Everything You Need to Do in Kauai This Fall
Come autumn in Kauai, the intense summer sun softens, tradewinds bring a hint of cool breezes, and outdoor activities are more enjoyable (read: less sweat-inducing). Here, it’s easy to keep the carefree summer vibes going, whether it be relaxing under blue skies or adventuring through the island’s verdant forests and mountains. In between getting your daily dose of Vitamin D, there are tons of fall activities to get you into pumpkin-spice mood. So shake the sand off your beach blanket and start filling up your calendar.
Friday, October 4-Sunday, October 6
The busy holiday season will be here before you know it, so pregame your mind and body with a day or three of discovering inner peace. The Pacifc Ocean and Wailua River provide the backdrop as the Aloha Kauai Yoga and Peace Festival returns for its second year, featuring music, yoga classes, guided meditation, and wellness workshops. Throughout the weekend, DJs and live music will supply the soundtrack as you downward dog and “ohm” your stress away.
Cost: $50 for a one-day pass, $140 for a three-day pass, plus VIP options
Saturday, October 5
Fall foliage is great, but here in Kauai, we have vibrant green fields with lagoons and swimming ponds to run through all season long. At the Ohana Fit Fest, not only can you run a 5K or 10K through the nation’s largest mahogany woodlands, you’ll scale walls, weave through a string laser maze, and stutter-step through tires -- and the proceeds help fund grants for health and wellness nonprofits. For those less inclined to play ninja warrior, there’s also a walkable, obstacle-free 5K option, where you can take your time soaking in views on the Mount Namahana and Wai Koa Loop Trail or checking out the community expo at the Anaina Hou Porter Pavilion.
Cost: $35 including a race shirt and light food; VIP tickets also available
Saturday, October 12
Koke‘e State Park
Leave your time machine at home, because all you need is a ride to Eo e Emalani i Alakai (and maybe a blanket and sunscreen) to journey back to the 19th century. Also known as the Emalani Festival, this celebration commemorates Queen Emma’s trek to the Koke‘e uplands and Kilohana vista in 1871, after the deaths of her husband Kamehameha IV and only child. Here, she was uplifted by the beautiful trail that her husband once told her about. To celebrate the story, there’s a reenactment of Queen Emma and her entourage arriving on horseback, Hawaiian music and chant, and hula performances by over a dozen halau. The family-friendly event also features crafts, exhibits, a silent auction, and local food vendors, so you can fuel up while you revisit old Hawaii.
Saturday, October 12
Accessorize your lederhosen with flip-flops (locals call them rubber slippers) at Hammers N’ Ales Oktoberfest, a German beer celebration that goes local thanks to pours from island-based and mainland breweries. It’s a chance to taste the barley and hops flavors of Hawaii, without island hopping. All food and beverages are included with your ticket purchase, along with a keepsake logo tasting glass to prost with friends.
Cost: $75 in advance, $85 at the door
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Cost: Free to join
Friday, October 18
For 34 years, the Kauai Japanese Cultural Society has perpetuated the Japanese diaspora with Matsuri Kauai, a festival featuring taiko drumming, classical Japanese dance, and craft-making. This year’s festival invites you to participate in making (and sampling) soba noodles, bonsai, mochi-pounding, origami-folding, fortune-picking games, and a tea ceremony while singer Torao Hikariyama provides entertainment. After hearing his soulful ballads, you’ll be Googling “modern enka singing” before the end of the night.
Friday, October 18-Saturday, October 19
If pineapple is the first crop that comes to mind when you think about Hawaiian agriculture, the Kauai Chocolate and Coffee Festival will flip your mindset with its cacao and bean-filled weekend. There’s a chocolate and coffee pampering station, samplings, and workshops, as well as exhibitor booths for local chocolate and coffee products. And while you likely won’t become an expert on Kauai coffee or chocolate varieties overnight, it’s definitely worth the attempt (and the samples).
Cost: $15 in advance, $20 at the door
Thursday, October 24-Saturday, October 26
Thrilling sights at Waimea Canyon are available year-round, but visiting the red-soil vistas during Halloween gives you a chance to admire Mother Nature’s handiwork and get scared out of your wits. Dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” for Halloween, the geological wonder transforms into “Nightmare in Waimea,” a winding 2,000-foot labyrinth filled with haunted ghouls. For those who prefer to not pee their pants, there’s a non-scary time slot from 5-8pm before the scary hours from 8-11pm for the dauntless thrillseekers. At sundown, a Halloween movie will be shown on the lawn both nights, with food and beverages for sale.
