Skip to Content

Plan an Amazing 7 Days in Kauai

What to do in Kauai? Plan an amazing 7-day itinerary. We share our Kauai itinerary and what to do in Kauai in 7 days.

Are you ready for a break? A real vacation? Yeah? We can relate. Sounds like 7 perfect days in Kauai will do the trick.

We were so ready when we decided to book our first 7 day trip to the Garden Island of Hawaii. Can you see everything on this beautiful island in a week? Not really. Will you be able to fit some highlights and experiences? Yes!

We share with you things to do in Kauai in 7 days. You will enjoy some of the most amazing highlights of this beautiful island.

Kauai hadn’t been on our radar until we were 2 months into 2019. Something called exhaustion started pushing us to look into our next vacation ASAP.  We were also desperate for some sunny warm days by the beach.

As soon as we got back from our trip to Spain, we spent the holidays helping our German Shepard recover from ACL surgery and that’s on top of crazy 80-hour work weeks (for hubby) and other life surprises. It was also terribly rainy and cold the past winter in Los Angeles.

A great friend of ours, born and raised in Kona, suggested we visit Kauai or Maui, two of her favorite islands. We don’t think you can go wrong with any of the Hawaiian Islands, but Kauai is the most rugged and not as developed as the other islands.

It’s known for its beaches, waterfalls, and incredible coastlines. There is something to do for everyone whether that is sunbathing, hiking, eating great food, or sitting by your resort pool.

featured blog image | 7 days in kauai

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from one of those links, we may get a commission at no extra cost to you. We appreciate your support.

Covid-19 June 27, 2021 Update:

Effective July 8, 2021, Hawaii will no longer require a negative COVID test from VACCINATED Domestic Travelers. Travelers will have to upload their CDC-issued vaccination cards to the state’s Safe Travel Program.

Stay up-to-date and read more info here.

Where to Stay in Kauai?

As we researched the best area to stay in Kauai, we immediately fell in love with the description of the North Shore – lush valleys, waterfalls, sandy beaches, tropical jungles… Doesn’t it sound like paradise? The area of Princeville made it to the top of our options.

In Princeville, there are a few resorts that are worth considering. For this trip, we were on a budget (when are we not? ?) and really wanted to spend a good portion of it on food and experiences. So after perusing Airbnb, we found a beautifully remodeled studio in one of the many vacation resorts in the area, The Cliffs.

And, if you think Kauai is out of your reach, think again. Airbnb may be a great option to consider to make that Hawaii trip come true on a budget. If you’re traveling as a family, you may even find a condo with a kitchen.

The studio came with everything we needed, a clean space, a private bathroom, a comfortable bed, parking, and a washer/dryer for less than half the price of a hotel room. There were additional amenities included with the resort stay: a pool, tennis courts, barbecues, and even a small library.

A video of the studio can be found under my Kauai highlights on Instagram.

Nose of red mustang as it drives down the road in Princeville
Driving to our Airbnb in Princeville.

The con of staying on the North Shore is that it’s far from everything.

If you’re planning to explore the island and leave the North Shore every day, perhaps Kapaa or Poipu may be best.

We had no problems driving when we needed to as we got to see so much of the island.

You can also split your time, stay half the time on the North Shore, and the other half in Poipu.

Is a Car Rental Necessary in Kauai?

The short answer is YES.

You need a car rental if you plan to explore the island. It’s the easiest and best way to get around. Unless you plan to sit the majority of the time by the resort pool.

A Kauai rooster
This rooster greeted us as we picked up our car rental. You will see roosters and chickens everywhere in Kauai, Hawaii.

We splurged and booked a convertible with Avis.

One of the biggest tips I can give you after arriving at the airport and you have your luggage is to walk to pick up your car rental.

You will save time by walking, then waiting, and fighting your way on a disorganized “line” to hop on a shuttle. Unless you’re physically unable to and are carrying way more luggage than you can handle alone, I suggest you walk.

Most major car rentals are right across the parking lot. Waiting to get on the shuttle will take more time than walking. We learned this lesson quickly.

