As the home of the main airport on Kauaʻi, Līhuʻe is visited by each and every person who lands on the island.
Nevertheless, it remains underrated as a destination, taking a backseat to high-profile regions such as Hanalei or Poʻipū. Many people land at the Līhuʻe airport, rent a car, and then head off to stay in other parts of the island without even having a look around. We certainly think this is a mistake!
As the capital of Kauaʻi, Līhuʻe is a good and centrally-located home base for exploring, with some of the most affordable hotels on the island, a myriad of local restaurants, and an abundance of nearby activities.
- Hulēʻia River Kayak Tour
- Kalapaki Beach
- Kauaʻi Bakery
- Kauaʻi Beer Company
- Kauaʻi Museum
- Kilohana Plantation
- Kīpu Ranch
- Wailua Falls
Below, we break down some of the things we like to do most in and around Līhuʻe. See our guide to sights and destinations on Kauaʻi for a more general overview.
There are two golf courses located in Līhuʻe, the Puakea Golf Course and the Ocean Course at Hokuala. Just north, technically in Wailua/Kapaʻa but just 5 miles from Līhuʻe is the Wailua Municipal Golf Course.
Why Go: Playing golf on Hawaiʻi is like none other thanks to the combination of sunny days, ocean breezes, mountain/water views, green landscape, and relaxed atmosphere.
Hulēʻia National Wildlife Refuge and River Kayaking
The area surrounding the Hulēʻia River is a national wildlife refuge, offering visitors the opportunity to view a legit jungle ecosystem just minutes from downtown Līhuʻe. The Hulē‘ia National Wildlife Refuge itself is closed to the public but can be viewed at an overlook maintained by the State of Hawai‘i at the historic Menehune Fish Pond.
Several outfitters provide tours of the Hulēʻia River via kayak, and some, like Outfitters Kauaʻi, offer the chance to get out, hike around, and visit waterfalls.
Why Go: The proximity of the Hulēʻia wildlife refuge highlights the well-round nature of Līhuʻe, and showcases all the natural marvels – the river, the jungle, the waterfalls, the wildlife – that still thrive in and around Līhuʻe.
Kalapaki is the main beach in Līhuʻe, walkable from many of the hotels. It’s also a hub for watersports, with surf shops offering board, kayak, and snorkel rentals. Those looking to spend their days at the beach and live the “resort life” should consider staying at one of the hotels adjacent to this beach.
Why Go: Kalapaki has a little bit of everything to offer, and you don’t have to go far to get it. It is a wonderful beach for families due to its walkability, relatively calm surf, and relaxed vibe, as well as shops and restaurants inside the nearby hotels. For those staying in Līhuʻe, it’s an easy and beautiful beach day.
One of the great things about Līhuʻe is its range of food offerings outside of the hotels that are sustained by the local population. Throughout town, you’ll find all kinds of smaller, mom-and-pop type establishments serving local treats, such as the Kauaʻi Bakery.
Why Go: One of the most famous Hawaiian treats is a Portuguese donut known as the malasada. Since you can’t leave Hawaiʻi without trying one, making the trip to Kauaʻi Bakery one morning is a must.
Kauaʻi Beer Company
Looking for a local pub? Kauaʻi Beer Company is located in the heart of downtown Līhuʻe and has become a gathering place for residents and visitors alike. Its beers are small-batch and always rotating, and its food menu includes both steak burgers and vegetarian fare.
Why Go: Hawaiian craft beer on a hot day… need we say more?
The following 2.5 minute video about the Kauaʻi Beer Company was made by students of the Digital Media Arts at Kauai Community College:
We know there are many other distractions in Hawaiʻi that may prevent you from visiting a museum. And to that we say, fair enough. However, if you’re looking for a little perspective on the island, we recommend paying a quick visit to the Kauaʻi Museum in downtown Līhuʻe, where you can meet the royal families that once ruled Kauaʻi and dive deeper into some of the island’s natural history.
Why Go: Captain Cook is most remembered for his life-taking time on the Big Island, but did you know that Kauaʻi was the first place he landed in Hawaiʻi? Did you know that Kauaʻi was the only island not conquered by King Kamehameha in his quest to “unite” the islands? Do you know how the people of ancient Hawaiʻi thrived and survived? Kauaʻi Museum has an abundance of history (and artifacts) to share with those who drop by for an hour or two.
Related: our list of cultural and historical activities on Kauaʻi.
The Kilohana Plantation is an old sugar cane plantation that now is home to a variety of attractions and experiences, including several restaurants, the Lūʻau Kalamaku, and activities that highlight the past and current use of sugar cane in the islands.
Hawaiʻi has a long history of sugar cane production dating back to the mid-1800s. It is no longer produced on a large commercial scale; however, sugar cane is still grown for local use.
Why Go: Kids will love the Kilohana Plantation Train experience that winds its way through the plantation, teaching about life on a sugar cane plantation and offering the chance to visit the family orchard and animal farm. Adults may prefer a visit to Kōloa Rum, which puts the sugar cane to good use and gives free tastings on the hour, every hour.
Kīpu Ranch ATV Tours
Kīpu Ranch is a 3,000-acre privately-owned cattle ranch in Līhuʻe that welcomes guests on property via ATV tours. The tours are focused on exploring the various ecosystems of the ranch, including waterfalls, scenic viewpoints, and the history and culture of the ranch.
Why Go: If you’re looking for a place in Līhuʻe to get away from it all and have an adventure, Kīpu Ranch is the place to go to experience the paniolo, or Hawaiian cowboy, lifestyle.
There are two lūʻaus in Līhuʻe: The Lūʻau Kalamaku at Kilohana Plantation and the Hawaiʻi Alive Lūʻau at the Kauaʻi Marriot Resort.
Why Go: Lūʻaus are an entertaining and family-friendly way to spend an evening. Though the performances aren’t traditionally Hawaiian, they explore many facets of Polynesian culture and provide a chance to try some culinary favorites, like kalua pork and poi. Many shows offer an open bar, which helps enhance the evening.
Saimin is a popular type of noodle dish that’s found in abundance across restaurants in Līhuʻe. The saimin noodle is similar to ramen, although it’s said to be more flavorful and chewier. It’s often served as a soup, in a clear broth with pork.
A blend of Portuguese, Japanese, and Chinese cultures that date back to the plantation days in Hawaiʻi, saimin is today considered Hawaiʻi’s favorite noodle soup. Give some a try at places like Hamura Saimin, Kakoʻs Saimin, or Garden Island Barbecue.
Why Go: Though you can find saimin on any Hawaiian island, it feels even more popular on Kauaʻi, with a high concentration of options specifically in Līhuʻe. Give this locally-beloved noodle dish a try, and if you’re ever on Oʻahu, pay a visit to the Sun Noodle Factory, where they make saimin noodles locally.
We’ve already seen how you can access beaches, rainforests, ranch land, and waterfalls in Līhuʻe. Just 5 miles north in Wailua River State Park is another gem, Wailua Falls. This 173-foot falls, surrounded by jungle, is easy to access, with parking right at the top of the falls and a great line of sight into the pool below.
Why Go: Why not? It’s just a few minutes drive from Līhuʻe and is a spectacular sight. Go early or later in the afternoon to avoid congestion.