Poipu and Koloa

Poipu and Koloa

Shaka Guide's North Shore Kauai Driving Tour Itinerary

Shaka Guide

Take a trip along the northern coast of Kauai to see some of the most stunning beaches this island has to offer.

This itinerary visits a total of eight beaches! But beaches aren’t the only thing you’ll explore on this tour, you’ll visit a:

  • historic lighthouse
  • a garden
  • three hikes, and
  • a charming seaside town

This tour has two starting points, one in Kapaa, and the other in Princeville, and travels in a loop, ending where you began.

No matter where you start you’ll still visit all the same spots.


Do to a recent landslide, the road past Princeville towards Hanalei and Haena State Park has limited access. Please expect long delays and check this access schedule here to see what time the road is open. Plan accordingly based on the access schedule. 

In addition, entry to Haena State Park is limited, and advanced reservations for all vehicles, walk-in entries, and shuttle riders are required. You can make reservations up to 30 days in advance at www.gohaena.com.

PLEASE NOTE: you will NOT be able to drive past Hanelei without a reservation. Entry costs $5.00 per person. In addition, if you are parking the cost is $10.00 per car and the shuttle costs $30 per person (round trip). You can book a shuttle, parking, and entry reservations at www.gohaena.com

*This itinerary starts in Kapaa*

north shore kauai tour map stops


We recommend starting the tour by 10:00 a.m. The entire journey takes about 6-8 hours to complete if you visit every stop.

If you have a voucher to travel past Hanalei, you may want to start earlier or later to arrive at Haena State park at your scheduled time.

King Kong - Hole in Mountain

Approximate time: 5 minutes

mountain kauaiNotice anything familiar? King Kong Anahola Mountain, Kauai, Photo by Bob Linsdel

Before we get started visiting the picture-perfect beaches on this tour, pull over for a look at the Kalalea Mountain Range.

While you’re there, does the shape of the mountain remind you of anything? Look closely and you’ll see its resemblance to King Kong.

Moloaa Beach

Approximate time: 20 minutes

Remember the 1963 show Gilligan’s Island? Well, this picturesque beach is where the first season was filmed!

Take a stroll on the beach where Gilligan and his crew started it all.

Kahili Beach

Approximate time: 20 minutes

Kahili Beach is also known as Rock Quarry Beach because of a former rock quarry nearby. This is a remote rural beach with no facilities, just lots of beauty.

If you have the time, wade through the stream if it is low enough and check out the far left side of the beach. There is a huge rock to climb on for an epic view of the bay.

Kilauea Lighthouse

Approximate time: 30+ minutes

lighthouse overlookKilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and Kilauea Lighthouse, Kauai | Photo by Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) Tor Johnson

At the end of a scenic peninsula known as Kilauea Point, you’ll spot a lighthouse in the distance. The wildlife refuge is home to a variety of local seabirds.

Depending on the season there seem to be thousands of birds on the cliffs or in the skies.

In the waters below, look out for spinner dolphins and monk seals in their natural habitat.

You can visit the lighthouse and refuge Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

PLEASE NOTE: advanced reservations are now required to visit Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and there’s an $11 entrance fee. You can make advanced reservations here. If you’re pressed for time or traveling on a Sunday through Wednesday, no worries, you can still take in this beautiful site from afar from the outer parking lot. 

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Secret Beach

Approximate time: 30 minutes

Take a short, 15-minute hike to the shore where you’ll find an expansive white sand beach. Why is it a secret you ask?

This spot was relatively unknown in the past making it a popular nudist beach for hippies. But it’s not so secret anymore.

Anini Beach

Approximate time: 1 hour

white sand beach in anini beachAnini Beach, Kauai, Photo by Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Kirk Aede

Time to take out that snorkel gear! Anini Beach boasts the largest coral reef in Hawaii and is considered one of the best snorkel spots in Kauai.

The beach is a little detour off the main road, but don’t worry, we’ll guide you there.

We recommend packing your gear, but if you don’t have you can rent or buy nearby in Princeville.

PRO TIP! If you need a pitstop, stop in Princeville. The next spot for food or restrooms is in Hanalei, which is about 30 minutes away.

Hanalei Valley Overlook

Approximate time: 5 minutes

valley overlookHanalei Valley Lookout, Kauai, Photo by Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) Tor Johnson

As you drive to Hanalei, on your right you’ll see a little shopping center for Princeville, and to your left, a scenic area viewpoint.

The scenic area has a breathtaking view of Hanalei Valley. Stop for a quick photo of the lush mountains and a patchwork of taro fields in the valley.

Okolehau Hike 

Approximate time: 30 minutes

The Okolehau Hike is a challenging 5-mile hike with some serious elevation gain.

