Three Day Itinerary in Kauai, Hawaii – The Best Things to Do

In February 2018, Kevin and I traveled to the smallest of the main Hawaiian Islands, Kauai.  Kauai is known as “the Garden Isle” thanks to the lush tropical rainforest covering much of the island.  It is home to the beautiful NaPali Coast and Waimea Canyon as well as so much more!  Outlined below is our three-day itinerary.

If you’re traveling to Hawaii and not sure which Island to go to, consider checking out our other Hawaii posts.

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Kauai Day 1 – West Side

When booking the trip we decided to book the first flight in on Friday morning and one of the last flights out on Sunday evening allowing us to have three full days in Kauai.  We arrived around 5:45 am Friday morning.  Since it was still dark out when we arrived we headed up north of Lihue to Lydgate Beach to watch the sunrise.  Unfortunately, it was very cloudy and the sunrise was not very good but we were just happy to be in Kauai.

From Lydgate Beach, we headed southwest to Waimea to eat breakfast at Gina’s Anykine Grinds Cafe.  We heard nothing but great things about Gina’s and wanted to check it out for ourselves!  I ordered the Waimea Wave, a ham and vegetable omelet, while Kevin ordered Gina’s famous Portuguese Sweetbread French Toast.  Both were delicious and before leaving we also split Gina’s famous Pumpkin Crunch which is a MUST get in our opinion!

Gina's Breakfast Menu
Gina’s breakfast menu!

Gina's famous Pumpkin Crunch, a must get in our opinion!
Gina’s famous Pumpkin Crunch, a must get in our opinion!

Waimea Canyon

Following breakfast, we headed north to Waimea Canyon, also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.  Though not as large as the Grand Canyon, Waimea Canyon is definitely a MUST see.  Waimea Canyon is 3,600 feet deep and full of gorgeous scenery due to its rugged crags and deep valley.  During the rainy winter months, Waipoo Falls is a site to see.  Waipoo Falls is an 800-foot waterfall on the upper west side of the canyon that can be viewed from multiple viewpoints along Waimea Canyon Drive.  Waimea Canyon is completely free to the public and its panoramic views are something to check out!

Cliff Trail to Waipoo Falls

Since living in Oregon the appreciation Kevin and I have for waterfalls is an all-time high.  That being said you cannot imagine how happy we were when we found out you could hike to Waipoo Falls.  However, setting expectations accurately…you cannot hike down to the bottom of the falls.  The Cliff Trail to Waipoo Falls is a 3.2-mile hike to the top of Waipoo Falls.

The top of Waipoo Falls.
The top of Waipoo Falls.

Though you do not actually get to hike to the bottom of the falls, this hike does offer awesome views of the inside of the canyon.

Kalepa Ridge Trail

Just north of Waimea Canyon is the Kalalau Lookout.  The Kalalau Lookout offers views of the Kalalau Valley which has served as a backdrop in “Mighty Joe Young,” “King Kong,” “Six Days Seven Nights,” and “Jurassic Park,” making this valley one of the most well-known valleys in all of Hawaii.

Toward the back left of the lookout is the trailhead for the Kalepa Ridge Trail, probably one of our favorite hikes to date!  The Kalepa Ridge Trail (aka The Goat Trail) is a 1.6-mile ridge hike that offers panoramic views of Kalalau Valley and the NaPali Coast.  This hike is NOT for the faint of heart.  Kalepa Ridge Trail can be very steep in some areas and very dangerous when wet but the views at the end make this hike worth every second.

Kalepa Ridge Trail
The end of Kalepa Ridge Trail overlooking the NaPali Coast.

Please be cautious and do your research, if it’s raining, if there are strong winds or if it recently rained we do not recommend.  Hike at your own risk.

Waimea Town Celebration

After completing the Kalepa Ridge trail, Kevin and I drove south back to Waimea where we were spending the weekend at one of my family friends homes.  Lucky for us the Waimea Town Celebration was going on while we were in town.  We spent our Friday night listening to some local Hawaiian music, by Kolohe Kai, while enjoying a refreshing beer before finally calling it a night.

Kauai Day 2 – Helicopter Tour and East Side

Mauna Loa Helicopter Tours

On Saturday morning we woke up around 5:15 am and headed east for our helicopter tour!  After looking into the pros and cons of each company we decided to book with Mauna Loa Helicopter Tours.  We chose this company because each helicopter only holds 1-3 passengers (no middle seats stuck between strangers) and we could ride with the doors off to enhance the experience.  Though the tour was expensive it was worth every penny.

Mauna Loa Helicopter Tours were able to show Kevin and I parts of Kauai that is restricted and inaccessible by car and foot.  We learned that much of Kauai’s beautiful valleys and waterfalls are inaccessible to travelers and even locals unless on a helicopter.  Since the Robinson Family owns 51,000 acres of the island of Kauai, much of this land is restricted making it undiscovered and basically untouched.  By booking the helicopter tour we were able to view some of these lands and its natural beauty that many do not ever get to see.  We also were able to see panoramic views of the NaPali Coast from the ocean and even whales breaching below!

