Kauai Driving Tips & Rental Rates

By Hawaii.com Team

KauaiRoad driving in kauai

Tip #1: Bring Your Patience When Driving in Kauai (Or on Kauai, as the Locals say)

Kee Beach, Haena, Kauai.  Photo:  Larry Loos. driving in kauai

Kee Beach, Haena, Kauai. Photo: Larry Loos.

Odds are you won’t get lost driving on Kaua‘i—only one major highway circles the entire island connecting Ha‘ena on the North Shore to Polihale on the Westside. Only thing tricky about this road besides having two names, Kuhio and Kaumuali‘i, is that it’s often only one lane. In other words, you need to plan your journeys accordingly because once you’re stuck behind someone driving at a snail’s pace, you’re stuck for the long haul as opportunities to safely pass are few and far between.

Looking to rent a car? Special rental discounts are available for Hawaii.com members. Check rental car rates here.

Tip #2: Kapaa Has the Worse Traffic on Kauai

Kauai Road Sign.  Photo:  Jeff Muceus. driving in kauai

Kauai Road Sign. Photo: Jeff Muceus.

Allow at least 15 extra minutes for each trip you take. It’s better to be early than late, particularly if you have a flight to catch. This is especially true if you plan to pass through Kapa‘a. This Eastside town has the worst traffic on Kaua‘i. You might scoff at what “traffic” means on a small island, but make no mistake, you could be sitting in your car for up to an hour passing through this town especially if you’re heading southbound.

Tip #3: Locals Navigate via Landmarks, Not Street Names

Tree Tunnel on the way to Poipu, Kauai.  Photo:  TLPOSCHARSKY. driving in kauai

Tree Tunnel on the way to Poipu, Kauai. Photo: TLPOSCHARSKY.

Of course, many streets veer off the highway and take you to magical Kaua‘i destinations. Overall, they’re easy to navigate but if you do get lost and need to ask for directions, know that you’ll likely hear landmarks as references rather than street names. Most people on Kaua‘i find their way based on notable spots like “the big mango tree.”

Tip #4: Break Up the Island into Multiple Day Trips

One lane bridge in Hanalei on North Shore, Kauai.  Photo:  Jeff Muceus. driving in kauai

One lane bridge in Hanalei on North Shore, Kauai. Photo: Jeff Muceus.

It takes about three hours to drive from one end of the highway to the other. Still, this isn’t something you’ll want to do in one day because there is so much to see and do along the way. The North Shore’s magnificent landscapes take extra time to appreciate and the Westside is home to the spectacular Waimea Canyon that entails at least another hour to climb to the top.

Tip #5: Keep Calm and Stay Grateful

Rainbow seen from Kuhio Highway.  Photo:  Christopher. driving in kauai

Rainbow seen from Kuhio Highway. Photo: Christopher.

Major accidents can unfortunately happen that require the highway to close. This frustrates drivers since the highway is often the only connection to other parts of the island. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t worry; airlines and tour companies are empathetic of these situations. Just remember, the struggle you’re enduring is minor compared to the experience those who have just lost their loved ones will have.

Tip #6: Avoid Unpaved Roads

Driving along the Kauai coast.  Photo:  rikusola. driving in kauai

Driving along the Kauai coast. Photo: rikusola.

Avoid traveling on unpaved roads like to Polihale State Park or Mahaulepu Beach—car rental companies don’t allow this anyway.

Tip #7: Admire the Beauty

Rainbow in Haena.  Photo:  Mikol. driving in kauai

Rainbow in Haena. Photo: Mikol.

Most of all, remember to admire the gorgeous Kaua‘i scenery that abounds each step of your driving journey.

Don’t forget – special rental car discounts are available for Hawaii.com members. Check rental car rates here.

See also: Drive Around Kauai the Gorgeous Garden Isle

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