Driving Around Kauai – How Long Does It Take?

One of the things we love about Kauai is its size. The island is big and diverse enough for all kinds of adventures, but small enough to drive in just a day. Driving around the island of Kauai is not only easy, but also offers stunning views of white-sand beaches, dramatic cliffs, and lush tropical valleys and forests.

In a single day you can enjoy a bright sunny day on the beach on the South Shore and smell the sweet floral fragrances after a rainstorm on the North Shore.

Main Roads on Kauai

Kauai is a round island with a single main highway around three-quarters of its circumference. On the eastern shore, HI-56, takes you from Hanalei in the north to Lihue in the south, HI-50 run east from Lihue to Waimea on the south shore. The northwestern shore of the island, about a quarter of its coastline, is not accessible by vehicle due to the cliffs of the Na Pali Coast. This means that you cannot drive the whole way around the island of Kauai. That said, you can reach its towns and cities via a few Kauai main roads.

How Long Does it Take to Drive Around the Island?

In a week-long stay at Waipouli Beach Resort, you can spend time on the entire island. If you want to explore beyond the area surrounding one of our Kauai resort rentals, be sure to arrange transportation while on vacation. Kauai has a large dense interior, but its urban centers are concentrated on the coast and are relatively close together.

It takes about 40 minutes to drive from Waipouli Beach Resort and Spa to Princeville and Hanalei on the north shore, and about the same to drive to Poipu in the south. The drive from our Kauai resorts on the eastern shore to the Lihue airport is about 20 minutes, though it can take longer during rush hour.

The drive from Princeville to Waimea is about an hour and a half. This is the longest drive you can take on Kauai main roads, and it takes you to the “Grand Canyon of Kauai”.

Driving Tour of the Garden Isle

With such few main roads, you might be wondering whether or not it’s worth driving around the island of Kauai. However, there are plenty of things to see without leaving your car (though we recommend you do).

Here are a few our favorite scenic drives on Kauai:

Drive north along Kuhio Highway (HI-56) past Hanalei until you get to the end of the road. Here, you’ll get to Ke’e Beach, a long stretch of sand surrounded by looming black cliffs and green foliage.

From there you can turn around and drive south along the eastern side of the island through the community of Anahola, stopping at popular Kealia Beach and the cute town of Kapa’a along the way.

Another incredible drive is taking a detour around downtown Lihue and take the three-mile Tree Tunnel Road (also known as Maluhia Road) that connects the main highway to the town of Koloa. This route is known for its long stretch of road lined by towering, 100-year-old eucalyptus trees.

Drive the loop from Koloa to Poipu, home to a lovely beach park, a few high-end shops and restaurants, and the famous Spouting Horn, a natural lava tube that emits water from the Pacific high into the air at regular intervals.

While you’re in the south, be sure to drive the Waimea Canyon, located northwest of Poipu. Here, you’ll witness a landscape unlike any other on the island.

Where to Stay

There are so many places to stay in Kauai, it can be tough to pick the perfect vacation rental for you and your family. Fortunately, we have lots of options to choose from. We offer convenient online booking for available resorts rentals, homes, cottages, and condos all over the island. Browse our map of places to stay in Kauai and reserve your vacation home away from home.


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