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Kauai

 

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 Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse

Perched at the northernmost tip of Kauai, the 52-foot Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse was built in 1913 as a beacon for traveling ships. Although its light was turned off in the 1970s and has been replaced by an automatic beacon, it still serves as one of the island’s most frequented attractions.

The view off the rugged northern coastline and the deep-blue Pacific makes this the perfect vantage point for photos. This is also the location of the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, a sanctuary for seabirds. Signage throughout the refuge identifies the area’s bird species, including frigates, shearwaters, boobies and Laysan albatrosses nesting on the property. You’ll see them soar the skies above the refuge, many landing on a small nearby island covered in birds. During December through May, you may even catch a glimpse of humpback whales. This scenic peninsula, 200-feet above sea level, is a must-see on your visit to the North Shore.


 

 

 North Shore

Kauai’s dramatic North Shore is an enchanting setting full of rugged mountains, lush taro fields, heavenly beaches and spectacular sea cliffs. You’ll be amazed at how much beauty can be found in just one area of Kauai.

Begin your journey on the island’s northernmost point. Historic Daniel K.Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse is a wildlife sanctuary and a scenic spot for whale watching. Visit lovely Hanalei Town, home to stretches of green taro fields alongside colorful shops, galleries and restaurants. You’ll also find some of Kauai’s best beaches here including Lumahai Beach, the setting for the film “South Pacific,” and Kee Beach, ideal for sunbathing. You can also learn about native plants and see scenic ocean views at Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens or at the 17-acre Limahuli Gardens, part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden.

But the most stunning feature of Kauai’s North Shore is the magnificent Napali Coast. This 17-mile stretch of coastline is lined with cliffs up to 3,000-foot tall, accented with lush green valleys, cascading waterfalls and sea caves. Inaccessible by car, you can hike or take an air or boat tour to view this breathtaking natural wonder.

The North Shore is also home to the upscale resort area of Princeville where you can indulge in world-class hospitality and play at some of Kauai’s premier golf courses. You can also find other accommodations here ranging from historic bed and breakfasts to rental homes allowing everyone the opportunity to experience the beauty of Kauai’s North Shore.


 

Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon, on Kauai’s West Side, is described as “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Although not as big or as old as its Arizona cousin, you won’t encounter anything like this geological wonder in Hawaii. Stretching 14 miles long, one mile wide and more than 3,600 feet deep, the Waimea Canyon Lookout provides panoramic views of crested buttes, rugged crags and deep valley gorges. The grand inland vistas go on for miles.

The main road, Waimea Canyon Drive, leads you to a lower lookout point and the main Waimea Canyon Overlook, offering views of Kauai’s dramatic interior. The road continues into the mountains and ends at Kokee State Park. There are numerous trails to traverse for beginners and seasoned hikers.


 

 

Lihue

Lihue is the government and commercial center of the island as well as a cultural and historical area. This may be the most traveled town on Kauai since its home to Kauai’s main airport (the Lihue Airport) and Nawiliwili Harbor, the island’s major commercial shipping center and cruise ship port.

Lihue has a variety of beaches and natural wonders to explore. Kalapaki Beach is the home of the Marriott Kauai’s Beach Club and the Kauai Lagoons Golf Club. Bodysurfing, windsurfing and swimming make Kalapaki a popular destination. Ninini Beach is home to an automated lighthouse, operating since 1897. And just north of Lihue, don’t forget to stop at the Wailua Falls lookout for an amazing waterfall view.

The Lihue area also has numerous historical spots including Alekoko (Menehune Fishpond), a roughly 1000-year old aquaculture reservoir; Kilohana, a historic plantation estate; and both the historic Kauai Museum and Grove Farm Homestead Museum. Lihue is your gateway to adventure on Kauai.


 

East Side (Coconut Coast)

Kauai’s East Side is sometimes referred to as the Coconut Coast for the groves of coconut palms that grow in its resort areas. The most populated district on the island, about 16,000 of the island’s 62,000 residents reside in the Wailua/Kapaa area. Amongst the clusters of coconut trees you’ll find historic places, amazing beaches and memorable attractions.

In Wailua, you’ll find a variety of sightseeing opportunities and outdoor activities. Kayak the Wailua River in Wailua River State Park, take a boat ride to the Fern Grotto, or take photos at Opaekaa Falls. Don’t forget to try and spot the Sleeping Giant in the Nounou Mountains or take a hike up this scenic ridge. Sacred places like Polihau Heiau, the large lava-rock temple of Kauai’s last king, Kaumualii, can also be found on the East Side. And be sure to visit Kapaa Town to discover fine Hawaiian craft pieces, aloha-print shirts, jewelry and art.

