Kauai is a breathtaking island in Hawaii that offers some of the most beautiful scenic drives in the world. One of the most popular routes for scenic drives is Kuhio Highway, which stretches along the eastern coast of the island. This highway passes through charming towns and villages, providing opportunities to explore local culture and cuisine while taking in stunning views of the island’s natural beauty.
Kuhio Highway leads to some of Kauai’s most iconic attractions, including the Na Pali Coast and Hanalei Bay. The Na Pali Coast is a rugged coastline that features towering cliffs, secluded beaches, and cascading waterfalls. It can only be accessed by foot or boat, but you can still enjoy incredible views from lookout points along Kuhio Highway.
Hanalei Bay is a picturesque bay surrounded by lush green mountains and dotted with sailboats. It’s a popular spot for water activities like swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. You can also take a leisurely drive around the bay on Kuhio Highway for breathtaking views.
But it’s not just about the destinations on Kauai’s scenic drives – it’s also about the journey itself. As you drive along Kuhio Highway, you’ll pass through quaint towns like Kapaa and Anahola where you can stop for local food and shopping. You’ll see stunning landscapes like Wailua Falls – a majestic waterfall that drops 80 feet into a pool below.
One unique feature of Kauai’s scenic drives is how they showcase different microclimates on the island. As you drive along Kuhio Highway from east to west, you’ll notice changes in vegetation and weather patterns. The eastern side tends to be more lush with tropical rainforests while the western side is drier with arid landscapes.
No matter which direction you choose to go on Kauai’s scenic drives, you’re guaranteed to see something unforgettable. Whether it’s the turquoise waters of Hanalei Bay, the towering cliffs of the Na Pali Coast, or the lush landscapes of Kauai’s interior – each drive offers its own unique beauty.
So pack your bags, grab your camera, and hit the road for an unforgettable adventure on Kauai’s scenic drives. Don’t forget to take in all the sights, sounds, and flavors along the way as you explore this magical island paradise.
Best Time to Go on Kauai Scenic Drives
Dry Season is the Best Time to Go
Kauai’s dry season runs from April to September, making it the best time to go on scenic drives. During this time, you can expect clear skies and sunny weather, perfect for exploring the island’s breathtaking scenery. However, it’s important to note that Kauai’s weather can be unpredictable even during the dry season. It’s always a good idea to check the forecast before embarking on a scenic drive.
Early Morning Hours are Ideal
If you’re looking for optimal lighting conditions and avoiding crowds, consider going on a scenic drive during the early morning hours. The soft light of sunrise provides an excellent backdrop for capturing stunning photos of Kauai’s natural beauty. Arriving early in the day allows you to beat the rush of other tourists who may be visiting popular spots later in the day.
Plan Your Drive Around Heavy Rainstorms
Kauai is known for its incredible waterfalls, and if you want to see them at their fullest potential, plan your scenic drive after a heavy rainstorm or during the wet season from October to March. While driving in wet conditions can be challenging, it’s worth braving through them if your goal is to witness Kauai’s natural wonders.
Check Road Conditions Beforehand
Before heading out on any scenic drive, make sure you do your research and check road conditions beforehand. Some roads may have limited access or be closed due to weather or maintenance issues. For example, portions of Highway 560 along Kauai’s North Shore may close due to landslides caused by heavy rains.
How Long Does it Take?
The amount of time it takes to drive around Kauai depends on which route you choose and how many stops you make along the way. The full loop around Kauai via Highways 50 and 56 takes approximately three hours without any stops. However, it’s recommended to take your time and make frequent stops to fully appreciate the island’s natural beauty.
Top Scenic Drives in Kauai and Their Highlights
Waimea Canyon Drive: Stunning Views of the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”
If you’re looking for breathtaking views in Kauai, Waimea Canyon Drive is a must-visit. This scenic drive takes you through the stunning Waimea Canyon State Park, also known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” The drive offers panoramic views of the canyon’s red and green cliffs, waterfalls, and lush vegetation.
