How to Spend 1 Day in Kauai, Hawaii

The Ultimate Guide for 1 Day in Kauai

I should start out by saying 1 day in Kauai, Hawaii is not enough, but if you are sampling the islands from a cruise or layover, this guide is for you! In this Kauai guide, I am covering the best things to do with 1 or 2 days visiting the garden island!

Have more days in Kauai? Check out this Kauai 3 Day Guide.

Cruising to Kauai? The port comes in right by the Marriott in Lihue and this is a great location to be in!

If you flew in from a layover, you will be in Lihue which is the South East region and very close to the Marriot. Kauai is best traveled by splitting the island from the West and East since you can’t fully drive around the island.

Visit Kauai Hawaii Grand Canyon with 1 day
Kauai Grand Canyon is perfect to see with 1 day on the island!

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South Coast Recommendations for 1 Day in Kauai

Kalalau Lookout  (Wai’ale’ale)

Kauai is full of drop-dead gorgeous views, so it’s easy to see why visiting Hawaii is so popular, especially on the Garden Island!

If it’s within the budget, I would rent a car for the day.  On the top of my list, I would suggest driving up to Kalalau Lookout  (Wai’ale’ale). You will see many lookout spots where you can pull over to catch the view, but don’t spend your time doing this on the way up.

Wait until you are coming back down as you will need to get to Kalalau Lookout early. By checking the weather and going early you can miss the clouds and fog coming in.

Unfortunately for me, the clouds obstructed my view and I was not able to see the stunning views of the Napali Coast. Kalalau Lookout has an elevation of 5,148 FT and it’s known to be one of the wettest spots on earth… who knew!

Kalalau Lookout (Wai’ale’ale) should be on your list with 3 days in Kauai
Kalalau Lookout  (Wai’ale’ale)

Waimea Canyon

Next, make your way to Waimea Canyon the“Grand Canyon” of Hawaii. Waimea Canyon has panoramic views of stunning valleys. This really is a must-see in my opinion! This Canyon is about ten miles long and up to 3,600 feet deep and is just breathtaking. Once again, you want to be here early before the clouds roll in.

Kauai, Hawaii grand canyon Waimea Canyon
Waimea Canyon, Kauai

Spouting Horn

After, take a drive to Spouting Horn.  A very popular spot to see the ocean waves crash on the coastline and shoot out of a lava tube. The spout can reach up to 50 feet!

Visit Spouting horn with 3 days in Kauai
Spouting Horn

From here I would recommend going to Po’ipu Beach Park, which has amazing snorkeling.  It was a little crowded when we went but the water was beautiful and there was plenty of fish around! This beach has lifeguards and restrooms.

For dinner make your way back to the port and seek out Duke’s Kauai. They have amazing nachos and fish tacos and do not, I repeat, do not skip dessert. The Hula Pie was amazing! YUMMM

North Coast Recommendations for 1 Day in Kauai

Kauai is full of beautiful sightseeing areas, but nothing like the Napali coast in my opinion. The Napali Coast in Kauai is a full-day thing, but it’s totally worth it. These deep, lush, and jagged coastlines stretch 15 miles long and have easy to expert level hiking trails. There are a couple of ways you can explore these and although I’ve only done one, I am sure they are all spectacular.

Napali Coast, Kauai is a must on your Itinerary with beautiful mountain and ocean views.
Napali Coast, Kauai

Kauai By Helicopter

Maybe one of the most advertised is to take a helicopter ride over the coast. From what I’ve heard and seen, the views are out of this world and you can see the coast from all viewpoints. Some tours even take you to see the waterfall from the movie Jurassic Park. I happen to be afraid of flying so I ultimately did not choose this option.

Kauai By Boat

Another way to experience the coast is by boat. There are quite a few companies that offer these boat trips from luxury tours to less expensive tours to fit anyone’s budget.

I would recommend reading reviews and seeing which tour fits your needs. If you don’t have your sea legs, this might not be the best option for you.

The sea on the north coast can be very rough, so instead of enjoying the coast views, your head will just be facing the water. Alex doesn’t do well on boats so we decided against this option.

Kauai By Land

Last, but not least, is by land. This is the option we chose (since I don’t like to fly, and Alex doesn’t like boats) and we really enjoyed it. We woke up nice and early to get breakfast and got to the start of the 11-mile hike around 10 am. There is a super tiny parking lot so you might just have to line up and wait for a spot.

Fortunately, we only waited for about 5-10 minutes. Before you get here, I would definitely recommend bringing a large bottle of water per person, or something with electrolytes like Gatorade and a small lunch. This packing list might be different if you are hiking past the 2-mile marker.

Napali Coast is a must see with 1 day in Kauai

Packing for the Napali Cost Hike

Since I started mentioning packing above, I figured I would give you the rest of my go-packing list. Besides the above, I would bring the following:

Backpack to hold snacks and water. To help reduce plastic, we use our Lifestraw water bottle which has great filter capabilities!
1. Wear lightweight clothes, you will definitely be sweating….A LOT!
2. Sunscreen and even bug spray. You are in the jungle. For sunscreen, our new go-to brands are Blue Lizard Australian Sensitive Sunscreen SPF 30 and Juice Beauty SPF 30 Sport Moisturizer.
3. Hiking boots. We wore regular running shoes and our ankles were killing us. There is a lot of climbing up and down rocks, so ankle support will come in clutch.
4. Bathing Suit. Once you get to the stream and beach, you will want to cool down.

North Coast Beaches

With our hike, we were able to also stop by another beach around 1 pm. We wanted to go to some of the North-end beaches I read so much about, such as Tunnel beach, but the water was too rough for us to go snorkeling.

A lifeguard recommended that we go to  Lydgate State Park Beach Park. What’s really cool about this beach is that it is protected by a rock cove which protects you from the wave break. It also has good snorkeling by the rocks!

Lydgate Beach in Kauai's east coast

If you choose this route and you are feeling extra adventurous you can even stop by Wailua Falls one of the more accessible falls of Kauai, Wailua Falls will not disappoint! Drive right up to this falls and get a jaw-dropping view.

Waliua Waterfall is a must see with 1 day in Kauai

1 Day in Kauai Itinerary Review

This sums up how to make the best of 1 day in Kauai! Whether you visit these coasts by helicopter, sea, or land you will not be disappointed!

Staying in Kauai or Maui for a longer period of time? Find more Kauai and Maui, Hawaii posts here!

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“How to Spend 1 Day in Kauai, Hawaii”

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