Unless you’re on a fairly leisurely schedule, you’ll need a car or other motorized vehicle to see and do everything on Kauai, which has one major road—one lane in each direction, in most places—that rings the island except along the Napali Coast. During rush hour, from about 6 to 9am and 3 to 6pm, the road between Lihue and Kapaa—the central business district—can turn into a giant parking lot, even with a third, “contra-flow” lane whose direction is determined by time of day. Bypass roads in Kipu (when heading north from Poipu) and Kapaa (when heading south) can alleviate some of the stress, but plan accordingly.
Note: The top speed is 50mph, with many slower sections in residential and business areas. Addresses in this chapter will use Kaumualii Highway (Hwy. 50) and Kuhio Highway (Hwy. 56/560), following local convention. Since highway addresses can be hard to spot (if marked at all), directions may be given with mile marker numbers, cross streets, and/or the descriptors mauka (toward the mountains) and makai (toward the sea).
By Car--All of the major car-rental agencies are represented on Kauai. At the airport baggage claim, cross the street to catch one of the frequent shuttle vans to the rental lots. Avis (www.avis.com; tel. 800/230-4898) also rents cars from the Grand Hyatt Kauai and the Princeville Airport. Be sure to book early for peak periods. Discount Hawaii Car Rental (www.discounthawaiicarrental.com; tel. 800/292-1939) may have cheaper options for last-minute bookings; it also offers free pickup for cruise passengers.
By Motorcycle, Moped, or Scooter--Riders 21 and older with a heavyweight motorcycle license can rent a “hog” from Kauai Harley-Davidson (www.kauaiharley.com; tel. 888/690-6233 or 808/212-9469) outside Lihue. Rates start at $179 for 24 hours, with unlimited mileage. Lihue’s Kaui Mopeds (www.kauai-mopeds.com; tel. 808/652-7407) offers two-person scooters with similar age and license restrictions; daily rates start at $75 for models with a top speed of 52mph, and $110 for those reaching 75mph. For cruising back roads (directions provided), those 18 or older with a driver’s license can rent a single-person moped with a top speed of 30mph for $65 a day.
By Taxi or Shuttle--Set by the county, taxi meter rates start at $3, with an additional $3 per mile; it’s about $50 to Poipu and $90 to Princeville from the airport, plus 40[ce] per item of luggage, and $4 per bulky item. You can also arrange private tours by taxi starting at $120 for 2 hours. Call Kauai Taxi Company (tel. 808/246-9554) for taxi, limousine, or airport shuttle service. From the airport, solo travelers will find it cheaper ($39 to Poipu, $67 to Princeville) to take the shared-ride SpeediShuttle (www.speedishuttle; tel. 877/242-5777), but be aware it may make multiple stops. Pono Express (http://ponoexpress.com; tel. 800/258-6880) offers private airport shuttles and sightseeing tours in vans accommodating one to 14 passengers; rate is by vehicle or by hour. Those staying in Poipu should take advantage of the free Aloha Spirit Shuttle (www.mykauaiconnection.com; tel. 855/742-2260 or 808/742-2260); the 12-person open-air tram—a former Disneyland people-mover—shuttles locals and visitors around resorts and restaurants from 5 to 10pm daily.
By Bus--Kauai Bus (www.kauai.gov, click “Transportation”; tel. 808/246-8110) continues to expand bus service between Kekaha and Hanalei daily, including stops near several Poipu and Lihue hotels, the central Kapaa hotel corridor, the Princeville Shopping Center, and Hanalei. Note: There’s also an airport stop, but suitcases, large backpacks, and surfboards are not allowed on the bus. The white-and-green buses, which have small bike racks in front, run more or less hourly from 5:30am to 10:30pm weekdays, and 6:30am to 6pm on weekends and holidays. The fare (exact change only) is $2 for adults and $1 for seniors and children 7 to 18.
By Bike--Due to narrow (or nonexistent) shoulders along much of the main highway, relying on bicycles for transportation is generally unsafe.
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.