Click on the satellite view of the map above, you will see the parking lot that separates the terminal from the car rental locations.

One lane bridge on the island of Kauaii
Hanalei Bridge

Kauai Driving Tip: You may come across a few one-lane bridges while exploring the island. Be courteous and follow the unwritten local rule of taking turns, several cars will go in one direction first and then it’s the other side’s turn.

Resources to help you plan your Kauai trip

These two Kauai travel guides helped us plan our first successful trip to Kauai. Worth packing them in your carry-on.

What to do in Kauai in 7 Days

Kathy walking the shoreline of a sandy beach in Kappa and palm trees in the distance
Beach in Kap’aa, Kauai

Day 1: Start Exploring

Book that early flight! Don’t waste the day. It’s totally worth waking up at the crack of dawn for paradise.

Once we picked up our convertible and hit the road, there was this instantaneous feeling of relaxation. It may be the ocean air and palm trees that help, but I felt at home right away.

The drive up to the North Shore was filled with many moments of oohs and ahhs. For a while, the view of the coast is on your right. As you drive up the Coconut Coconut coast, you’re wowed upon entering the lush farmlands.

The view of dramatic mountains in the distance will stay within your sight almost the entire way to Princeville. You just know that the next 7 days in Kauai are going to be full of spectacular views.

Lushes views of pastures and Hanalei Bay right before sunset
One of the lookout spots from Princeville overlooking Hanalei Bay on the North Shore of Kauai

You’re going to want to check in to your Airbnb or hotel, so you can leave your luggage and head back out.

We immediately got back in our car rental and started to drive around Princeville and down to Hanalei Bay to get the lay of the land. We also stopped at the supermarket to get drinks and snacks to put in our mini-fridge at the hotel.

Pick a spot in Hanalei Bay for dinner and maybe have your first Mai Tai. Don’t wait to eat too late as everything starts to close early.

kathy enjoying a mai tai at tahiti nui

Tahiti Nui

Quite possibly the best Mai Tai I’ve ever had.
We visited this spot a few times during our stay. Their food is good too, try their Huli Huli Chicken Pizza.

5-5134 Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei, HI 96714 (Google Map It) | Website

Don’t Miss: Best Beach Drinks That Never Fail

Day 2: Tour the Garden Island by Air

Our 2nd day in Kauai was a Saturday. I had read fantastic things about the Hanalei Farmers Market that takes place on Saturday mornings but when we woke up, it was pouring.

Expect rain at any time of day, just remember that it’s not all over the island, you can get in the car and just drive away from it. That’s what we did since our adventure for the day was in Lihue, we got in the car and drove down to Kapa’a for breakfast where the sun was starting to come out.

Fun fact: Did you know Kauai is one of the rainiest places on earth?

plate of fried eggs, sliced sausage and fried rice

Kountry Kitchen

One of the best breakfast spots in Kapa’a. We ate here a couple of times. Try their fried rice or loco moco. They also have a coffee shop next door for quick bites.

4-1485 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaʻa, HI 96746 (Google Map It) | Website

Plane Tour of Kauai

What to do in Kauai? Explore it from above!

If you’re looking to have an overall introduction to the island of Kauai, I suggest taking either a plane tour or a helicopter tour. We chose a plane tour with Wings Over Kauai.

You will see parts of the island that no one has been able to reach on foot or by car. You’ll instantly fall in love with Kauai as we did and want to experience as much as the island -the accessible parts) the rest of your vacation.

We were nervous about our flight. It was our first time on a Cessna and wasn’t sure if we would get sick. The vibration from the plane made me a little nauseous towards the end of the flight, but nothing that would keep me from doing this again. Without seeing it from above, you won’t fully understand why it’s nicknamed the Garden Island.

Fun fact: Did you know that 90% of Kauai can only be reached by helicopter?

Tip: Book in advance as this type of excursion gets booked quickly.

Where to Eat in Kauai: Food Guide

A Kauai vacation isn’t complete without food hopping to a few of the local places to eat. See where to eat in Kauai and what not to miss.

Day 3: Sail the Napali Coast or South Shore

What to do in Kauai? Go sailing!

