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Kauai on a Shoestring Budget

Having fun on the Hawaiian island of Kauai without breaking the bank.

Like most things in life, the best things on Kaua'i are free. Begin with the beaches. There are 43 white sand beaches. Toss down the towel in front of the grandest hotel on Poipu Beach or find a secluded cove at 'Anini. All island beaches are public. The only thing alive that has more rights to the sand than you are the Hawaiian monk seals that come ashore to doze in the sun or the giant Hawaiian sea turtles that haul themselves onto the reef for a nap.

To get acquainted with Hawaii's wonderful underwater world with its coral formation and colorful reef fish, you can buy a snorkel tour that includes lunch. Or, you can save a lot of money by renting a mask and fins at activity wholesalers in Hanalei, pick up a sandwich or plate lunch and head for Ke'e or 'Anini Beach Park. The same for whale watching -- go for the tour or just perch along the south shore and look out to sea for the gentle giants of the deep as they spout and jump clear out of the water. Locals call these southern waters "Whale Alley." The season is November through March.

For more action, try some of the spectacular hiking trails that lace Kauai's green wilderness. They range from easy nature walks among some of the rarest flora on the planet, to challenging treks into hidden valleys streaming with waterfalls. Hike into Waimea, the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific," or walk the famous 11-mile Kalalau Trail. Contact the State Division of Parks for maps and information. For only a $3 donation, guided hikes are offered through the Koke'e Natural History Museum during the summer months. Other community or environmental groups may also sponsor hikes. Check the local Garden Island newspaper for listings. Of course, a variety of outfitters offer guided hiking tours throughout the year at commercial rates.

On Kauai, you don't have to be wealthy to golf. The nine holes of the public Kukuiolono Golf Course can be played for $7 and you can go around as many times as you want.

The most cherished cultural aspects of Hawaii can be encountered with little effort or money. Many hotels offer free hula performances, torch lighting ceremonies and lei making classes. Coconut Marketplace in Kapaa stages hour-long free hula shows every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evening. Go early to get good seats at this popular event.

Surprisingly inexpensive accommodations can be had on this island, considered by many to be among the most beautiful in the world. Drive inland and units can be found for $50 double -- and they're clean and nicely decorated. Sometimes the owners will even let you use their water sports equipment and golf clubs.

Along the Royal Coconut Coast, some quaint hotels offer rooms from $60 double and complimentary access to swimming pools and exercise rooms.

One of the best buys on the North Shore are bed and breakfasts with Hawaiiana and Polynesian decor. They offer kitchen access, use of water toys and are steps from white sandy beaches. Rates begin at $65, double and can include continental breakfast.

There are also numerous moderately priced hotels and holiday condominiums, many catering to families. Inquire about room and car deals, and special packages such as honeymoon or sports packages.

To eat inexpensively, you needn't dine in the big national burger and burrito chains, although you can, because several of them are on the island. Kauai, however, abounds in really good food, sometimes in industrial-strength portions, at refreshingly modest prices. Many of the free visitor publications available at the airport and at outlets around the island offer restaurant discount coupons, early bird specials and two-for-one deals.

The best buy is Hawaii's famous "plate lunch." It's not only a mountain of food, it's a cultural experience. Routinely, a plate lunch consists of potato or macaroni salad, "two scoops rice," and a meat entree. The entree might be teriyaki beef, Korean-style ribs, kalua pig and cabbage, pork katsu, fresh caught mahimahi or opakapaka, beef stew or a curry dish. The combinations are endless. If you can't afford a lu'au, look for a Hawaiian plate lunch -- it will have most of the lu'au "musts" crammed onto one big, sectioned paper plate.

The other ubiquitous local dish is saimin, a savory broth heaped with noodles and adorned with such things as pinwheel fish cake, won bok, won tons, strips of Spam, scallions, sliced boiled egg or whatever creative toppings the cook comes up with. Saimin "stands" are usually humble in appearance but proud of the size of their bowls. Hamura's Saimin Stand in Lihue has an international following and a loyal local base who rub elbows at the Formica counter and slurp contentedly of the delicious soup. Japanese restaurants usually offer "bento," a take-out tray of ethnic specialties while Chinese and Korean restaurants have their own delicious versions.

Cafes with outdoor seating waft their enticing aromas out to the road. You can usually get modestly priced sandwiches and salads. Most restaurants post their menus outside so you can get a look at prices before committing.

Getting around the island is easy by rental car and most of the major car companies are stationed on Kauai. Great weekly rates can be found on the Internet, as well as discount coupons in the free visitor publications.

One of the least expensive ways to fly to Kauai is aboard charter flights that often include hotel and car packages. Check with your travel agent or local newspaper.

Beyond all the bargains, you will see, absolutely for free, some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets of a lifetime and scenery so magnificent Hollywood keeps coming back with their cameras.

Kauai Island Travel Guide

About the County of Kauai

Islands of Hawaii

State of Hawaii Travel Guide

See also:
Pictures of Hawaii
Destinations in Hawaii
Hawaii for Visitors

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