With six islands open for exploration in Hawaii, combining at least two of them into an itinerary can prove to be a beautiful, contrasting experience.
It’s worth your clients considering a Kauai-Oahu holiday combination – it’s like having two Hawaii vacations in one!
Kauai presents a country escape with unmatched natural scenery, almost-deserted beaches, and a raft of rural offerings. Oahu provides a sun-kissed urban adventure with premier shopping, dining and nightlife opportunities.
Enable your clients to enjoy the best of both islands together on this nine-day itinerary:
Day one: aloha, island life
Fly into Lihue Airport in Kauai’s central business district. The island has several resort areas, but for this short stay, Kapaa is ideal. It’s on the east coast and convenient to both the North and South Shore. After picking up a hire car from the Airport, it’s a 20-minute drive north to Kapaa. Check into the hotel and freshen up. Take things slow as you ease into island life. Head over to Lava Lava Beach Club, a beachfront venue at Kauai Shores Hotel, between 3pm and 6pm for happy hour. Enjoy tropical cocktails and toes-in-the-sand dining as the sun sets over your first day in the Hawaiian Islands.
Where to stay
Make Kapaa your home base while on Kauai (it’s the island’s largest town).
Day two: cruise the canyon
Set off on an early-morning road trip to Waimea Canyon, one of Kauai’s major attractions. Stop at Foodland Waipouli grocery store to stock up on water, snacks and food for a picnic lunch later in the day. From here, it’ll take at least one hour to get to the town of Waimea, the gateway into the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” (and best place to fill up on gas). Cruise through Waimea Canyon, pulling over at the designated scenic lookouts. The landscape is an eye-popping blend of red cliffs, deep crevices, green foliage, and trickling waterfalls. Take a nature hike – there’s everything from easy cliff trails to more difficult canyon tracks available. Detour back to the hotel via Hanapepe, Kauai’s biggest little town. Local family restaurants like MCS Grill present the perfect dinner opportunity.
Day three: outdoor adventures
The majority of Kauai is undeveloped. Activities offered on private land are one of the best ways to see the island’s luxurious rainforest interior. Spend the morning on an outdoor adventure. Popular options include mountain tubing with Kauai Backcountry Adventures, ziplining with Skyline Hawaii, or ATV off-roading with Kipu Ranch Adventures.
Let Kauai’s white sand beaches soak up the rest of the afternoon. Chill out at Lydgate Beach Park, a lifeguard-patrolled beach adjacent to the Wailua River. Swim or snorkel in protected lagoons, where the calm waters provide a safe haven for a variety of tropical fish. Consider feasting at the Smith Family Garden Luau tonight, where you can enjoy traditional Hawaiian food, including kalua pig and poi, and local entertainment.
Day four: North Shore like a local
It’s time to give the designated driver a break. Let a local show you the highlights of Kauai’s North Shore on a privately guided excursion. The expert narration provided throughout the tour will help to reveal Kauai’s history, culture and unique sights.
Be ready to snap photos at famous movie sites, including Wailua and Opaekaa Falls. Depending on the interests of the group, pause at places of interest like the Kauai Hindu Monastery, Kilauea Lighthouse, and Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens. Passengers will gain a birds-eye view over the North Coast from Hanalei Lookout.
Back at the hotel, dip in the pool before tea. Reserve a table at Duke’s Kauai on Kalapaki Beach. This legendary restaurant is dedicated to Duke Kahanamoku, Hawaii’s Ambassador of Aloha. End on a high note with a slice of Hula Pie.
Day five: from one South Shore to another
Squeeze in one more Kauai escapade! Travel to Kauai’s South Shore for brunch in Poipu. Kalapaki Joe’s will satisfy all tastes from eggs and pancakes to waffles and French toast. Bid a fond farewell to Kauai as you stroll along Poipu Beach, keeping an eye out for endangered Hawaiian monk seals. Time your trip to the Airport to meet an early afternoon flight. It’s a short 25-minute island-hop between Kauai and Oahu.
