Part of the Hawaiian archipelago, the island of Kauai also forms its own county within the state of Hawaii. Kauai vacation rentals are mainly located along the island’s beaches, but the relatively small land mass means you can easily access the numerous lush rainforests and nature preserves that earn Kauai the nickname “The Garden Isle.”

The diverse terrain on Kauai makes its outdoor activities a prime attraction for families. Swim and snorkel in the warm coastal waters off of one of the island’s pristine beaches, or enjoy hiking and river kayaking further inland. Take a break to shop and dine in one of the island’s small towns while enjoying authentic plantation architecture. With some areas accessible only by air or boat, Kauai is an ideal spot for those looking to get back to nature.

1. Koloa

sea viewed on the mountain
Source: Flickr / Leonard S Jacobs

Stretching between Old Koloa Town and Poipu on Kauai’s southern shore, Koloa is a district built upon a storied history of sugar production. Former plantation homes dating back to the early 1800s remain intact in Koloa, with many having been converted into tourist-friendly shops. Enjoy a taste of history first-hand by visiting one of the town’s famous ice cream parlors or pastry shops, or come during July to experience the annual Koloa Plantation Days celebration.

2. Wailua Bay

sunrise on the beach
Source: Flickr / Heath Cajandig

On the eastern coast of Kauai, Wailua Bay, along with Wailua Beach, is a renowned spot for surfing and kiteboarding. Avoid the need for parking by booking a vacation rental near the beach, then enjoy the warm sand and beautiful views of the sunset. If kayaking or rafting is more your style, Wailua Bay is located at the mouth of Wailua River, the most popular navigable river on Kauai. Enjoy great views of the inland forest and wildlife from your small craft.

3. Anahola

mountain tip
Source: Flickr / Robert Linsdell

Located at the mouth of the Anahola River on the northeastern edge of Kauai, Anahola is an ideal beach for vacationing families. Enjoy clean sand and plenty of shade, as well as picnicking amenities and beach-side camping. Anahola Beach employs a county lifeguard, making it a safe choice for those with younger kids who want to play in the water. Catch a glimpse of Hawaiian sea-life by snorkeling in the outlying reef just off this beach, or hike inland to for the spectacular views of Kalalea Mountain.

4. Kilauea

lighthouse on the island

Like Koloa, Kilauea began as a sugarcane plantation in the 19th century. Visitors can enjoy modern amenities housed in historic buildings, or relax on one of the several peaceful and secluded beaches located nearby. Kilauea is home to the picturesque Kilauea Lighthouse, built in the 1900’s and now house within the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. Hike through the lush wilderness to get a better look at the structure, or take a moment to spot one of the many species of exotic birds that call the refuge home.

5. Kalihiwai Beach

lava pools
Source: Flickr / Eric Richardson

Bordered by the Kalihiwai River, and the Pacific ocean, Kalihiwai Beach offers a stunning blend of inland Kauai wilderness and a sunny beach. Enjoy canoeing, kayaking, and fishing in the river, as well as walking along the beach under the shade of deep green rainforest. Vacation rentals along this beach have a delightfully quiet, small-town feel.

6. Hanalei

scenic mountain and sea view

Along the northernmost shore of Kauai, Hanalei is a peaceful town known for its historic buildings are art galleries. “Hanalei” means “lei-making,” so this town is great for kids and adults who want to unwind with some arts and crafts. Bordered by mountainous green terrain, Hanalei is also home to fields of taro plants. Check out these lush farms, then try some authentic Hawaiian poi at one of the local eateries.

7. Wainiha Beach

seashore
Source: Flickr / Gabriel Millos

Wainiha beach park is the perfect spot for vacationers who want to enjoy the sun and sand while keeping their feet dry. The name of this beach means “unfriendly waters” – but for those not interested in swimming, the beach has plenty to offer. Take a stroll through the coconut and pineapple groves, or grab an authentic Hawaiian coffee from the local resort. Vacation rentals here are often upscale and focused on luxurious ocean views.

8. Kekaha

clouds covering the setting sun
Source: Flickr / Twelvizm

On the western coast of Kauai, Kekaha is the starting point of the longest stretch of white sand beach in Hawaii. This side of the island enjoys milder weather than much of Kauai, so visitors looking to soak up the sun will find it here. Surf or fish along this beach which is lifeguarded and offers basic amenities including showers. Picnic facilities also make this a great spot to take a rest during a day hike.

9. Princeville

palm tree and rice fields

Located on the north point of Kauai, Princeville is a luxurious community of vacation homes and condominiums. Vacation rentals in Princeville boast modern amenities and gorgeous views of the Pacific. Just north of the community proper is Queen’s Bath, a natural formation of lava rock creating a large calm pool in the coastal waters. Hike down past a waterfall and along a lava-formed rocky beach to get to this attraction. Visitors with confident swimming and surfing abilities can take advantage of the swimming opportunities along this coastal formation provided optimal weather conditions.