Central Kauai Vacation Guide: Popular Activities, Attractions, and Things To Do
(Part 3 of 5 of the Kauai Vacation Guide – Which Side of the Island is Best For You?)
Central: Hanamaulu, Lihue, Puhi, Kipu
Full of action, activities, restaurants, and shopping, Central Kauai has some unique island towns. If you want to be close to Kauai’s mall, theater, and perhaps even the hospital, you are going to want to stay in Lihue or Puhi. Central Kauai is the government and commercial center of the island and is probably the most trafficked town on Kauai because it’s home to the main airport and Nawiliwili Harbor, where all the cruise ships dock. It’s also the island’s capital.
This is a great place to be if you want to be an equal distance (at least close to equal) to all sides of the island. This part of Kauai is the most busy, happening area of the island. Regardless of it being the island’s business center, the area still has a lot to offer visitors.
Take a video tour of Central Kauai
The following are highly recommended places to visit when you’re in town:
The town directly after Wailua is Lihue, home to the airport, Nawiliwili Harbor, and Kalapaki Beach. If you visit Kauai, you will arrive in and depart from Lihue, so why not explore the town a little bit? You will also travel to Lihue if you plan on visiting the South or West Side. There are several places you should consider visiting in Lihue; they include:
Kukui Grove is Kauai’s only real mall, with over 55 shops and eateries, and the island’s only movie theater. You can find chain stores, like Macy’s and Starbucks, here as well as shops that are unique to Kauai. If you have to choose a day to visit the mall, Fridays are a good day. They celebrate Aloha Friday with live entertainment and games, like Family Bingo. Most events on Aloha Friday take place in the evening between 5-9pm.
Kalapaki Beach is the best beach to go to if you’re in Lihue. It’s great for surfing and bodyboarding, and is a popular place for sunbathers too. There are several restaurants and shops around, making it a great beach to go to if you’re wanting to leave your towel in the sand and take a short walk to shop or grab a bite to eat. Nawiliwili Harbor is a major shipping port on island and is a great place to go on fishing charters and boat rides. It is located right next to Kalapaki Beach, making the beach a great spot to watch boats come and go.
Kauai Museum is a great little museum showcasing the history of Kauai and Niihau. It will take about two hours to walk through the entire exhibit, making it one of the great activities to do on Kauai when it’s raining.
Grove Farm Sugar Plantation Museum. Looking for something to do on Kauai that is educational and informative about the island’s history? We recommend visiting the Grove Farm Museum. They offer tours of the property and a marvelous glimpse into the sugar plantation world and how it played a role in Hawaiian history. You will tour a house with an interior that appears unchanged from almost a century ago. This tour is recommended more for adults than young children. Make sure you call well in advance to reserve your spot as there are a limited number of people allowed on each tour. Also make sure you wear shoes that are easy to take on and off as you will have to remove your shoes before you enter each building.
Kauai Lagoons Golf Club is a winner of Golf Magazine’s “Gold Medal Golf Resort” and features 18 Jack Nicklaus-style holes as well as beautiful views to enjoy while you play a round or two.
Popular Activities: Lihue offers several activities for visitors including zip lining tours, helicopter tours, fishing charters, kayaking tours – you can even try waterfall rappelling. You can also stop by and view Wailua Falls while you’re in Lihue. Don’t forget about the many spas, private tours, scuba diving, and golf courses.
Hamura Saimin – One highly recommended place to eat in Lihue is Hamura Saimin. Step back in time and taste the best bowl of noodles on the island. Their beef stick skewers and their lilikoi pie are also highly recommended.
Known For: Nawiliwili Harbor, Kalapaki Bay, Shopping, Business, Airport
Places to Visit: Kukui Grove, Kauai Museum, Grove Farm Sugar Plantation Museum, Kauai Lagoons Golf Club
Best Restaurants: Hamura Saimin, Deli & Bread Connection, Gaylord’s Restaurant, Kauai Pasta, Kauai Beer Company
Best Beaches: Kalapaki Beach
Weather: Pleasant, Warm
Distance from Lihue Airport: About 5 min
Shopping: Kukui Grove, Anchor Cove, Hilo Hattie’s
Puhi is found right after Lihue as you head to the South Shore, and is where you’ll find the Historic Kilohana Plantation, Kauai Community College, and a little bit of shopping and eateries. The towns of Lihue and Puhi are home to many historical sites of Kauai and offer great places to learn and play. Puhi itself is where you’ll find residential housing, some industrial centers, and several schools. So what does it offer visitors?
Recommended places to visit in Puhi include:
Kilohana Plantation is one of Kauai’s great historic estates. It’s a beautiful property with several things to do. You can tour the plantation by going on a fun and educational (bonus!) train ride. “The train cars are reproductions of the railway cars from the period of King Kalakua. They are elegant with hand finished wood interiors and offer an enclosed ride with plenty of views.” There are a few different tours available, and you are able to stop along the way and feed goats, sheep, and pigs some bread (that they provide). This is a great activity to do if you have kids with you. Learn a little about Kauai and what lives here, see some unique, amazing views, and enjoy the ride!
Koloa Rum Company. If you’re in the area, stop by the award-winning Koloa Rum Company, Kauai’s first and only licensed distillery. You’ll find their tasting room and company store located on the Kilohana Plantation property.
Hokulei Village shopping center is located in Puhi, near Kukui Grove and almost directly across the street from Kilohana Plantation. This recently constructed shopping center has plenty to offer with shops like Safeway, Petsmart, Jack In The Box, and more.
Known For: Kilohana Plantation, Kauai Community College
Places to Visit: Kilohana Plantation, Koloa Rum Company, Hokulei Village
Best Restaurants: Gaylord’s Restaurant
Best Beaches: N/A
Weather: Pleasant, Warm
Distance from Lihue Airport: About 5 min.
Shopping: Hokulei Village, Kilohana Plantation
Ready To Explore Central Kauai?
Take a trip into town while you’re on island and see what the most happening town on Kauai has in store for you. Enjoy a morning round of golf, an afternoon of shopping, a memorable dining experience in the evening, and finish off the day with a nice stroll down Kalapaki Beach. Come experience the Garden Island’s biggest little town.