While many other parts of the country begin pulling out winter coats and boots as the world around them turns white, those on the tropical island of Kauai relish in white sand beaches and icy cold shave ice treats. Winter on Kauai is like returning to an everlasting summer, where warm sunny skies fill each day. As an added bonus, the temperature cools on winter evenings, providing a welcome respite from the heat of the day. Winter on Kauai coincides with whale watching season and holiday festivities cropping up around the island, adding additional options for fun on the itinerary. Winter may seem like a long way off, but its cold gray days will be here before you know it. Plan your Kauai winter getaway today so you can dream of eternal summer days even as the season comes to a close!
Top Kauai Sights
With miles of postcard perfect white sand beaches, possibilities for epic beach days abound. Find the beach nearest you and stake your claim in the sand for days of relaxation, or beach hop around the island to discover some of Kauai’s best oceanfront spots. While other locations see drastic changes in temperature among the seasons, Hawaii experiences changes that affect where you’ll find the large surf and calm waters. During winter months, the waves tend to be larger on the north and east shores, and calmer on the south and west shores. So, if you’re looking for a relaxing family beach day, Poipu Beach Park on Kauai’s south shore is ideal on a winter day. This family friendly beach offers facilities such as a lifeguard, playground, restrooms, showers, and nearby dining, offering an entire day of fun. Two crescent beaches join together to create Poipu Beach, coming to a point in the middle known as a tombolo – a narrow slice of sand that leads to a small island at low tide.
Kauai is known as the Garden Isle due to its lush greenery and bountiful plant life. Princeville Botanical Gardens is a place to admire native plants of full display. Meander through this magical garden that encompasses nine acres on a guided tour, where you’ll get an up-close look at Native Hawaiian plants as well as species from around the world. Sample fresh fruit, homegrown honey, and chocolate along the way, all locally cultivated products. Along with being a culinary delight, visitors also delve deeper into ancient Hawaiian culture by learning about some of the practical historic uses of native plants.
Situated along the island’s east coast, the Kauai Path provides a great vantage point from which to take in some of the scenery along the coastline. Officially known as the Ke Ala Hele Makalae Path, this paved trail runs for nearly 8 miles along the coastline, providing a safe place to walk, jog, or bike right next to the ocean and away from the distractions of traffic. Bikes can easily be rented in Kapa’a Town before setting off. Along the way, coastline views stretch out in front and behind, and there are plenty of opportunities to stop and explore tidepools and beaches. The Ke Ala Hele Makalae is convenient to the shops and restaurants in Kapa’a, so after returning your rental bikes, head over to Kapa’a’s main thoroughfare to refuel.
Winter Activities on Kauai
With winter on the Garden Isle coinciding with whale watching season, boat excursions become popular activities to enjoy. While a keen eye can occasionally spot whale spouts from shore, you’ll want to head out into deeper waters to truly appreciate the grandeur of this marine life. Whale watching season extends from mid-December through around April before they head back on their migratory route to Alaskan waters. Several boat charter companies offer excursions that focus on whale watching, with additional options depending on interest. From a high-speed Zodiac to a luxury catamaran, there are various ways to head out in search of whales and enjoy island views from a different vantage point. Many vessels are equipped with equipment that aids in hearing and locating whales, nearly guaranteeing a sighting especially during peak months. Along the way, catch sight of pods of dolphins, snorkel alongside green sea turtles, or enjoy a five-star meal, depending on the excursion selected. Captain Andy’s, Holo Holo Charters, and Blue Dolphin Charters are a few of the top outfitters to check out when it comes to booking a whale watching tour on Kauai.
The quaint island of Kauai comes alive with palm-draped twinkling lights in the winter holiday season. From Santa sightings in his aloha shirt to small-town Christmas parades, additional holiday festivities add another element of interest to a holiday getaway on Kauai. Stop at the Kauai Festival of Lights at the Historic County Building in Lihue for themed displays and lights or set up beach chairs on the side of the road in the island’s west side town of Waimea for the Annual Waimea Lighted Christmas Parade. Shopping malls and storefronts join in the festivities with twinkling palms and displays, and with a peppermint mocha in hand, it still feels like Christmas despite the warm weather and sunny skies. And the best part is, you can spend winter holidays right on the beach, building a sandman instead of a snowman and singing carols with your toes in the sand!
Best Kauai Restaurants
Though Kauai boasts cuisine from all around the world, the real draw here is the Pan-Asian cuisine, Native Hawaiian dishes, and of course, cold sweet treats. No matter where you eat on Kauai, be sure to add some of these must-try dishes to your order!
A local favorite for breakfast is the loco moco, ideal for those who like a hearty start for their first meal of the day. A loco moco consists of a hamburger and fried egg atop a bed of white rice and smothered in thick brown gravy. Grab your loco moco at Mark’s Place in Lihue, a local favorite. If that sounds like too heavy of a meal, acai bowls are also a popular island breakfast. Grab an acai bowl at Java Kai in Kapa’a, which also serves up excellent coffee roasted in-house and homemade pastries.