After seeing the Nā Pali Coast from above the day before, you will want to sail to see it off the coast. We booked the BBQ & Sail with Captain Andy.

Now, the weather may or may not be in your favor and you may end up sailing the south shore or nothing at all. That’s what happened to us, so just keep that in mind when you book your sailing adventure. Believe me, we regret nothing.

When we arrived at check-in at Captain Andy’s, they immediately let us know that we would be sailing the South Shore and gave us the option to reschedule. Top-notch customer service from booking to the very end.

While I’m a planner and I do get frustrated when things don’t work out exactly how I planned, I have learned that sometimes it’s best to just go with the flow. That’s exactly what we did. We reminded each other that we are on vacation and no matter what, we were there to have a great time.

Our sailing adventure turned out to be fantastic. The South Shore is not the Nā Pali Coast, but nonetheless beautiful and worth the day out at sea. We got to see sea turtles, several pods of dolphins, a whale, and monk seals.

My eyes welled up with tears upon seeing dolphins for the first time in their natural habitat. Such a special experience. It was definitely one of the highlights of my trip and it will be yours too during your week in Kauai. I can’t wait to go back.

Captain Andy also has a sunset dinner cruise that I would love to fit into my itinerary next time as well.

Day 4: Tour the Beaches Near You

What to do in Kauai? Go beach hopping!

Since we spent our first couple of full days on adventures, we hadn’t gotten the chance to really tour the beaches on the North Shore. We finally had great weather on day 4 and decided to venture out.

If you’re staying in Princeville or just heading up to the North Shore on this day, this is a great time to visit these spots.

Tip: Head to the beach during the weekday. On the weekends, they may be more crowded as locals are off work and they are enjoying time with their family at their favorite beaches.

Prepare for your days at the beach with this beach packing list.

Hanalei Bay

Full view of Hanalei Pier over the ocean
Hanalei Pier – Can you spot me?

After visiting the town of Hanalei and stopping for some coffee, you can drive down one of the side streets to one of the parking lots by the beach. From there you can walk the 2 miles of beach and to the Hanalei Pier. Direct access from the parking lot near the bridge is currently closed, so your best bet is to walk the beach to get to it.

Don’t forget to look up at the mountains to the north as you’ll be mesmerized by the waterfalls in the distance. It’s a surreal sight.

You can choose to stay here for the day and grab lunch in the main town. After a few hours here, we decided to visit our next beach.

avocado toast topped with greens

Hanalei Bread Company

Great breakfast or lunch spot. Avocado toast for the win with ice coffee.

5-5161 Kuhio Hwy #4, Hanalei, HI 96714 (Google Map It) | Website

Tunnels Beach

We did not make it to Tunnels Beach due to road closures from the flooding of 2018. It reopened a month after our time there. It would be silly of me not to include a beach that supposedly offers the best snorkeling on the North Shore and the start of the Nā Pali Coast. I had it on my list and unfortunately could not make it there. Next time for me.

Anini Beach

Anini Beach turned out to be our favorite beach during the trip. The water was calmer than in Hanalei and easier to snorkel in. The farther down you go on the stretch of beach, the better you’ll find a nice quiet spot to relax for the day. This is the beach to sunbathe and snorkel.

Don’t forget to bring drinks, snacks or lunch. No lifeguards or easily accessible bathrooms.

Kilauea Lighthouse

Before or after Anini Beach, you can visit the Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge that’s nearby at Kīlauea Point. We didn’t make it until late and only was able to enjoy it from a distance.

Plan to go when it’s open Tuesday to Saturday between 10:00 am & 4:00 pm.

Lighthouse standing at the end of the mountain side and overlooking the ocean
Kilauea Lighthouse

See a Sunset or Sunrise

During your 7 days in Kauai, you must make time to see a sunset or sunrise.

We decided to watch the sunset from where our Airbnb was located on this night. Yup, this essentially was our backyard during our one week in Kauai.

Golden sunset with rays of light shining through the silhouettes of The Cliffs in Kauai
Kauai sunset from The Cliffs

Day 5: See the Grand Canyon of the Pacific

What to do in Kauai? Don’t miss the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.

