The Ultimate Guide to Kauai’s 5 Regions

Are you getting ready for a trip to Kauai, but aren’t sure just where to spend your time? If so, you’re not alone. It’s definitely difficult to choose from all the wonderful places to explore, shop, and dine.

Should you spend your days surfing along Hanalei Bay on North Shore? Shop your heart out in Old Koloa Town? Or simply spend your days exploring the secluded beaches, parklands, and trails on the West Side?

The sky is the limit in how you spend your time on Kauai – but thankfully, we’re here to help. Simply use this guide on all the top spots across the island’s five main regions to zero in on your perfect travel experience.  


Whether you’re arriving by boat or airplane, Lihue is where you’ll land, for sure. As home to the main harbor and airport, this area serves as a shopping and dining hub.

You’ll find most of the restaurants along both the Kuhio Highway and Rice Street, including:  

Boutique shops fill out the rest of the space, giving you plenty of chances to shop for souvenirs.

If you’d like to start your adventures right away, the Grove Farm Homestead Museum, Kauai Museum, and Kilohana Estate are right nearby. For beachside adventures, you can go over to the coast to visit Ninini Beach and Kalapaki Beach. Don’t miss the chance to check out the Wailua Falls and Alekoko Fishpond as well.

East Side

opaekaa falls kauai

East Side Kauai stretches from the northern edge of Lihue all the way past the Moloaa Forest Reserve. Home to about ¼ of the island’s residents, this section of the island has a great mix of restaurants, shops, and attractions.

Like Lihue, the majority of the shopping and dining venues lie along the Kuhio Highway. As you boogie down the roadway, you’ll get a chance to visit the Coconut Marketplace, Anchor Cove Shopping Center and Harbor Mall. Don’t miss the chance to swing by Old Kapaa Town as well.

When it comes time to fuel up for more fun, stop by:

After you’re done shopping and dining, the beautiful landscape beckons at the Anahola Beach Park and Kapaa Beach. Want a relatively safe place for kids to play? Go to the kid-friendly Lydgate Beach Park. Other major attractions nearby include the Wailua River State Park, Opaekaa Falls, and Fern Grotto.

North Shore

North Shore serves as a beachgoer’s paradise, offering tons of exciting surfing, paddleboard, and swimming fun at Hanalei Bay. The area has a more remote feel than the East Side, although it’s still full of eclectic shops and eateries.

The shops in this area follow the Kuhio Highway as well, mostly centered around the Ching Young Village Shopping Center. Around all the shops, you’ll find plenty of amazing places to enjoy a meal any time of the day.

The most popular eateries in North Shore Kauai include:

When you want to explore the gorgeous island landscape, set your sights on the Napali Coast, which wraps around the northwest shores. For the best experience, you’ll want to join a boat tour company, like Capt Andy’s, Holo Holo Charters, or Blue Dolphin Kauai. Other notable attractions include the Kilauea Point Lighthouse, Limahuli Garden & Preserve, and Hanalei Valley Lookout.

South Shore

Dining, shopping, and outdoor adventures abound across South Shore. You just have to head about 30 minutes south from Lihue to get to all the top shops, restaurants, and beaches in the area. Many fantastic resorts, hotels, and eateries sit along the coast, giving all their guests spectacular views in every direction.

The most popular oceanfront eateries in South Shore Kauai are:

As you travel along Poipu Road, you’ll find many excellent shopping hubs as well, including Poipu Shopping Village, The Shops at Kukuiula, and Kauai Village Shopping Center. Remember to stop by Old Koloa Town to visit all the boutique shops before ending your visit with a classic Lappert’s ice cream cone.

When you want to enjoy the great outdoors, you can always count on Poipu Beach Park, Shipwreck Beach, Baby Beach, and Lawai Beach to leave you feeling delighted. Spouting Horn Park, McBryde and Allerton Gardens, and Makauwahi Cave Reserve are must-see experiences as well.

West Side

Although it’s not as popular as the other four areas of Kauai, the West Side never fails to impress with its rugged natural landscape. You’ll know you’re on the West Side upon encountering Hanapepe Town, which definitely serves as a great place to explore. Just the swinging bridge is enough reason to stop, but there are also plenty of awesome places to enjoy a meal.

When hunger strikes, you might enjoy dining at:

Shops are few and far between though, so save the souvenir shopping for another section of the island.

The most popular attractions on West Side Kauai are the beaches, including Salt Pond Beach Park, Barking Sands Beach, and Polihale State Park. If you want to explore the trails inland, then put Waimea Canyon State Park and Kokee State Park on your radar. While visiting Kokee State Park, you can get truly amazing views of the Napali Coast by heading up to the Kalalau Lookout.

Now that you know where to go while visiting Kauai, it’s time to start planning your adventures. As you build your itinerary, leave plenty of spare time for unplanned stops. You never know just what you’ll discover on your travels, so it’s wise to leave enough time for additional explorations along the way.