5 Days In Kauai, Hawaii: Things To See And Do

This 5-day itinerary will take you to 10 tourist spots around Kaua’i, Hawaii. -By Crystal Neri


My husband Jovi, and I landed in Kaua’i, Hawaii and went straight to Alamo rental car. By automatic reflex, I grabbed the key and headed straight to the ‘compact’ car section. Only after a while I realized this was a familiar scenario for me – from five years worth of renting cars across ten American states – I knew exactly what to do.

The next few days, the same theme continued.

I was comforted by the familiarity of white Helvetica on green boards to signal street signs; counting dimes, quarters and nickels for exact change at the US postal office; navigating downtown Honolulu by reversing Google Map routes; and even going straight to the sales rack when shopping in the midst of Black Friday madness.

The U.S. had been my home for the last five years and I missed it. It was everything that was familiar, routine, orderly. I understood Americans, the food, everything that is exactly what I’ve been missing since I moved to Cebu.

Now that I’m here with a husband, it’s not longer the same. This trip only emphasized how deeply different we are as people. Projection bias is a human cognitive bias where we assume others think like we do. Despite of calling Jovi almost everyday in the last five years when I lived in the US – he was absent and has no clue on the life I was living.

It’s good to be back in U.S. soil!

This trip is our second honeymoon after Palawan in June. I’ve been to Big Island, Hawaii twice already. Now we are headed to Kaua’i for a friend’s wedding and Honolulu to spend Thanksgiving with family. 

E komo mai (Welcome) to The Garden Isle – a true Pacific gem, from its sculpted mountain ridges, lush rainforests and spectacular beaches to the natural grandeur of Waimea Canyon and the awe-inspiring scenery of Napali Coast.

Kaua’i – The Garden Isle

Kauai is by far Hawaii’s greenest island, the oldest of the state’s major islands and has eroded over eons into low, steep mountains, broad valleys and windswept slopes. Its waterfalls, vistas and island towns served as backdrop in movies like Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Blue Hawaii.  – PleasantHawaii Magazine

All I ever wanted to do in Hawaii was hike. My late afternoon hikes in 2014 while living in San Diego, California are some of the fondest memories of my life. It’s something that I don’t get to do in Cebu anymore. I told Jovi, “We are going to go hiking everyday!” There’s something about earning fantastic views after marching on rocky soil for hours that makes it sweeter than car rides could ever give (hiking is also a whole-body workout and has shown to benefit the mind and soul). With a priority of hikes in our trip, here’s a 5-day itinerary in Kaua’i, Hawaii:

Day 1:

Kauai is strictly navigable by car only, so it’s a must to rent a car and GPS.

Our AirBnB apartment’s lounge area at Waikomo Streams Village

We stayed at Waikomo Stream Villages in Poipu, booked via AirBnB for around $100+ a day. Loved the attention to detail and hospitality they showed us by preparing small notes and fresh towels. We also had our own living room, kitchen and in-house laundry.

I recommend getting maps and guides in Poipu Market Village – but be wary of the front desk guy who will try to sell you expensive group tours. While there, grab some food at Puka Hotdogs, Hawaiian-style hotdogs known for relishes like pineapple, coconut, mango, papaya, banana and starfruit.

We got water and basic groceries at Big Save, where locals flock for supplies. 


Day 2: 

We had to attend a rehearsal lunch with Onie’s family and friends at The Beach House. Right beside is the Poipu Beach Park, a popular family beach fringed by palm trees and shady lawns. 

With the whole wedding entourage from California and Cebu, meeting halfway in Hawaii.