When I first booked our trip to Kauai, I had several people tell me I had to see the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. The first time I ever heard of this, I quickly had to look it up. Waimea Canyon quickly made it onto our itinerary and I knew we would make a day of it.

Waimea Canyon

Luscious canyons in Waimea

As first-timers in Kauai with 7 days, we decided to drive the entire Waimea Canyon Drive that starts from Waimea town. During the ride, you come across many lookout points offering different valley views and waterfalls. You’ll see how much drier this side of the island is.

We didn’t go hiking, but I did bring my sneakers in the car just in case we decided to. There are multiple trails here and camping grounds that you can plan for if this is something that interests you.

Visit a Coffee Plantation

Rows of coffee coffee plants and greenhouse at Kauai Coffee Plantation


Raise your hand if you’re a coffee lover! ??‍

You are not going to want to miss visiting the Kauai Coffee Company Estate. They offer free coffee you can sample daily. You can take self-guided tours of their estate. Guided tours have to be reserved at an extra cost.

Day 6: Enjoy Another Local Kauai Adventure

What to do in Kauai?

Kayak the Wailua River, take surfing lessons, go on a food tour or book a luau. Whatever it is, do something fun. We chose to go mountain tubing.

iced coffee

Java Kai

The coffee and breakfast spot in Ka’paa to stop at before you set out for your adventure. Try their Acai berry bowl or the JK granola bowl.

4-1384 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaʻa, HI 96746 (Google Map It) | Website

Mountain Tubing

The #1 activity suggested by our Hawaiian friend was the mountain tubing adventure Kauai Backcountry Adventures. She insisted it is one of the best activities on the island. I booked it right away!

We had a blast mountain tubing and learned about the history of the old sugar plantation that is located on 17,000 acres of conserved land of Kauai not far from Wailua Falls. You will tube and swirl down old mining tunnels. Sometimes it will be dark and bumpy, so if you’re easily scared, perhaps it’s not for you.

Mountain tubing in Kauai • 7 Days in Kauai Itinerary •
And you get to wear this cool helmet with a light.

I thought my claustrophobia would kick in, but it never did. It was fun and also at times relaxing on a lazy river. Also, a great way to cool off on a hot and humid day.

When you book, keep in mind twenty percent of the profits from the bookings goes back to land conservation which means the world to the locals.

Don’t forget your water shoes! Book way in advance.

Wailua Falls

One of the easiest waterfalls to see as you can drive right up to it to take photos. Parking is limited, but most people don’t stay long after admiring it for a bit.

beautiful waterfall in Kauai
See the rainbow?

Best Things to do in Kauai, Hawaii

What are the best things to do in Kauai? Here are all the things we thought are must-see and must-do in Kauai. You can plan your vacation and choose which things to fit within your itinerary.

Day 7: Explore the South Shore

The Tree Tunnel

On your way to Poipu, look out for the Tree Tunnel on Hwy 520. You’ll drive through this magical canopy of lush Eucalyptus trees that is so picturesque, that you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of a movie set. They call it the gateway of the South Shore.

Old Koloa Town

Make a stop in the historic Old Koloa Town. This charming little town is full of history and shops. Walk around, take a little walking tour and read the plaques that tell the history of this once upon a time plantation village. While you’re there doing shopping, I ended up purchasing the cutest bracelet made out of Hawaiian Koa Wood.


In Poipu, you’ll find many vacation resorts and Poipu Beach Park. The day we made it there, the waves looked rough and the beaches seemed crowded. We wanted to look for a more secluded spot.

Earlier in the week, a local tour guide let us in on their favorite beach. I sort of remembered it, didn’t know how to spell it but I looked it up on Google anyway and found Maha’ulepu Beach. This is a beach tucked away from the crowds of Poipu state park. After entering it in Google maps, the directions took us down dirt roads to different paths that lead down to a few secluded beaches.

