Kauai is small enough that you can drive from one side of the island to the other in a couple of hours, which is plenty of time to catch a swell rising from most any direction at one of dozens of surf spots. In early fall, south shore spots like Pakalas or expert break Acid Drop could catch swell running north from southern hemisphere storms. Later in the fall, legendary Hanalei Bay, where the King’s Reef can throw up 60-foot slabs of water, will start to reel in swell from arctic squalls. Beginners will find a safe, sandy beach to learn on adjacent to the pier in Hanalei—and a handful of surf schools clamoring to teach them.
WHEN TO GO: Kauai is paradise year-round, but for autumn surfing November and December bring more reliable conditions.
ROUTE: Fly into Lihue (LIH), rent a car, and then check the surf forecast. Spend at least one day resting your shoulders by hiking the Kalalau trail on the famed Na Pali Coast.
GO NATIVE: The Feral Pig in Lihue serves the island’s best burgers, made with local grass-fed beef. The off-menu half-pork, half beef Feral Burger is Kauai’s worst kept, but best-tasting, secret. For cocktails, they’ll mix you a Mai Tai, but would rather stir up an Old Fashioned.