Answers from Our Experts (1)
The best way to see Kauai in one day is to start early and plan to drive as much of the shoreline as you can of this 562-square-mile island. Grab a cup of freshly brewed coffee and a muffin at one of four Java Kai coffee shops on the island. Then drive to Nawiliwili Harbor (on Nawiliwili Road), where you will have already booked a stand-up paddleboard excursion down the calm Huleia River with Outfitters Kauai. This guided tour goes two miles down this river, through the Huleia National Wildlife Refuge, where you can see the Menehune Fishpond and the majestic Haupu Mountains. Along the way, your guide will tell you stories about the area and, if you’re lucky, a few Hawaiian legends. The paddleboard trip ends with a short hike through a lush rainforest, which leads to a mountain stream and the popular Blue Pool. You can ride a zip line into this refreshing pool of very cold water before sitting down to a provided lunch.
Next, head north and stop at the historic Kilauea Lighthouse, a 52-foot lighthouse that began guiding the way for mariners in 1913. Grab a quick snack at Kilauea Bakery & Pau Hana Pizza; options include the coconut cream-filled éclairs, cinnamon rolls, freshly made breads and soups, a smoothie or iced coffee drink, or get one of its popular specialty pizzas, all made to order. Even the simple chocolate chip cookies here are stellar.
Visit the stunning Hanalei Bay and walk its pier, which was built in 1892 and made famous by the classic film South Pacific. This curved-shaped bay is a great place to relax, swim and surf (waves permitting) any time of the year. As you stroll along the beach you’ll be walking in the footsteps of George Clooney, who filmed a good portion of the Oscar-winning film The Descendants here. Stop in for a drink at the charmingly kitschy Tahiti Nui (just as Clooney did in the film); this Hanalei tiki hut is a great place to mingle with locals and order up a mai tai.
Keep driving to the end of Highway 560 to Ke’e Beach, a great spot for snorkeling and sunbathing. From here you can see the awesome Na Pali coast and the start of the treacherous Kalalau Trail. Movie buffs may recognize the area — a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was filmed here.
Drive back to Poipu on the island’s south side in time for your dinner reservations at Roy’s Poipu Bar & Grill. The open-air restaurant is in the Poipu Shopping Village and serves Pacific Rim fusion cuisine at its finest.