Note: All travel is subject to frequently-changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state, and local advisories before scheduling trips. This article was last updated November 2021.

I love traveling internationally and I do it frequently as a travel writer. Sometimes, though, I just want to visit an exotic paradise but leave my passport at home.

I’ve now been to the Hawaiian island of Kauai five times, and fall in love with it more every visit. With its rain forests, lush mountains, deep, dry canyons, fun resorts, and some of the most untouched, unexplored land in the United States, the Island of Discovery is an obvious choice for my list of favorite destinations.

What I love most about the Garden Isle is that you get all the thrills of a tropical, wild, foreign destination with none of the hassle and stress that can accompany an international journey. Read on to see what I mean.

Feel at home and also far away

Kauai - Hiking the Falls with Angie Away

Visiting Kauai is a true escape. It’s a land of mystical jungles, red waterfalls, endless, secluded beaches, the most scenic flight experience in the world, and intense outdoor adventures—yet it’s still a part of the U.S. You feel both at home and 10 million miles away from your normal life.  Check out Kiahuna Plantation and Koa Kea Hotel to feel familiar enough to be comfortable, yet exotic enough to be completely awestruck.

Leave your passport at home

Visiting a distant, lush paradise doesn’t have be a planning headache. I’ve visited almost 50 countries in my lifetime, and while international travel is thrilling and challenging and wonderful, sometimes it’s just nice to step off the plane and straight into a postcard scene without going through seven circles of Hell . . . I mean, customs and immigration.

Get a cultural education

Embracing a different culture is one of the most personally enriching experiences you can have while traveling, and Hawaiian history offers one of the best-preserved indigenous cultures in the U.S. From hula to the legend of Pele, Hawaiian history is just as fascinating and exotic as any you’ll encounter abroad, and you won’t have any trouble finding a friendly Hawaiian to tell you all about it! Many of Kauai’s resorts, like the Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Resort, the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa, the Westin Princeville Resort Villas, offer educational programming, classes, and luaus to share the Hawaiian way.

Taste new foods



One of the most amazing parts of traveling is trying new foods, and in Hawaii, there’s a whole new menu to taste, including poi and poke and opah and kalua pork and shave ice with ice cream and azuki beans! There are also a few recognizable chains for the non-adventurous eaters in your party.

Learn a new language

Hawaiian and its more casual, conversational dialect, Pidgin, are languages you’ll encounter while cruising around Kauai in your rental car. You’ll easily pick up words without having to take lessons or study in advance, though some are tougher than others to pronounce. Aloha and mahalo quickly become second nature, but it may take a bit longer to get the hang of humuhumunukunukuapua’a. (It’s Hawaii’s state fish!)

Forget about currency exchange

It’s hard to imagine flying halfway across the ocean, landing in paradise, and not having to switch currency upon arrival, but that’s the case in Hawaii. It’s just one less to-do-list item to worry about, and after traveling internationally for two years and losing Lord-knows-how-much-money in currency exchange fees, it’s nice to go somewhere where Franklins, Jacksons, and Benjamins do the trick.

Watch the sunrise over the Pacific


If you live on the West Coast, you’re accustomed to watching the sun set over the Pacific, not rise. A few coastal islands might offer an exception to the rule, but one allure to Kauai is that the island is lined with gorgeous resorts offering picturesque sunrises. Imagine pulling back the curtain of your ocean view balcony room at the Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Resort, for example, as pastel colors bathe the room in early morning light. Not a bad way to start a day that might include relaxing poolside, enjoying a round of golf, dining at one of four on-site restaurants, watching a traditional Hawaiian Luau, and more.

For my money, Kauai has everything a U.S. traveler could want. It’s exotic, gorgeous, and far enough away to feel like a real escape. It’s also convenient, familiar, and easy to navigate. Aloooooha!


Travelocity compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.

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