Kauai is the oldest and northernmost of the Hawaiian Islands. Only three percent of its 533 square miles is developed, and an ordinance limits buildings to four stories—approximately the height of a mature coconut tree. The airport is in Lihue, the island's biggest town, in the southeast. Poipu, on the south shore, has the highest concentration of resorts because the sun is always shining and ocean conditions are generally mild. Hanalei, on the north shore, is a surfer's paradise, with bolder waves and bigger spenders—the most expensive homes and the Princeville Resort are nearby. The western shore, including the Na Pali Coast, and most of the center of the island are virtually untouched, whereas many locals live and work on the eastern shore. There is no way to drive across Kauai, but you can drive from Haena Point in the northwest all the way around the island (clockwise) to Mana in the southwest in less than three hours. This means it really doesn't matter where you stay—the island is easily explored from every town.
WHEN TO GO
Any month will do, but since Kauai is such a family destination, the best time is any time when school's out. Summer months are warmer (with daytime temperatures usually in the high 80s). In the fall and early spring, rates go down and crowds thin out. Winter can be expensive and wet (although showers are often short), but that's also the best time to see a waterfall or catch a rainbow.
HOW TO GET THERE
Flights directly into Kauai's Lihu'e airport originate in California and Arizona, are not scheduled for daily service, and can be expensive. But flights into Honolulu International Airport (HNL) are easy to book. From there, hop on a commuter plane (there are typically 10 to 12 flights per day) on either Hawaiian Airlines (800-367-5320; www.hawaiianair.com), Island Air (800-652-6541; www.islandair.com), Mokulele Air (808-326-7070; www.mokuleleairlines.com), or Go! (800-637-2910; www.iflygo.com). In just 37 minutes you'll be on the ground in Kauai.
Renting a car is the best way to tour the island. It's hard not to encounter a stunning vista along Kauai's roads, and since there are only two major highways, the island is easy to navigate.
Kauai Visitors Bureau
4334 Rice Street, Suite 101
Tel: 800 262 1400 (toll-free)
Tel: 808 245-3971
Fax: 808 246-9235