Shopping centers on Kauai present free Polynesian dance shows. // © 2014 Poipu Shopping Village
Feature image (above): Kauai lays claim to 50 miles of white-sand beaches, such as Poipu Beach. // © 2014 Kauai Visitors Bureau
Clients can experience the wonders of Kauai without emptying their pockets. In fact, a simple seaside stroll or lei-making lesson can create memories as precious as a pricey guided tour.
Assisted by travel professionals who keep tabs on the island, budget-conscious visitors can relish its accommodations, food, activities and culture without breaking the bank. Following are five ways that clients can get more for less on Kauai.
Time It Right
Booking flights to and from Kauai in the middle of the week often results in cheaper airfares, said Pleasant Holidays president Jack Richards. Clients save even more money when traveling during a shoulder season.
For midweek flights from the U.S. West Coast during the shoulder season of mid-August to mid-September 2014, Richards quoted roundtrip airfares starting at about $620 per person. By comparison, during the peak season of summer 2014, fares with Saturday departures are averaging as high as $1,160.
As travel agents and their clients do pre-trip research, they should pay close attention to extra charges.
“For example, some hotels add a daily resort fee not included in the package price, paid directly to the hotel,” said Richards. “Resort fees can range between $20-$30 per day, which is significant for a five- to seven-night stay.”
Kauai’s east side makes a good match for thrifty travelers. There, they can find moderate rates at properties such as Aqua Kauai Beach Resort, Courtyard Marriott at Coconut Beach, Hotel Coral Reef and Kauai Sands Hotel. Near Lihue, Banyan Harbor Resort presents affordable digs, while to the south, Kalaheo Inn has clean, basic units with kitchenettes.
Bed and breakfast establishments are an attractive alternative for travelers watching their wallets. Several are Kauai Visitors Bureau (KVB) members, including Mohala Ke Ola on the east side, Hale O Nanakai in the south and Hale Puka Ana in the west.
Sue Kanoho, KVB executive director, pointed out that couples or families traveling together can share the expense of lodging by booking vacation rentals or condominiums such as Outrigger Kiahuna Plantation in Poipu and Hanalei Colony Resort on the north shore.
Kauai’s talented chefs are doing their part to keep dining costs in line. At Josselin’s Tapas Bar and Grill, for instance, all the dishes are meant to be shared. The Feral Pig has fast become a favorite haunt with its full dinners priced for less than $20 per person.
For lunch, humble mainstays such as Hamura Saimin continue to offer quality and value. Rolling restaurants are all the rage, from Food Truck Thursdays at Kauai Beer Company to the trucks that frequent the ongoing farmers’ markets. For a Hawaiian-style plate lunch at low prices, follow the locals to Hanalei Taro and Juice.
On Kauai, even dinner-and-a-show can be economical. Tahiti Nui’s reasonably priced luau comes with a generous buffet and live entertainment, and mai tais are even served on the house for the first two hours.
Embrace the Past
Kauai’s historical sites cost little to no money. Case in point is the four-mile Koloa Heritage Trail, a free self-guided journey to the past with 14 different interpretive markers.
The inexpensive Grove Farm Homestead Museum is Hawaii’s best remaining example of a sugar plantation estate. Kilohana Plantation features cheap, fun rides on a vintage narrow-gauge train. Kauai Museum, exhibiting native art and artifacts, keeps entry fees low and sometimes hosts special events and live music.
Free hula shows are held at shopping centers around the island. Some hotels offer free dance performances, torch-lighting ceremonies and hands-on classes in Hawaiian crafts. Kanoho urged agents to monitor Kauai’s numerous annual festivals — often free and always teeming with cultural riches — to help clients time their vacations accordingly.
“Enjoying nature is just one of the many things you can do for free on Kauai,” said Kanoho. “I love watching sunsets, and I’ve been known to pull over and take a photo of a passing rainbow, then share that image with my friends.”
The Garden Isle reveals its natural wealth for next to nothing at attractions such as the 30 acres of botanical beauty at Smith’s Tropical Paradise. Clients can save money by touring the island’s National Tropical Botanical Gardens on their own rather than with a guide. A mere pittance gives guests access to the Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge, home of endangered birds, monk seals, sea turtles and spinner dolphins.
Of course, Kauai’s 50 miles of white-sand beaches are free of charge, and hiking trails on the island range from the forests of Kokee State Park to the stunning sea cliffs of the Napali Coast.
Not to be outdone, the island’s many waterfalls — such as the 150-foot Opaekaa Falls and the 80-foot Wailua Falls — put on a complimentary display so dazzling that clients will feel like a million bucks.