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I have never seen anywhere more breathtaking than the beautiful Hawaiian Island of Kauai. With it’s gorgeous green mountains, cascading waterfalls, and picturesque beaches, it is my idea of a perfect vacation spot.
When I was planning our trip to Kauai I spent hours and hours researching everything there is to know about the “Garden Isle.” I wanted to enjoy every inch of the island, but without having to spend much money.
I read a lot of books about Kauai and the very very best one I found was The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook: Kauai Revealed. This book was everything! I consulted it about beaches, hotels, restaurants, etc. EVERYTHING you could want to know about Kauai is in this wonderful perfect book. My husband teases me that I have it memorized because of all the facts I kept spouting out of it. 🙂 Seriously though, if you are going to Kauai read The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook: Kauai Revealed.
After a lot of research and planning we were able to plan the perfect vacation and stayed within the budget. Today’s post is going to be sharing what worked for us and all of the money saving tips I learned along the way.
Where to Stay
We were able to find a condo to rent for $100 a night on VRBO.com. It was a studio on the beach with a small kitchenette. Having the kitchenette enabled us to make a lot of our meals right in the condo. VRBO is seriously amazing for finding great deals on lodging while traveling. It has a lot of options and was very easy and great to work with. I will use them every single time I travel to Hawaii.
We decided to stay on the East Shore so that we would have easy access to both the North and South sides. It was only ten minutes from the airport and very quick and easy to find. The East Shore hotels were all cheaper than the other areas, which is exactly what I was looking for! We did have a beach front property, but the waves are very strong on the East Shore and it was not a safe beach for swimming. This didn’t bother us, but it is important to point out in case others are needing something different.
If you want to spend any time outside of your resort you will need a rental car in Kauai. We reserved an economy sized vehicle on discounthawaiicarrental.com for ONLY $6 a day. YES! You read that right! $6 a day! The prices change often so you will want to check the website frequently, and when you find a low price make sure to snatch it up because the price will change.
Where to Eat
We ate most of our meals in our condo. Immediately after arriving in Kauai we went to the local grocery store and stocked up on easy quick foods to prepare throughout the week. We stopped at Foodland in Kapaa, but I know others who do their shopping at Walmart or Costco. We had fruit and toast for breakfasts, packed sandwiches for lunch and stopped for quick dinners while we were out exploring. A few of our favorite cheap eateries were Tacos Al Pastor, Da Crack, Hanalei Taro & Juice Company, and Puka Dog.
We ate Shaved Ice every day while in Hawaii. It is so good and is a MUST try! Our favorite shaved ice was at Hee Fat General Store in Kapaa. We always ordered one to share to save a little extra money. We did splurge on ordering real fruit syrup, this was definitely worth the splurge.
What to Do
There are so many fun FREE activities to do on Kauai. You do not need to spend a lot of money, or any money to have a great vacation. We had a great week adventuring around the island and spent very little money on activities.
We rented snorkel gear for the week from Snorkel Bobs. It was only about $15 for the entire week. It was so nice to have the gear with us all the time so we could pull it out whenever we came across a great snorkel area. Our two favorite snorkeling beaches are Hideaways and Turtles. Snorkeling is very best in the morning, so get their early!
Kauai has so many beautiful beaches. With golden coarse sand, blue turquoise water, and large green mountains for a backdrop it is the perfect place to spend a day relaxing and playing in sun and sand. The beaches and parking are all FREE, so take advantage of them!
Our favorite beaches on the North Shore were Kee and Hideaways. Kee is at the end of the very end of the road. Parking is limited and fills up quickly, so I recommend getting there first thing. Hideaways is a little bit harder to find which makes it a perfect, quiet, and uncrowded beach. To get there we used valet parking at the St.Regis Princeville (this is free, but it is a good idea to tip!). There is a trail a short distance away to hike down to the beach. The trail is steep and slippery, so wear good shoes.
Our favorite beach on the South Shore was Kiahuna Beach, also known as Sheraton Beach. Kiahuna Beach is located directly in front of the Sheraton Kauai Resort.
Kauai is known as the adventure island for good reason! There are so many beautiful hikes to do and beautiful places to explore.
