What You Should Know About Kauai Traffic – Hawaii

Not only chickens should be concerned about Kauai traffic! With two people being born and one person moving to the island each day, Kauai’s population has now passed 72,000. Although this is still much less than the other major Hawaiian islands, the infrastructure has not kept up with the population growth. The one highway that wraps around the island from Polihale to Ke’e is, with a few exceptions, one lane each way. This leads to backed up traffic during certain times of the day. Here are a few hints as to how you may avoid Kauai traffic during your stay on the Garden Island.

Kauai Traffic – Kapaa Bypass Road

When traveling to and from the north shore and Lihue use the Kapaa Bypass Lane. The three-mile-long bypass is an alternate route to avoid the congestion and stoplights of Kapaa. It takes about 5-10 minutes to complete. Using the Kapaa Bypass could potentially save you up to 30 minutes or more drive time depending on traffic conditions in Kapaa. It runs in back of Kapaa, through some former cane fields owned by Bette Midler.

Finding the entrance to the Kapaa Bypass is a bit tricky. Driving north, once you pass over the Wailua River, drive by the concrete shell of the old Coco Palms Hotel (where Blue Hawaii was filmed), and go through one more light, start looking for a left turn lane after you pass Kintaro’s on the right. Turn left and follow the road until you reach a traffic circle. Turn right and go to the stoplight (ABC Store). There you will find the highway again. Turn left and continue north. You have just passed the majority of Kapaa. One more mile and you will be on your way through the countryside to the north shore without another stoplight in sight.

When driving south from the north shore the entrance is a little easier. Once you drive past the long stretch of beach (Kealia) just before Kapaa, you will go by the fire station and then be at the entrance to Kapaa. Turn right at the third opportunity. There is a mural painted on a wall which you can see as you turn. Food trucks and Otsuka’s Furniture Store (two story building) are on the left.

Kauai Traffic - Bypass Road

Kauai Traffic - Bypass Road

You will be on a One Way road leading to a traffic circle. Check out the best view of Sleeping Giant (the mountain in front of you). Go straight through the traffic circle and out the other side. Drive until you meet up with the highway again. You will be very close to the Coconut Marketplace Shopping Center. Turn right and you are on your way to the airport or to the rest of the island.

Kapaa Bypass Road

Kauai Traffic – Contraflow Traffic Cones

You are going to love me for this information! When heading south from the north shore, just as you come off the Kapaa Bypass, contraflow traffic cones are set up from 4:15 AM to 11:00 AM on weekdays and 6:30 AM to 11:30 AM on Saturdays. This makes one northbound lane into a southbound lane from the Kapaa Bypass exit to Hanamaulu, the town just before the airport. Having two lanes relieves any buildup of southbound traffic. The cones are put up every day except Sundays and holidays. If traveling any place south of Kapaa, try to go before these cones are taken down at 11:00 because traffic starts stacking up almost immediately. The congestion may add an extra 20 minutes to your trip. You may also want to download the App, Waze, for an indication of traffic in the area.

Kauai Traffic - Contraflow Cones

Kauai Traffic – Lihue to South and West Shores

Traffic also backs up west of Lihue but, unfortunately there is no bypass to avoid the sluggish movement of cars. It is worse in the mornings heading into Lihue and in the evenings heading out of Lihue as business people go to and from work. Take a deep breath and enjoy the scenery.

Speed Limits

Speed limits on Kauai range from 25 mph to 50 mph. They change often so watch for signs. Remember, you can go only as fast as the car in front of you and there are few places to pass. Drivers tend to be very courteous and allow cars to merge into traffic. You will appreciate this once you try to exit a parking lot. One rarely hears a horn on Kauai.

Kauai Traffic Accidents

We do not have many traffic accidents on Kauai but, sadly, a few lead to fatalities. It most often happens when a driver crosses the center divide and hits an oncoming car. When this happens the highway is closed for an indefinite time, generally several hours. Sometimes there is a detour for traffic but other times it is a waiting game. If you are on your way to the airport, this is more than inconvenient. Therefore, I recommend that if you have a night flight, you plan to have dinner in Lihue. Dukes, Kauai Pasta, Rob’s, or Kauai Beer Company are some good choices. This way you will be close to the airport in plenty of time for your departure.

A good source for Kauai traffic information is:

Kauai Traffic Alerts on Facebook


Department of Transportation (highways)

So, yes, we do have some traffic issues on our tiny little island. I am betting, however, that they do not compare to the other Hawaiian islands or just about anywhere on the Mainland. One just needs to know how to work around them. Hopefully this blog will do just that for you. The key is to slow down and enjoy our Hawaiian time.

For more of my blogs or to subscribe, go to our Guides page. For more information about our luxury vacation rental, Honu Point, on the north shore of Kauai, go to any other page of this website. We would LOVE you to follow us on Instagram. Mahalo!

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