But the golden beaches of the Coconut Coast may be the area’s biggest draw. Unwind at Anahola Beach Park, whale watch at Donkey Beach or watch the surfers at Kealia Beach to the north. Lydgate Beach Park in Wailua has two lava rock enclosed ocean pools that are perfect places for families and first-time snorkelers. Fun in the sun awaits you on the Coconut Coast.


 

 

South Shore

The sunny South Shore of Kauai is home to historic Old Koloa Town and the resort area of Poipu. This is an area of activity and historic attractions. Whether you’re playing on a championship golf course or exploring the Koloa Heritage Trail to learn more about Kauai’s history, there’s something for everyone on the South Shore.

A good place to start is spending the day at Poipu Beach Park, which was once named one of America’s best beaches. Nearby Spouting Horn features a blowhole that releases a spout of water up to 20 feet or more into the air. See why Kauai is nicknamed “The Garden Isle” at two National Tropical Botanical Gardens: McBryde Garden, featuring 259-acres of gardens and world’s largest collection of Hawaiian plants, and Allerton Garden, an 80-acre gem with sophisticated garden design and the giant Moreton Figs made famous in the film “Jurassic Park.” You’ll even find the Kauai Coffee farm tour just a few miles west of Poipu. Discover a variety of activities and attractions on Kauai’s South Shore.


Hanalei Town

West of Princeville, on Kauai’s North shore, is peaceful Hanalei Town. Graced with timeless beauty, this lovely small town is home to everything from historic places to contemporary art galleries. Hanalei is an unforgettable stop on your visit to Kauai.

Visit the Waioli Mission House and step back into Kauai’s history. Browse Hanalei’s art galleries for made in Kauai art and carvings made from rare, native Hawaiian woods. Locals and visitors come to Hanalei for ukulele concerts held at the Hanalei Community Center, a regular Kauai event.

At the foot of Hanalei’s misty green mountains you’ll also discover fields of taro (“kalo” in Hawaiian). These heart-shaped plants grow intensely green in flooded patches and are used to make poi, a Hawaiian staple starch that you can taste at any Kauai luau. You can get a good view of this emerald quilt of land from the Hanalei Valley Lookout. Note that these taro farms are on private property, so only step foot on them during an authorized farm tour.

The historic Hanalei Pier was built in 1892 and has long been a favorite gathering place for local residents who go there to fish, swim and play music on Hanalei Bay. In 1957, the pier became world famous when Oscar Hammerstein II and 20th Century Fox featured the pier in the classic film, “South Pacific.” After a busy day of soaking up Hanalei Town’s history and charm, kick back, relax and watch a luminous sunset over Hanalei Bay.


Wailua Falls

Wailua Falls, just north of Lihue, is a step off the beaten path. Located at the south end of the Wailua River, it cascades into two streams, dropping 80-feet below. Some even say the distance is more accurately described as 200 feet.

Like other spectacular spots on Kauai used as film locations, Wailua Falls is most recognized in the opening credits of the long-running television show “Fantasy Island.” Easily accessible, Wailua Falls can be seen from the roadside, so you can leave your hiking boots behind. To get there, head north from Lihue and follow Maalo Road in Hanamaulu. Travel uphill for about three miles. If you visit in the mornings, you may be treated to a rainbow, making for an amazing photo of Wailua Falls.


 

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Hawaii Travel Information and Tips

 

 

Staying on Kauai

There are various accommodations to meet your needs. You’ll find everything from budget hotels to luxury resorts in the areas of North Shore (Princeville), East Side (Coconut Coast), Lihue (Kalapaki), South Shore (Poipu), West Side (Waimea). Kauai is also known for its charming bed and breakfasts and guest cottages. You can also rent a condominium or home, which is great for on-the-go families.

Anytime of year is a good time to visit Kauai with average yearly temperatures ranging between 84 and 69 degrees. Ocean temperatures are also perfect ranging from 71 to 81 degrees. Trade winds keep things comfortable year-round.

Traveling on Kauai

If you’re planning to explore the island, it’s best to rent a car. This will allow you the flexibility to tour Waimea Canyon one day then spend the next in Hanalei Town. Shuttles and tours are also available, though stops will be limited.

Some of the lush interior of the island is only accessible by air, so you may find yourself taking a sightseeing sky adventure by helicopter or small plane. Don’t miss the chance to travel by foot on Kauai’s magnificent hiking trails or vast, trackless beaches

 

Can I use my valid foreign driver’s license to drive in Hawaii?

