Getting Around on Gay Kauai

Published Date Author: , November 22nd, 2014

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If you want to see anything on the island, you’re either going to need to get a rental car or take a tour. Fortunately, rental cars are fairly reasonable here. We spent about $220 for a midsized car with four doors from Hertz.

Kauai RoadA quick island note: first, when we say Highway, remember that everything is relative. On 95% of the island, the “Highway” is a two lane road that would barely qualify for country road status on the mainland, so restaurants and accommodations near the highway are much quieter than you might assume.

You may hear the terms “mauka” and “makai” when you are getting directions on Kauai. Mauka refers to the mountain side of the road, while makai is the sea side.

There are several highway traffic choke points on the island. Between Lihue and Kapa’a is where the worst island traffic lies, especially in the afternoon. Although the island population currently hovers around 65,000, tourism in the high seasons can more than double that number, and the road infrastructure is not built to handle it.

To help, the County built a bypass road that leaves the oceanside just past Wailua and cuts through old sugarcane land inland, coming back to the water at Kapa’a. Using this bypass at a busy time can shave 10-15 minutes off your drive to or from the north shore, though it’s not as pretty as the coastal drive.

Kauai RoadSometimes even the bypass doesn’t help, as we found out one afternoon. There was a nasty car wreck just before the southern end of the bypass, and the highway was shut down for several hours, making traffic brutal. We sat in the car, eventually turning off the radio and sweltering in the afternoon sun, until they finally rerouted traffic off the road through of the side roads. So you gotta just grin and remember the mantra – at least we’re in Hawaii!

There’s another bypass road in Koloa Town – after you leave the Tunnel of Trees going south, you’ll see a sign for the bypass – make a left, and it will take you around Koloa to the resorts down on the eastern side of Poipu. But if you’re going the western part of Poipu, or if it’s just your first time here, you’ll want to go straight ahead to and through Koloa Town.

The speed limits on the island are also absurdly low in some places – 25 mph on the Koloa bypass on a straight road with nothing around it. The police like to sit on the sides of these roads, often hidden or partially hidden from view – they make great speed traps, so speed AYOR.

There are a number of one-way bridges on the north shore, starting just before Hanalei. A note about one-way-bridge etiquette – when you approach one, watch for traffic from the other side. The right-of-way belongs to the car that gets there first. That car crosses the bridge, along with up to six more cars waiting on that side. Then the other side proceeds, again until up to six cars have crossed the bridge.

In practice, all the waiting cars on each side usually go at once. Either way, this helps assure the most efficient flow, rather than going every other car. It’s a bit tricky at first, but you’ll quickly get the hang of it.

While you are on-island, you will run into the occasional tourist or local who has oodles of time on his/her hands, and who insists on driving down the 50 mph two lane road at 30 mph. Just take a deep breath and say to yourself:

“I am in Hawaii.”

Kauai Gay Travel Resources

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