How Many Days in Kauai Do You Need?

Are you heading on a Kauai vacation but aren’t sure how long to stay? Let me break it down for you in this post about how many days in Kauai is ideal!
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Are you planning a trip to Kauai and are trying to figure out how many days you’ll need to explore the island?

You’re in for a treat! Kauai is one of the most beautiful and family-friendly islands in Hawaii. With plenty of activities and attractions for both kids and adults, you’ll be able to create memories that will last a lifetime.

But how many days do you need to see all the top Kauai attractions? That’s what I’m here to help you figure out. Keep scrolling down for my expert advice on how many days you should spend in Kauai.

I’ve visited Kauai many times with and without kids and I have lots of advice on how to plan your Kauai itinerary so you can do all the top Kauai activities.

So, how many days do you need in Kauai? Keep scrolling to find out!

Want to skip all the planning and just access my detailed Kauai Itinerary complete with daily schedules, kid-friendly activities, and travel hacks? Click the button below.

Get your copy of this Kauai travel guide for families by top Hawaii blog Hawaii Travel with Kids

How Many Days to Spend in Kauai FAQs

Is one week in Kauai too long?

Not really. In fact, I think that 7 days is the perfect amount of time for a trip to Kauai. It’s a fairly small Hawaiian island and you should be able to see most of the top sights, do a few Kauai activities, and have time to just enjoy the island.

Is 3 days in Kauai enough?

It depends. If you are only going to Kauai to see a few sights or do a few activities and then you’re heading to another island for a longer time, then 3 days could be enough. Otherwise, you’ll want at least 7-10 days to fully explore Kauai and have some down time.

Does it rain all day in Kauai?

I know that Kauai has a reputation of being rainy and that can make people wonder how many days to visit Kauai. The truth is, there is often rain on Kauai but it’s usually in short bursts. It’s very rare that it lasts all day long, unless it’s winter.

Overview of Kauai

Kauai is known as one of the most scenic islands in Hawaii. The fourth largest island makes a great vacation destination thanks to the lush landscape, magical waterfalls, and delicious food.

Whether you are looking to relax on a tropical beach or hike one of Kauai’s famous trails, the island has something for everyone.

Use this visitors guide to Kauai to plan your perfect tropical getaway on the Garden Isle. 

Getting To Kauai

Kauai’s main airport is Lihue Airport (LIH), located on the east shore of Kauai. Many popular airlines now offer non-stop flights to Kauai.

Find out everything you need to know about Lihue Airport on Kauai by top Hawaii blog Hawaii Travel with Kids. Image of the Lihue Airport sign
Lihue Airport on Kauai. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

You also have the option of flying into Honolulu International Airport (HNL) on Oahu first, and then taking a short 25 minute inter-island flight to Kauai. 

Do You Need a Rental Car?

Most people traveling to Kauai will rent a car. That’s because there are SO many fun things to see and do on this island.

Image of a woman wearing a pink shirt posing next to a silver car on Kauai
You’ll definitely need a car on Kauai.

The car rental counter is just across the street from baggage claim. That’s where you’ll get onto the little shuttle bus that will take you to the car rental lot. The car rental lot is super close, so it’s an extremely short ride.

Tip for parents: Just send one grown-up to pick up the rental car while the other stays at baggage claim with the kids and luggage. That way, you won’t have to lug everyone. Then, simply pick up the rest of the family and luggage.

The cheapest place I’ve found is Discount Hawaii Car Rental. They get the best rates from top national companies like Alamo, Dollar, Thrifty, Avis, Enterprise, Budget, and Payless. Check out the latest prices and more details.

Best Time To Visit Kauai

As is the case with many Hawaiian Islands, the best prices, weather, and the smallest crowds happen during the shoulder seasons of September through Mid-November and March through May.

October is a great time to visit for the cheapest flights, hotels, great weather, and no crowds. 

Where To Go In Kauai

Lihue

This historic and cultural area is the home of Kauai’s airport, as well as being the major cruise port on the island (Nawiliwili Harbor). Lihue offers options for shopping, dining and cultural and historical activities.