While many traditional holidays include dishes such as ham and potatoes, on Kauai you’ll find dishes such as kalua pork, sticky white rice, lomi lomi salmon, and poi as common dishes for a holiday gathering. Eat like a local when you stop in low-key establishments such as Pono Market, which offers bentos and plate lunches to go. Located in Kapa’a, there are plenty of beach options nearby for enjoying your meal with a view. Pono Market offers these traditional dishes, as well as others such as chicken lau lau and poke.
It’s probably no surprise that the fresh seafood options are outstanding on Kauai. From poke bowls picked up from local grocers to perfectly presented seafood dishes in fine dining restaurants along the oceanfront, the seafood here won’t disappoint. For celebrating a special occasion, Keoki’s Paradise is a favorite. Be sure to try the fresh catch of the day or the seafood risotto and save room for a slice of hula pie!
For dessert, there’s no better way to cool off even on a winter day than to treat yourself to a scoop of ice cream or shave ice. Lappert’s is a popular stop with several locations around the island. Here you’ll find island-inspired flavors such as Hawaiian sea salt caramel, caramel coconut macadamia, Kauai pie, and lychee. You also can’t leave the island before trying at least one shave ice stand, of which there are many. The south side’s The Fresh Shave is a healthier option, serving up shave ice made with organic ingredients and local produce instead of the usual high fructose corn syrup and artificial coloring. Shave ice bowls are served with fun mustache straws, making for the perfect photo op. Try fresh flavors such as the Fu Manchu, topped with fresh strawberry puree and bananas.
Where to Drink on Kauai
Vacationing on a tropical island practically necessitates finding the perfect tropical cocktail. The east coast’s Lava Lava Beach Club is a great place to go to enjoy a drink with your toes in the sand. Their happy hour is daily from 3-5pm, with more drinks and dinner served until 9pm. The most popular drink here is the Mai Tai, created and served with the same recipe for over 50 years. With live music every evening, let your conversation linger over drinks as you soak in the island vibes.
For a premier tasting experience and to pick up some quality rum to be enjoyed later from your Kauai Winter vacation rental, plan a stop at Koloa Rum Company. Located at the Kilohana Plantation in Lihue and set in a beautiful plantation style building, visiting the Koloa Rum Company is an experience in itself. The adjacent tasting room offers scheduled rum tastings on the hour, where you’ll find tropically influenced flavors such as coconut and Kauai coffee, in addition to traditional styles. Pick up locally produced rum, ready-to-drink cocktails, rum cakes, rum fudge sauce, Mai Tai mix, tropical fruit jellies and jams, logo wear, and gift items all onsite.
Kauai Winter Shopping Guide
Whether you need to pick up gifts for the holidays or treat yourself to a new addition to the wardrobe, you’ll find ample surf shops and charming boutiques around the island. On the south shore, head to The Shops at Kukuiula or Poipu Shopping Village, two outdoor malls that offer a variety of shopping and dining options. At both malls you’ll find beachwear, resort wear, and boutiques with the latest trends, as well as an assortment of home goods, art galleries, and gift shops. At Poipu Shopping Village, refuel at Puka Dog, which serves Polish sausage inside freshly baked buns stuffed with island-inspired sauces such as lilikoi mustard, pineapple relish, and mango relish. Once you’re ready to continue the shopping excursion, be sure to stop in one-stop shops such as ABC Store, which has an assortment of souvenirs, specialty foods, and gifts.
The North Shore town of Hanalei also offers a variety of shopping in and around Ching Young Village Shopping Center. Stop in Backdoor Surf Shop within Ching Young Village or Hanalei Surf Co. across the street for the latest swimwear, beachwear, and surf-inspired casual wear. On the island’s east side, downtown Kapa’a has a nice walkable area for shopping, with shops and restaurants lining the main thoroughfare. Kapa’a is also home to NoKa Fair, an eye-catching shopping center made from brightly painted shipping containers connected by a boardwalk. This chic shopping area offers locally made Kauai products.
Where to Stay on Kauai
Base your stay on Kauai’s east coast, known as the Coconut Coast for its large number of towering palm trees. Along the east coast, you’ll find beautiful white sand beaches, access to the shopping and dining of Kapa’a, and a convenient location for day trips to both the north and south shores.
At Premier Kauai, we offer Kauai vacation accommodations well suited for couples, families, and groups. The majority of these are one- or two-bedroom accommodations which also boast a full kitchen and living room, offering plenty of square footage. Enjoy the convenience of having a full kitchen on hand, sipping coffee and preparing breakfast from the comfort of your rental before heading out for the day if desired. Most of our Kauai vacation rentals are situated on properties right along the oceanfront, so ocean and beach views can be enjoyed from the privacy of your living room from many rentals. Step out onto the private lanai, where ocean breezes flow freely and the beach is just steps from your door. Many of our Kauai vacation condos are situated on properties which offer extra perks such as a swimming pool and hot tub, adding more options for relaxing and enjoying every moment.
Our experienced staff at Premier Kauai is standing by to answer any questions you may have about your winter getaway to Kauai. As residents who live and work on the island, we’re happy to provide tips and suggestions for how to make the most of your stay. Contact us today!