Kauai Transportation and Roadway Travel Tips
A great thing about Kauai is that it’s relatively small, making it quick and easy to travel to any spot on the island no matter where you’re actually staying. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to walk to wherever you want to go. All the prime vacation spots and activities are spaced far enough apart that transportation is mandatory. Public transportation on Kauai is available, but I recommend renting a car.
Be sure to get a reliable map before heading out on the road. One map I recommend for driving is James A. Bier’s Map of Kauai. It’s not very expensive, it covers the entire island and is frequently updated. If you have trouble finding it on the mainland, don’t worry. You’ll find them in stores all over the place on the Hawaiian Islands.
What to Expect on Kauai’s Roads
If you drive with a lead foot, be careful. Driving on Kauai is slow. If you’re use to average speeds of around 40 to 45 miles an hour and 55 to 65 on the highways, then prepare for a shock. Kauai’s average speed is around 30 miles per hour with some areas getting up to a heart-pounding 50 miles an hour. But I like it that way. Why would anyone want fly through Kauai? Kauai should be traveled slowly so you have a chance to savor and absorb its beauty.
Most of Kauai is encircled by two main highways – Kaumualii Highway (Rt. 50) and Kuhio Highway (Rt. 56). These two highways provide access to nearly every major site on Kuai. The only exception is Na Pali Coast on Kauai’s northwest side.
Here are some examples of how quickly you can travel around the island:
- Starting from Lihue you can get to Poipu in about 20 minutes.
- From Poipu you can drive to Polihale in about 35 minutes.
- Starting from Lihue you can get to Kapaa in about 10 minutes.
- From Kapaa you can drive to Hanalei in about 30 minutes.
While on Kauai, become familiar with the term “contra flow”. Some areas during commute hours have contra flow. Cones are placed on the lane divisions and traffic is forced to drive on the wrong side of the road. This can be confusing and unnerving if you are uninformed.
Kauai’s Bypass Roads
Something you’ll notice while driving on Kuai is that it’s still mostly rural countryside – with only two lanes on the roads. Sometimes the traffic can get a little congested so bypass roads have been built in different locations.
These bypass roads are great because they allow you to skip some of the busier roadways while giving you the chance to view some beautiful scenery at the same time.
3 Money-Saving Tips When Driving in Kauai
- There are two Shell Stations that usually have the best gas prices on Kauai – the Shell in Kapaa and the Hanamaulu Shell Station.
- Don’t get your gas at the rental car company because they usually have the highest prices.
- Be extra cautious when driving on dirt roads because a lot of collision damage waivers don’t cover vehicles on unpaved roads or beaches.