Image of a large reservoir with mountains in the background
Alekoko Fishpond (aka Menenune Fishpond).

One of the most notable locations in the historical and mythical Alekoko Fishpond, where legend has it the Menehune (mythological, mischievous race) built the Alekoko in one night.

The area features amazing waterfalls such as Wailua Falls, and historical exhibits that can be found at the Kauai Museum. 

North Shore – Hanalei and Na Pali Coast

The North Shore of Kauai was made for adventure lovers. Think lush valleys, amazing waterfalls, and gorgeous mountains.

Stop at one of the many free lookouts over Hanalei Valley on the North Shore of Kauai to see taro farms.
Hanalei Valley on Kauai. Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

Hanalei is a timeless destination that’s close to the famously epic Na Pali Coast. A downside of time spent on the North Shore is the unpredictable weather.

You’ll feel the adventurer in you awaken with all of the amazing sites and activities of the North shore. And there are plenty of amazing North Shore Kauai vacation rentals.

Coconut Coast – Kapaa and Wailua

Kauai’s East Side got its moniker, Coconut Coast, thanks to the abundant coconut palms that grow in the resort areas. This is one of the most populated areas on the island due to the picturesque beaches and popular local attractions.

Image of palm trees along a rocky bank next to the ocean
Royal Coconut Coast on Kauai.

The Coconut Coast includes the popular destinations of Kappa, Lihue, and Wailua. There is an abundance of popular outdoor activities on the Coconut Coast including kayaking and biking. 

South Shore – Poipu and Koloa

The South Shore of the island is all about luxury and pristine beaches. If you are looking for a romantic getaway then the South Shore is for you. Not only will you have fantastic weather, but the options for shopping and dining are excellent.

Find out the best Kauai beaches for families recommended by top Hawaii blog Hawaii Travel with Kids. Image of coconut palm trees on sandy Poipu Beach on Kauai.
Coconut Palm trees on the sandy Poipu beach on Kauai

The main towns in this part of the island are Poipu and Koloa. The beaches on the South Shore are family friendly, and there are plenty of great resort options in the area. 

West Side – Waimea 

Kauai’s West Side is perfect for those who love hiking. Although it’s only an hour from popular Lihue, it feels like a completely different island.

Image of a waterfall in the middle of Waimea Canyon on Kauai
Waterfall at Waimea Canyon.

While visiting the West Side visit the Waimea Canyon, often called the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific.’ Or try hiking in Kokee State Park, with more than 45 trails to choose from you’ll be in hikers paradise. 

Top Kauai Attractions

Since you’re researching a trip to Kauai, you’re probably wondering about the top Kauai attractions. There are some places to see on Kauai that you can’t find on the other islands.

Waimea Canyon

Most people planning a trip to Kauai want to see Waimea Canyon. Its nickname is the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” and it’s pretty impressive.

Na Pali Coast

Another fun thing to do on Kauai is checking out the stunning Na Pali Coast. This is best done by a boat ride that goes up the coast. They have snorkeling tours as well as sunset cocktail or dinner cruises.

Hanalei Town

One of the prettiest towns on Kauai is Hanalei on the North Shore. It’s famous for taro patches and Hanalei Bay. This is also where they filmed The Descendants with George Clooney.

It’s an artsy town that attracts surfers.

Best Things to do in Kauai

Enjoy a Kauai Luau

If you’re planning on doing a luau in Hawaii, Kauai is a great island to book one. They have traditional Hawaiian luaus as well as some unique experiences. There’s also a variety of price points and locations.

Image of women wearing ti leaf skirts and dancing hula at a luau on Kauai
Smith’s Tropical Paradise Luau. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

My top two luaus are Smith’s Tropical Paradise and Luau Kalamaku. With Smith’s, you can take a boat ride up the Wailua River before the luau. With Luau Kalamaku, you can take a train ride around Kilohana Plantation.

And if you’re looking for something really different, the Ahi Lele Fire Show in Kilauea is pretty fantastic!

Take a Helicopter Ride on Kauai

One of the best ways to see the beauty of Kauai is from above, and there is no better way than a helicopter tour of the island.