Yes. Your valid driver’s license is good for one year from the entry date on your passport.

Can I use my cell phone while driving in Hawaii?

No. You may not use any electronic handheld device while driving. This includes phones, cameras and mp3 players. Holding a phone at a stoplight or while paused with the engine running is considered a violation and you will receive a ticket. Fines vary according to island and can be as high as $150.

You may use a Bluetooth headset or hands-free device with your cellphone.

What’s the speed limit in Hawaii?

The speed limit varies from 10 miles per hour (mph) in tiny lanes and 25 in most residential neighborhoods to 60 mph on some freeways.

What should I do if I am in an auto accident?

If you are in a collision, the first step is to call the police at 911 to file a report or to contact emergency fire or ambulance services. Do not leave the scene until after the police are finished. You may need to contact your rental car company.

What are the helmet laws?

• All riders 17 years old and younger must wear a helmet.

• Bicycles– All riders 15 years old and younger must don a helmet.

• Motor Scooters & Motorcycles– Helmets are required for all riders 17 years old or younger.

Does my child need a child safety seat?

Most rental car providers have child safety seats available for rent.

• All children under the age of four must be secured in a Federally-approved child safety seat.

• All children between the ages of four and seven must ride in either a booster seat or a car seat. Children 4’9” or taller or those riding in vehicles with lap-only seat belts in rear seats are exempt.

Weather in Hawaii is very consistent, with only minor changes in temperature throughout the year. There are really only 2 seasons in Hawaii: summer (called Kau in Hawaiian) from May to October and winter (Hooilo) from November to April. The average daytime summer temperature at sea level is 85º F. (29.4 C) while the average daytime winter temperature is 78º (25.6º C). Temperatures at night are approximately 10º F. lower.  The islands are an incredible collection of diverse micro-environments, each with its own unique weather, plants, and animals. As a result of the shielding effect of volcanic mountains and the differences in weather found at various elevations, you can find tropical rain forests, cool alpine regions, arid deserts, and sunny beaches – all within the span of just a few miles.

Water and Surf Conditions

Hawaii’s near-shore water temperatures remain comfortable throughout the year. The average water temperature is 74º F. (23.3 C), with a summer high of 80º F. (26.7º C). Wave action varies dramatically between island coasts and seasons. Summer waters are typically gentle on all beaches. During the winter on many north shore beaches, Pacific storms drive ocean swells towards the islands, creating Hawaii’s legendary big waves.

Wave conditions are often very localized, so if the waves are too big on your beach, you can usually find calmer water at a more sheltered beach. Strong currents can make any beach unsafe at any time during the year, particularly in the winter. Ask your hotel staff or a lifeguard about ocean currents or look for warning flags and posted beach conditions.

Rainfall

Most of the rain falls in the mountains and valleys on the windward (northeastern) side of the islands. It is these passing showers that create Hawaii’s rich, green, tropical environment.

The wettest months are from November to March, but winter rains do not generally disrupt vacation plans, since the weather is very localized. This means that if it is raining where you are, there is almost always a sunny spot to be found around the coast.

Trade Winds

In Hawaii, we are fortunate to enjoy the comfortable weather cooled by the trade winds. Named for the winds that once carried ships around the globe, these gentle breezes keep our island weather just right during most of the year, but can become gusty and dangerous on occasion.

From January through March, the trade winds are less frequent and the islands experience the humid conditions referred to as “Kona weather.” Kona winds is the local term for stormy, rain-bearing winds. Under extreme conditions, Kona winds can cause extensive damage.

Please heed all weather warnings before hiking, swimming, sailing, or participating in any outdoor activities.

Vog

Vog is the local term for “volcanic fog” and it describes the hazy air pollution that occasionally hangs over the islands. Vog is caused when sulfur dioxide and other gasses from Kilauea’s Halemaumau Crater (Big Island of Hawaii) mix with moisture in the air and sunlight. Under extreme conditions—when the volcano is active and the winds carry the fumes north to the rest of the island chain—vog can be hazardous to plants, animals and humans. The most common effects are headaches, watery eyes and breathing difficulties. These effects can be especially pronounced in people with respiratory conditions and young children. It is not advisable to exercise or participate in strenuous outdoor activities when the vog is very heavy. Depending on your personal sensitivity, you may want to learn more about vog before traveling to Hawaii Island and visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Want to know what the vog conditions are around the island? Check your local news weather report.

