Lihue: Connecting All of Kauai
The second largest community on Kauai, Lihue offers a variety of amenities in a central location on the island’s east coast. Once the site of extensive sugar plantations, the area became the home of Kauai’s airport as a result of its favorable weather patterns and accessibility. Less than a half hour’s drive from Lihue leads to sunny Poipu (the southernmost town on the island), and less than an hour’s drive leads to lush Princeville (the northernmost town).
Often described as the best on Kauai’s east coast, Lihue’s Kalapaki Beach boasts golden sands, views of Haupo Ridge, and ideal conditions for swimming and bodysurfing. A 13-minute drive north of the town enables visitors to experience Lydgate Beach Park’s calm conditions for swimming and snorkeling, as well as the convenience of its picnic area and bathroom facilities. A 25-minute drive south brings visitors to gorgeous Mahaulepu, where picturesque paths along rocky sea cliffs connect several unique stretches of sand.
Adventurous visitors to Lihue may wish to try a kayaking trip from Nawiliwili Harbor down the Huleia River, some of which (such as the one led by Outfitters Kauai) also involve guided hikes through rainforests to waterfalls. Other sights of interest along the river include the Ninini Point Lighthouse, built in 1906, and the Alekoko Menehune Fishpond, constructed nearly 1,000 years ago. Just north of Lihue, visitors can also explore the 80-foot Wailua Falls, an easily-accessible natural wonder.
Lihue’s Kauai Museum focuses on Hawaiian history and culture, while the Grove Farm Museum traces the specific history of sugar production on the island. At the Kilohana Plantation Estate, guests can tour a restored estate from the 1830s, take a train ride through the 105-acre plantation, and shop for clothing, art, and jewelry. Along with Smith’s Tropical Paradise, the Kilohana Plantation also features one of the most renowned luaus on the island.
At Gaylord’s Restaurant within Kilohana, visitors can sample fresh seafood and farm-to-table ingredients for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch in a beautiful setting, with live music Thursday through Saturday night. The Koloa Rum Company tasting room, which can also be found within the plantation, provides tastings every half hour. At the nearby Kauai Marriott, Duke’s Kauai has a dining room and a more casual bar setting, both of which serve seafood, steaks, and Hawaiian favorites like huli huli chicken. In downtown Lihue, Kauai Beer Company offers salads, sandwiches, and bar food along with a number of in-house brews.
Lihue is also home to the largest mall on Kauai, Kukui Grove, as well as big box stores like Costco, Kmart, and Walmart. The Anchor Cove shopping center contains local shopping options like Cariloha (which has clothing, bedding, and accessories made from bamboo), Elephant Walk (a perfect place to find souvenirs), Island Bath & Body, and Maui Divers Jewelry. A 20-minute drive south of Lihue through the legendary tree tunnel also leads to the quaint town of Koloa and more shopping with a Hawaiian flavor. Those wishing to opt out of shopping may prefer a visit to either the Jack Niklaus-designed Hokuala Golf Course or the Puakea Golf Course.
A King Kamehameha Day parade and celebration (with music, hula, food, and crafts) typically takes place in Lihue each June, and a Festival of Lights takes place at the historic County Building each December. Maui Beer Company also hosts Truck Stop Thursday each week, allowing food trucks to park outside the brewery on a revolving schedule. The Kauai Community Market is held at Kauai Community College each Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and a farmers’ market is held at Kukui Grove each Monday beginning at 3 p.m.