Kauai is the fourth-largest of the Hawaiian Islands and is known as the “Garden Isle” for its lush, tropical landscape. With its towering cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and secluded beaches, Kauai is a popular destination for travelers looking for a relaxing and adventurous vacation.
One week is the perfect amount of time to experience the best of Kauai. I can’t promise that it won’t leave you wanting to return though! This 7 day Kauai itinerary will take you to some of the island’s most iconic landmarks, including Waimea Canyon, the Napali Coast, and Hanalei Bay. You’ll have plenty of time to relax on the beach, go hiking, and explore the island’s many hidden gems.
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How to get Around Kauai
Kauai is a destination where you really can’t get around not having a rental car. Since you are on an island, there are only so many rental cars available, after you secure your dates to travel to Kauai do not wait to book a rental car as well!
Seeing the entire island of Kauai may sound like a lot, but depending on traffic patterns typically it only takes a few hours to drive the whole island. The island of Kauai is about 25 miles long by 33 miles wide at the longest and widest points. Kauai has public transportation such as buses and taxis. But, it significantly limits the areas you can go and service can be infrequent. To maximize your adventures on the island of Kauai renting a car is your best bet. Having a car will also allow you the freedom to pack a cooler for the day, throw your beach bag in the trunk or go hiking and have a change of clothes.
Check out the rental car tool I included below to book your rental car for your 7 days in Kauai.
Best Areas to Stay in Kauai
Kauai is made up of several different regions. Napali, North, East, Lihue, South, and West. Listing the cities clockwise from North to West that you’ll want to consider staying in are Hanalei, Kawaihau, Lihue, Poipu, Koloa, and Waimea.
Napali is a stunning area of Kauai known as the Napali coast. Technically you can’t stay here. The only way you can see it is from above, the ocean, or if you take a long hike. More about that in the one week in Kauai itinerary!
The northern part of the island is a bit more remote. There are a lot more vacation rentals by owner or Airbnb type of properties in this area and it’s much quieter. The two main towns in this area are Hanalei and Princeville. Hanalei is a great town to visit on a day trip if you don’t stay here. We did just that while we visited Kauai for a week!
East Kauai is a very popular place to stay. This part of the island is otherwise referred to by many as the “coconut coast”. If you’re looking for a large luxury resort there is an abundance of them on this part of the island. Also, this puts you in a central location to easily get to many of the other parts of the island of Kauai.
Lihue is the biggest city or town on the island of Kauai. The airport (LIH) and many grocery stores, Costco, and anything you may need is located here. If you’re staying in a vacation rental property on another part of the island, you likely will shop in Lihue for your essentials before trekking to your accommodations.
South Kauai is a great option. You’re close to Lihue when you get in and it’s not too far to trek to Costco and the grocery stores. There is also a wide range of places to stay from vacation rental homes to resorts. In south Kauai, there are also many restaurants nearby. This area is either Poipu or Koloa.
Waimea area is a quieter area in terms of staying on the island of Kauai. You’ll be near the black sand beach and the entrance to Waimea and Kokee State Parks. You’re more likely to find home rentals in this area versus resorts or large hotels. This western area of the island is separated by the Napali Coast to the north and can have more of a desert-like environment.
How to spend one week in Kauai
Keep in mind that this itinerary can be customized to fit your interests and budget. For example, if you are interested in hiking, you could spend more time on the Napali Coast. If you are interested in history, you could visit the Koloa Plantation. And if you are interested in shopping, you could spend more time in Kapa’a. Let this itinerary guide you to decide what you want to do during your time in Kauai.
No matter how you choose to spend your time, you are sure to have a memorable vacation on Kauai. The island is a beautiful and diverse place with something to offer everyone. I could have stayed way longer than 7 days or one week in Kauai!
Let’s dive into the details of the itinerary to inspire your Kauai vacation.
Day one Kauai itinerary:
Before we get into the meat of things to do on the island of Kauai, there are indeed chickens everywhere! I thought it was an exaggeration until I visited and saw it for myself.
After arriving the evening prior and navigating to your accommodations the itinerary starts as your first full day on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
Spend the day getting acclimated and organized by first having breakfast out. Then go grocery shopping to set yourself up for 1 week in Kauai. (Plan in advance what number of meals you want to have out or pack a cooler for the day so you can shop accordingly and not over buy things you might not use!) We visited both Costco and a grocery store in Lihue which was a short drive from our vacation home in the Poipu/Koloa area.