Not all hazy conditions are caused by vog. If you see a white mist along the coast, it could simply be salt spray hanging in the air. Or if it’s hazy along the mountains in the morning, chances are you’re looking at moisture in the air from the updrafts along the ridges.

Hawaii’s Mountains and Volcanoes

Many visitors are drawn to the natural beauty found in higher elevations. While a light jacket and casual clothes will serve you for most of your trip, you will need warmer clothing if you plan to hike Haleakala on Maui where the temperatures average 40°F- 60°F (5° – 16°C). On Maunakea on Hawaii Island it can get as cold as 12° F (11°C) after sundown. Mountain campsites such as Kokee State Park and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park can also be extremely chilly so check with park officials before camping.

When you’re in Hawaii, everyday feels like Aloha Friday. Clothing is casual, and except for one or two finer restaurants, jackets are not required for dinner. Men in Hawaii have it easy because aloha shirts (casual buttoned down or collared shirts) are appropriate for just about any occasion. Hawaii’s tropical temperatures range from bikini weather in the summer to a light sweater or jacket in the evening. Comfortable shoes or sandals are fine for most occasions.

Business Aloha

This term refers to the “Downtown Honolulu” look and is appropriate for business functions and better restaurants. Men: aloha shirt, slacks and dress shoes. For women, it generally means aloha or business attire.

Outdoor Wear

If you will be hiking or will require specialty clothing/equipment, consider buying your gear before you arrive as the selection can be limited on certain islands. This is especially important if you will be spending a length of time on the summit of Haleakala or Maunakea, or camping in higher elevations such as Upcountry Maui or Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. See our climate page for more details.

Ocean Activities

If you’re on a boat, bring  sun protection gear and sunscreen. A light jacket is also recommended for wind and rain. Swimsuits are easy to purchase, and scuba suits and gear can be rented.

Sunscreen, Hats and Sunglasses

Hawaii’s proximity to the sun makes for gorgeous tans and nasty sunburns, even on cloudy days. If you want that golden glow, tan slowly with a high SPF sunscreen. Also, protect yourself with a hat and sunglasses.

Golf Attire

Many of the private golf courses in Hawaii require “proper golf attire” which usually means a collared shirt and dress shorts or slacks, no denim, cargo or sports shorts. When in doubt, it’s best to contact the course or pro shop. There is no dress requirement for municipal courses.

Baggage Claim

Honolulu, Oahu

The baggage claim area of the Honolulu International Airport is located on the lower (ground floor) level of the Main Terminal. You can get there on the free Wiki-Wiki (Hawaiian for fast, speedy) Shuttle, or by walking and following the signs. It’s less than a 10-minute stroll if you want to stretch your legs.

Lihue, Kauai; Kahului, Maui; Kaunakakai, Molokai; Lanai City, Lanai; & Hilo and Kona Hawaii

Directions to baggage claim areas are clearly posted. The luggage carousels are located on the ground floors of all terminals and are a short walk away.

Connecting Flights from Honolulu, Oahu

If you are catching a connecting flight from Honolulu to a neighbor island, look at your baggage claim ticket to see if your luggage has been checked through to your final destination. If your baggage claim ticket reads HNL, your luggage will only go as far as Honolulu International Airport. You will need to retrieve your belongings from baggage claim and check-in your baggage for your connecting flight.

The Hawaii airport codes are:

• HNL (Honolulu, Oahu)

• ITO (Hilo, Hawaii)

• KOA (Kailua-Kona, Hawaii)

• LIH (Lihue, Kauai)

• OGG (Kahului, Maui)

• LUP (Kalaupapa Airport)

• LNY (Lanai Airport)

• MKK (Molokai Airport)

• HNM (Hana Airport)

• JHM (Kapalua Airport)

Airport and Arrival Info

Review information about your arrival experience and what to expect when you arrive at any of Hawaii’s ten (10) airports, including ticketing and check-in, arrivals and baggage claim, intra-airport transportation and ground transportation, and driving directions.

Inter island Travel

Help plan your commute to the neighbor islands with these helpful tips.

Civil Defense

Watches and warnings are prepared for the Hawaiian Islands by the National Weather Service Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu. Find out what to do in the event of an extreme weather situation. 

Visitors with Special Needs

The Disability and Communication Access Board (DCAB) from the Hawaii State Department of Health has compiled a comprehensive list of Hawaii Traveler Tips for Kauai, Maui and Molokai, Oahu and Hawaii Island that includes transportation options, equipment rentals, service animals and more.

