Located on Kauai’s eastern shore, which is also called the Coconut Coast, is one of Hawaii’s major tourist destination – Wailua. This small town is the site of Kauai’s original settlement and got its name from the Wailua River, where the earliest communities were built. If you want to get a glimpse of the rich history and culture of ancient Hawaiians, this is the perfect place to go to. And after you’ve gone to these cultural and historical sites, there are several shopping and dining options for you as well. No wonder people who have come to Wailua often want to stay and live in this beautiful oceanfront town!
Popular Attractions in Wailua, HI
The Wailua River is the only passable river in the entire state of Hawaii. This river is considered as one of the most sacred places by ancient Hawaiians. Near the mouth of the river, at the river basin, was one of the island’s two royal centers. This was the home of the high chiefs, and you can still find the remains of many important heiau (ancient stone temples) here. The entire area along the Wailua River used to be exclusive to royalty. Now, visitors are welcome to experience its beauty by kayak or boat tour. A guided kayak tour includes a hike to the majestic Uluwehi Falls (Secret Falls), while the boat tour will take you to the Fern Grotto.
If the Wailua Falls seem familiar, that’s because it was featured in the opening credits of the popular television series, “Fantasy Island,” back in the 1970’s. Legend has it that Hawaiian men would jump from the top of the falls to test their endurance. One of the reasons Wailua Falls is always included in tourists’ “to do” lists is because it is conveniently accessible – you don’t have to hike for miles to get to this wonderful spot – and it is located right next to a parking lot.
Fern Grotto is an overgrown, fern-fringed lava cave that used to be an exclusive destination for ancient Hawaiian royalty. Today, visitors can come to the grotto and marvel at the scenery as they take a boat ride along the Wailua River. Upon reaching the grotto, they are entertained by musicians playing Hawaiian music, which sound even more enchanting thanks to its natural acoustics.
Opaekaa Falls is one of Kauai’s most popular waterfalls. “Opaekaa” means “rolling shrimp,” which were once abundant in its stream and pool. Visitors who want to view the falls up close need to go through a muddy trail for about half an hour, and so most people opt to view it from a lookout off of Kuamoo Road.
Lydgate Beach Park
Lydgate Beach Park is a narrow stretch of blond sandy shore. There are two lifeguarded pools inside a protected breakwater which is generally safe for swimming and snorkeling. Amenities include picnic tables and pavilions, outdoor showers, drinking water, two big playgrounds, full-size soccer fields, a paved recreational path, and restrooms. Camping is allowed at the south end of the park. Be cautious of the open ocean beyond these protected pools. Its strong currents, gigantic waves, sharp corals, and slippery rocks make it unsuitable for swimming.
Smith’s Tropical Paradise
A lush 30-acre garden park within the Wailua Marina State Park, Smith’s Tropical Paradise is the perfect place for an afternoon picnic or relaxing garden stroll. peacocks and many other birds thrive in the lush surroundings. Spend a quiet afternoon with a beautiful scenery. The Tropical Orchard has a spectacular array of fruit trees, including, star fruit, breadfruit, jackfruit, soursop, and macadamia nuts. The Japanese-themed garden island is a popular choice for garden weddings. The Smith Family Garden Luau is Kauai’s most popular luau, featuring the multicultural Polynesian show of Hawaiian hula, Tahitian drum dances, and Samoan fire dancing.
Must-Try Restaurants in Wailua, HI
When in Wailua, you should visit Street Burger and try their gourmet burgers. The Lamb Burger with Ni’ihau Ranch lamb patty, eggplant caponata, feta, and arugula is definitely a must-try. The Street Burger is such a heavenly treat with cured pork belly, fried egg, arugula, blue cheese, and fizzled onions. And, of course, you should have a taste of Hawaii with the Wailua Burger, with crispy spam, jalapeno-pineapple marmalade, kabayaki glaze, and spinach.
Hukilau Lanai is the best seafood restaurant on the island. You’ll find a half-dozen fresh-catch options on the menu, paired with fresh, locally grown vegetables and a different sauce every night. This place offers scrumptious steaks and chops, too. For first-time guests, book the great-value five-course tasting menu. And there’s live music here, too!
For healthy vegan and plant-based dishes, go to EatHealthy Café. Dishes are infused with Asian, South American, and Middle Eastern flavors to delight mindful eaters with a discriminating palate. This rustic hideaway is known for its Tex-Mex burrito with soy chorizo, which is a breakfast favorite. The kimchi burger is a lunch staple. And for beverages, you have to try their smoothies and kombucha.
Haole Girl Island Sweets
When it comes to baked goodies, there’s no place like Haole Girl Island Sweets. Everything on the menu is made from locally grown produce and locally made chocolate. All the pastries are made by hand from scratch. Some of the crowd favorites include macadamia nut sticky buns, tea cookies, carrot/pineapple cake, and croissants stuffed with goat cheese, spinach and sun-dried tomato.
Experience the Nightlife in Wailua, HI
Lava Lava Beach Club
Located in the Kauai Shores hotel, the Lava Lava Beach Club offers guests a chill experience as they dine and drink on the shore. Enjoy their happy-hour specials of cheaper beers, cocktails, and bar snacks. There’s live music on most nights, starting from 6pm.
There’s a lively, hippy vibe at Potions that keep guests coming to this psychedelic Indian kombucha bar. You must try their sweet fizzy brew that comes in a variety of amazing flavors –
chocolate and pepper, dandelion and burdock, ginger and ginseng, and chamomile and spearmint. They serve four kinds of vegetarian curry that promises to satisfy your craving for Indian food.
The bar at the Avalon Gastropub offers an interesting selection of crafty brews from Hawaii and mainland US, like the Kauai Mojito, Jalapeno Smoked Margarita, Lilikoi Margarita, Avalon Whiskey Sour, and Avalon’s Old Fashioned’s. Bar food must-try’s are pork-belly Scotch egg and pan-seared duck.
While Wailua offers a peek into Hawaii’s rich past, it offers more than historic attractions. This is definitely a place you should go to on your next getaway.