Tips for your budget friendly vacation to Kauai, Hawaii.
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. My husband and I were lucky enough to take a trip there together a few years ago. I love to travel and see new places, but I always stay frugal. I am excited to share with you how to visit Kauai on a budget!
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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 (this may or may not be true…). Seriously though, if you are going to Kauai read The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook: Kauai Revealed.
Where to Stay
Hawaii is home to hundreds of high quality rentals on Airbnb. Honestly, my husband really just wanted to go the traditional route and stay in a hotel, but I am convinced him that an Airbnb would be the most cost effective and he wouldn’t even miss the hotel! (and I was right, he loved it!)
We were able to find a beautiful condo to rent for $100 a night on Airbnb . It was a studio on the beach with a small kitchenette. The kitchenette enabled us to make a lot of our meals right in the condo (saving us more money!).
Airbnb is seriously amazing for finding great deals on lodging while traveling. It has a lot of options and was very easy to work with. I will use them every single time I travel to Hawaii.
****BONUS! You can get $40 off your first vacation rental with Airbnb by using this link!******
Our rental was on the East Shore of the island. We chose this area 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 rentals were also a lot cheaper than other areas, which is what we were looking for!
However, next time we go, I want to stay on the North Shore. It was by far my favorite area on the island!
Kauai is a small island (it only takes about 2 hours to drive from one end to the other), but a car is still necessary.
We reserved an economy sized vehicle on discounthawaiicarrental.com for ONLY $6 a day. YES! You read that right! $6 a day! I couldn’t believe it either!
Be sure to check this website regularly as the prices change often. Once you find that cheap price snatch it up quick because it will not last long. change.
Where to Eat
Kauai us full of yummy roadside food stops. You can buy coconuts, juice, burgers, and just about anything at your local shops. In an effort to save money we chose to eat most of our foods in our condo. All it took was a quick stop at Walmart to stock up with food.
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, but we did splurge and ordered real fruit syrup. This was worth the splurge!
What to Do
There are so many fun FREE activities to do on Kauai. This makes it easy to have a wonderful budget friendly vacation! We had a great week adventuring around the island and spent very little money on activities.
Kauai has great snorkeling, all over the island! We rented snorkel gear for the week from Snorkel Bobs. The gear only cost us about $15 for the entire week. We loved having the the gear with us at all times, so we could pull it out whenever we came across a great snorkel area. Our two favorite snorkeling beaches were Hideaways and Turtles. Snorkeling is very best in the morning, so be sure to get their early!
My very favorite part of this trip was the beaches! So many beautiful beaches! With golden coarse sand, blue turquoise water, and large green mountains backdrop, the beach was 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!
Fave North Shore Beaches
Our favorite beaches on the North Shore were Kee and Hideaways. Kee is at the end of the very end of the North Shore 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.
Fave South Shore Beach
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. Just park alongside the street near the Sheraton, and walk down to the beach.
Kauai is known as the adventure island for good reason! It is full of breathtaking hikes and 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 decided to just hike the first two miles to Hanakapiai Beach.
The views along this trail were incredible. We were right alongside the ocean for most of the hike and I could not get over the view!
The Kalalau trail starts out extremely rocky and steep, so be prepared. If hiking isn’t your thing, I suggest hiking at least the firstIt is worth hiking the 1/2 mile 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 can launch the kayak straight from the village. The kayak was only $35 for a daily rental.
Kamokila Hawaiian Village was so helpful and even gave us a map showing exactly where we needed to go.
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 one of the highlights of the trip. 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. You will not regret it!
There are so many great sight seeing stops around the island. They are all free and definitely worth a stop! Here are a few of our favorites.
Wailua Falls: These falls are very easy to get to, and a quick stop alongside the road. They are absolutely breathtaking! We got there early in the morning and it felt so magical being there by ourselves in the early morning.
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 didn’t spend a lot of time here, but I know there are a few great hikes in the area and can’t wait to go back to explore more.
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!
If you are looking for a budget friendly place to buy souvenirs check out 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. I was able to find a few items to bring back to the 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. I am dead serious! $2,000! Half of that was spent on airfare.
I can’t wait to go back one day and do more exploring. It truly was heaven on earth!
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What tips do you have visiting Kauai on a budget?