Kauai – Driving Times from Lihue Airport to:

Fern Grotto: 20 minutes

Haena: 1 hr. 15 min

Kapaa: 25 min

Kilauea: 45 min

Poipu/Koloa: 30 min

Princeville: 1 hr

Spouting Horn: 30 min

Wailua Falls: 15 min

Waimea: 45 min

Waimea Canyon: 1 hr. 15 min

Oahu – Driving Times from Waikiki to:

Hanauma Bay: 30 min

Honolulu Int’l Airport: 20 min

Iolani Palace: 15 min

Kailua: 30 min

Ko Olina Resort: 45 min

North Shore: 1 hr

Nuuanu Pali Lookout: 20 min

Pearl Harbor: 30 min

Polynesian Cultural Center: 1 hr

Turtle Bay: 1 hr. 15 min

Waimea Valley: 1 hr.

Maui – Driving Times from Kahului Airport to:

Haleakala: 1 hr. 50 min

Hana: 2 hr. 30 min

Iao Valley:  25 min

Kaanapali: 50 min

Kapalua: 1 hr

Kihei: 25 min

Lahaina: 45 min

Wailea: 35 min

Wailuku: 10 min

Hawaii Island – Driving Times from Kona International Airport to:

Akaka Falls State Park: 2 hrs 10 min.

Hapuna Beach Park: 30 min

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: 3 hrs. 15 min.

Kailua-Kona: 15 min

Kealakekua: 45 min

Keauhou: 25 min

Onizuka Center for International Astronomy: 2 hrs

Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park: 1 hr

Waimea: 45 min

Waipio: 1 hr 30 min

Driving Times from Hilo International Airport to:

Akaka Falls State Park: 30 min

Hapuna Beach Park: 1 hr 45 min

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: 45 min

Kailua-Kona: 2 hrs 30 min

Onizuka Center for International Astronomy: 1 hr

Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park: 3 hrs

Waimea: 1 hr 30 min

Waipio: 1 hr 30 min

Hawaii uses the United States dollar as its currency. Exchanging money in Hawaii is as simple as using an ATM (automated teller machine), however, it’s helpful to exchange some of your currency before you travel so you’ll have money for cab fare and other incidentals.

Recently, U.S. currency has been reissued with new safety features, so there are many different varieties of bills and coins in circulation. U.S. paper bills come in $1, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 denominations. (Please note that some small stores and fast food outlets in Hawaii will not accept bills over $20.)

U.S. coins include the penny (1 cent), nickel (5 cents), dime (10 cents) and quarter (25 cents). There are also $1 coins but they are not used very often and can be easily mistaken for quarters.

ATMs

Bring your debit card and you can withdraw cash from an ATM. The machine handles the currency exchange for you, and the service fee may be less than a bank. ATMs also accept credit cards for cash advances, but the foreign exchange fees may be higher, so check with your bank prior to traveling.

Banks

If you will be conducting business or making large purchases, many Hawaii banks have international banking divisions.

Shopping & Dining

The majority of stores and restaurants in Hawaii accept cash, debit and credit cards. Checks and travelers checks are accepted at some locations, but it’s best to check with the merchant first. If you are shopping with an international credit card, please check with your financial institution regarding currency exchange rates and international transaction fees.

Tipping

Tips are customary and appreciated for good service. U.S. guidelines are 15-20% on served meals, at least $1 per bag for porters and at least $1 per night for housekeeping.

Bringing money into the United States

If you and your travel companions together are carrying $10,000 or more in cash or other negotiable instruments such as endorsed checks, you must declare it upon arrival. If you do not, it is subject to forfeiture. Your money is not subject to taxation or duty. For more information, download this handy guide for international visitors or click on US Customs and Border Protection.

Hawaii State Tax

Hawaii does not have a sales tax, however we have a General Excise Tax which businesses can pass on to their customers. This GE Tax on goods and services varies by county (island).

Kauai – 4.000 %

Oahu – 4.712 %

Molokai – 4.166%

Lanai – 4.166 %

Maui – 4.166%

Hawaii Island – 4.166%

Hotel Room Tax 

In addition to the 4.712% General Excise Tax, all visitors who stay in hotels, resorts, bed and breakfasts, inns and timeshares are required to pay a “Transient Accommodations Tax.” This state tax is currently 9.25 percent.

For any person to lawfully marry in the State of Hawaii, a license must be obtained from an authorized agent. Once the license has been issued, there is no waiting period before the marriage can take place. Go to http://hawaii.gov/health/vital-records/vital-records/marriage/index.html for complete details.

Marriage License Information: 808-586-4545