One of the highlights of this drive is stopping at Pu’u Hinahina Lookout, which offers stunning views of Waimea Canyon. Another highlight is stopping at Kalalau Lookout to see sweeping views of the Na Pali Coast. The road itself is also an attraction, with its twists and turns that take you through different elevations and terrains.
Kuhio Highway: Picturesque Drive Along the Coast with Stops at Hanalei Bay and Kilauea Lighthouse
For a picturesque drive along Kauai’s coast, take Kuhio Highway. This scenic route takes you through charming towns like Kapaa and Hanalei while offering stunning ocean views. One highlight of this drive is stopping at Hanalei Bay, one of Hawaii’s most beautiful beaches with its turquoise waters and white sand.
Another highlight is visiting Kilauea Lighthouse, which sits on a cliff overlooking the ocean. Here you can learn about Hawaii’s maritime history while enjoying panoramic views from atop the lighthouse.
Wailua River State Park: Scenic Drive Through Lush Rainforest to Reach Famous Fern Grotto
For a scenic drive through lush rainforest, head to Wailua River State Park. This park features a winding road that takes you through dense vegetation to reach Fern Grotto. The grotto is famous for its fern-covered walls and natural acoustics that make it a popular spot for weddings.
Along the way to Fern Grotto, you’ll pass by Opaekaa Falls and Wailua Falls, two of Kauai’s most beautiful waterfalls. You can also stop at the park’s overlooks to enjoy stunning views of the Wailua River.
Koke’e State Park: Winding Drive Through Mountainous Terrain with Breathtaking Views of Na Pali Coast
For a scenic drive through mountainous terrain with breathtaking views, take a trip to Koke’e State Park. This park features a winding road that takes you through lush forests and up to an elevation of 4,000 feet. Along the way, you’ll see sweeping views of the Na Pali Coast and Waimea Canyon.
One highlight of this drive is stopping at Pu’u o Kila Lookout, which offers panoramic views of Kalalau Valley and the Na Pali Coast. Another highlight is hiking one of the park’s many trails to see even more stunning vistas.
Hanapepe Road: Charming Drive Through Historic Town with Quaint Shops and Art Galleries
For a charming drive through a historic town, head to Hanapepe Road. This road takes you through Hanapepe, a quaint town known for its art galleries and shops. The town has preserved its plantation-era architecture, giving it a unique charm that feels like stepping back in time.
Along Hanapepe Road, you can stop at various art galleries and boutiques or grab some local eats from one of the town’s restaurants. The road itself is lined with colorful buildings that make for great photo opportunities.
Poipu Road: Coastal Drive with Views of Rugged Cliffs and Pristine Beaches Including Spouting Horn Blowhole
For a coastal drive with stunning ocean views, take Poipu Road. This scenic route takes you along Kauai’s southern coast past rugged cliffs and pristine beaches like Shipwreck Beach and Poipu Beach Park.
One highlight of this drive is stopping at Spouting Horn blowhole, a natural wonder where water shoots up through a hole in the rocks. Another highlight is stopping at Koloa Town, a historic town with charming shops and restaurants.
The Best Lookouts and Viewpoints Along the Drives
Scenic drives are an excellent way to explore Kauai’s natural beauty. While driving along the North Shore, visitors can experience breathtaking views of the mountains and coastline. The winding roads offer multiple lookout points for visitors to take in the stunning views of the ocean and cliffs.
One of the most recommended stops along the drive is at Waimea Canyon Lookout, which offers a panoramic view of “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” This scenic spot provides a bird’s-eye view of one of Hawaii’s most iconic landmarks. Visitors can admire layers upon layers of red, orange, and brown hues that make up this geological wonder.
Another must-see lookout point is Cathedral Cliff, located on Highway 560. The viewpoint offers panoramic views of the ocean and cliffs that are simply awe-inspiring. Visitors can park their cars at designated parking areas and take a short walk to reach this spot. It is perfect for those who want to take some time out from driving while enjoying stunning vistas.
