By Beth Whitman, on October 21, 2014

Solo travel on Kauai

I’ve always said that when you travel alone, you don’t have to be lonely. Managing your shyness and participating in some local activities are two great ways to meeting new people on the road. Another trick is finding the right balance between solo time and spending time with others.

Only you can know how much alone time you actually need. And as far as spending time with others? Well, that’s fairly easy to do if you know where to look.

Kauai is a fantastic destination for solo travelers. With stunningly beautiful nature all around, the island offers an array of things to do both on your own and with others. Of course, it’s also a fantastic destination for couples and groups and everything in between. When I wrapped up an epic hiking journey in Asia earlier this year, I decompressed here.

Me time

Whether I’m at home or on the road, I like to have a lot of time on my own. I most often practice this solo time in the mornings, mainly because I’m an early riser. I take advantage of quiet time when I’m traveling by getting up early, grabbing a cup of coffee, and going for a walk. On Kauai, the early-morning time means I get to experience cooler temps.

This morning routine can also be a great way to connect with humanity. Most hotel rooms on Kauai either have coffee makers in the rooms or coffee stations in the lobby. I have found that if I frequent the same coffee shop daily while I’m traveling, it gives me a chance to get to know the baristas a bit. If I’m lucky, I might even meet a local or two and score some local tips.

Take a surfing lesson

Surfing lessons are another way to meet new people as a solo traveler. There are a number of companies offering surfing lessons on the island; one of my favorites is Kauai Surf School. Instructors from this school teach classes every day with groups and individuals; the times I’ve gone out with them, they’ve always been super-nice and patient with my very rudimentary skills.

The instructors also are great sources of local knowledge. When your class is over, take the opportunity to ask the instructors for suggestions about best breakfast spots, music venues, or bakeries. These guys and gals are usually very excited about living in paradise and usually are more than willing to share their inside secrets.

Viewfinder Tip: Schedule your time so that you spend half of each day alone and the other half doing activities with others. 

Go to a concert

Concerts are another great spot to be solitary or social, depending on your preference. Local artists and performing groups regularly schedule concerts around the island at a variety of venues—from bars to schools to concert halls. I recently attended a concert at the Kauai Beach Resort held by the Garden Island Arts Council. Not only did I see world-class slack-key guitarist Jeff Peterson (he’s featured on The Descendants soundtrack), but I also met a number of friendly locals and snowbirds spending some extended time on the island. Prior to the concert, there was even an ukulele jam session where musicians offered free lessons.

Take a hike

Kauai has more hiking trails than any other island in Hawaii. If you’re a hiker, this means the Garden Isle is a great place to hit the trails.

The Sierra Club of Kauai sponsors regular weekly outings on many of these trails. The organized hikes range from easy to strenuous; many also dovetail with the chance to do some cleanup before, during, or after the hike. Hikes are categorized as service-oriented, family-friendly, interpretive, and/or educational. It really feels good to take one of these hikes and know that you’re helping preserve the island’s natural beauty while also meeting others with similar interests.

Learn Hawaiian history, arts, crafts, and music

The Kauai Cultural Center is located at the Coconut Marketplace in Kapa’a, and is a central destination whether you’re staying on the North Shore (near Princeville and Hanalei) or down closer to Poipu. The Center offers classes on hula, ukulele, lei-making, slack-key guitar, flower hairpiece-making, and more. Many of the courses are in the morning, so you can grab breakfast at nearby Java Kai, take a class, and then hit the beach or pool in the afternoon. Most classes cost about US$5. The Center also offers a free hula show every Wednesday at 5 p.m. local time.

If you’re staying on the North Shore, there also are drop-in hula classes at the Church of the Pacific in Princeville every Thursday afternoon. Participation costs a US$20 donation. The church is located on Kuhio Highway on the way to Hanalei. If you’re not up for a hula lesson, keep your eye open for other events here, including concerts and craft fairs.

What are your favorite ways to make new friends when you travel solo?