One day in Kaua`i is… better than no day in Kaua`i! But seriously, if you have just one day in Kaua`i it’s worth it. I’ve done it, friends of mine have done it, and it’s a popular island for a one day trip since the island is so small. Kaua`i is amazing and beautiful, pretty close to heaven on earth, to use an accurate cliche.
So after arriving at the Lihue Airport, you’ll definitely need to rent a car to make it around the island in just one day. First thing, head straight out to the North Shore. For a quick photo opportunity of a great view stop at the Hanalei Valley Overlook right after Princeville. Stop in historic Hanalei Town for a quick bite to eat at the Wake Up Cafe or off the hot bar or from the deli at the Harvest Market health food store.
From here head to the end of the road at the Kalalau Trail. Take a short walk along the Kalalau Trail, far enough at least for the lookout over Ke`e Beach. You can go a bit farther for a few nice views, but remember to keep it short since you’re on the one day plan. This is a good place to bring out the mask and snorkel. As long as the waves are small hop in the pool at the north end of the beach where you’ll find exquisite snorkeling. If the waves are truly flat and you’re an experienced snorkeler you can snorkel outside of the pool where you may see some very large fish by the drop off.
On your way back towards Hanalei stop at Lumahai Beach. It’s about a whopping one mile long of perfect yellowish white sand, but the ocean here is very rough and not for swimming. However, the beach is absolutely gorgeous and a highlight is the fresh water river at the north end that is usually perfect for swimming in for adults and children. It’s a popular swimming spot for locals. The other end is slightly better for swimming as long as the waves for small. A short trail leads from the road down while the river end is easily accessible and in view from the road. Don’t spend too much time here, but take a nice walk or a dip and some photos.
From here, look for Hot Mama’s Mexican food in the Wainiha area before you reach Hanalei. If it’s open order what will be a pretty large burrito. The food is great and she usually has fresh fish for the meals. If it’s closed choose a spot in Hanalei for lunch on the go, or if you fell you’re doing good on time stop at Neide’s Brazilian and Mexican Food or for lunch. From here it’s off to Princeville. Since time is limited you have two choices, Queen’s Bath or SeaLodge Beach. Season will greatly influence you choice because although Queen’s Bath is beautiful it’s is literally deadly during the winter months from September to April. The salt water pond is nestled in a cliff right on the ocean and is prone to large waves washing people off. Tens of people have died here. Otherwise, the summer months nearly always offer calm ocean conditions to enjoy the pretty hike down, a swim in the pond, and views towards Hanalei from the Pond.
If it’s winter or you’d just prefer a secluded sandy beach instead, SeaLodge Beach also in Princeville is a wonderful place. A roughly 10 minute walk down through trees along a dirt path brings you to a secluded cove and beach. It’s only slightly tiring on the way back up because of the incline. Be careful down here of course, there’s no lifeguards and you’ll likely be alone, but it’s usually good for swimming when the ocean is calm.