Once you return from the store and put your groceries away, spend the afternoon on a nearby beach. (We were able to walk to Shipwreck Beach from our accommodation. You can book the same property on Booking.com!) This property was perfect for my husband, my parents, and me with separate bathrooms, bedrooms, an abundance of living space, and a full kitchen. Including an outdoor grill that we used!
Also right in front of Shipwreck Beach is the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa if you would rather stay at a luxurious hotel in the same area.
Day two Kauai itinerary:
Na Pali Coast Boat Tour
Day two, experience one of the most beautiful areas of Kauai, the Na Pali Coast. The Na Pali Coast will blow you away with its jaw-dropping natural beauty. There are only a few ways you can witness its glory: by water, air, or by foot. On our second day in Kauai, we took a morning boat tour. (Na Pali Experience email) The boat tour we took included going in the sea caves along the coast (pending the current wave conditions.)
**It’s best to do an earlier in the day boat tour as the waves are very unpredictable but are less likely to be as choppy earlier in the morning. Especially during the shoulder season which can start in October during winter waves average about 18 feet in height!
There are so many Kauai excursion packages available.
Taste Local Coffee
Taste delicious local coffee at the Kauai Coffee Company. You can purchase coffee here and also have the opportunity for samples. Many of their seasonal coffees are amazing! They have delicious flavors such as Toasty Banana Nut Cream, Coconut Caramel Crunch, and Chocolate Macadamia Nut. Some of these you can only get from the location in Kauai or order directly from them on their website. We also sampled (and of course purchased) a seasonal pumpkin coffee.
If you’re a coffee lover, a stop during business hours (9 AM-5 PM) is definitely worth it! As noted in my Women’s Carry-On Packing Essentials List, be sure to pack a tote bag! I had my whole tote literally full of Kauai coffee on my way back home to Texas.
Have a snack
After delicious coffee, have a slice (or two) of unique Hawaiian pies at The Right Slice. This local pie shop offers uniquely Hawaiian flavors and some more well known pies. We tried the lemon, blueberry pina colada, and macadamia nut pies.
Grab a local brew
Stop by Kauai Island Brewing Company for some local brews. Offering both food and drinks, you can also have a snack (but be sure to save room for the next stop!) They have indoor and outdoor seating which is great when the weather is nice.
Hawaiian Ice Cream Flavors
The theme of this afternoon has definitely been tasty snacks! Lappert’s Hawaii has many different locations throughout Hawaii. But, one thing that’s a constant at all of these delicious ice cream shops is the uniquely Hawaiian flavors offered. (I tried the ooey gooey pineapple cake and Kauai pie ice cream flavors.) Both were very decadent, unique, and tasty!
Day three Kauai itinerary:
On day three, we ventured to the East Coast of Kauai to explore. We only had a partial day so our plans were pretty ambitious but we got in a hike and explored some beaches before making our way back to get ready for a luau in the evening.
Sleeping Giant Trail Hike
My husband and I chose to do this hike and to be honest it was pretty but I wish we would have spent our time biking along the ocean in this area of Kauai instead. Plus it was just really humid that day and not the most ideal hiking weather.
Kauai Scenic Bike Path
Along the east side of Kauai there is a 7 mile biking path that goes right along the ocean. If we had more time than a week on Kauai, I would have liked to spend a day renting bikes and leisurely riding them along the coast. I wish we would have done this instead of the Sleeping Giant hike, to be honest!
Much of my inspiration in planning my week in Kauai came from a friend and former colleague who has vacationed in Kauai since her childhood. She was the one who told me to make this quick stop to check out what she referred to as the “rainbow trees”.
They are located just past the parking lot and when we arrived here there were many locals just hanging out. They seemed confused as to what we were doing or looking for because it wasn’t a typical “tourist destination” widely known on Kauai.
The actual name of these trees is Rainbow Eucalyptus trees. They tend to be more vibrant during warm spring and summer months and won’t be as colorful during winter as they’re not cold-hardy trees.
Depending on when you visit Kauai, these vibrant trees are worth seeing! (They weren’t overly vibrant in the end of September/early October) but still were really unique and worth a quick visit to hop out of the car.
A few great beaches on this side of Kauai include Lydgate Beach and Kalapaki Beach.
