I've outlined the highlights for those who just have 7 days and want to see everything. It's a jampacked 7-day, 6-night itinerary; however, you might want to skip a few suggestions and just veg out on the beach, or substitute your own interests such as sailing, scuba diving, or golf.
Day 1: Arrive in Kauai; Head for the Beach
After you get off the plane, head for the beach closest to your accommodations. Lather up in sunscreen, take sunglasses and a hat, and plop down on the soft sand of the beach. Enjoy a Hawaiian dinner at one of the luau offered to get into the spirit of your Hawaiian vacation. Don't be surprised if you find yourself nodding off at 8 or 9pm.
Day 2: See a Bird's-Eye View of Kauai from a Helicopter
Since you're probably on mainland time and will be wide awake before the break of dawn, either plan an early morning helicopter tour of the island to get your bearings, or get up and watch the sunrise from the east shore. If it's not raining, head out to Hanalei Beach to watch the sun make its appearance in the east at 5:30am in summer and 6:30am in winter. Then head into Hanalei for an early breakfast at Hanalei Wake-up Café.
With the whole day ahead of you, after breakfast drive out to the end of the road at Kee Beach. Here you can either hike a couple of miles along the Na Pali Coast and back (make sure you have good hiking shoes, water, snacks, and sunscreen), or you can venture down the highway to Tunnels Beach for an early morning snorkel. After a couple of hours at the beach, continue on to the Limahuli Garden of the National Tropical Botanical Garden and step into Eden.
By now you should be hungry. Head back to Hanalei and order takeout at the Hanalei Gourmet and head down to Hanalei Beach for a picnic lunch. After lunch, you might want to try kayaking. Kayak Kauai in Hanalei has both guided tours as well as kayak rentals so you can explore by water.
If kayaking is not your preferred activity, then wander through the shops at Hanalei, get a shave ice, and take in the slow pace of life on the North Shore.
Finish the day with a pau hana-time (quit-work time) cocktail at Tahiti Nui, then enjoy a relaxing dinner in Hanalei at Postcards Café.
Day 3: Hike Through Kauai's Grand Canyon
Head out west, up to Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park. Have warm clothes, as it can get cold at 4,000 feet, and be prepared for rain. Get an early start and have breakfast or coffee at the Kalaheo Café & Coffee Co.. Stop in Waimea town to explore the Russian Fort Elizabeth State Historical Park and the Menehune Ditch, then plan to spend most of the morning (before the clouds roll in) hiking the various trails in the Waimea Canyon area. Then travel another 16 miles and a few thousand feet up the road to Kokee. Stop for lunch at the Kokee Lodge, open from 9am to 2:30pm. Check in at the Kokee Natural History Museum to learn about the forests and surrounding area, locate good hiking trails, and pick up a couple of trail maps. In the afternoon, wander around the park, and stay for sunset. If it's Friday night, eat at the Hanapepe Café (they only serve dinner on Friday); if it's not, go Italian at Pomodoro in Kalaheo.
Day 4: Winging It on the Water
After a day in the mountains, it's time to head to the beach again. If you like sailing and snorkeling, book a sail/snorkel tour out of the Kukuiula Small Boat Harbor or Port Allen for the trip of a lifetime -- exploring the Na Pali Coast.
If you pass on sailing, wander into the old plantation town of Hanapepe and browse at the unique shops. Continue west to Kauai's biggest beach at Polihale State Park. Spend the day here, and be sure to check out the "barking" sands at Barking Sands Beach. Enjoy the sunset, then head over to the Beach House for a fabulous dinner.
Day 5: Explore Kilauea
Your beach quotient should be filled by now, so spend the day in the Kilauea area exploring gardens and the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. First, call Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens to make sure they are open, and book a tour. This incredible, magical garden is for people who shudder at the thought of seeing a botanical garden: The whimsical magic of the place will win over even the most stubborn. Build up an appetite for lunch by checking out the very unusual shops at Kong Kung in Kilauea. Pick up a delicious picnic lunch at Kilauea Fish Market. Then head down the road to the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, a 200-acre habitat for Hawaii's ocean birds. Eat your picnic on the coast, join a guided hike, or just wander through the fairyland of the wilderness area. Have dinner at the wonderful Lighthouse Bistro Kilauea.
Day 6: Casting About on the Coconut Coast
For those who just can't get enough beach time, make your way to Wailua Beach on the Coconut Coast. This beach, which features Hawaiian historical and cultural sites, is also a great place to just sit under a palm tree and figure out how you can move here permanently. For those non-beach people, you can visit the great shopping along the coast, or head inland and see the sacred Hindu temple, San Marga Iraivan Temple. Eat lunch in Kapaa at Mermaids Cafe. In the afternoon, consider either hiking up Sleeping Giant Mountain, bicycling along the shoreline, or renting a kayak from Kauai Water Ski & Surf. By dinnertime, you'll be hungry; head for Caffè Coco.
Day 7: Getting the Most Out of Your Last Day
If this is your last day, spend it in the Lihue area. It's close to the airport and there are plenty of things to do. You might want to step back in history and visit the Kauai Museum in Lihue or take a train ride at Kilohana in Puhi. Or drive up to the Wailua Falls, just outside of town. Shoppers may like wandering around the old town of Lihue. Die-hard beachgoers can head to Kalapaki Beach for their last few hours of sun. If you are in a casual mode, get some burgers for the beach at Kalapaki Beach Hut. If you are in the mood for a more filling meal -- and you know that it won't get served by the airline -- stop at Duke's Canoe Club for your last meal on the island.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.