Our first day we hiked along the Kalalau Trail. This is an intense 11 mile long hike along the Napali Coast. We just hiked the first two miles of it to Hanakapiai Beach. The views along this trail were incredible. The majority is right alongside the ocean. The Kalalau trail starts out extremely rocky and steep, so be prepared. It is worth hiking the first 1/2 mile at least for a fantastic view of Kee Beach.
Secret Falls is a magestic 100 foot waterfall deep in the rainforest. The only way to get to Secret Falls is to kayak down the Wailua River and then hike about 30 minutes through the rainforest. You could pay for a guided tour that will take you to Secret Falls, but we decided to go with a much cheaper option.
We rented a kayak from Kamokila Hawaiian Village in Kapaa. It is right on the Wailua River and you launch the kayak right from the village. It cost us $35 for a daily rental. They give you a map showing where you need to go and will answer any questions you might have.
We kayaked about 15 minutes up the river, docked the kayaks and hiked to the waterfall. This trail is very muddy, so bring water shoes! We passed MANY people hiking barefoot because it was to muddy for sneakers. When we arrived at Secret Falls a large tour group just happened to be leaving and we were able to have the entire place to ourselves. It was so fun swimming under the waterfall.
Once we got back to our kayak we paddled up stream another 5 minutes to a cliff jumping spot and were able to jump off the cliff and swim in the river for a little while.
We loved this entire day and it was really so easy to rent and find where to go all by ourselves.
There are so many great sight seeing stops around the island. They are all free and fun to stop at. I’ll list a few of our favorites.
Wailua Falls: These falls are very easy to get to, and a only a quick stop alongside the road. They are absolutely breathtaking!
Opaekaa Falls: I’ll be honest, I was a little underwhelmed by Opaekaa Falls. But, I do know of many others who have enjoyed seeing them. They are very easy access right off the road and only take a few minutes to view.
Tree Tunnel: While driving into Poipu on the South Shore you will pass through what’s known as the Tree Tunnel. It is a beautiful section of road lined with Eucalyptus Trees.
Spouting Horn: Spouting Horn is located near Poipu Beach. A blowhole is naturally formed when water crashes through a small hole in the lava rocks. The water can reach up to 50 feet in the air.
Waimea Canyon: The road to Waimea Canyon is a little long, but the views are spectacular! It is called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. The reds of the canyon next to the green vegetation were breathtaking! We did not spend a lot of time here, but there are a lot of hikes in the area that all sound fun to do and explore. Drive a little further up the road and view the Kalalau Valley Lookout. It is another view of the beautiful Napali coast and was once home to an ancient Hawaiian village. The history buff in me enjoyed imagining what life was once like there.
The North Shore is my FAVORITE and the next time I go to Kauai I will be spending all of my time here! It is so green and dense with vegetation. This is the part of the Island that gives Kauai the nickname the Garden Island.
Kilauea Lighthouse: This picturesque lighthouse is located just a few minutes off the main highway. It is a beautiful sight.. We only viewed it from the parking lot, but I know that there is a bird sanctuary and other fun things to see.
Hanalei Pier: Hanalei Beach wasn’t my favorite, but it was a very pretty area to view and I am glad we made the visit. It is a popular place for boogie boarding and surfing and we were able to catch a few waves and a bunch of laughs for the afternoon. I did love walking out on the pier and watching the locals jumping off.
Hanalei Valley Lookout: Right along the main road right, just past Princeville you will find this beautiful area of taro farms. They look like a green patchwork quilt and is a great stopping spot for a few pictures. When we were there we counted 8 waterfalls on the mountain right behind the field. It was a breathtaking sight!
The best place to find souvenirs is at the ABC Store. We stopped at the one in Kapaa on our last day in Kauai. I was happily surprised and impressed to see how much cheaper the souvenirs were here than at the other places we looked at during the week. They have all your typical souvenirs; shirts, trinkets, food, etc. We bought a few things to bring back home to our kids.
If you do some research and planning you can visit Kauai on a budget! We spent less than $2,000 for our entire trip. Half of that was spent on airfare.
Have you ever been to Kauai? What was your favorite thing that you did?