Kauai has an extremely bold palette with its hyper-lush jungle, dramatic sea, and red dirt. In many ways it’s the quintessential Hawaiian island paradise, simply because it has far fewer tourists. Adventures here are big and exciting, while the towns are small and funky. The port is in Lihue, which is the commercial center of the island.
What We Love
Luau: It may not be 100 percent authentic, but it's definitely closer than the stagey shows you’ll see on bigger islands. Think of the food, the dance, and the music as a crash course in Hawaiian cultural immersion.
Snorkeling and Diving: Kauai’s oceans are rich with sea life to ogle from behind a mask. If fish don’t pique your interest, make it your mission to spot sea turtles.
Best Known For
Waimea Canyon: The gorgeous drive to this epic canyon is one of the most popular shore excursions, so you’ll be sharing the jaw-dropping overlook views. The 10-mile-long canyon offers enough to go around.
Na Pali Coast: The sky-reaching cliffs are an awesome sight. Thrill-seekers love the catamaran boat tours and helicopter rides. Others are content just drinking in the views from aboard their cruise ship.
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Who It's Best For
“Real Hawaii” Seekers: Anyone looking for a more authentic Hawaiian experience will feel at home on Kauai. It’s way less developed than other islands, has a fraction of the tourists, and is also quite compact so you can experience a lot.
Down and Dirty Adventurers: River tubing, hiking, catamaran sailing, jungle kayaking, and many other outdoor adventures might get you a little muddy and a lot wet.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
When It Rains, It Pours: The rainy season lasts for five months — November through March.
Surfin’ Ain’t Easy: This is the obvious spot to take a surf lesson, but don’t expect to be riding waves by the end. If you’re lucky, you’ll manage to stand up once or twice, briefly.
Lena Katz is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Brides.