What to do in Kauai, Hawaii in 5 days

20 January 2014

Five days in Kauai sounds like you'd barely have enough time to get your feet wet. But if you spend your time (and cash) wisely, you can cover so much ground in just a few days time!

What to do in Kauai in 5 days (...or more) by The Brave Little Cheesehead at www.bravelittlecheesehead.com
In five days, we:
  • Relaxed poolside at our resorts 
  • Road tripped from Lihue to Waimea
  • Explored Waimea Canyon State Park
  • Visited Kalalau Lookout
  • Check out Spouting Horn
  • Shopped at local craft markets for gifts and sweets
  • Attended the Smith's Garden Luau 
  • Kayaked two miles along the Wailua River
  • Hiked solo to Secret Falls
  • Swam at Lihue's beaches
  • Indulged in the best foods of Kauai 
  • (...and showered and slept a little here and there...)
Had we not elected to spend so much time at the pool and beaches, we could have easily enjoyed so much more. But we wanted plenty of time to relax and treat ourselves to even the simplest of pleasures Hawaii offers: sunshine and sandy beaches. Our stay at Marriott's Kauai Beach Resort, as well as Kauai Beach Resort, were exactly what we needed to slip away from the day-to-day grind that hit us hard back home. And as always, we stuck to a manageable Hawaii travel budget to fit in the best sites Kauai has to offer. 
Waimea Canyon road trip from Lihue by The Brave Little Cheesehead at www.bravelittlecheesehead.com
We visited in February with a nonstop, roundtrip ticket via Alaska Airlines. Both Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines offer some really affordable flights during Hawaii's slower, cooler seasons. To us, temps in the mid-80s are just perfect for a mid-winter getaway. We booked two nonstop, roundtrip flights to Kauai for just under $350 a pop, and those prices came back around in late September and October, too. (We know from temptation.)
Spouting Horn by The Brave Little Cheesehead at www.bravelittlecheesehead.com
Our greatest expense was transportation on the island (and possibly the luau). Instead of taking local transit, we chose to rent an Enterprise car for two days, and we explored as much as possible while we had it. Our road trip to Waimea Canyon State Park was certainly a highlight of the trip. Along the way, we stopped to check out Poi'pu beach (a great snorkeling spot and a serene area to stay), Spouting Horn, a craft market, and Jo-Jo's Shave Ice. The drive was absolutely gorgeous, and well worth the travel. At the top of the canyon is Kalalau Lookout, which is not to be missed. The views are just stunning! Since we didn't make time to see the North side of the island (which is first on our list when we return), Kalalau Lookout gave us a peek at the lush, green region of the Na Pali Coast.
Kalalau Lookout by The Brave Little Cheesehead at www.bravelittlecheesehead.com
Though, Kauai's incredible landscape isn't the only thing we'll be returning for; the cuisine is unlike any other. And when in Hawaii... We ate our way across the island, sampling loco moco, shave ice, kahlua pig, and more.
Jo-Jo's Original Shave Ice in Waimea by The Brave Little Cheesehead at www.bravelittlecheesehead.com
Of course, we couldn't help but get lost beneath the beautiful, songful forest canopy while in Kauai. With the help of a hand-drawn map and a send-off in the right direction from Wailua Kayak and Canoe, the BF and I trekked by kayak and foot to Secret Falls. It was truly the best part of the trip! We paddled two miles down the Wailua River until we reached a spot that slightly resembled a circled area on our map, and anchored our boats. We crossed the river, climbed up a small hill, and hiked for about an hour until we heard the squawking of chickens (pretty typical in Kauai). Up ahead was Secret Falls, and it was completely secluded. We enjoyed a few minutes to ourselves, snapping photos and dipping our toes in the water, before another couple joined us. With a bit of courage, we jumped in the icy water and swam beneath the falls.
Secret Falls in Kauai by The Brave Little Cheesehead at www.bravelittlecheesehead.com
We're so glad we did it on our own instead of signing up with a group tour. Having the falls to ourselves for a few minutes let us take a moment to bask in the serenity of Kauai. And, taking the trip without a guide reduced the cost to just $40 for two kayak rentals. We were in no hurry to return back to the dock, and it was a good thing too since we got a little lost retracing our steps to the kayaks. Thankfully, photos on my camera got us back on track!

Attending a traditional luau was another one of the top things to do in Kauai, we were told. Though, making the final decision was no easy task. There were two top luau choices in Kauai offered just about everywhere: Smith's Garden Luau and Luau Kalamaku. Smith's was touted for it's delicious buffet, though downscored for it's OK performance. In contrast, everyone had great things to say about the Kalamaku show, but less-than-positive thoughts on the fare. Since food is arguably one of our most-effective motivators, we opted for Smith's Garden Luau and ultimately agreed with the so-so performance review. It was a fun experience for us as first-timers to Hawaii, but I think we'd pass on a luau next time around. Though, I encourage first-timers that are interested in attending a luau to consider driving a bit farther out of Lihue for better alternatives.
Smith's Garden Luau in Kauai by The Brave Little Cheesehead at www.bravelittlecheesehead.com
I assure you, five days is plenty of time to explore Kauai for your first trip to the island. Scope out flight deals through Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Air, and keep following hotel discount sites for reasonable resort prices. The deals are there if you're willing to search.

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  1. Very nice itinerary and great pics too! Curious to know what you think of our 7 day Kauai itinerary: https://lookintohawaii.com/hawaii/48051/kauai-itinerary-intro-information-kauai-hi

    1. Thanks, Matt! We love your itinerary. It's so great that you've organized it by day. It makes it so much easier to understand. I don't know about you, but sometimes I find trip planning to be a little overwhelming -- there's so much information at our finger tips these days! So we certainly appreciate when fellow travelers organize recommendations in the form of an itinerary. Cheers!

  2. Thank you so much for this post! My best friend and I JUST booked our tickets to Kauai where we'll be staying for five days, so this was an absolute perfect and relevant read! I'm glad I found your blog-- I love reading about other people's adventures that help inspire my own :-)