In the late afternoon, we hiked the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail – Here’s a tip: when they use the word heritage it’s gonna be good. The Maha’ulepu trail is a moderate hike that will traverse through cliffs, shrubs, a golf course beaches, and lava rocks. I appreciate that it’s not a hard hike to get to such spectacular views with a treasure-trove of geological and cultural sites:


DSC_0130 DSC_0114

Day 3:

Tour the National Botanical Gardens, a congressionally chartered facility that tells all about Hawaii’s native plants. You’ll have two choices here, the Allerton or McBryde. We chose Allerton ($45 per person) the premier garden, home of the famous Jurassic Park trees. Our guide, Dave, gave a 2-hour tour where we learned that this property was purchased in the 1938 by philanthropist and artist Robert Allerton and his partner, engineer John Gregg. Together they transformed the grounds to become a living museum of curated plant collections, priceless art and water features. Some details from the 5 garden rooms:


Our place is also walking distance from the Shops at Kukui’ula, with varied 50+ shops and dinning opportunities along with a Culinary Market and an Art Walk. 

Our Allerton tour guide Dave gave us a tip to try Uncle’s Shave Ice’s, Birthday Cake Snow Ice with Cream. It tasted like birthday flavours popping in my mouth with an aftertaste of dense, creamy ice. I’ve tried shaved ice before but not snow ice!


We spent the next half of the day at our friend’s wedding in Immaculate Concepcion Church and Plantation Gardens. Congratulations to Onie and Monina!

As a wedding gift, Jovi made them a drawing of Onie’s beloved dog – Max

Day 4:

From Poipu, the Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Park is about an hour-long drive. Touted as the “Grand Canyon Of The Pacific,” this is a must-see in Kauai as a geographical wonder. It’s best to get there by 7:00 AM or it will be too cloudy to see the canyons. We wanted to hike the Waimea Canyon trail but it was raining too hard.



On the way back, we passed by the Kauai Coffee Visitor Centre. It’s a self-guided, outdoor tour feature with kiosks on growing & roasting coffee as well as free samples with flavors ranged from Hawaiian Toasty Banana Nut Cream to Coconut Caramel Crunch.


Day 5:

We drove to North Shore’s Napali Coast. PleasantHawaii Magazine describes it as,

“The distinctive, knife-edged pali (cliffs) of this landmark boast a ragged grandeur that’s been edged into the northwest side of the island. This isolated coastline is called paradise on Earth with its unspoiled beaches, dramatic sea arches, deep emerald valleys, standout sea caves and waterfalls. Breathtakingly beautiful and steeped in legend, the Napali Coast is one of Kauai’s natural wonders.”

It’s one of the last of Kauai’s virgin spots. Note that there are four one-way bridges there that close when flooded.

From the beach parking lot, we hiked along Kalalau trail. From Ke’e to Hanakapiai (2 miles) it took us almost three-hours because it was so muddy. The soft, red volcanic soil slipped toward cliffs. My husband’s poor knees acted up but thankfully we made it without casualty. I enjoyed it very much – especially the panoramic coastal views and seeing small kids reaching the beach at the first end of the trail. 


For lunch, we stopped by Ching Young Village Shopping Centre to grab Bubba Burgers, a favourite local chain for teriyaki burgers, fries and milkshakes with a casual space with porch. (Burgers in America, in general, are inexplicably fantastic)

From there, we drove 15-minutes more to get to the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. I joked to Jovi that we probably didn’t need to see it because already have a lighthouse in our home in Cebu, Liloan. 

This world-famous lighthouse is home to the world’s largest clamshell lens, perched on a peninsula 200 feet above sea level. It’s one of the best places on earth to observe seabirds and the endangered state bird – the nene. We picked up free binoculars, hoping to spot any overwintering humpback whales – but no cigar.



Last stop of the day was at Wailua Falls, an 80-foot tiered fall can easily spotted by the side road.

As a final note to our Kauai trip, my husband and I splurged on dinner at Grand Hyatt’s Tidepool, a restaurant with a large koi pond and a waterfall view. We ordered Wagyu beef, Hearts of Palm salad, and Chocolate Lava Cake. 


Thing I wish we did:

Helicopter tour of Napali Coast – Only 20% of Kaua’i can be seen by land, so a helicopter tour would have been grand. It’s affordable at just about $150 per person. Next time….

For Part 2 of this trip, watch out for my next post about Oahu, Hawaii.