In between the Hilton Garden Inn Kauai Wailua Bay and Outrigger Kauai sits Lydgate Beach. This is a great beach for snorkeling as there are many fish in some rocky areas underwater. It’s easy to navigate to off of the main road and there is ample parking to enjoy a morning, afternoon, or full day at the beach.
Kalapaki Beach is a cove area making the waters more calm and enjoyable for swimming. It is near the Royal Sonesta Resort, so staying here would make access to this beautiful beach very easy. The location is very close to the airport and all of the amenities and shopping in the town of Lihue.
Experience a Hawaiian Luau
Luau Klalmaku is located in Lihue at the Kilohana Plantation. There are different types of tickets you can purchase but you can expect to spend time exploring the historic plantation, enjoying drinks from the open bar, having a Hawaiian style barbecue dinner, and enjoying a show highlighting the origin of Hawaii and Polynesian culture.
Day four Kauai itinerary:
Helicopter Tour over Kauai
I can’t rave enough about taking a helicopter flight out over the stunning island of Kauai (known as the Garden Island) where you can have a bird eye view of the lush areas peppered with waterfalls and the stunning dramatic rugged coastline of the Na Pali Coast that is only accessible by foot. Especially if you aren’t much of a hiker, this is an experience you won’t want to miss!
Depending on what company you go through there are different options of longer flight times, a fully private helicopter just with your party, doors off, and even some land in different locations on the island to explore hard to get to waterfalls and natural wonders in Kauai.
Explore the North Shore
After a morning helicopter ride, take a Kauai road trip to venture to the North Shore of the island and explore Hanalei & Hanalei Bay area. Spend the rest of the day by walking around the town of Hanalei, grabbing a bite to eat, and doing some shopping. The rest of the afternoon take in some more sights in the area including:
- Kilauea Lighthouse
- Hanalei Beach/Black Pot Beach
- Wailua Falls
Day five Kauai itinerary:
Hāʻena State Park
You need to venture to this stunning State Park on Kauai while visiting for a week! You can plan to relax or explore the many hiking trails so it is a destination for everyone!
One thing to know before you go, is that parking is extremely limited!! You will need to plan ahead as you need a reservation to visit Kēʻē Beach, as well as, the trailhead for the Kalalau Trail and Hanakāpīʻai beach and waterfalls due to the daily visitor limits. You will need to plan for an advanced reservation to enter this stunning state park.
Read more details about one day in Haena State Park including the most important things to bring!
Day six Kauai itinerary:
This was our last full day on the island of Kauai, and what better way to start it by doing a rum tasting at the first distillery on the island?! Rise and shine it’s party time! But honestly, the size of the pours was only enough to get a flavor for the taste of the rum.
Every day has different flavors you can try for your tasting so be sure to look at that detail. My favorites were the coffee and chocolate rum! Also an insider tip, the rum tasting bartender said that the best Mai Tai’s on the island are at Rob’s Good Time Grill in Lihue.
Tastings are from 10 AM to 4 PM daily and you can book your rum tasting online in advance.
South Shore Beach Day
The rest of the day we spent soaking in some sun on South Shore Beaches. We spent most of the day at Poipu Beach which has ample parking, and beach rentals across the road.
If you didn’t pack a cooler full of snacks and beverages you can just pop over to Puka Dog. This casual spot is located between Poipu and Brennecke Beaches. You have to try this Hawaiian twist on a hot dog with condiments such as mango relish, passion fruit mustard, and coconut relish. It’s a yummy bite after spending some time at the beach.
Dinner in Koloa
Our last full day in Kauai after a full week of exploration on the beautiful island we had an amazing dinner at Keoki’s Paradise. Known for its Hawaiian cuisine, and the dessert was definitely the star of the show!
We enjoyed a Mai Tai, a Paradise martini & pina coladas. As well as delicious appetizers of coconut shrimp and an ahi tuna stack. Don’t skip the complimentary carrot and pineapple with cinnamon butter muffins! I really couldn’t decide between the seafood risotto or the macadamia-crusted mahi mahi for my main. But, the thing that truly is etched in my brain is the amazing (and ginormous!) hula pie. Seriously DO NOT skip getting hula pie!
Day seven Kauai itinerary:
After our huge feast the night before, we grabbed some detox in a cup at Kauai Juice Co. With their all-natural locally sourced ingredients packed full of nutrients it’s the perfect place to go if you’re feeling tired from traveling (or about to hop on a flight in a few hours to travel back home.)
