Looking to vacation on Kauai without breaking the bank? Here is our 7 day budget friendly Kauai itinerary. All the activities suggested in the post are completely free. Yes, you read it right, FREE! Experience the beauty of Kauai on a budget. As you will see, since we not only enjoy sightseeing but also eating, we have included some food recommendations, obviously those aren’t free.
Are you planning your first trip to Kauai? We’ve got you covered with our Kauai Travel Tips.
Day 1 – Arrive on Kauai
Because of the time change and the travel time, most planes leaving North America will land in the afternoon or later. First, settle into your accommodations. Then, spend some time exploring around. And finally, find yourself a Mai Tai and plan your activities for the week.
If you arrive early enough, go get necessities like food, bottled water and snacks to help keep the costs down. If you have a Costco membership card, that’s the best place to go to get those things at a reasonable price.
Day 2 – Discover Hanalei Bay
Head for the beach, specifically Hanalei Bay beach. It’s completely free and some of the most breathtaking scenery that you will ever see. Spend some time relaxing, go for a swim or a walk on the beach. Make it a day and pack a picnic basket or stop in at Hanalei Bread Company to grab some food.
Hanalei Bay is a great spot for surfing, SUP and body boarding but you will need to bring in the equipment. Make sure to check for any warnings or advisories before heading out. While we were there last time, the beach was closed to water activities due to a recent shark sighting in the area. Needless to say, we didn’t go in the water.
Wary Travelers Tip:
If you happen to be in the Hanalei area on a Sunday, hit up the Holey Grail Donuts food truck for some vegan poi donuts. Unfortunately, these treats aren’t free, but definitely something that you won’t be able to get at home.
Day 3 – Kapa’a
Get your sweat on and hike the Sleeping Giant trail! As you can imagine, the ocean views at the top are incredible. It’s not for everyone since it’s said to be a moderate trail. It’s uphill most of the way up and so downhill most of the way down. And as always, on Kauai, be prepared for mud unless you are luck enough to go during a dry period. At the head of the trail, there is a pile of walking sticks, grab one. You will be happy you did.
If you aren’t quite up for a hike, maybe go for a walk or bike along Kapa’a bike path, or spend some time exploring Kapa’a Town. Stop in to Java Kai for a coffee or a quick bite and then explore the cute little boutiques all around. If you are looking for something a little more substantial, check out the El Pastor Taco food truck for some outstanding tacos.
Day 4 – Koloa/Poipu
By now, you have probably noticed a trend, due to it’s mountainous terrain, Kauai is truly a hikers paradise. There are hundreds of trail options, for all levels or experience and all completely free. Start your day with a relatively easy, but very scenic hike along the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail. This trail goes from Shipwreck Beach to Punahoa Point. It’s 2 miles each way and at a reasonable pace, this could take you about 90 minutes.
To cool off, hit up Poipu Beach Park for a swim, even if the surf appears to be too dangerous to hit the water. This beach has a protective lava rock wall, making it a great place for a dip in the ocean. Best part, you won’t have to contend with dangerous waves.
Looking for other beaches? Here are our favorite beaches on Kauai.
Wary Travelers Tip:
Every Wednesday, from 3:30 pm to 6 pm, The Shops at Kukuiula, in Poipu, hold a Culinary Market at The Shops at Kukuiula. It’s a great place to get a taste of various Kauai specialties, enjoy some live music and take in a live culinary demonstration by a local chef. There’s also a beer garden where they serve the famous Monkeypod Mai Tai, with its famous honey lilikoi foam topping.
Day 5 – Waimea Canyon State Park & Koke’e State Park
While on Kauai, a visit to Waimea Canyon is a must. It’s been given the nickname “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific” by Mark Twain and, is truly a marvel of nature.
As you drive up, keep an eye open for various lookouts they offer breathtaking views and be prepared to stop for pics all along the way.
Hike the trails as there’s really no better way to explore than on foot. Personally, we have hiked the Canyon Trail and highly recommend it. It’s a moderate 3.4 miles round trip hike with the added bonus of a waterfall. With the proper footwear, definitely doable for the average person but not recommended for small children.
Given that you’ve made it to the canyon, why not keep going a bit further and visit Koke’e State Park? It’s well worth the few extra minutes of driving. At there top, there is a lookout where you can see the Napali Coast and the Kalalau Valley. Make sure to bring a light jacket with you if you decide to go. Because of the elevation, it can be a little chilly up there.
Day 6 – Visit Polihale State Park
Polihale State Park is the most western publicly accessible area on Kauai. The beach is flanked to the north by the Na Pali Coast mountain ridges and is where you will get the best views of the remote Hawaiian Island of Niihau. As is the case with all State Parks on Kauai, visits are free of charge. Beware, this is not a great beach if you are looking to take part in water activities since the beach drops off rapidly to deep water and rip currents along the shore are very strong.
For those of you wanting to spend the day, bring everything you will need, since there is nothing around for miles. But, fortunately, there are restrooms and showers. It would be a pretty awesome camping spot, but a permit is required.
Wary Travelers Tip:
If you are planning on making it out to Polihale State Park, be sure to rent a 4×4. The 5 mile road to get there is not paved. Some portions of it are in pretty good driving condition, but other sections have large pot holes or you are driving on deep sand. On our first trip to the Island, we did attempt to make the trek with a car, but quickly turned around due to the fear of getting stuck.
Day 7 – Final day / Heading back home
As they say, all good things must come to an end and sooner or later you will need to go home. Obviously, you won’t want to leave. All that you can do is spend whatever time you have left going for a walk on the beach and soaking up your last few moments.
More Budget Friendly Kauai Activities:
If none of the activities mentioned so far tickle your fancy, below are a few more suggestions also, completely free!
- Visit Koloa Rum Distillery for a free tasting of their award-winning rums. Tastings take place every half hour and anyone over 21 years of age, with valid ID, can participate.
- Stop the Kauai Coffee Plantation Visitor Center to learn about how their coffee is grown, harvested and roasted. The Kauai Coffee Estate is the largest coffee farm in the United States.
- Hanapepe Art Night happens from 6 pm to 9 pm on Friday nights. Local artists and artisans display their crafts all along Main Street with a festive atmosphere and plenty of outdoor live music and good eats.
- Catch a sunrise. Head to Kappa to catch ones of these incredible sunrises.
- Stay for the sunset. Unfortunately, we haven’t had the chance to experience this ourselves yet, but we hear that the sunset viewing in Polihale State Park is out of this world.
Generally speaking, we are fairly frugal and therefore try to find tasty foods at fair prices. Since you eventually have to eat, check out our list of best food on Kauai,with most being quite affordable.
In the event that your budget does allow for a paid activity, here are some of our favorite Kauai adventures.
Finally, if you have any tips for free things to do on Kauai, comment below.