Things to See on Kauai

A brief sampler of some of Kauai's highlights

Whether your Kauai vacation rental is located on the north shore, the south shore, or the east shore, you won’t have any trouble finding sightseeing opportunities close to home.  Even the longest drives - from Princeville on the north shore to Waimea Canyon in the southwest, or from Poipu on the south shore up to Hanalei – only take about two hours.  Don’t feel like driving that far?  Below you’ll find favorite places to visit organized geographically.  Stick to the same shore your Kauai rental occupies and keep your drive time to just a few minutes!

North Shore

Limahuli Gardens is one of the most biodiverse valleys in the Hawaiian Islands and is home to dozens of endangered plants and birds you cannot find anywhere else on earth.  Less than a 30-minute drive from Princeville, self-guided and guided tours are offered Tuesday-Saturday.   


Hanalei Town is a lovely small town to the west of Princeville.  It is home to everything from historic places to contemporary art galleries.  Of particular note is the farmer’s market that takes place every Saturday from 9:30 am to noon and includes more than 50 stalls/vendors. 


Waioli Mission House and Church is a Hanalei landmark that was built in 1836 by the Reverend William Alexander, later becoming the home of early Christian missionaries Abner and Lucy Wilcox.  After their deaths in 1869, the mission home sat abandoned until It was restored in 1921 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Tours are offered on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 


Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge was first opened to the public in 1985 to allow the public to experience and learn about the various native seabirds and coastal plants, and the historic Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Light House, which was restored in 2013.  The lighthouse and wildlife refuge is located 2 miles north of Kilauea, about 15 minutes away from Princeville.  Tours of the lighthouse are offered Wednesdays and Saturdays every hour from 10:30am-2: 30 pm, and the refuge is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm. 


Garden Island Chocolate is for all chocolate lovers!  They offer an unforgettable three-hour guided tour, where you will learn about all the steps in the chocolate-making process and sit down to an extensive chocolate tasting.  Tours are offered Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, beginning at 9:30 am.  Advance reservations are required. 


Ho’opulapula Haraguchi Rice Mill is a nonprofit museum located in the taro fields of Hanalei Valley.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the ONLY remaining rice mill in all of Hawaii!  It has been restored three times by the Haraguchi family; in 1930 after a fire, in 1982 after Hurricane Iwa, and in 1992 after Hurricane Iniki (which is also believed to be the cause of all the chickens running around on Kauai).  Guided tours are conducted on Wednesdays at 10am, rain or shine. 


Kalihiwai Falls a beautiful multi-tiered waterfall that you can see for free from the bridge that spans the Kalihiwai River.  The falls are located on private land.  If you want to get up close and personal with the falls - as opposed to viewing them at 50mph as you whiz past on the highway - you'll need to pay for a guided tour.  Tours include a picnic lunch and a CPR and first aid certified guide.  The guided tours are the only way to swim in the falls. (This company also offers zip lining, horseback tours, kayaking, and ATV tours)

East Shore

Keahua Arboretum is located a short drive inland from the town of Wailua or Lihue.  Populated by both native plants and outside plants introduced by the University of Hawaii, the Keahua Arboretum is a great place to take a break from the heat on the beach.  There are numerous picnic spots, several swimming holes, and the start of the Kuilau Ridge Trail, which is a moderately easy 1.5-mile hike. 


Kapa’a Town:  No trip to Kauai would be complete without a visit to Kapa’a.  Not only is it Kauai’s most populous town, it’s one of the most eclectic places on the island.  A vibrant mix of different cultures and times, Kapa’a is home to many different shops and restaurants, ranging from contemporary art galleries to an art café with a Hemingway themed menu.  Enjoy the farmer’s market held every Wednesday at 3 pm, or if you’re lucky enough to be on the island for the first Saturday of the month, check out the Art Walk, held from 5-9pm.  


Kauai Museum is a perfect place to explore the vast history of Kauai.  They are dedicated to working with native and immigrant peoples to both sustain their cultures and educate the public about their cultural heritage.  The historical arhives are fascinating and extensive, but do require reservations a month in advance.  Numerous educational offerings including hula and throw-net making.  Located in Lihue, the museum is open Monday-Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm. 


Wailua Falls is a stunning two-tiered waterfall, that has been used for decades as a symbol of Kauai’s beauty, and was even featured in the opening scene of Fantasy Island!  Under the right conditions, you can see a rainbow, and occasionally a double rainbow in the mist at the base of the falls.  Not only a beautiful sight, the falls are easily accessible, with the parking lot almost overlooking the falls.  


Opaekaa Falls is a must-see for all tourists when on the east shore of Kauai.  It is 151 foot tall, a 40-foot wide waterfall that is easily accessible via the roadside lookout (hiking to the falls is very strongly recommended against).  The lookout offers picnic tables, public restrooms, and a short walk away, a lookout over the Wailua River Valley and beyond. 

South Shore

Allerton Gardens is located on the south shore of Kauai in Koloa, between the Pacific Ocean and the National Tropical Botanical Garden’s McBryde Garden (also worth a visit).  This garden was first shaped by a Hawaiian Queen and has subsequently been modified by a sugar plantation magnate, and an artist and architect.  During the tour, you can see beautiful rainforest trees, bronze mermaids, and much more.  Tours are offered daily on the hour beginning at 9 am and ending at 3 pm. 


Old Koloa Town is a collection of old plantation buildings that been renovated and restored and are now home to many unique shops and restaurants, including the Koloa History Center.  If you need an informal, relaxing place to stop for lunch, Pizzetta has a nice menu - it's not just pizza (though the pizza is good!).  Koloa Mill is a perfect family stop, offering both locally grown coffee and Hawaii-made ice cream.  There’s sure to be something for everyone in the shopping center! 


Waimea Canyon is located on the southwestern side of Kauai and can be reached via a narrow, winding road, conveniently named Waimea Canyon Drive.  Known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” Waimea Canyon provides amazing scenic views of the canyon, waterfalls, and at times rainbows from the lookout at the top.  Public restrooms and picnic areas are available, and there are usually a couple of vendors at the lookout selling fresh fruit and the like. 


Spouting Horn is the legendary blowhole near Poipu.  The surf is channeled into a natural lava tube, which releases a huge spout of water that can reach as much as 50 feet high.  Until the 1920s, there was actually a much larger blowhole adjacent to Spouting Horn, but cane farmers dynamited it shut to protect their crops from the salt spray.  One of the most photographed spots on Kauai, Spouting Horn is easily accessible with lots of nearby parking.  Vendors are also regularly set up along the pathway to the lookout point.  You can stroll under the shade canopies and pick out lots of great inexpensive Kauai souvenirs.


Kauai Coffee Company is located on the south shore just a few miles from Poipu, and is the largest coffee plantation in the US!  Guided tours are available daily at 10 am, 12 pm, 2 pm, and 4 pm at no cost, and self-guided walking tours are available for free during all operating hours (9am-5pm).  Coffee roasting demonstrations are given at 9:30 am Monday-Friday and more extensive guided tours are offered on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays from 8:30-9:30 am.  Coffee tastings are available all day long at no charge.  A MUST SEE FOR ANY COFFEE LOVER!