Driving towards Hanalei Bay also provides picturesque views of waterfalls and lush greenery. Lookouts along this road offer opportunities for visitors to capture some great pictures or just admire nature’s beauty. A stop at Hanalei Valley Overlook is highly recommended as it provides a sweeping view over taro fields surrounded by verdant mountains.
The winding roads along Kauai’s coast offer some fantastic viewpoints that will leave visitors breathless with amazement. One such popular spot is Ke’e Beach Overlook, which overlooks Ke’e Beach and Na Pali Coastline in all its glory. The lookout point provides an unobstructed view of turquoise waters, towering cliffs, and lush vegetation.
Tips for a Successful and Enjoyable Scenic Drive Experience in Kauai
Plan Your Route Ahead of Time
To make the most out of your scenic drive experience in Kauai, it’s important to plan your route ahead of time. Research the best scenic drives on the island and decide which ones you want to take. Some popular options include Waimea Canyon Drive, Hanalei Bay Loop, and Kuhio Highway. Once you’ve decided on your route, check the weather forecast before heading out to ensure safe driving conditions.
Bring a Map or GPS Device
The roads in Kauai can be winding and confusing, so it’s always a good idea to bring a map or GPS device with you. This will help you navigate through the island’s roads and avoid getting lost. It’s also important to pay attention to road signs and follow speed limits for safety.
Take Breaks Often
One of the best parts about taking a scenic drive in Kauai is being able to stop and enjoy the breathtaking views along the way. Take breaks often to stretch your legs and soak in all that natural beauty around you. Some great spots for photo opportunities include lookouts along Waimea Canyon Drive and overlooks of Hanalei Bay.
Pack Snacks and Drinks
Driving around Kauai can be tiring, so it’s important to pack snacks and drinks to keep you fueled throughout the drive. Bring water bottles, fruit, granola bars, or any other snacks that will keep you energized during your journey.
Respect Local Wildlife and Environment
Kauai is home to many unique species of wildlife that should be respected during your scenic drive experience. Be sure not to litter or harm any animals or plants along your route. Stay on designated roads at all times to protect fragile ecosystems from damage caused by off-roading vehicles.
Discover Old Koloa Town and Time Travel in Old Hanapepe Town
Old Koloa Town is a historic sugar plantation town that dates back to the 1830s. This charming town offers visitors a glimpse into the past with its restored buildings, including the Koloa History Center. The center provides an educational experience for visitors by showcasing ancient Hawaiian artifacts, old photographs, and documents that tell the story of this historic area.
One of the highlights of visiting Old Koloa Town is exploring nearby McBryde Garden. This botanical garden showcases native Hawaiian plants and taro fields. Visitors can take a guided tour through the gardens or explore on their own. There are also several walking trails that offer stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
Old Hanapepe Town is known as “Kauai’s Biggest Little Town.” It offers a unique opportunity to time travel to Hawaii’s past with its charming storefronts and historic buildings. The town was once a hub for sugar plantations, and many of its buildings have been restored to showcase their original architecture.
Visitors to Old Hanapepe Town can explore several art galleries and shops showcasing local artists. One such gallery is Talk Story Bookstore, which not only sells books but also offers storytelling events for children and adults alike. Another must-visit spot in Old Hanapepe is the Swinging Bridge, which spans across Hanapepe River.
In addition to exploring these two towns separately, visitors can also take part in a guided tour that combines both experiences into one day trip. These tours often include transportation between sites, making it easy for visitors to soak up all that both towns have to offer without worrying about logistics.
End Your Day with a Visit to Nearby State Parks
Beach parks, rest stops, and hiking trails – Kauai’s state parks have it all. Whether you’re on a road trip or just looking for a quick day trip, visiting the nearby state parks is an excellent way to end your day. Here are some tips on how to make the most of your visit.
