How To Get Around Kauai on Vacation

Kauai is the northernmost island of Hawaii. Over the years, it has stood the test of time as one of the premiere Hawaiian island destinations for its postcard-worthy views, its stunning jungles, and incredible waterfalls hidden deep within the trees.

There may be no place more magical in the world than Kauai- at least one you can practically get to. Much of the island has resisted overdevelopment, maintaining that remarkable and hard to find natural connection that is a rarity elsewhere.

Which brings up a good point- how do you navigate the roads, rural areas, parks, beaches, and top Kauai attractions without getting lost? Using our oceanfront rentals on Kauai as a home base during your stay, we can provide you a basic guide for getting around.

Driving around Kauai can be a great way to experience the quieter parts of the island.

Car Rentals

Before we get too far, you definitely want to consider a car rental. It is impractical to navigate the island without vehicular transportation of some kind. You can rely on a local transport service, public transportation, or even a bike, but we recommend a car rental for the sheer convenience.

You can visit the Lihue Airport site for information on where to rent a car at the airport itself. Enterprise has a location at the airport and a second location in Lihue with pick up and drop off service, but it is not the only major provider.

Most major rental providers are on the island, including Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Budget, and Alamo. Local and budget-friendly options are available as well, including Alii Rental Cars, Discount Hawaii Car Rental, and Rent A Car Kauai.

It’s a good idea to reserve your rental car ahead of time, as they can be in very high demand, especially during the summer and winter.

Main Roads for Travel

A basic outline of Kauai’s main roads for travel will get you to all the main places to be.

Kauai has two main highways that run the majority of the circumference of the island, excluding an inaccessible northwest region around Makaha Point that is surrounded by extensive preserves and state parks. This section of highway was never able to be completed due to the Alakai Swamp.

Route 50, known as the Kaumualii Highway, runs around the southern edge of the island. The Kuhio Highway (Route 56) meets Route 50 near the Lihue Airport and runs along the eastern and northern edge of the island.

The Kuhio Highway turns into Route 560 near Princeville and can take you further west into the surrounding attractions like Kolokolo Point, Hanalei, Lumahai Beach, Wainiha Bay, and ending in the far west at the Kalalau Trail. It is this region that houses the famous Hanalei Bay and Pier.

While the majority of highways and state roads are found on the exterior edge of the island, one will take you deep to the Waimea Canyon State Park (The Grand Canyon of the Pacific). Take the Waimea Canyon Drive, Route 550, to see one of the most isolated island natural attractions and incredible views.

The Hawaiian Department of Transportation has a thorough list of all Kauai state roads and highways. Use it as a reference point during your travels.

Though you may have phone service the majority of the time for navigation and GPS, it is smart to get a map of Kauai. You never know when your service may die because you got back from an attraction far later than you suspected or if you simply don’t have service on a certain part of the island. Regardless, a map is a nice tool to have when technology doesn’t work, and far more than a nostalgic throwback

The Aloha attitude of Kauai means that guests should embrace a slower way of life, and relax. Enjoy the scenery and go with the flow!

Public Transportation

The bus system in Kauai services every major artery of the island, from Hanalei up north to Kekaha in the southwest. Routes outside the normal schedule operating hours are available on an on-call basis. Bus fares are $2 and service begins daily at 6 a.m. and closes up around 8 p.m. or 10 p.m. depending on your location.

The Kauai government bus map will be a vital source for you if you choose to travel by public transportation. If you stay to the key sites and attractions, you may be able to navigate Kauai with this method, however a car is much more flexible.

Rules of the Road

If you do rent a vehicle, you need to understand some basic rules of the road that may differ from how it is at home. For example, seat belt laws are enforced. Hawaii accepts a foreign international driver’s permit as long as it is in English and is valid.

There are a TON of one-way bridges, so be polite and patient. Local drivers do not honk their horn, and there will be many times that you have to embrace the laid-back island lifestyle and enjoy slower speeds.

Our Waipouli Beach Resort and Spa is your Kauai home base. Explore the Waimea Canyon and the surfing beaches, gorgeous hikes, parks and preserves with a beautiful rental to come back to. Hike to the waterfalls and or just head up to the most inspiring peaks of the island.

Kauai is your playground, and now you know how to get around it.

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