Waimea Canyon State Park
Waimea Canyon State Park overlooks the beautiful and colorful gorge of Waimea Canyon. There are many viewpoints and stop-offs throughout the park.
My recommendation would be to go to the farthest and fifth viewpoint first. (The earlier in the day the better.) It can become cloudy and really you’re unable to see anything so going as early as you can will eliminate this possibility. In all honesty, this happened to us because we took our time and weren’t there until mid-day to early afternoon.
Have a Local Lunch
Have a local lunch after exploring the state park at the Shrimp Station. It’s just a stop along the road with very casual outdoor seating. But the food was so amazing! They have so much to choose from we tried a little bit of everything including shrimp tacos, a shrimp burger, beer battered, and coconut shrimp.
This was a recommendation by the tour operators on the Napali Coast boat tour we had taken earlier in the week.
Drink some Local Brews
Of course, we had to fit in one last brewery stop. If we hadn’t already eaten lunch they also have food available in the taproom at Kauai Beer Company as well. As we sat trying new brews, reminiscing over our week long stay on such a beautiful island and what our favorite parts of the trip were I couldn’t help but think I’d love to return to Kauai in the future. Check out my Kauai Craft Beer Guide to plan all the places you can grab a delicious craft brew!
FAQs: One week in Kauai
Is one week in Kauai too long?
No, one week is barely enough time to see a lot and also have a chance to relax. After spending 7 days in Kauai I easily could have gone longer. I would recommend 10-12 days on Kauai alone since there is so much to do all over the beautiful island.
What is the best month to go to Kauai?
The best times to go are during shoulder seasons. These are September through December and April through June. Especially during the winter (late October through December) going on the water in the Na Pali coast area usually isn’t possible. September or early October are better months for that. The peak busy season is July and August so avoid these months.
Is 5 days in Kauai enough?
With some flexibility, you can make this a Kauai itinerary 5 days. You may need more time to see and do everything. But, if that’s the time you have or what you can afford I always encourage going for however long is feasible for you versus not going at all. Kauai is absolutely worth whatever time you can spend there.
How many days do you need in Kauai?
I recommend a minimum of 7 days in Kauai. This will allow you to have busy days and fit in some relaxing beach afternoons and or mornings as well. You could easily go for 10 days or more especially if you want to do some more lengthy hikes or longer excursions that will take a considerable amount of time.
Is 3 days enough in Kauai?
Three days will just give you a taste of the island of Kauai. Depending on where you’re flying from the distance and the cost I’d stay a minimum of 5 days to justify getting there. It’s really not a “long weekend” type of destination when flights take 5-6 hours from West Coast USA and 8-10 hours from Central USA locations.
What to pack for a week in Kauai?
For a week in Kauai be sure to pack swimsuits, hiking boots, and sandals. Choose tanks, tee’s, and shorts that are versatile and quick dry from beach to hiking. Most restaurants are pretty casual but a few nicer outfits such as a Hawaiian shirt and shorts or a maxi dress will be perfect.
Which side of Kauai is best?
The western side of Kauai is more lowkey, while the south and southeast have more restaurants, places to stay, and shopping. The northern side of Kauai in Princeville will be the most remote. Also, keep in mind the driving distance to the airport in Lihue and if traffic gets congested on the island.
It’s very popular for those who live on the mainland of the USA to visit a few islands when flying to Hawaii. On this specific trip, we flew to Honolulu (Oahu) and spent 4 days there before our week on Kauai. If you’re planning on doing something similar I have information on the island of Oahu as well!
Conclusion: One week in Kauai
I hope this helped to inspire your one week in Kauai itinerary! Highlighting some of the best activities, beaches, places to stay, and of course places to eat and drink you can visit Kauai for a week or even more than 7 days and fit all that I’ve included into this itinerary (and more!) We were on Kauai for a full 6 days and a few partial days. (Hence the 7 day itinerary!) But, you can even stretch things out and make it a Kauai 10 day itinerary or spend 2 weeks in Kauai.
Things that I would add for a return trip itinerary for Kauai: do more hiking on the Na Pali Coast, hike the Maha’ulepu heritage trail, relax at Tunnels Beach (Makua Beach) to relax and snorkel, kayak the Wailua River, see more waterfalls, as well as stay on a different part of the island.
Hawaii is such a great destination because you can craft it to be full of excitement or take the Aloha spirit to heart and slow down, relax, and feel your stress melt away.