Many first-time visitors stop in Kauai for four days while island hopping between two or three islands. Four days is enough time to see the best of the island (except for several days-long hikes like the Na Pali Coast). This itinerary will guide first-time visitors to the best experiences of the island, while leaving you some choices and flexibility.
Hanalei Valley in Kauai — Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt
You'll fly into Lihue, most likely midday. Take it easy the first day, so pick up your rental car at the airport and stop by the Kauai Museum for information that will enhance your stay. Shop for anything you may need but didn't bring, such as sunscreen or snorkel gear, since Lihue is the central shopping area on the island.
For outdoor gear, stop by Da Life at Kalapaki Beach or Wal-mart near the airport. Then have dinner at Duke's Canoe Club in Lihue for a true local dining experience.
Kauai's North Shore is renowned as the most magical experience on the island, so for the sake of instant gratification, head north first. Start the day in Kilauea with a look at the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and Lighthouse.
Grab a delightful bite to eat at Kilauea Bakery before moving on to Princeville. Take the low impact and quick hike down to Queen's Bath, but only in the spring or summer months, as winter waves are highly dangerous when they wash over the cliffside swimming pool. For a slightly tougher hike to a secluded beach and cover, SeaLodge Beach is a wonderful experience.
SeaLodge Beach — Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt
When heading out of Princeville, stop for a photo opportunity and take in the beautiful views awarded at the Hanalei Valley Overlook. In Hanalei, eat lunch at Bubba Burgers, Neide's Brazilian and Mexican food or Red Hot Mama's down the road in Wainiha.
Decide to spend some beach time at Hanalei Bay, or at the end of the road at Ke'e Beach or Tunnels. End your day on the North Shore with dinner at Bar Acuda Tapas and Wine.
Today, it's sightseeing and activiites on the east side in Wailua and Kapa'a. For a full breakfast, stop into the Kountry Kitchen, or for something quick, Small Town Coffee is always a good option.
Take the hike down to Ho'opi'i Falls in the morning before heading up Kuamo'o Road for a look at Opaeka'a Falls. Check out Poliahu Heiau across the street, perfect for history lovers.
For a healthy and quick lunch, stop by Mermaids Cafe or Caffee Coco in Kapa'a. After lunch, explore the underwater world at Lydgate Beach Park, where you'll find some of the island's best snorkeling before heading inland to nearby Wailua Falls.
End the day with a stroll around Kapa'a and dinner at Kintaro for sushi or at Gaylord's in Lihue for locally grown food.
Head west and start the day with a walk through historical Hanapepe and browse the art galleries. Don't forget to check out the Hanapepe Swinging Bridge.
Venture to Waimea and then inland for gorgeous views in Koke'e State Park and Waimea Canyon. Back down in Waimea, have lunch at Island Tacos before heading out to Polihale Beach Park, one of the best beaches on the island.
Stay and watch the sunset over forbidden Ni'ihau. If you're out west on a Friday, stop by Hanapepe on the way home for Art Night. Have dinner at Wrangler's Steakhouse or at the Grove Cafe at Waimea Plantation Cottages.
Waimea Canyon — Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt