East Side Vacation Guide: Popular Activities, Attractions, and Things To Do
(Part 2 of 5 of the Kauai Vacation Guide – Which Side of the Island is Best For You?)
East Side: Anahola, Kapaa, Wailua
Overflowing with picturesque places to visit, the East Side of Kauai has charming main streets, a variety of activities, and beautiful vistas – not to mention some great vacation rentals, usually at better prices than you can find on other sides of the island. If you are wanting to visit both the North Shore and West Side of Kauai, this is a convenient place to stay. You are also close to a lot of great hiking trails, beaches, restaurants, and shopping.
Take a video tour of Kauai’s East Side
The following are highly recommended places to visit when you’re on Kauai’s East Side:
The first town you’ll come to after leaving Kilauea and heading East (we’re skipping the town of Moloa’a because it’s mainly ag land and residential housing) is Anahola. This lovely little residential area does have a few offerings that are worth checking out. They include:
Anahola Beach Park: This is a fun beach to visit, great for long walks and swimming. There’s a protected area toward the end (near the Beach Park) that’s particularly great for swimming, especially if you have little ones with you. Be sure to look at the mountains behind you and see if you can spot Kong mountain, shaped like a gorilla. Hint: the head of the “gorilla” is the tallest point of the mountain range and the gorilla is looking to the left. Also, right in front of the gorilla-shaped mountain is one that looks like the head of an elephant.
Duane’s Ono Car Burgers: While driving through Anahola, don’t pass up stopping at Duane’s Ono Char Burgers. It’s a small burger joint in a red building, located right next to the general store and post office, and is hard to miss because there’s usually a long line of people waiting to place their order. One of the best places on Kauai to get a burger, their Local Boy or Local Girl burger is highly recommended along with their boysenberry milkshake. Local tip: avoid a long wait and call your order in, then take it with you to enjoy at one of the many beautiful East Side beaches.
Anahola Marketplace is a great place to stop by if you’re looking for a quick, satisfying lunch. Among several other little shops, you will find a cafe, saimin stand, and some delicious huli chicken. A lot of people say that if you can’t go to Hamura’s, you can get delicious saimin here. They are located on the right-hand side of the road, heading East towards Kapaa.
Known For: Scenery, Mountains
Places to Visit: Anahola Beach Park
Best Restaurants: Duane’s Ono Char Burgers, Kalalea Juice Hale, Anahola Cafe and Saimin Stand, farmers’ markets
Best Beaches: Anahola Beach Park
Weather: Coastal, Warmer, Nice Trade Winds
Distance from Lihue Airport: 25 min
Shopping: Anahola Marketplace, farmers’ markets
Heading further East, and located right after Anahola, is Kapaa town. Ranked by Forbes as one of ‘America’s Prettiest Towns’ to travel to and claiming a spot on the Huffington Post’s “Most Underrated Cities in the U.S.,” Kapaa town is worth checking out.
Kapaa Bike Path: A big plus about Kapaa is that it’s home to the Kapaa Bike Path, a paved oceanfront path that will eventually take you from the beginning of Kapaa (East Kauai) to Lihue (Central Kauai). Whale watch, visit some great beaches, find restaurants, shop, and enjoy the sights along this fun addition to Kauai’s East Side. Some people decide to stay on this side of the island for the bike path alone. You can rent a bike, jog, or simply get around without a rental car if you’re not planning on visiting other parts of Kauai.
Old Kapaa Town Art Walk: This free event is held on the first Saturday of every month in Old Kapaa Town. The street shuts down and fills with people enjoying live music and excellent food; sometimes there’s even a little dancing. Many island artisans and vendors come here and set up booths along the sidewalks, making it a great place to find souvenirs, meet people, and have a great time. These events are so well received that many locals regularly attend, so they are highly recommended events to check out while you’re on-island.
Coconut Marketplace: A great place to go shopping in Kapaa, Coconut Marketplace offers “more than 30 quality shops, galleries, boutiques, cafes, and eateries plus a farmers’ market and free, authentic Hawaiian entertainment for the whole family, all in a tropical open-air setting.” Don’t miss their free hula shows on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Kealia Beach: A great beach to visit if you’re looking for lots of sand and sunshine, Kealia Beach is found right as you’re coming down the hill out of Anahola, heading towards Kapaa. Offering covered picnic tables, easy access to the bike path, and an on-duty lifeguard, this beach is great for morning jogs or evening walks. It’s also a great place to whale watch from land, as there are frequent whale sightings here; look for water spouts, jumping whales, and whale tails.
Ho’opi Falls: If you want to go on a little hike while visiting Kapaa, Ho’opi Falls is the best place to go. This hike gives you the opportunity to see some of the beauty hiding within Kauai’s interior. Resembling a scene out of The Lord of the Rings, the trail leading to the waterfall is gorgeous all by itself. Once you get to the end of the trail, however, you will be pleasantly rewarded with a lovely waterfall and a great swimming hole. Don’t forget your water bottle, towel (just in case), and some mosquito repellant!
Known For: Kapaa Bike Path, Restaurants, Coconut Coast
Places to Visit: Kapaa Bike Path, Ho’opi Falls, Kadavul Hindu Temple, Coconut Marketplace, Kapaa Art Walk
Best Restaurants: Kauai Juice Company, Oasis on the Beach, Paco’s Tacos, Al Pastor Tacos, Ono Ono Shave Ice, Olympic Cafe, Mermaid’s Cafe, Kountry Kitchen, Bubba Burgers, Sushi Bushido, Kauai Pasta, Smith’s Luau,
Best Beaches: Kealia Beach, Fuji Beach (Baby Beach)
Weather: Coastal, Warm, Nice Trade Winds
Distance from Lihue Airport: 15-20 min
Shopping: The Root, Deja Vu, Hula Girl, ABC Stores, Waipouli Town Center, Coconut Marketplace, Downtown Kapaa strip, Hee Fat Building
Literally right after Kapaa, heading South, is Wailua. Wailua is a town for the sightseers and the outdoor enthusiast. View waterfalls, whale watch from land, hike to the top of a mountain, or kayak up Hawaii’s largest river. Some noteworthy places to visit in Wailua are:
The Sleeping Giant: For those that enjoy hiking, or seeing views that few get to, we recommend you pencil in a hike up the Sleeping Giant – named because the mountain actually looks like the profile of a giant that’s sleeping (head to toe). There are 3 trails that will get you to the top, with the easiest trail located in Wailua Houselots. Turn right after Brick Oven Pizza and follow the road all the way back to the mountain. The trailhead is marked with a sign.
You will want to bring a hat, a camera, and have some good hiking shoes on. Don’t forget the sunscreen! Also, when you get to the top, be sure to look in all directions. You’ll feel like you’re on top of the world staring down at some of the most beautiful views on earth – and that’s exactly what you’ll be looking at. So take some pictures, so you can enjoy the views again when you return home.
Wailua River: Wailua is also where the Wailua River is located – the only navigable river in the entire state of Hawaii. There are several activities and tours available here, and it’s also where you’ll find Smith’s Luau (a great luau). The area is simply a beautiful spot to visit. Take a guided tour or kayak yourself up the river to a gorgeous fern grotto, enjoying endemic bird and plant sightings along the way.
Opaekaa Falls: One of the best waterfalls to view from the side of the road is the 150+ foot Opaekaa Falls. You can find it located right up the hill when you turn in by Coco Palms Resort (the last right before crossing the river) – which is the hotel that was made famous by Elvis Presley’s Blue Hawaii film, and was a place frequented by other celebrities, such as Frank Sinatra.
Kintaro Japanese Restaurant: Another noteworthy place to visit in Wailua is Kintaro Japanese Restaurant, one of the best sushi restaurants on Kauai. It’s a great place to have some sake and a couple of sushi rolls, or a great place to go for teppanyaki. If you are wanting to go out for sushi while on Kauai, this is a highly recommended place to go. Fresh, delicious, worthy.
Lydgate Beach Park: Right after Wailua River is the turn that will get you to Lydgate Beach Park, which is also worth stopping at as it has one of the best protected ocean swimming areas on Kauai, plenty of grass and space for running around, and is home to the best playground on the island. It’s one of the best beaches for kids, with plenty of space to burn off some energy or just to have a great time.
Known For: Wailua River, Sleeping Giant, Coco Palms Resort, Fern Grotto
Places to Visit: Wailua River, Fern Grotto, Opaekaa Falls, Lydgate Beach Park
Best Restaurants: Kintaro Japanese Restaurant, Monico’s Taqueria, Brick Oven Pizza
Best Beaches: Lydgate Beach Park, Kitchens
Weather: Coastal, Breezy
Distance from Lihue Airport: About 15 min.
Shopping: Kinipopo Shopping Village, farmers’ markets
Kauai’s East Side: Full of Charm & Convenience
The East Side is pretty popular with both locals and visitors and offers a lot of unique activities, restaurants, and experiences. Whether you’re hiking up the Sleeping Giant, dining on some of the freshest sushi, enjoying a delicious shave ice, or exploring the bike path, this side of the island offers adventure and memories to those that seek them. Get out there and explore the wonderful East Side attractions. You’ll be surprised at just how much fun you can have.