Find out the best things to do in Lihue Kauai recommended by top Hawaii blog Hawaii Travel with Kids. Image of a helicopter at Lihue Airport on Kauai.
See Kauai from a helicopter.

You’ll hover over the Waimea Canyon before flying up the gorgeous Na Pali Coast. You can even experience the famous Manawaiopuna Falls exactly as they were featured in Jurassic Park. These falls are actually on private land, making a helicopter tour the only way to experience them.

Go Ziplining

While you can go ziplining on almost all of the Hawaiian islands, there’s something special about ziplining on Kauai. You can soar over some of the prettiest landscapes in the islands.

Image of a woman ziplining in Hawaii
Try ziplining on Kauai.

A couple of the most popular places to zipline on Kauai include the Flyin’ Kauaian and Kauai Backcountry Outfitters.

Sugar Cane Canal Tubing

One of the coolest Kauai adventures for kids at least 5 years old is going mountain tubing at Mt. Waialeale. It launches from private property and you’ll get to float in an inner tube down an old sugar cane canal.

Find out what it's like to go mountain tubing on Kauai by top Hawaii blog Hawaii Travel with Kids. Image of a man and woman floating down a sugar cane canal on Kauai.
Try tubing on Kauai. Photo credit: Kauai Backcountry Outfitters

The best part is that you’ll wear headlamps and go through 5 tunnels. This is not remotely scary and it’s a pretty low-key activity that’s great for families.

Go Hiking

Serious hikers will want to try the difficult 22-mile Kalalau Trail in North Shore. This Kauai trail takes you through the lush jungles along the Na Pali coastline. You can do a shorter version to Hanakapiai Falls.

Image of Hanakapiai Falls on Kauai, one of the best Kauai waterfalls.
Hanakapiai Falls on Kauai.

There’s also the Nu’alolo Trail, which is 7.5 miles and also has awesome views of the Na Pali Coast. Or the Kuilau Ridge Trail is a moderate kid-friendly Kauai hike that’s 3.6 miles long.

Check out a Botanical Garden

Kauai is known as the “Garden Island” because it’s simply gorgeous. And there are also some really awesome botanical gardens on Kauai worth checking out.

Image of a lush botanical garden on Kauai with a Hawaiian hut and mountains in the background.
Limahuli Garden on Kauai.

The Limahuli Garden on the North Shore of Kauai is really beautiful and it’s a great way to get a glimpse at Old Hawaii. Plus, there’s a nice walking path that has amazing views.

The Na Aina Kai Botanical Garden in Kilauea is a stunning property. I recommend doing a docent tour so you can learn more about the different artwork in the garden. Plus, they even have a children’s garden with places for kids to play.

Go Snorkeling

There are also some amazing Kauai snorkeling tours and beaches worth checking out for people of all skill levels.

Tunnels Beach is one of the best places to snorkel on Kauai
Tunnels Beach on the Island of Kauai.

One of the most famous snorkeling beaches on Kauai is Tunnel Beach on the North Shore. It’s a good opportunity to see some beautiful Hawaiian sea life.

Get Kombucha from Kauai Juice Co.

Kauai is known for its foodie scene and lots of farm-to-table dining experiences. But, they also have awesome drinks!

Image of a bottle of yellow juice in front of the Kauai Juice Co sign.
Kauai Kombucha. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Kauai Juice Co. actually has 3 locations on the island. You can get tasty tropical juice (which is delicious) but it’s also the best place to get freshly made kombucha with tropical flavors.

So, How Many Days Do You Need in Kauai?

If Kauai is the only Hawaiian island you’ll be visiting, you’ll want at least 7-10 days to explore the island. That will give you enough time to do some day trips, take a few tours, check out the beaches, and have plenty of time to relax and unwind.

If you are island hopping, you’ll want 5-7 days on Kauai and 5-7 days on another island. You’ll want to prioritize the activities you can only do on Kauai (like Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali Coast).

However, I know that some families are pressed for time but still want to see Kauai. Keep scrolling to check out some easy Kauai itineraries for 1-10 days on Kauai.