Take a Road Trip to Explore the Natural Beauty of Kauai’s State Parks
Kauai’s state parks offer breathtaking views that can only be seen by taking a scenic drive. If you’re driving north, take some time to stop at the small town rest stop before continuing on your journey. The rest stop offers a great place to stretch your legs and grab some refreshments before hitting the road again.
Once you’re back on the road, head towards the beach park for an unforgettable sunset view over the bay. The beach park also has hiking trails that offer scenic views of the ocean and surrounding landscape. Take advantage of these trails and explore nature at its finest.
Hike the Trails at Beach Park for a Scenic View of the Bay
The hiking trails at beach park are perfect for those who want to experience nature up close and personal. These trails offer stunning views of both land and sea, making them perfect for photographers or anyone who appreciates natural beauty.
If you’re traveling with kids or elderly people who might not be able to handle long hikes, there are shorter hikes available as well. These shorter hikes still offer incredible views while being less strenuous.
Travelers Can Go on a Short Hike to See River and Trees at West Side of State Park
For those looking for something off-the-beaten-path, consider taking a short hike through west side of state park where travelers can see river and trees in their natural habitat. This hike is perfect for bird watchers or anyone interested in learning more about local flora and fauna.
Rest and Relax at the Beach Park After a Long Day of Driving and Exploring
After a long day of driving and exploring Kauai’s state parks, there’s no better way to unwind than by relaxing at the beach park. The beach park offers picnic tables, restrooms, and showers for visitors to use. Take some time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the sunset over the bay.
Na Pali Coast and Kalalau Beach: A Breathtaking View on Your Kauai Scenic Drive
Na Pali Coast is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Kauai. Located on the west coast of the island, Na Pali Coast offers a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean that you won’t find anywhere else. The best way to experience this breathtaking view is by taking a scenic drive along the coast.
Kalalau Beach is situated in the Kalalau Valley and is one of the most secluded spots on the island. With white sand and crystal-clear water, it’s easy to see why this beach has become such a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.
The drive to Na Pali Coast passes through some of Kauai’s most beautiful scenery, including the Hanalei Valley. Visitors can witness the beauty of Hanalei River as it winds its way through lush greenery before meeting up with Hanalei Bay. This bay is home to some of Hawaii’s best surf spots, so be sure to stop and watch as surfers ride the waves.
One of the most scenic routes leading to Na Pali Coast is Maluhia Road. Lined with towering eucalyptus trees, this road offers stunning views of Kauai’s landscape as you wind your way towards Na Pali Coast.
If you’re looking for more adventure, consider exploring Polihale Beach located at the end of Na Pali Coast. This beach offers a breathtaking view of both coastline and waterfall that will leave you speechless. Be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and water as there are no facilities nearby.
What You Need to Know About the Waimea Canyon Drive
Waimea Canyon Drive: A Journey Through the Grand Canyon of the Pacific
Waimea Canyon Drive is a must-see for anyone visiting Kauai. This scenic drive spans 19 miles along Waimea Canyon Road and offers breathtaking views of the Waimea Canyon, also known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. In this section, we will discuss what you need to know about this incredible drive.
Breathtaking Views at Every Turn
The highlight of Waimea Canyon Drive is undoubtedly the stunning views it offers. As you wind your way up the road, you’ll be treated to panoramic vistas of the canyon and its surrounding landscape. There are several lookout points along the way where you can stop and take in the scenery. One such point is Puu Hinahina Lookout, which offers an incredible view of both Waimea Canyon and nearby Koke’e State Park.
Koke’e State Park: A Hiker’s Paradise
As you make your way along Waimea Canyon Drive, you’ll pass through Koke’e State Park. This park is a hiker’s paradise, with over 45 miles of trails to explore. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll or a challenging hike, there’s something here for everyone. Some popular trails include Alakai Swamp Trail, which takes you through a unique high-elevation bog ecosystem, and Awaawapuhi Trail, which offers stunning views of Na Pali Coast.
