Sure, Kaua‘i is an outdoor adventure destination. Try and deny it and the overwhelming evidence of sensational beaches, big waves, epic diving and snorkeling, and lush mountains laced with miles of hiking trails will beat your case. It stands to reason that each region will have a touch of the outdoor beauty you might expect, yet there's so much more to experience. The locally grown island cuisine veers from delicious to sensational, the farm tours are life-affirming and there's an abundance of tempting art galleries and boutiques. Each specific corner of Kaua‘i offers all of that in its own special way. On an island where local roots matter like nowhere else, it makes sense that each region offers something unique enough to keep you moving until you've sampled them all.
End of the Road
Snorkeling & Diving
Na Pali Coast
While the island has dozens of trails, there is only one roadless Na Pali Coast, with its signature trail snaking along the vertiginous cliff's ledge to a valley that looks and feels like Eden.
Lagoons & Lava Tubes
For nine months a year, Kauaʻi's true north is gifted with too much swell to snorkel and dive safely, but in summer you can explore the lagoons and lava tubes of Haʻena Beach Park and Makua (Tunnels) Beach without looking over your shoulder twice.
The magnificent, verdant, primordial beauty of Limahuli Garden cannot be adequately described, even (no, especially) after you've experienced it for yourself.
Food & Drink
Surfing Hanalei Bay
If you conjured a surf town from stardust, it would be populated by sun-bronzed barefoot, young-at-heart souls who descend on a beautiful blue bay surrounded by mountains weeping with waterfalls. The bay would swell with waves small and beyond large, gentle and hollow as an endless barrel. Welcome to Eden.
Hanalei's main drag offers evocative art, sensational mid-century antiques and tasteful fashion. You won't go home empty-handed.
North Shore Nourishment
A bakery for morning coffee and treats. Organic grocer and farmers markets. Wonderful tapas bar with a wine list to match. An all-time classic dive bar. Yes, you shall be fed and watered very well here.
Kilauea town itself doesn't spill onto any one beach, but around it are some of the island's most beautiful secrets.
North Shore Time Capsule
From turn-of-the-century shopping malls in the center of town, to a wonderful chapel with restored stained glass, to a 90-year-old lighthouse oozing with history and soul.
Hillsides nesting with boobies, plover and albatross, whales breaching offshore and a reported hammerhead nursery in the swirling waters surrounding the rocky island, wildlife lovers will want to borrow a pair of binoculars and stay a while.
With a sizable Hawaiian population, Anahola is as local as Hawaii gets, and with wonderful houses for rent, a traditional lomilomi spa, its own diminutive town center and a picturesque beach, it makes for an intriguing base.
Anahola has one main beach, with surf in the summer, terrific snorkeling in winter and a family vibe year-round. To get here, make like a local and drive (super) slow.
Tucked away in the back of a mini-mart patronized by a local crowd is a deli blessed with a dozen flavors of poke – every one of them a delicacy.
Kapaʻa & Waipouli
Art & Architecture
Here you'll find creative Japanese burger joints, new-school food trucks, age-old steak houses and sushi bars and an all-star chef's newest obsession; this is the best place to eat on island.
Old Town Kapa‘a
Where pastel-brushed, clapboard storefronts of Old Town Kapa‘a are filled with dreamy modern canvasses and handblown glass sculpture.
Coconuts, hula, art, handicrafts, music and more are celebrated in fun-loving, up-for-anything Kapa‘a.
Whether by kayak or SUP, you will want to paddle Kauaʻi's most sacred and the state of Hawaii's only navigable river. When you get too hot, dive in.
Wailua's homesteads are a patchwork of cultivated plateaus and emerald valleys sprouting with rainbows. To hike here is to breathe in the island's lush interior.
Though most are merely the compiled bones of what were once great temple structures, it's hard to step to the edge of a heiau (ancient stone temple) without feeling Kauaʻi's deep history and powerful energy.
Once a sugar town, like all the rest, Lihu‘e is now a plain-looking commercial center that grows on you once you step out of your rental car. Downtown can be particularly charming and the museum is a winner.
An attractive beach with a working harbor framed by green hills and an age-old fishpond best seen from the back roads. Lihu‘e is a lot more than its drab shopping centers would have you believe.
Aromatic pho on the cheap, seafood plate lunches your Hawaiian auntie would love, wood-fired thin-crust pizza and dynamite pie for dessert.
Beneath The Surface
Whether you wish to venture below with a tank of air or a single deep breath, this is where you can dive with snoozing sharks and dancing turtles, swim through lava tubes and listen to whale song reverberate in your brain.
A windswept edge of wild sand, a beach park built for families, a sea beckoning for exploration and mind-blowing sunsets that are hard to match.
Ye Olde Sugar Town
Koloa's quaint, leafy throwback shopping district will take you back in time.
State Park Trails
Three state parks, two of which are in the mountains and laced with the most spectacular trails this side of the Na Pali Coast.
Pitch your tent deep in a red-rock jigsaw, in an elegant grove of Japanese spruce, or on Kauaʻi's longest, wildest and arguably most beautiful beach.
Na Pali Coast
You must see Na Pali from the water. Catamarans, Zodiac and rigid-hull inflatables (RIBs) all disembark from Port Allen and venture on half-day cruises along Kaua‘i's roadless coast. Some vessels penetrate sea caves and off-load you onto virgin beaches; others serve mai tais.