Find out the prettiest Kauai beaches worth seeing by top Hawaii blog Hawaii Travel with Kids. Image of an aerial shot of Lumahai Beach on Kauai's North Shore.
Lumahai Beach on Kauai

Kauai Itinerary: 1 Day

If you are staying on another island and just want to do a Kauai day trip, it’s totally possible, but you’ll have to make some decisions.

You could do an island tour where you start off at the Waimea Canyon, explore the waterfalls in Wailua, and then head up to the North Shore. To do this, you’d need to take an early flight and leave late.

Or you could plan on doing an adventure like Kauai mountain tubing, helicopter ride, or boat tour.

Kauai Itinerary: 2 Days

With 2 days in Kauai, you have a little more flexibility. I suggest staying on the East Side (Kapaa or Lihue) to be centrally located.

You could spend one day heading up to the North Shore to hang out in Hanalei, enjoy Wishing Well Shave Ice, see Kilauea Lighthouse, walk around Na Aina Kai Botanical Garden, and then end with the Ahi Lele Fire Show.

The next day, you could head South/West to explore Waimea Canyon (hiking is optional), walk around Hanapepe town, see Spouting Horn in Poipu, and then check out the waterfalls in Wailua.

Kauai Itinerary: 3 Days

It’s easy to do 3 perfect days in Kauai. I still recommend staying on the East Side to minimize driving.

I’d suggest doing the 2 days in Kauai itinerary (see above) but do a Kauai adventure between those days. My top picks would be a Kauai boat tour, a helicopter tour, ziplining, or doing a food tour.

Kauai Itinerary: 4 Days

With 4 days in Kauai, you’ll have a bit more flexibility with your lodging. I’d choose somewhere on the East or South shore that has a nice pool area or other amenities.

Plan on one day to explore the North Shore. It’s great if you can get reservations for Ha’ena so you can enjoy Ke’e Beach, check out some Kauai caves, or hike into Hanakapiai. Next, you’ll check out Limahuli Botanical Garden. Then you can spend time in Hanalei to enjoy lunch or relax at Hanalei Bay.

You’ll also want a day to explore South and West Kauai. Head to Waimea Canyon early in the morning and do some hiking. Then, you can continue up the road to explore Kokee State Park (either to have lunch at Kokee Lodge or do more hiking). Finally, you can head to Poipu and do some shopping.

Plan on a full day on Kauai’s East side. You can start off with either a bike ride along the Kauai Coastal Path or go kayaking on the Wailua River. And finish your day with a luau in Wailua or Kapaa.

For your 4th day, choose a Kauai tour or activity that is on your Hawaii bucket list. You could even do a morning activity and an afternoon/evening activity. Or just spend the day relaxing at the pool.

Kauai Itinerary: 5 Days

With 5 days in Kauai, you’ll want to do the Kauai 4 day itinerary (see above) but add in a beach day.

Since you’ll be driving around Kauai, you’ll probably have an idea of where you might want to spend a few hours at a Kauai beach.

I suggest picking up plate lunches at Mark’s Place or Koloa Fish Market to enjoy at the beach. And stop for shave ice on your way back!

Kauai Itinerary: 6-10 Days

For trips longer than 5 days on Kauai, you have almost limitless options. You could even do a split stay between the South Shore and North Shore to enjoy very different scenery.

Use the 5 day Kauai itinerary as a guide and then add in a few tours, a couple of adventures, and time to relax at the beach or at your hotel pool.

How Many Days Do You Need in Kauai Wrap Up

I hope these mini-itineraries have helped you figure out how many days to spend in Kauai. While 7-10 days in Kauai is optimal, you’ll still have a total blast with fewer days. Plus, it’s a great excuse to come back!

Want to skip all the planning and just access my detailed Kauai Itinerary complete with daily schedules, kid-friendly activities, and travel hacks? Click the button below.

Get your copy of this Kauai travel guide for families by top Hawaii blog Hawaii Travel with Kids

Looking for more Hawaii travel resources? Get my tips for first timers, learn how to plan a trip to Hawaii, facts about Kauai, compare Oahu vs Kauai, and get my top tips for Hawaii on a budget!