But if you just want to get out of the car for a quick walk, hike the first half mile of the trail until you reach an electric pole.

There you will find an overlook of the Hanalei Valley.

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Grab lunch in Hanalei Town

Approximate time: 45 minutes

Hanalei is a charming seaside town with a famous pier, restaurants, and shopping.

While you’re here, it’s a great spot to grab some lunch or pick up picnic supplies for lunch on the pier.

PRO TIP! If you’re planning on snorkeling at Tunnels Beach, rent gear here in Hanalei.

*You’ll need a voucher to access the area beyond Hanalei towards Haena State Park, make a reservation here.* You can make your reservation up to 30 days in advance. Plan to reserve entry + shuttle or entry + parking. 

Kahalahala Beach

Approximate time: 15 minutes

Just past Hanalei is a small beach called Kahalahala. The trail will go down into a forested area before emerging in front of a beautiful pristine beach.

This is where Nellie Forebrush sang the song “I gotta wash that man right outta my hair” in the movie South Pacific.

PRO TIP! If you’re pressed for time skip this beach and the next and head to Tunnels for some more snorkeling.

Lumahai Beach

Approximate time: 15 minutes

This picturesque, huge, white sand beach is one of Kauai's most gorgeous. However, the steep sand slope creates a strong undertow and powerful waves that break directly on the sand.

Hawaiian legends say that a giant named Pilikua was killed at this beach and that the lava flow into the ocean represents his giant tongue. See if you can spot it!

Tunnels Beach

Approximate time: 1 hour

overlook of tunnels beachVisit one of the best diving and snorkeling spots in Kauai - Tunnels Beach!

Tunnels are the quintessential snorkeling and diving beach. There's plenty to explore here with underwater lava tubes with an abundance of sea life.

In fact, Tunnels is consistently listed as one of the best snorkel spots on the island.

Parking is extremely limited so if you can’t find a spot, head to Ha’ena Beach nearby and walk over to Tunnels.

If you don’t have your own gear, the nearest place to rent is Hanalei.

Ha’ena Beach & Maniniholo Cave

Approximate time: 15 minutes

Strong ocean currents make Ha’ena Beach not so much a place for casual swimming. In fact, you may even see surfers out in the water cutting it up on the waves.

But do get out of the car and go for a stroll, Ha’ena Beach is beautiful and there are restrooms, showers, and lifeguards here at this beach.

Across the street, there is a cave called Maniniholo. It’s the remains of an old lava tube, evidence of Kauai’s fiery volcanic past!

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Kalalau Trail

Approximate time: 2 hours

The Kalalau Trail is one of the most ambitious hikes in Hawaii. This 11-mile trail takes you along the steep cliffs of the Na Pali Coast.

To do the entire hike, a permit is required, but for your tour today we recommend you hike the first half mile to the viewpoint of the Na Pali Coast.

From there you can turn around the way you came.

Limahuli Gardens

Approximate time: 45 minutes

If you are not feeling up to a hike, perhaps you can consider a stroll in the Limahuli Botanical Garden, located in Haena State Park.

The garden is home to dozens of endangered plants and works showcase native Hawaiian flora and fauna.

Note: There is an entrance fee to visit the garden.

Drive back to Hanalei

Approximate time: 20 minutes

Now, we’ll start making our way back to Kapa’a with two stops along the way. First, you’ll head back to Hanalei to visit the historic pier.

Hanalei Pier

Approximate time: 15 minutes

pierHanalei Pier, Kauai

Hanalei Pier dates back to the late 1800’s. This picturesque pier stretches into Hanalei Bay and has been featured in a handful of movies, like Beachheads, South Pacific, and more recently George Clooney’s The Descendants.

We recommend going for a leisurely stroll along the pier, and if you’re there at the right time, staying for sunset.

Banana Joe's & Mini Golf

Approximate time: 1 hour

If you’re looking for a pitstop or want to grab a snack for the road on the drive home, you gotta check out Banana Joes.

It is a nice little fruit stand that serves up some awesome Banana Pineapple frosties. They also offer a neat variety of local fruits and vegetables.

Next to it is a botanical garden with mini golf. Feel free to stop by if you’d like.

Drive Back to Kapa’a

Approximate time: 40 minutes

After your refreshing treat from Banana Joes, you’ll begin making your way back to Kapa’a.

We’ll share stories about King Kamehameha and his attempts to invade Kauai along the drive home.

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Remember, when you're visiting, to be a responsible, safe traveler. Here are 10 Ways to be a Safe and Responsible Traveler in Hawaii.

Ready to take the Kauai North Shore Driving Tour? Here's everything you need to know before you go! 

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