NaPali Coast from the helicopter.
NaPali Coast from the helicopter.
Jurassic Falls
The waterfall in Jurassic Park, only accessible via helicopter.

After the Mauna Loa Helicopter Tour, we headed north with hope to hike to Hanakapiai Falls.

Princeville Shopping Center

Kevin and I decided to grab a quick bite at Princeville Shopping Center before our hike to Hanakapiai Falls.  I had the pesto sandwich from Sandwich Isle Deli.  Kevin had an acai bowl with everything including organic peanut butter from Lei Petite Bakery & Coffee Shop.

From there we headed north for the hike only to realize that a mudslide on Highway 56 wiped out that part of the road.  Due to this mudslide/roadblock, we were unable to hike to Hanakapiai Falls which we were really bummed about.   Good news though, there is always our next trip to Kauai!

Secret Falls

Since we were not unable to hike to Hanakapiai Falls we decided to rent SUP boards and hike to Secret Falls.  Secret falls is only accessible from the Waimea River so hikers have to go via SUP boards or kayaks.

We rented SUP boards from Stand Up Paddle Kauai for only $40 each.  John, the owner, was awesome and provided us with dry bags and shoes since the hike is known to be very muddy, free of charge.  Paddling to the hike took about 45 minutes but was full of gorgeous views.  As for the hike, muddy is an understatement, but the falls were beautiful and we were able to swim in the pool below before heading back.

Secret Falls
Secret Falls

To the left of the Secret Falls hike, is an area of the Waimea River that is much less traffic.  Kevin and I decided to check out this area on our SUP boards as well.  The area was beautiful with trees creating a canopy over the river.  If you have extra time you should definitely check it out!

Peaceful swimming hole on Wailua River
Peaceful swimming hole on Wailua River.

On our way back to Waimea we stopped for a drink at Kauai Beer Company in Lihue.  I enjoyed the Rekorderlig Cider (hard cider blended with passionfruit) while I had the Lihue Lager.  We then ate dinner at Kauai Island Brewery and Grill in Port Allen.  I’d say a pretty successful day.

Kauai Day 3 – South and North Side

Poipu Beach/Shipwreck Beach

Our last day in Kauai we enjoyed breakfast with my family friends at Unkos Kitchen in Hanapepe before heading to Poipu Beach.  Poipu Beach is a one-stop-shop for resorts, restaurants, snorkeling, picnic tables, and SEA TURTLES!  It is Poipu Beach where you can see sea turtles sunbathing along the shore.  Unfortunately, it was raining on our third day so we were unable to spend a lot of time at the beach but we were able to see some turtles.

Shipwreck Beach, since it is not far from Poipu,  also had a lot of rain.  There was a good swell that day making the ocean rough so we were unable to cliff jump, maybe next time.

Wailua Falls

Wailua Falls is an 80-173 foot waterfall, depending on the rainfall, that feeds into the Wailua River on the southeast side of Kauai.  This waterfall is famous for being seen in the opening credits of “Fantasy Island” and is a popular tourist attraction.  Many view the falls from the lookout above, however, there is a short path you can hike down to reach the bottom of the falls.  We took the muddy hike down to the bottom and luckily had the whole place to ourselves!  Unfortunately, because of the rain, the river was too forceful to be able to swim.

From Wailua Falls we traveled north again hoping that the rain would clear.  Since the rain only got worse we were unable to go to Secret Beach and opted for The Queens Bath instead.

Wailua Falls
Wailua Falls taking the hike down.

The Queens Bath

The Queens Bath is located on the northern part of the island just outside of Princeville.  The hike down to The Queens Bath is much like Secret Falls and completely muddy.  Kevin and I chose to go barefoot hoping to have better grip this way.  Once you complete the muddy part the path opens up to lava rock that sweeps the side of the ocean.  DON’T get to close to the edge the waves have been known to knock people off into the sea, many have actually died here.

As for the bath itself, it may be the most beautiful tidepool/sinkhole Kevin and I have ever seen.  The Queens Bath is about 8- foot deep, surrounded by igneous rock, and filled by the ocean.  The water in the bath is so clear you can see fish swimming alongside you and the rocks below your feet!  This is definitely a MUST see and DON’T forget to wear your bathing suit!

Taylor floating in the Queens Bath during sunset.
Just floating in the Queens Bath during sunset.

For dinner on our last day, we stopped at Bobby V’s Italian Restaurant and picked up a buffalo chicken pizza to go.  We opted for the large and we were glad we did since it was a perfectly filling before our plane ride back to Oahu.

Lihue airport is quick and easy but be prepared for delays at the car rental return.  The flight to Oahu from Kauai is only 20 minutes in the air… quick and easy!

If you have any questions or comments be sure to leave them below!

Kauai Hawaii 3 Day Itinerary - What to do and Where to Eat
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Taylor Mathers

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