Cost: One canned good per entry
Saturday, October 26
Hawaiian for “a new gathering place,” Anaina Hou Community Park is launching Halloween Spirits, its inaugural Halloween fundraiser this year. The 21-and-over cocktail party features spooky adult beverages, pupus, a costume contest, and ghoulish games all night long. VIP tickets get you quick check-in, lounge seating, party favors, and early access to the Vampire Cocktail Party, while proceeds from the event benefit the 30-acre, non-profit community complex.
Wednesday, November 6-Saturday, November 9
The 4th Annual Poipu Food & Wine Festival is an especially three days for foodies (the festivities skip Friday). It all kicks off with an open-air market, live music, and a culinary demonstration by Kauai Community College culinary arts students, with small plates available to purchase. On Thursday, top Hawaii chefs host cooking demonstrations and hands-on workshops with tastings and commemorative gifts. The event closes with a Saturday paina, featuring small plates and wine pairings, live music, a silent auction to support KCC’s culinary program -- and a full stomach.
Cost: Kauai Culinary Market free to attend; classes $50 each; tickets start at $125 for the Poipu Paina
Friday, November 8-Saturday, November 9
Brandi Morgan, 2017 Na Hoku winner for best comedy album, headlines the Wahine Comedy Festival with women from Oahu, Maui, Hawaii Island, and California joining the lineup. The festival, now in its fifth year, was the first all-female comedy show in the state and continues to bring the laughs to Kauai. So, round up your girlfriends (or boyfriends!) and get ready for serious belly laughs from some of the funniest ladies around.
Saturday, November 9
Fire up a running app and join the Old Koloa Sugar Mill Run as it races through the historic South Shore countryside. The run weaves through the scenic Old Koloa Town, which opened its first sugar mill in 1835 and has preserved much of its original architecture from the 19th century. Runners can select the mega-calorie-burning half marathon length or sweat off slightly less in a 5K or 10K run or 5K walk. Regardless of caloric burn, all runners will receive a microfiber T-shirt and breakfast after the race.
Cost: $30 for the 5K and 10K; $40 for the half marathon
Second Sunday of every month
While some mainland cities situated farther from the equator begin shuttering their farmers markets and outdoor festivals once fall rolls in, the Princeville Night Market keeps doing its thing every second Sunday, all year round. Here, local food vendors offer sweet and savory bites to fuel your shopping, while three zones of live music set the mood for deciding which Kauai-made products to gift this season (or save for yourself).
Cost: Free to peruse; vendor prices vary
Sunday, November 24
The holiday season calls for slowing down and unwinding (at least occasionally). Enter: The Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival. The fest captures the hygge spirit of the season, island style, with 15 entertainers showcasing an anthology of the genre’s range, from traditional to contemporary slack key. (In case you’re wondering, “slack key” involves playing acoustic guitar with strings that are slightly loosened, which creates a droning effect.) You don’t have to stay for the entirety of the day, but after hearing the soothing tropical guitar sounds, you may be tempted. Food booths and made-in-Hawaii products will also be on-site to keep you sufficiently fed and entertained.
Saturday, November 30
Find some comfortable shoes because the Aloha From Hawaii festival will have you dancing all night long. The curated concert series stops in Hawaii Island, Maui, and Oahu before making its way to Kauai, highlighting artists from the islands as well as other parts of the world. Reggae roots band The Green headlines the festival, along with Fia, Leilani Wolfgramm, Johnny Suite, Likkle Jordee, Aisaih Jacobs, and Jasmine Nicole rounding out the lineup.
Cost: Tickets start at $29-$75
Friday, December 6-Saturday, December 28
Every year, thousands of people flock to the historic county building to view Kauai’s Festival of Lights, where recycled and reclaimed materials like plastic water bottles, aluminum cans, cardboard, and bubble wrap are repurposed into a “trash to treasure” display of trees, wreaths, and ornaments. A mass of indoor and outdoor lights sets the park aglow throughout most of December, including Christmas Eve, so stop by for a little holiday cheer whenever the mood strikes.
Shop for locally-made holiday gifts
Saturday, December 7 & Saturday, December 14
Koloa and Lihue
With the countdown until Christmas ticking, take your wallet to either of the two “made in Kauai” holiday fairs. On December 7, head to the National Tropical Botanical Garden Holiday Craft Fair and on December 14, try the Kauai Made Holly Jolly Holiday Fair. Both are perfect stops for picking up stocking-stuffers or uncovering that needle-in-a-haystack gift for your hardest-to-shop-for friend.
Cost: Free to attend, gift prices vary