Sign to respect monk seals sunbathing on beach
Hawaiian Monk Seal living the best life on Maha-ulepu Beach

Maha-ulepu Beach was one of our best finds. There are no lifeguards or facilities. Just pure paradise. You may be sharing the beach with Hawaiian Monk Seals. This is their territory, you are a guest, so let them rest in peace and admire them from distance.

The water was beautiful and clear, however, on this day a little rough. That didn’t stop several snorkelers out there. I love our time at this beach and you will too. Don’t forget to bring some drinks and snacks.

A puka dog

Puka Dog

One of Anthony Bourdain’s favorite eats in Kauai. Get a Hawaiian-style hot dog and ask them for the most popular combination. Mine pictured above had a sweet and spicy mango relish with the works.

VGHR+QH Poipu, Koloa, HI (Google Map It) | Website

With this sadly being day 7 in Kauai, our last day, we made sure to hit Java Kai again on our way back to Princeville and one last Mai Tai at Tahiti Nui. So make sure to hit some of your favorites and pick up a few last-minute souvenirs like Hawaiian coffee and chocolate-covered macadamia nuts.

Top Things to do in Kauai in 7 Days

Wailua Falls in Kauai Hawaii
  1. Helicopter or Plane Tour of the Island – This is a great introduction to the beginning of the trip, especially as a first-timer in Kauai.
  2. Sail the Nā Pali Coast or take a Sunset Cruise.
  3. Explore Hanalei Bay and Tunnels Beach. If you’re in the area on Wednesday or Saturday morning, don’t forget to stop by the farmer’s market.
  4. Sunbathe and snorkel at Anini Beach.
  5. Take a road trip to Waimea Canyon.
  6. Visit Kauai Coffee Estate Company
  7. Go mountain tubing with Kauai Backcountry Adventures.
  8. Visit Wailua Falls.
  9. Drive through Tree Tunnel on your way to check out Old Koala Town.
  10. Explore Poipu and its beaches.
  11. Don’t miss seeing a sunrise or a sunset.
  12. Enjoy local eats.


  1. Book a flight to Kauai
  2. Book a flight or vacation rental
  3. Go and relax on the beach with a mai tai

Save to Pinterest

Share the love for Kauai.

What to Pack for Kauai

We packed many items from the Beach Packing List. I want to remind you of a few things that really made a difference during our trip. We clung to these items.

  • Sunscreen – Get the highest SPF you can find that is reef safe and apply it multiple times of the day. Even if the temperature is just warm, the sun is powerful and you will most likely burn.
  • Maui Vera – When you’re sunburnt, this stuff is so soothing.
  • A rash guard for the beach and snorkeling. I never believed in wearing one until this trip.
  • Bring a hat! Something to cover your head from the sun. I wore my cap all the time.

During the 7 days in Kauai, we absolutely fell in love with the island and you will too! We appreciated the eco-friendly environment, the local friendliest, and the natural wonders. It was full of beautiful surprises and I am looking forward to returning in the future to explore more of it.

Have you been to Kauai? Did I convince you to spend enjoy 7 days in Kauai? What would you love to do the most from the highlights I provided?

Also, I can’t wait to have another Mai Tai from Tahiti Nui!

Don’t forget to share the love on Pinterest:

pinterest marketing image | kauai hawaii itinerary | what to do in kauai in 7 days


Tuesday 12th of November 2019

Love LOVE your posts! Makes me feel like I'm there. PLEASE take me on your next trip. LOL. I'm SO proud of you!

Kathy | Tasty Itinerary

Saturday 16th of November 2019

Thanks Chica! You know you're always welcome to come along on any of our adventures. xoxo


Thursday 26th of September 2019

The fact that chickens and roosters are just running around the island is all I need to want to visit! I know that you said you got motion sickness from the Cessna (those views from the video are stunning) but did you find take-off and landing/turbulence scary at all?

I got more excited and got the feelings of wanderlust the more I read through your post! It sounds like you had a jam-packed but relaxing trip. Seeing those dolphins so clear in the water must have been amazing!

Wailua Falls looked stunning! I want to see the Manawaiopuna Falls (or as I call it the Jurassic Park Waterfall) on Kauai someday!

