There are so many things to do and see on Kauai it’s hardly reasonable to think it can all be accomplished in just one visit. We recommend spending the day driving around the island to discover the unique beauty each side has to offer. To help you do that, we’ve listed our 10 best attractions to see without leaving your car (well, almost):
1. The Tree Tunnel
The gateway to the beautiful south side of Kauai, the Tree Tunnel is the iconic stretch of Eucalyptus lined Maluhia Road beginning at Highway 50 and ending at Old Koloa Town. Originally a gift to the community from sugar plantation owner Walter McBryde (of the Allerton & McBryde National Tropical Gardens), the 500 trees were planted in 1911 and have withstood both major hurricanes and storms. Here drivers can catch glimpses of postcard-perfect mountain landscapes, grazing horses and if you’re lucky, a few wild piglets on the side of the road.
2. Discover Old Koloa Town
Once you’ve passed through the beautiful canopies of the Tree Tunnel you’ll find yourself at Old Koloa Town. Home to the first successful sugar mill on all of Hawaii, this quaint town is one of Kauai’s richest historical sights. Drive along the main street to see firsthand the charm of plantation style days past. Here you will find historical homes, storefronts and monuments as well as ancient mokeypod trees, sprawling parks and a real sense of plantation living.
3. Kukuiula Bay & Spouting Horn
The Kukuiula Bay & Harbor can be found just past Baby Beach and just before Spouting Horn. Here you can pull off to enjoy beautiful ocean and sunset views as well as incredible stargazing.
While guests can certainly see Spouting Horn’s powerful gust of sea spray from the car, the recommended viewing point is mere feet from the parking lot. As legend has it, an ancient lizard is trapped beneath the lava rock shelf, where she continues to shoot up water from below. Drive further up the winding road towards the Allerton Garden entrance to find more spectacular ocean views. If the season is right, keep your eyes peeled for a whale spout, tail or breach!
4. Catch A Glimpse of Honu & Boogie Boarders at Brennecke’s Beach
Poipu Beach Park’s main road, Hoone Rd, runs the length of the coastline offering beautiful views of its turquoise water and playful inhabitants. Pass Brennecke’s Beach Broiler and Nukumoi Surf Shop on the left and you will find yourself at the world-famous Brennecke’s Beach. Round the bend and boogie boarders catching crystal clear waves will come into view, as well as snorkelers and dazzling sea life like Honu (Green sea turtles) who stick their heads out of the water as if to say hello. If you can find a spot in the shade, grab a shave ice and enjoy the view from the road.
5. Menehune Fish Pond
While driving towards Lihue from Poipu travelers can stop by the Alekoko Scenic Overlook located directly above the Menehune Fish Pond on Hulemalu Road. About half a mile from the entrance to the Nawiliwili small boat harbor, this stunning lookout features panoramic views of the historic pond, river and Haupu Ridge and Kipu Kai.
Further back behind the pond are the winding Kipu backroads, where passersby can get up close views of local cows, horses and wild boar. The Kipu Kai mountain ranges and beach are most famously known for their appearance in Jurassic Park.
6. Waimea Canyon Lookout
This lookout can be found while driving towards the western side of Kauai. The view itself is as commanding as it is surreal. Appropriately nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” Waimea Canyon offers colorful views of mountains, rivers and local wildlife.
7. Time Travel in Old Hanapepe Town
Take a step back in time as you drive down this spaghetti western looking main street. Hanapepe, deemed “Hawaii’s biggest little town” is exactly that. A collection of historical buildings (such as Talk Story, the western-most book store in the United States), shops and plantation style homes, there is no place better to get a taste of Hawaii’s timeless spirit from long ago. Drive through on Friday evenings from 6-9pm to enjoy Hanapepe Art Night complete with live music, local and an array of art galleries.
8. Koke’e Waterfalls
If you’re not looking to helicopter or hike your way through Koke’e, driving is the next best thing. With various vantage points overlooking views from upwards of four thousand feet, there are many pit stops worth checking out. One of the first must-see views is that of the cascading red dirt waterfall. This waterfall can be found on the left hand side of the road (when driving up the mountain). Over time fresh mountain water has created grooves in the vibrant red dirt allowing for a small waterfall to twist and turn down the side of the hill.
The second worthwhile view is that of Waipoo Falls. Waipoo is easily seen across the canyon from any rest stop, cascading over 800 ft down. Keep an eye out for small mountain goats as they are known for scaling the nearby mountain sides!
9. Drive North
The scenic drive is an all time favorite among Kauai visitors. Begin on our warm and sunny shores and head North to “The End of The Road”. Not only does this drive include gorgeous coastal views along the eastern side of Kauai but takes travelers through charming beach towns, past idyllic mountain ranges and along sprawling fields of greenery. If a breath of fresh, tropical air is what you need, a drive north is exactly what the doctor ordered.
10. Taro Fields & Hanalei Bay
Located in Princeville are two of the most phenomenal lookout points on all of Kauai. Driving past the Princeville Shopping Center towards Hanalei, travelers will find the first vantage point to the left. This is the beautiful Hanalei Taro Fields lookout featuring majestic mountain views and green fields as far as the eye can see. Just past this rest stop is the Hanalei Bay overlook. This small turn off showcases the stunning beauty of the lush north shore, with views of the mountains, ocean and world-famous Hanalei Bay. Be sure to stop for a photo op!