Thrifty Traveler’s Guide to Kauai, Hawaii
Kauai, also known as the Garden Isle, is known for being the tropical rainforest island of Hawaii. It’s an easy island to explore as it takes less than two hours to drive from the North Shore (Princeville/Hanalei) to the Southeast Shore (Waimea/Poipu/Na Pali Coast). Use our guide to Kauai to see the island without breaking the bank.
Getting to Kauai
Find yourself a flight deal to Lihue Airport (LIH) in Kauai. You can fly direct out of certain airports from the U.S. mainland, but don’t worry if you can’t find a direct flight. You can fly into Oahu’s Honolulu (HNL) as there is often cheap flights between Honolulu (HNL) and Lihue (LIH).
Flights from the U.S. to Kauai usually range from $800 – $1,400, but Thrifty Traveler has shared many flight deals to Hawaii for as low as $277 round trip. If you haven’t already, make sure to sign up for Thrifty Traveler Premium to be among the first to be notified of future cheap flights to Hawaii.
Thrifty Things to Do
Na Pali Coast – Boat Cruise
Kauai’s Na Pali Coast is approximately 17 miles of Kauai’s north shore. One of the best ways to see the coastline is via boat or air. If you are interested in traveling via sea, I highly recommend using Holo Holo Charters and doing the Na Pali Sunset Cruise.
Thrifty Tip #1: If you are a Costco Member, you can purchase Holo Holo Charters gift cards at a 20% discount and then book your tickets directly with HHC.
Kauai Coffee Estate – Free Guided Tours and Coffee Samples
While in Kauai, take a tour of the largest coffee farm in the U.S. and enjoy a variety of their coffees for free. You can do the walking tour on your own at any time during their business hours, but I highly recommend taking one of their free guided walking tours. You’ll learn from their team how Kauai Coffee is grown, harvested and roasted.
Koloa Rum Tasting Room – Free Rum Tasting
Looking to find a distillery and enjoy a free tasting? Check out Koloa Rum’s Tasting Room (which is also located on the Kilohana Plantation). Learn about Koloa Rum, the history of sugar cane in Kauai, and enjoy a few tasty samples. They encourage you to come back more than once during your trip (limit one free tasting per day), as long as you are 21.
You will want to visit Waimea Canyon, also known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” when you are in Kauai. There are various hiking trails for all levels as well as multiple lookout spots. Waimea Canyon is a great family-friendly activity.
Located in Princeville, Queen’s Bath is a must-see for those who can make the trek. The often slippery trail can make for a tricky short hike but is well worth it. We enjoyed the swimming hole as we swam with the many colorful fish in the area and also watched for turtles.
Thrifty Tip #2: Be sure to do your research before taking the hike and wear sturdy shoes (definitely do not wear flip-flops).
I was speechless when I saw the Hanakapiai Falls. While this was not the easiest adventure, it was well worth the moderately challenging 8-mile hike. Be sure to bring enough water, snacks for energy and wear proper hiking shoes.
You will also want to bring a bathing suit so you can jump into the falls. As mentioned with Queens Bath, do your research to make sure this hike is something you’d like to pursue.
You will definitely want to rent a vehicle while in Kauai as getting around via bus or rideshare (like Uber/Lyft) is fairly limited. Not to mention, there is so much to explore.
Thrifty Tip #3: Check out our guide on how to rent the cheapest car possible.
Lodging on Kauai
Hotels can be quite expensive on Kauai (even during off-peak seasons), but there are still some fair priced hotels located in premium areas. A favorite of ours is Kauai Shores in Kapaa. Try checking out hostels, Airbnb or consider maximizing your hotel points.
Thrifty Tip #4: New to Airbnb? You can save $40 on your first stay by using our referral link.
Thrifty Tip #5: Need help redeeming hotel points in Kauai? Use one of our favorite resources, pointimize.com to find and select the perfect property for your stay.
Kauai is not known for being a thrifty destination. However, using our guide to Kauai, you can find plenty of ways to explore the island for little to no cost at all.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.