How do you cram as much of Kauai Hawaii in just a seven day stay? A popular game plan among the hardy is to split their stay between the North and the South sides of the island. They share a common philosophy, resting is something they can do when they return home. While not our cup of tea when traveling, here is our game plan for the four best things to do in Poipu and in the burning western side of this magical island.
Spend three nights on the North side of the island and four in the South shore. While you are staying here in Poipu Beach, all of these destinations are within an 1 hour drive of our Kauai vacation rentals. I will offer a schedule that will include time at the beach too. See, I am not a task master. However for the true Type A’s out there you may wish to do laps in the water and not just bake in the sand. It’s your call, I will let you decide.
Day 1: Visit Kokee and Polihale Beach
Depart for Kokee about 8 am, the traffic will be light and the ride pleasant. You can stop at Lappert’s in Kukuiula Village for a great cup of coffee as you leave Poipu behind for the day.
Take Waimea Canyon Drive at the west end of Waimea. Stop only at the first lookout as you cruise up the hill. This first stop is just a pull over but the view is great. Waimea town takes on the appearance of a small hamlet with the mocha brown river emptying into the ocean.
If you have the will power continue up the hill and avoid stopping at the other lookouts. You can see these stunning sections of the canyon on your descent from Kokee. It’s easier on the brakes of your rental car, trust me on this.
The first lookout is Pu’u Ka Pele Lookout, you will be able to see Waipo’o Falls especially after a rain storm. The next stop is just past mile 13, the Pu’u Hinahina Lookout offers stunning views of the Forbidden Isle of Niihau. Here you can catch great views of the canyon too!
Stop at the end of the road at the Kalalau lookout for photos and a stretch. Most people stop here and we suggest you do the same, but not right now, continue down the road to Pu’u o Kila Lookout. It’s less crowded and offers epic vistas of the Pacific and Kalallau Valley.
Don’t miss the opportunity to hike for an hour or two. Take the Pihea trail up at the top and enjoy a different perspective of the Kalalau Valley. Wear shoes that with good traction, the trail can be muddy. It’s well worth the drive. The air is crisp and you will be on the edge of the worlds highest elevation bog the Alalakai, incorrectly called a swamp.
Have lunch at the Kokee Lodge and tour the museum after your hike.Try counting all the chickens in the parking lot.
On you way down the hill bear to the right and take the Kokee road back down the hill. The road is less steep than Waimea Canyon Drive and it will offer great views of the Mana plains and the island of Niihau in the distance.
When you reach the highway with Kekaha Beach in plain view you can swim here at this life guarded beach and then continue down the road to Polihale. You will leave the comfort of the paved highway for the old crush coral sugar plantation roads to get to this beach. It is well worth the dust and the jolts to your carss suspension system. With the beach running right into towering cliffs it is beautiful.
There are no lifeguards here and it can be a dangerous place to swim so just enjoy the view. There are picnic tables and small pavilions for a relaxing lunch or rest. Shower and bathroom facilities are located here.
Day 2: Cruise the Napali Coast
From the soaring cliff faces to the equally beautiful sea life, the Napali coast of Kauai has it all. Depart from Port Allen for a 3 or 5 hour cruise. I recommend the 5 hour cruise, simply because you will see more of the fabulous coastline. With ocean conditions playing an important factor, most of the tour companies will take you all the way to the Hanalei side of the Napali.
I have had the opportunity to cruise with all the commercial operators at Port Allen and all give a superb tour with knowledgeable staff and great food on board. I am partial to the five hour cruise. It offers the crew the flexibility to stop and observe a pod of dolphins or whales (in the winter season). Girls, bring a hat that can be tied because the sun and wind can be fierce.
Day 3: Learn to Surf
Hey, you’re in Hawaii, the home of surfing. The ancient sport of Kings is quite accessible to us commoners. Kelly’s Surf School right under the blue tent at Poipu Beach is a good choice. Learn the basics of wave riding in an area of the beach that typically has 2-3 foot sets in the winter.
Day 4: Visit The Gardens of NTBG
The Kauai Gardens of the NTBG are an ideal way to spend time in Poipu Beach. It can please a traveler on so many levels. If you have no experience growing plants it’s a stopover you will not want to miss. Exotic landscapes frame magical waterfalls and water features from renowned 20th century artists. Colorful plants from around the world will amaze and if you are perceptive you will swear that you have some of these plants and trees on the big screen.
For those of us that are interested in tropical plants and their impact on making our daily lives better, no matter where you reside. The Garden Staff are walking botanical encyclopedias that will share their knowledge of plants or some important biological factoid that enables certain plants to adapt the way they did. Interesting stuff.
You may not agree with my selections, hey, you’re right, you won’t get an argument from me. Trying to list the best things to see in Poipu and the West side of the island is difficult. Like trying to select the top five songs in the past year, you know you’re going to leave some great songs behind.
Remember, you only have 4 days on this side of the island. If you have the time, read some of our posts where we detail other great things to do in Kauai and you decide what are the best things to do in Kauai.
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