Hawaii has one of the highest costs of living in the United States, and can be an intimidating place to vacation if you’re looking to see paradise on a budget. But the island of Kauai offers some of the most pristine scenery, beautiful waterfalls, and breathtaking canyons in the world- as well as some great opportunities to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a vacation. Just getting to Kauai can cost a fortune, so why not take some time to discover some of the hidden gems of this island?
Kauai has always been known as the “Garden Isle”, owing such a title to its mostly undeveloped interior and its status as home of the wettest place on earth (Mt. Waialeale). Many people think that all of the Hawaiian Islands are the same, and nothing could be further from the truth. Kauai has the most beautiful landmarks, historical artifacts, and people of any of the Hawaiian Islands. Here are 5 ways to experience such a wonderful island without emptying your wallet in the process.
1. Waialua Falls:
This set of waterfalls is one of the easiest to access and most popular on Kauai. Starting in Lihue, travel north on Kuhio Highway (HWY 56) and turn left on HWY 583. From Lihue, it’s about a 15-minute drive to the falls, which are a spectacular example of the many waterfalls that dot this beautiful island’s landscape. You can even hike down to the bottom of the falls is you know where to look for the trailhead. Be careful though, the trail can be extremely slick and muddy depending on the season.
2. Snorkel at PK’s:
PK’s or Prince Kuhio’s as it’s sometimes referred to is one of the best snorkeling spots on the island, and it’s right under the noses of most tourists! Located on the south shore, near Poipu, PK’s is home to some of the largest schools of reef fish and coral reef on the south shore. The ocean currents are extremely mild to non-existent here as well, and access to the nearby beach is a mere feet from the main road. Rent a set of snorkel gear for a few bucks and dive right in. PK’s is located just west of the Beach House Restaurant on the south shore.
3. Catch a sunset at Polehale State Park:
Located on the extreme western edge of Kauai, Polehale is a favorite of many locals looking to enjoy a sunset in relative quiet. Not many people come out to this beach, as it is often passed over in favor of luaus, river tours, and other expensive tourist traps. Check out this beach at sunrise or sunset for added beauty, as there are rarely more than a couple dozen people lining many miles of coastline. This beach was also recently voted #1 most beautiful beach in the world by two separate travel magazines!
4. Grab some poke or lau lau at Koloa Fish Market:
For about the price of a fast food lunch, you can enjoy some of the worlds most flavorful, delectable, and culturally significant food. This market is a hole in the wall in Old Koloa town, but don’t let the humble exterior fool you. Inside you can feast on nearly any traditional Hawaiian seafood or fare. You’ll be surprised by the wasabi poke (pronounced “poh-kay”, a raw ahi tuna salad). If you love BBQ, try the delicious pork lau lau, slow cooked pork wrapped and steamed in ti leaves.
5. Hanakapiai Beach and Waterfall:
If you’re looking for one of the most intriguing, exciting hikes on Kauai, you’ll find it at the end of HWY 560 on the north shore. Not only will you traverse a series of nearly 100-year-old single-lane bridges on the way to the trailhead, but you’ll be able to experience the treasure at the end of the highway- Ke’e (pronounced “kay-ay”) Beach as well.
The hike starts off at Ke’e Beach and is a rollercoaster of switchbacks, stony pathways, and jungle. Bring plenty of water with you, as there is no filtered water available along the way. Once you reach Hanakapiai Beach, about 2 miles in, you can chose to add to the hundreds of rock cairns adorning the rocky cove. Or, if you’re feeling athletic, head further back into Hanakapiai Valley and check out the beautiful waterfall approximately 2 miles from the beach. All in all, you can make it a 4 or 8 mile round trip day. And best of all, it’s totally free!
There are hundreds of exciting experiences and sights to revel in on Kauai, Hawaii’s most magical island. However, for those of you looking for an “off the beaten path” experience try one of the above suggestions, combined with a little sense of adventure, and you’ll be sure to break into some new challenges and experiences without breaking the bank.