Kauai is Hawaii's oldest and northernmost major island of the archipelago. It is nicknamed the Garden Isle for the lush, green vegetation and bright tropical flowers and plants that are abundant throughout the island. Because Kauai is the oldest of the islands, it has also been the most affected by erosion, which has created for some famous and spectacular wonders like the Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali coast, as well as the most sandy beaches out of any other Hawaiian island. The island is typically broken up into two major parts--the North Shore and the South Shore, which are defined by the prevailing trade winds. The North Shore tends to get the most rain (and is therefore the most green) and has the most famous surf due to the winds pushing waves onto the shore. The South Shore is drier and gets more sun, though both sides of the island are home to beautiful scenery, great beaches and fine resorts.
WHAT TO DO
Although a tiny island with a population of only 63,000, there is no shortage of things to do on Kauai. From visiting the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" at Waimea canyon, to taking a helicopter or boat tour of the spectacular Na Pali coast, Kauai is sure not to disappoint. Waimea canyon is a must-see with it's colorful and deep canyon walls etched in contrast to the greenery of the rest of the island
On the North Shore of Kauai, you can get a feel for old-time Hawaii in the funky little town of Hanalei. Located near world class surf, Lumahai, Tunnels and Ke'e beaches and easy access to the Na Pali coast this is not a town to be missed. Tunnels beach is an ideal place for divers or snorkelers, and the adventurous can either opt to hike the 18-mile trail along the Na Pali coast, or opt for a catamaran or zodiac tour of this portion of inaccessible coastline (it was also the filming location of Jurassic Park, so you'll feel like it looks like dinosaur country). There is also a world class golf-course at the Princeville Resort, horseback riding and hiking in this area of the island.
On the South Shore, Lihu'e serves as the commercial center for the island and is the best place to shop, get a helicopter tour or visit museums. Nearby is also Po'ipu, which is the major visitor destination of the island and host to many of the resorts. Also, like on the other islands, there is plenty of fresh fruit to eat, shave ice flavors to try and fresh local seafood to indulge in all over the island.
Lihue Airport (LIH) is the only airport on Kauai. The airport has flights that come in from domestic overseas carriers as well as inter-island flights. When looking for a flight to Kauai, or specifically to Lihue, make sure you input the airport code if you want a shot at a direct flight from the mainland. Although the airport does have some flights that arrive directly from the mainland, often cheaper flights will go first through Honolulu before heading to Lihu'e Airport.
WHERE TO STAY
There are many resorts and hotels in Kauai, such as Hilton, Hyatt and Sheraton. There is also an exclusive (and very pricey) resort at Princeville. There are also many vacation rentals throughout the island, which can be a great way to save a few bucks and have some extra space for your family. There is also a hostel in Kauai on the East Shore called the New Kauai International Hostel. Here guests can stay in dorm style bunk beds for $25/night (with advance booking) or in basic private rooms starting at $60/night.