11 Important Things to Know Before You Visit Kaua’i

Preparation is key, even when preparing to visit an actual paradise! My husband and I have visited all of the Hawaiian islands we can visit, and my personal favorite is Kaua’i. But, there are a few helpful things to know before you go. Here are my top tips for your first trip to Hawaii’s gorgeous Garden Isle.


There have been some significant landslides over the last few years, and they can be extremely disruptive. As in, Hanalei and Ha’ena (where the sought-after Kalalau Trail is located) are sometimes literally cut off from the rest of the island! Don’t worry about this happening during your trip, just know that you may have to pack some patience for an interesting traffic pattern if land happens to have slid over the only road going that direction! Our hotel, Hanalei Colony Resort, was thankfully very proactive about telling visitors about the disruption.

This particular landslide between Princeville and Hanalei was especially disruptive!
More here: What to Know Before You Visit the Hawaiian Islands

You Will Be Driving on One-lane Bridges in Hanalei

Hanalei is one of the most beautiful places in the entire world. But its seven, one-lane bridges are no joke! Pay attention to the signs. Pay attention to what the person in front of you is doing. The local courtesy is to let 5-7 cars go through on the other side, then 5-7 cars from your side can go. Mostly, just be friendly and calm, and if someone waves you on, take them up on it!

These two consecutive one-lane bridges are a fun adventure!
Read on: Staying at Hanalei Colony Resort

Don’t Let the Rain Stop You

Unless you’re staying on the sunshiny South Shore, you will likely get rained on during your trip! Don’t let that keep you from doing what you came to do, though. If you’re hiking, be smart and watch for flash floods. If you’re at the beach, get in the water anyway—you’re already wet! If you’re driving, keep driving. The rain will most likely pass in a few minutes, so don’t go cancelling plans because it looks like rain! 

We got a little rained on during our Kalalau Trail hike, but it passed, and we had a beautiful time!
Also helpful: How to Make the Most of Rainy Day Travels

Limited Cell Service

Yes, there are still places in the world where you cannot make a call or send a text! Don’t get frustrated. Look around you and soak in the actual peace you’ll find there. On Kaua’i, these places include Ha’ena State Park, Wailua Falls, Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Parks, and others!

With views like this, you won’t want to be looking at your phone anyway!
Read on: Kaua’i’s Most Accessible Waterfalls

The Glass Sand Beach

Please don’t take the glass. The same goes for shells, rocks, or anything else you happen to find on any beaches or trails. The Glass Sand Beach is pretty cool, but the thing that makes it so cool (the glass) is disappearing. Take only pictures, leave only footprints, please!

This beach used to be full of large, smooth pieces of colorful glass like the green one above!

You Will Need a Car

There is an island bus service, and there is a website that will help you find transportation options. But if you want to make the most of your time and you don’t want to stay at your hotel the whole trip, you will need a car on Kaua’i. I strongly suggest driving as far around the island as you can because Kauai is so different from one side to the other. It will be worth your while!

Views like this are only available if you are willing to drive to them.
More here: The Ultimate List of Activities to Book Before Your Hawaii Trip

But You Cannot Drive All the Way Around

Why? Two reasons: Waimea Canyon and the Makaleha Mountains, which make up the dramatic Na’Pali Coast. I actually love this about Kaua’i. It’s so wild, so overpowering, and so rugged that it will not be tamed by man-made means. The main road around Kaua’i, State Road (SR) 50, goes from Ha’ena State Park on the North Shore to Polihale State Park on the West Coast of the island. And when I say “road,” I don’t mean there’s a yellow line down the middle all the way around. Kaua’i’s not like anywhere you’ve ever been before, for one reason or another.

The only main road on the island basically ends at Ha’ena State Park and the NaPali Coast!
Also good: Where to Eat in Waimea, Kaua’i

Drive Slow

As I menitoned, there is basically one road, with one lane going each direction except in a very few stretches through some of the towns on the island. The speed limit is slow, and that’s on purpose! Don’t be the tourist who causes accidents. The highest speed limit we saw was 50 mph, but it didn’t last long! Mostly you’ll want to plan to stay in the 30 mph range. Take your time, and pull over once in a while to take in the beauty and let the locals pass you.

With scenery like this (Tunnels Beach), you’ll want to stop and get out to admire it all anyway!
Coming soon: Tips for Driving in Hawaii

You Can Visit Waimea Canyon State Park and Koke’e State Park with the Same Pass

All the way around on the west side of the island, you’ll break off of SR 50 to take SR 550, Waimea Canyon Drive. This will take you up into the mountains and give you the most gorgeous views of Waimea Canyon, often called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Keep following that same road through Waimea Canyon State Park, and you’ll see the name change to Koke’e Road as you enter Koke’e State Park.

There are dozens of hikes between both State Parks, and at many of the popular lookout points and parking areas, you’ll see pay stations. You don’t have to pay at each site, rather, you’ll pay at the first one you come to and put the receipt on your dashboard for the rest of the day. It’s all on the honor system there, or at least it was when we visited during COVID, but it’s important to be honest. Much of the park has been so eroded by the sheer volume of tourists over the years that they’ve had to make changes to access within the park. The money for the parking passes doesn’t go into someone’s pocket, it goes toward preservation of the park so people can still enjoy it for generations to come.

Enjoy both state parks for the price of one!
Read on: Your Ultimate Guide to Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Parks

You Need Reservations to Hike the Kalalau Trail

This is one of the most memorable, most iconic things you can do in all the Hawaiian islands. The world-famous Kalalau Trail, inside Ha’ena State Park, is 11 rugged miles one-way, but most people do the first 2-4 miles (4-8 miles round-trip). Whether you’re hiking the entire trail and staying overnight (for which you’ll need a permit), enjoying the first portion of the trail, or simply want to snorkel and enjoy Ke’e Beach in the State Park, you will need a reservation. I did an entire post about how to get a reservation, so be sure to check it out!

It’s worth the effort!
Get all the info: Hiking Hawaii: Kaua’i

It’s the Most Beautiful Place on Earth

I thought this on our first visit in 2016, and I still believe it after our second trip. I’ve visited countless locations in 50 countries (and counting!) around the world, but when people ask me the most beautiful place I’ve been, or ask me for my most favorite destination, I always put Kaua’i at the top of that list. Its beauty is boundless, and whether you like the mountains, the beach, the desert, the rainforest, or the most adorable local towns, Kaua’i has soemthing for you.

Kauai will certainly capture your heart!
Essential info: How to Sign Up for Hawaii’s Safe Travels Program

Where’s your favorite place in the world? Comment below!

Want more? Check out all my Kaua’i posts on my dedicated Hawaiian Islands Page!

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Published by quickwhittravel

Welcome to the blog! We do things a little differently around here: no ads, no negativity, and no checked luggage, y'all. My name is Whitney, and Quick Whit Travel Blog is your one-stop shop for all the best travel tips, packing advice, and destination information. Click around or message me on social media @quickwhittravel for more!

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