than would seem possible on one small island. Chiseled mountains, thundering waterfalls, misty hillsides, dreamy beaches, lush vegetation, and small towns make up the physical landscape. Perhaps the most stunning piece of scenery is a place no road will take you—breathtakingly beautiful Napali Coast, which runs along the northwest side of the island.

For adventure seekers, Kauai offers everything from difficult hikes to helicopter tours. The island has top-notch spas and golf courses, and its beaches are known to be some of the most beautiful in the world. Even after you've spent days lazing around drinking mai tais or kayaking your way down a river, there's still plenty to do, as well as see: plantation villages, a historic lighthouse, wildlife refuges, a fern grotto, a colorful canyon, and deep rivers are all easily explored.

While exploring the island, try to take advantage of the many roadside scenic overlooks and pull over to take in the constantly changing view. Don't try to pack too much into one day. Kauai is small, but travel is slow. The island's sights are divided into four geographic areas, in clockwise order: the North Shore, the East Side, the South Shore, and the West Side.

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  • 1. Haena Beach Park

    Beach–Sight

    This is a drive-up beach park popular with campers year-round. The wide bay here—named Makua—is bordered by two large reef systems creating...Read More

  • 2. Hanalei Bay

    Beach–Sight

    This 2-mile crescent beach cradles a wide bay in a setting that is quintessential Hawaii. The sea is on one side, and behind you are the mountains...Read More

  • 3. Kalalau

    Beach–Sight

    Located at the end of the trail with the same name, Kalalau is a remote beach in spectacular Napali Coast State Wilderness Park. Reaching it...Read More

  • 4. Kee Beach

    Beach–Sight

    Highway 560 on the North Shore literally dead-ends at this beach, pronounced kay-eh. This is also the start of the famous Kalalau Trail, and...Read More

  • 5. Lawai Kai

    Beach–Sight

    One of the most spectacular beaches on the South Shore is inaccessible by land unless you tour the National Tropical Botanical Garden's Allerton...Read More

  • 6. Mahaulepu Beach

    Beach–Sight

    This 2-mile stretch of coast, with its sand dunes, limestone hills, sinkholes, and caves, is unlike any other on Kauai. Remains of a large,...Read More

  • 7. Poipu Beach Park

    Beach–Sight

    The most popular beach on the South Shore is Poipu Beach Park. During calm seas, the snorkeling and swimming are good, and when the surf's up...Read More

  • 8. Polihale State Park

    Beach–Sight

    The longest stretch of beach in Hawaii starts in Kekaha and ends about 15 miles away at the start of Napali Coast. At Napali end of the beach...Read More

  • 9. Aliomanu Beach

    Beach–Sight

    This narrow beach is lined with homes, most of them set back a bit and screened with vegetation that blocks access along the sand in a number...Read More

  • 10. Anahola Beach Park

    Beach–Sight

    Anahola is part of the Hawaiian Homelands on Kauai, so Anahola Beach Park is definitely a locals' hangout, especially for families with small...Read More

  • 11. Anini Beach Park

    Beach–Sight

    A great family park, Anini features one of the longest and widest fringing reefs in all Hawaii, creating a shallow lagoon that is good for snorkeling...Read More

  • 12. Baby Beach

    Beach–Sight

    There aren't many safe swimming beaches on Kauai's East Side; however, this one usually ranks highly with parents because there's a narrow,...Read More

  • 13. Beach House Beach

    Beach–Sight

    Don't pack the beach umbrella, beach mats, and cooler for this one. Just your snorkel gear, when the seas are calm. The beach, named after the...Read More

  • 14. Brennecke Beach

    Beach–Sight

    This beach is synonymous on Kauai with board surfing and bodysurfing, thanks to its shallow sandbar and reliable shore break. Because the beach...Read More

  • 15. Donkey Beach

    Beach–Sight

    This beach gets its unusual name from the former Lihue Plantation Company, which once kept a herd of mules and donkeys in the pasture adjacent...Read More

  • 16. Hanakapiai Beach

    Beach–Sight

    Hanakapiai Beach is a small jewel you’ll discover after the first 2 miles of Napali Trail and crossing the stream. It’s a beauty, with fine...Read More

  • 17. Kahili Beach

    Beach–Sight

    You wouldn't know it today, but this beach on Kilauea Bay was once an interisland steamer landing and a rock quarry. Today, it's a fairly quiet...Read More

  • 18. Kalapaki Beach

    Beach–Sight

    Five minutes south of the airport in Lihue, you'll find this wide, sandy-bottom beach fronting the Kauai Marriott. This beach is almost always...Read More

  • 19. Kalihiwai Beach

    Beach–Sight

    A winding road leads down a cliff face to picture-perfect Kalihiwai Beach, which fronts a bay of the same name. It's another one of those drive...Read More

  • 20. Kauapea Beach

    Beach–Sight

    This beach went relatively unknown—except by local fishermen, of course—for a long time, hence the common reference to it as "Secret Beach....Read More

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