Land at Honolulu Airport, Oahu’s main Airport. Honolulu is Hawaii’s capital city and home to Waikiki Beach. As Hawaii’s major resort area, Waikiki is the natural choice for accommodation. Arrange a shuttle transfer or catch a cab from the Airport to Waikiki, a 30-minute drive (depending on traffic). Check into the hotel and freshen up.
For an impressive introduction to Oahu’s South Shore, board a sunset catamaran sail departing straight off the sand at Waikiki Beach. Sip on sweet mai tais as you drift past the Diamond Head crater and Waikiki skyline. After disembarking, meander over to the iconic Moana Surfrider or Royal Hawaiian resort for a meal to remember.
Where to stay
Stay in Hawai’’s most popular resort zone, Waikiki. These boutique hotels are great options.
Day six: surf and shop
Waikiki Beach is the birthplace of modern surfing, making it one of the best places on earth to go surfing. Beginners can have a surf lesson with Waikiki Beach Services, and the more advanced can hire a surfboard to hit the waves solo. After working up an appetite in the water, wander along the shoreline towards Kapiolani Park until you reach the Barefoot Beach Cafe. This casual eatery with outdoor picnic tables overlooks the ocean and dishes up tasty local favourites like Loco Moco.
Dedicate the rest of the day to retail therapy at Hawaii’s major shopping hotspots. Find over 100 retail shops at International Market Place right in the heart Waikiki – it’s a beautiful venue to walk through and explore. Just a stone’s throw away is Ala Moana Center, America’s largest outdoor shopping mall with 350 shops. Alternatively, take the 30-minute journey out to Waikele Premium Outlets for fashion brands up to 65 per cent off. After dropping off the shopping haul back at the hotel, seek out a quick and easy meal at one of Waikiki’s food trucks or food courts.
Day seven: surf’s up
Celebrate one of Oahu’s bucket list destinations, the surf beaches of the North Shore. The Real Hawaii Tours offers a care-free Oahu North Shore Tour with a private driver/guide. Experience iconic surf breaks such as Sunset Beach, Banzai Pipeline and Waimea Bay. Request a stop to sample garlic shrimp at a local food truck and order a pineapple float at Dole Plantation. Lesser-known scenic vistas, cultural sites, and film locations are also part of the journey.
No trip to Hawaii is complete without trying Hawaii Regional Cuisine. Roy Yamaguchi is one of the original founders of this type of cooking. Dine at his Roy’s Waikiki restaurant in the bustling Waikiki Beach Walk precinct. The menu draws from local island ingredients and Hawaii’s multicultural influences. Leave room for dessert – his chef is known for his melting hot chocolate soufflé!
Day eight: historic highlights
As the economic, political and social hub of the Hawaiian Islands, Oahu features many of Hawaii’s important landmarks. Pick a significant attraction like Bishop Museum, Iolani Palace or Pearl Harbor and delve deep into Hawaii’s history, culture and heritage.
Continue the historical theme in Downtown Honolulu and Chinatown, where you’ll notice some of Oahu’s oldest buildings. The restaurants in this area are too good to pass up. Pop into the acclaimed The Pig & The Lady for a modern Vietnamese lunch – their pho is to die for.
Rest up before dinner. Tonight’s your last night, and you’re in for a treat at Blue Note Hawaii. This jazz club inside Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort is entertainment gold, with local and international artists continually rotating onstage. Always check what’s on ahead of time and lock in tickets. Arrive early to score booth seating, then wine and dine during the show. It’s always a good night out in Waikiki!
Day nine: a hui hou (until we meet again)
If time permits, order a serve of macadamia nut pancakes for breakfast at Deck in Queen Kapiolani Hotel. Departures are never easy! Take one last walk along Waikiki Beach before transferring to the Airport for your return flight home.
Featured image: Pearl Harbour Memorial in Oahu (credit: iStock/Master_Yendor)
This article was edited and republished with permission from Hawai‘i Tourism Oceania.