Usually, the most expensive part of vacationing in Hawaii is getting there. Unlike every other state, you can’t just drive to the islands – yes, I’m including Alaska. Depending on which one you visit, you may also need to rent a car to get around, which, along with accommodations, can be pricey. But one of the many beautiful things about visiting the Garden Island of Kauai is there aren’t a lot of other necessary expenses.
Sure, you spend a lot of money on helicopter tours, chartered sailings, lūʻau and more, but tourists visiting Hawaii’s oldest island can enjoy a wealth of experiences for cheap or free.
Here are eight inexpensive things to do in Kauai that are enriching in other ways.
Listen up, tourists:Locals share what they wish visitors would stop doing in Hawaii
The real-life inspiration behind ‘Moana’: Meet Kala Baybayan Tanaka
1. Hit the beach
From picturesque Poipu Beach in Koloa to tranquil Anini Beach on the North Shore, you could visit a different beach each vacation day without hitting them all.
Each one has unique treasures. Some may be better suited for snorkeling, surfing or simply soaking in the temperate, crystalline waters. You may even spot sea turtles and seals.
2. Take a hike
You can soak in Kauai’s stunning scenery at your own pace hiking in state parks like Waimea Canyon, known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and Hāʻena State Park, home of the famed Kalalau Trail, one of the only ways to reach the island’s iconic Nā Pali Coast without a helicopter or boat.
Parks charge a $5 per person entrance fee and a $10 parking fee for non-residents. Hawaii residents enter for free with their state ID. Elsewhere on the island, you can hike for free along places like the seaside Māhā‘ulepū Heritage Trail.
No matter where you go, visitors are urged to tread lightly and leave no trace.
Reservations required:To manage overcrowding, are reservation systems the future of tourism in Hawaii?
3. Go birdwatching
You can see albatross and other seabirds rarely spotted on land at Kileaua Point National Wildlife Refuge. If you’re lucky, you may also see spinner dolphins or humpback whales, depending on the time of year.
The wildlife refuge also houses Daniel K. Inouye Kīlauea Point Lighthouse, which served the island and kept sailors safe for decades.
There is a $10 entry fee and an additional $1 reservation fee for most visitors over the age of 15. Once a month, the wildlife refuge waives entry fees, but reservations are still required.
4. Catch a hula show
Expensive lūʻau aren’t the only place you can observe traditional hula. Some local hula groups offer free performances with live music at places like Coconut Marketplace in Kapa’a, Princeville Center and Poipu Shopping Village. The shows are free, but donations toward the hālau are welcome.
Stop throwing coins into hot steam vents, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park asks of ‘disrespectful’ people
5. Unwind with yoga
Community yoga is offered each Saturday morning at the Hanalei Farmers Market. All levels are welcome. The donation-based class is led by Mary Susan Stults with Float & Flow Yoga & SUP and Of the Earth Yoga.
6. Eat local
Kauai’s many farmers markets and night markets are a great place to try local foods and support island artisans.
7. Drink up
Hawaii may be best known for its kona coffee, but Kauai Coffee is actually Hawaii’s largest coffee grower. Coffee lovers can sample the company’s 100% Hawaiian coffee and take self-guided tours for free at the Kauai Coffee estate in Kalaheo.
Koloa Rum offers free rum tastings every hour at Kilohana Plantation in Lihue. Reservations are required, and tips are welcome. Neighboring Mahiko Lounge is one of many dining establishments with happy hour deals on drinks and food.
Where was ‘Jurassic Park’ filmed?:Tropical sites you can visit
You can learn about Kauai’s rich Native Hawaiian history at the aptly named Kauai Museum in Lihue. Admission is $15 for adults and free for children age 7 and under. Older children and seniors get discounted entry.
Visitors can also visit local landmarks like Pā‘ula‘ula State Historical Site, previously know as Russian Fort, and Makauwahi Cave. Both are free, though donations are welcome for the cave’s daily tours.