Off the Beaten Path: Planning a Road Trip in Kauai, Hawaii

Hello from the UK! We’ve just returned from an epic, year-long RV trip around the USA and Canada, which saw us cover over 25,000 miles from coast-to-coast. The whole trip made us appreciate just how huge the region is and while we ticked many national parks, cities and coastlines off our bucket-list, there was plenty more we didn’t get to see, including Hawaii. We’d love to take a future road trip to the Aloha State and put some of our tourist pounds towards helping the region recover from the wildfires that sadly swept Maui this year.

With that in mind, we’ve drawn on our RV’ing experiences and previous road trips around California and New England, to put together some ideas for a road trip to Hawaii’s Garden Isle, Kauai — somewhere we’ve been desperate to explore for ages.

Walking path on the coast of Kauai, Hawaii

Renting a car

First things first: a road trip is impossible without renting a car in Kauai. Although Kauai is smaller than, say Hawaii Island or Maui, renting a vehicle affords you the time and freedom to explore all the nooks and crannies of the island. Plus, the public transportation system on Kauai unfortunately doesn’t cater to tourists. We recommend that you pick a rental company with an office at Kauai Airport for time efficiency and accessibility.

Aerial view of an ocean road in Hawaii

As for driving tips, stick to the speed limits of 25 mph to a maximum of 50 mph. Also, keep an eye out for contraflow traffic cones when heading south from the north shore, as they turn one northbound lane into a southbound lane. It can be confusing for tourists, so it’s best to download a navigation app while you’re there.

Planning your route

A road trip that takes you from the north to the south of Kauai generally spans 119 miles, which could take at least 4 hours of driving. However, this may vary based on traffic conditions. To make the most out of your trip, preparing a concise itinerary is crucial. Here are some attractions you shouldn’t miss.

Specific sights to see in Kauai

2-Mile Beach

Also known as Hanalei Beach, Kauai’s crown jewel has been featured in Hollywood films such as The Descendants (2011). Located on the North Shore, this 2-mile crescent-shaped shoreline surrounded by lush mountains is ideal for surfing, paddleboarding and picnicking.

Paddleboarding at Hanalei Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon State Park, in the southwest of Kauai, is one of the best things to see on the island. The drive up to the canyon consists of never-ending scenic views, but we also suggest hiking along the Waimea Canyon Trail to fully appreciate the lush landscape. Here’s a tip for you: plan an early morning hike on a clear day to avoid crowds and clouds that often obscure the views!

Waimea Canyon State Park, HawaiiPoipu Beach

After Waimea Canyon, you can head for Poipu Beach as the two are only separated by a 30-40 minute drive. If you have little ones tagging along, the beach is equipped with a children’s play area and there’s a calm section of water suitable for them to splash around in. It’s also a great area for snorkeling and you may even spot turtles or monk seals by the shoreline. If you do see them, keep your distance as they are protected by law.

Look out for sea turtles on Poipu Beach, Hawaii

Kauai is not as frequented by tourists as Oahu, which makes it the ultimate destination to experience Hawaii’s aloha spirit. So, the next time you find yourself itching for an adventure that takes you off the beaten path, use this guide to help you carve out an itinerary for planning what will surely be an unforgettable road trip!

1 Comment
  • Gary Rubin
    Posted at 22:20h, 28 February Reply

    Great overview, thanks!

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