If you look up the definition of paradise, you shouldn’t be surprised to see Kauai listed. This Hawaiian island is beyond stunning, and it’s even been seen in movies like Jurassic Park and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Believe it or not, Kauai is the oldest of all the Hawaiian islands. It was created by a volcano over 5 million years ago.
Of the four main islands in Hawaii, Kauai is the smallest. It’s just over 50 miles long, and it’s known as the “garden isle” because of its lush landscape. If you’re planning a trip to this spectacular place, there are some things you should know. Here are 7 things to know about Kauai before your trip.
1. Hawaii has its own culture.
Similar to how different parts of the USA have differences in culture depending on the region, Hawaii is known for its unique culture. It might even feel like a foreign country sometimes even if it is the 50th state. The main difference most travelers notice is the reality of “island life.” Basically, things move a bit slower in Kauai than they do on the mainland. You’ll just need to relax and go with the flow to take it all in.
The term “Hawaiian” refers to anyone born with Hawaiian blood, while “Local” refers to anyone born in Hawaii who isn’t white. Tourists and white people are known as “Haole.” You also might hear the term “kama’aina” to refer to anyone living in Hawaii no matter their background. Knowing these words before your trip will help you acclimate to the cultural differences.
2. You’ll have to pay more.
When goods and products have to travel so far to get to Kauai, you can expect to pay more for them. Because the Hawaiian Islands are so remote, you’ll need to pay more for gas, food, and any other products you would usually buy on the mainland. It might not be as expensive as other places, but don’t be caught off guard if you’re visiting a restaurant or supermarket. Just think of the extra price as a tax for the gorgeous view!
3. The different shores have different perks.
There are four shores in Kauai to consider when choosing your accommodation. The most popular shore is the south shore which is known for its large collection of resorts and restaurants. It’s also got some of the most popular beaches. The Koloa Landing Resort is particularly spectacular, and it’s close to everything. Their Kauai resort near Poipu Beach is perfect for travelers who want to see the best of Kauai.
Another option is the west shore which is close to the major national parks. This is a great place to stay if you’re looking for a lush, rural experience with close access to hiking and backpacking. No matter where you stay, you’ll find your paradise.
4. Pack casual clothes.
Kauai isn’t known for its big city life. While you can find luxurious dining options on Kauai, the majority of locals and travelers choose to keep it casual. Shorts and flip-flops are the local uniforms, it seems. Even in the finer places, you’re likely to see women dressed in sundresses and sandals. You can’t go wrong with an aloha shirt and your favorite shorts.
5. Plan your transportation.
Though Kauai isn’t a big island, it’s not exactly easy to get around. There’s only one major road on the island, and traffic can be a problem during peak hours. If you can, plan to avoid the morning and evening commuting hours. You might also want to look for other ways to explore the island like by sea or even air.
If you’re renting a car during your stay, try to choose a small model. The roads and parking spaces in Kauai are notoriously small, and you’ll likely bang the car up a little bit if you aren’t careful. Kauai is a rugged island, so make sure you’re up for the challenge if you choose to drive yourself.
6. You might not be able to swim.
While you probably picture Hawaii as the perfect place to swim in the ocean, most of the beaches in Kauai aren’t swimmable. Unlike other big islands like Maui, Kauai’s beaches are full of things like hammering surf, currents, and rip tides. There are calmer conditions in the summer months, but don’t expect to be able to swim at most of the beaches. The best spots on the island to swim are Poipu beach on the south shore and Ke’e beach on the north shore.
7. Don’t miss the Napali Coast.
There’s a reason this coastline is so famous. Known as the best thing to do on the island, you won’t want to miss this majestic coastline. This line of sea cliffs starts on the north shore and goes down the west side. It’s like something out of a movie, and you won’t believe it’s real. The hardest part is finding a way to actually see it since there are no roads along it.
You can take a boat during the warmer months to see the cliffs from the ocean. If you have the money, you can take a helicopter tour to see it from all its angles. Finally, if you’d rather explore by foot, there are a number of hiking trails like the Kalalau trail at Ke’e beach.
There is so much to explore on Kauai, you’ll never want to leave. While the best things to see are breathtaking, there are so many hidden treasures to this island. Kauai is the very definition of off the beaten path, so make sure you’re ready to explore. There’s a reason so many of Hollywood’s hits were filmed in Kauai.