Kathy | Tasty Itinerary

Saturday 28th of September 2019

The chickens were fun to see. Normally I'm afraid of them because I was attacked way too many times when I livd in PR, but these chickens were used to people and pretty chill. Of cousre they were waiting for food to drop too lol

I didn't really think it felt any diffeent from take-off and landing a normal sized aircraft we are used to traveling in. I was afraid of having ear problems after, but that didn't happen either. There was a ton of noise though and I was thankful for the earphones. There was a bit of turbelance while we were up there but nothing scary as the pilot handled it very well.

Yes, it was a busy week as I'm not one to hang at a beach all day long doing nothing. I'm alwaysr ready for the next adventure even if its exploring a new beach. We did get to relax though. There is somehting about Hawaii that the moment you get off the plane a zen feeling just takes over. I love the vibe there.

We saw Manawaiopuna Falls from above. The pilot pointed out where they filmed Jurrassic park. There was one part that he said that you can only get in there by helicopter, which was really cool.

Hope you get to visit one day and also seek out any spooky stories I'm sure there are of the island.

Marshall Harthorne

Friday 6th of September 2019

Hi, thanks for this nice article. It helped me a lot.

Kathy | Tasty Itinerary

Tuesday 10th of September 2019

Happy to hear you found it helpful!

Lauren Elena

Thursday 5th of September 2019

Yes you are making me want to go to Kauai!!! I love your itinerary. So many great ideas here. I love that you gave us what you did but also other ideas of things to do in case something else piques our interest. That’s so helpful. First of all, did you make friends with that rooster? I would have hung out with him for a bit. I hope that’s okay with you when we do a girls trip? I get very distracted by ALL the animals!? I’d like to cruise around in a convertible too and really soak in those views. Very smart! Your Kountry Kitchen meal looked like perfection on a plate. Seriously! Although I might have lost my Kountry Kitchen meal on that plane ride. I’m impressed by you and the hubby’s boldness. I’d love to do that but I think I’d be too nervous. That video was so sweet! What an experience. So beautiful. And speaking of videos, those dolphins!? You guys were so close. That’s incredible. Were you that close to the sea turtles, seals, and whale too? I need to go on that boat ride for sure. Back to food- that avocado toast makes me curious! It looks so yummy but I’ve never seen it that way. Here it’s usually mashed up on the toast but now I want to try it this way. I love avocado and will take it in any form! I seriously love avocado toast. It might be featured in every single tour post of mine. I’ll be the avocado toast food blogger!?? Omg! I want to go mountain tubing!!! That looked like so much fun. I’d love that. How long did it last? Sorry if that was already in your post and I forgot.

Awesome post as usual! And amazing pictures as usual!❤️

Kathy | Tasty Itinerary

Tuesday 10th of September 2019

Have you been to Costa Rica? All the animals there would distract you too!

We saw all the other sea creatures from afar and I never had my camera ready at the moment. I was shocked at all the dolphin pods, but they were mostly sleeping. Did you know that Dolphins sleep with half their brain and then swim with the other half? Pretty cool.

I sliced up the avocado too and put it on toast. I think any way you give me avocado on toast i'd eat it too. They had other things on the menu but I felt like if I was eating at Hanalei Bread Co, I had to eat some bread, right? lol You can totally have an avocado toast Instagram account!

The mountain tubing was fun. It lasted about an hour or so.

You know, planning out my week I really wanted to get in as much as possible in a week. I tried to plan it the best I could and figured, if it works out, I need to share. Sometimes there is so much to do, it's hard to know what to do first and how to navigate. Glad you enjoyed the read and found it helpful!


Thursday 5th of September 2019

This was amazing!! Your photos are incredible and you did so much, I'm impressed! Kauai is next on my list whenever I'm able to make it back to Hawaii!

Kathy | Tasty Itinerary

Thursday 5th of September 2019

Sarah - Thank you so much! Yeah, even though I said we needed a vacation, you'd think I was ready to just sit by the pool or beach all day. That's just not my style. I can do that for a couple of hours and the I'm ready to go exploring. There is so much to see on the island. I can't wait to go back. Hope you get to go soon!

Skip to Instructions