Drive Cautiously and Be Prepared
While Waimea Canyon Drive is undoubtedly beautiful, it’s important to remember that it can also be dangerous if not approached with caution. The road can be narrow and winding in some areas, so it’s important to drive slowly and stay alert at all times. Weather conditions can change quickly on Kauai, so visitors should be prepared for sudden rain showers or foggy conditions.
Why Kauai Scenic Drives Should Be on Your Bucket List
Breathtaking Views of Kauai’s Natural Beauty
Kauai scenic drives offer some of the most breathtaking views of natural beauty that Hawaii has to offer. The island’s diverse landscapes, from lush rainforests to rugged coastlines, can be experienced in all their glory while driving along its scenic routes. The Waimea Canyon Drive is one such route that offers stunning views of the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Visitors can take in the awe-inspiring sights of red and green cliffs, waterfalls cascading down mountainsides, and sweeping vistas across the canyon.
Another must-see drive is along Kuhio Highway on the North Shore, where visitors can witness a beautiful coastline dotted with secluded beaches and hidden coves. The Hanalei Valley Lookout provides panoramic views of taro fields backed by majestic mountain ranges. As you drive through this area, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a postcard-perfect tropical paradise.
Discover Hidden Gems Along the Way
One of the best things about Kauai scenic drives is that they allow visitors to explore at their own pace and discover hidden gems along the way. For example, while driving along Kokee Road on your way to Waimea Canyon, make sure to stop at Kalalau Lookout for incredible views of Na Pali Coastline. You might even spot some hikers making their way up or down the famous Kalalau Trail.
Another hidden gem is Opaekaa Falls lookout on Kuamoo Road (Highway 580). This waterfall drops over 150 feet into a pool below and is surrounded by lush greenery. It’s a great spot for taking photos or enjoying a picnic lunch.
Escape Crowds and Experience Tranquility
Kauai scenic drives are perfect for those looking for an escape from crowds and wanting to experience tranquility amidst nature’s beauty. One such peaceful drive is along Mahaulepu Road, which winds through a remote area of the island’s south shore. This route offers stunning views of the ocean and rugged coastline, with hardly any crowds to be found.
Another peaceful drive is along Kokee Road, which takes visitors through Kokee State Park’s lush forests and meadows. The road ends at Puu O Kila Lookout, where you can take in panoramic views of Kalalau Valley and Na Pali Coastline. It’s a perfect spot for watching the sunset or stargazing on clear nights.
In conclusion, Kauai scenic drives are a must-do activity for anyone visiting the island. With its stunning natural beauty and diverse landscapes, Kauai offers some of the most breathtaking views in Hawaii. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely drive or an adventurous one, Kauai has something to offer everyone.
Timing is key when it comes to planning your scenic drive. The best time to go on a Kauai scenic drive is during the dry season from April to September. This will ensure that you have clear skies and optimal visibility for taking in all of the island’s stunning scenery.
Some of the top scenic drives on Kauai include Waimea Canyon Drive, Na Pali Coast Drive, and Hanalei Bay Drive. Each of these drives offers unique highlights such as waterfalls, lookout points, and historic towns.
While on your drive, be sure to stop at some of the best lookouts and viewpoints along the way. These include Spouting Horn Park Lookout, Kalalau Lookout, and Opaekaa Falls Lookout. These spots offer some of the most picturesque views on the island.
To make your experience more enjoyable, be sure to follow some tips such as bringing snacks and drinks for long drives and wearing comfortable clothing and shoes. Don’t forget to visit nearby state parks such as Wailua River State Park or Polihale State Park for even more outdoor adventures.
Lastly, if you’re up for a challenge and want to see one of Hawaii’s most iconic landmarks up close, take a trip down Kalalau Trail which leads you directly to Kalalau Beach – one of Hawaii’s most beautiful beaches.
In short, whether you’re a nature lover or just looking for an adventure-filled day trip with friends or family members – Kauai scenic drives should definitely be on your bucket list!