What To Do In Kauai: Beaches, Parks & More

Hit the Garden Island’s highlights all in one day

As soon as you step off the plane on Kauai, you'll see why the so–called Garden Island is one of the most incredible places on earth. Jungle–covered mountains tower over long, sandy beaches, while waterfalls fall in the background. If it sounds like something out of a movie, it is: All four Jurassic Parks, features and many other films, were filmed here. Dramatic scenery aside, Kauai is also home to a budding food scene, which includes everything from a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant to a James Beard Award-winning noodle spot, and all the shave ice you can fit in between. Although you're going to want to stay forever, here's a list of highlights you can fit into a single day.

9 AM: Living Foods Gourmet Market & Cafe

Start your morning with a quick bite at this market, or grab a breakfast sandwich and a piece of local fruit to go. Whether you're sitting down for a plate of pineapple brioche French toast or taking a breakfast pizza on the road, this is your one–stop shop to fuel up for the adventurous day ahead.

10 AM: Kokee State Park

Although Kokee State Park has a bunch of hiking trails, if you're crunched for time, just hightail it to one of the lookout points and soak in the views of Waimea Canyon. Then hit the road.

12 PM: Kauai Coffee

After making your way back down to the southern side of the island, stop for coffee at Kauai Coffee, the country's largest coffee estate. Try a sample or two on the visitor's deck, order a cup or iced drink, and buy some beans for later. With stunning views of the surrounding mountains and farmland, you may want to sit there all day, but it's time to trek onward. The beach is calling.

1 PM: Makai Sushi

This small counter in a grocery store inside Kukuiula Market serves sushi and poke bowls, including the Gorilla Ahi Bowl, with ahi, ono, salmon, cucumber, avocado and sweet Maui onion. Covered in an addictive sauce, this bowl might be the best poke you'll ever have. Pack it to go and take it to the beach.

2 PM: Poipu Beach

Your next stop is Poipu Beach, a serene series of sandy coves with calm, clear water. The family–friendly slice of paradise is great for swimming, snorkeling and water sports, as well as lounging in the sun.

5 PM: Koloa Rum Co. Tasting and a Sunset Cocktail

When the clock strikes five, head to the Kōloa Rum Co. Tasting Room in the island's only rum distillery. Tastings are free and promise to win over even the staunchest spiced–rum skeptic; after all, Kōloa's homegrown version is high quality and sustainably produced. After the tasting, head to Gaylord's at Kilohana restaurant, right next door, for a cocktail featuring herbs and fruits harvested that morning from the orchard out back.

7 PM: Eating House 1849

For dinner, try Eating House 1849 from Hawaii's famous chef Roy Yamaguchi. You can't go wrong on the menu, but while you're sipping on your mason jar cocktail, make sure to start with a few pupu (island appetizers), like the pork–and–shrimp pot stickers and crispy fried Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. The hot pot rice bowl with butterfish is also a real winner.