The most scenic island in the world is also one of the few places I actually enjoy driving: Kaua’i! While I’m not a fan of road trips, I am a fan of beauty, and driving is the best way to see as much as possible on Kaua’i, Hawai’i’s Garden Isle. Before you start your scenic drive, though, it’s good to know what you’re getting into. This post will help!
Pull Over for Photos
The wonderful thing about Hawai’i is that the locals know how lucky they are. They know their islands are beautiful, and they respect the islands the way we all should. One of the benefits of visiting a place that the locals don’t take for granted is that they’ve created several convenient pull-off areas for those of us who want to remember our journey with photos!
You’ll find scenic, roadside pull-offs on all the Hawai’ian islands, but I think Kaua’i’s take the cake. Some are just big enough to pull over and take photos, while others offer small parking lots with painted parking spot lines. Take advantage of all of these!
Pack Your Patience
The highest speed limit we saw on this island was just 50 mph! So plan to go slow, and pack your patience–most speed limits are much lower than that, and for long stretches. Also be aware that Kaua’i is prone to landslides, especially on the road to Hanalei and the North Shore. They do a remarkable job of making do, but major landslide and flood events will sometimes cut off portions of the island for months at a time!
More here: The Best Places to Eat on Kaua’i
There is No Road Through the Middle
The only way from one side of the island to the other is… Around! You can certainly take a few roads into the island’s interior to find some beautiful hikes, but unlike the Island of Hawai’i, there is no road connecting the island through the middle. Kaua’i’s mountains are too beautiful and powerful to plow through, so enjoy the journey and plan your days accordingly!
Keep reading: The Guide to Kaua’i’s Most Accessible Waterfalls
The Road Doesn’t Go All the Way Around
About that road that connects one side of the island to the other… It doesn’t connect from end to end! The Kalalau Valley and Makaleha Mountains prevent the road from coming together. On one end, you have Ha’ena State Park, where the famous Kalalau Trail begins. On the other end, you have Koke’e State Park, where you can actually see the Kalalau Valley from a beautiful lookout. It’ll take you 80 miles and just over two and a half hours to drive it, with lots to see and do in between!
Etiquette for One-lane Bridges
Kaua’i has multiple one-lane bridges on the way to and from Hanalei. Don’t be intimidated! Just go slow, and know what the local custom is. The general rule is to allow 5-7 cars go through from the other side, then you and 6-5 other cars can go through from your side. Make sure the bridge is clear before you start. It’s easiest to just follow a local when possible!
Need to know info: What to Know Before You Visit Kaua’i
Last but not least, park respectfully and responsibly! Some of the trailheads on the island are located in neighborhoods with no dedicated trail parking. Be sure not to park in front of anyone’s driveway or mailbox, and please don’t put tire tracks in someone’s yard! If there is no room to park, the trail is likely too crowded to enjoy anyway, so keep driving elsewhere, and come back another time of day.
Pro tips: The Best Hikes on Kaua’i, Hawaii
Want more? Get everything you need to plan your Hawai’ian trip of a lifetime on my dedicated Hawai’ian Islands Page!
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