@CakeyP: Hello! Just returned from having our wedding in Kauai and of course, it was AMAZING. We prefer the North Shore but I know a lot of “first timers” like the South Shore because it’s more dry and sunny. It probably depends on what kind of travelers you two are — more adventurous or resort types?
Absolutely you need to rent a car as things are pretty spread out — the North Shore is about 90 minutes from the South (in traffic). The best part about the island is just cruising around, even if it’s bad for the environment. I did see some motorized scooters for rent near Kapa’a. I’m not so sure about bicycles though. We received a killer car rental deal from Costco — I think it was $28/day for a SUV for 10 days, including taxes. You could probably get one for even cheaper, if you went down to a compact.
We have stayed in Kapa’a (east side) in a “condo-tel” (room at a resort owned by an individual that rents it out) at the Islander on the Beach and really liked it. They tend to stock the rooms with beach equipment, kitchenette equipment, and have a/c. In the off season, we’ve gotten a room for $70/night not including taxes. We liked the location our first time because it was central and we could explore both sides of the island without driving too far.
We also rented a big house with friends in Princeville and LOVED that and it cost about $120/night. For our “minimoon,” we stayed at the St. Regis but that was WAY over the top, although very lovely =) We booked our house through Home Away but have also used VRBO; both were very easy and great experiences. I think it’s especially important to read the reviews and choose places that have at least 1 review.
Food wise, depends on your price range. There is some really great food but it tends to be either pretty pricey or way more casual. I could write about 3 pages worth of food information here but I won’t bore you all! Once you narrow down a location, I could definitely give some opinions!
We did a helicopter tour our first time and it was seriously incredible; I will never forget the ride. It’s only 50 minutes and it’s PRICEY but we loved it. We did the semi-private with Mauna Loa with the doors off; because most people don’t go solo, it ended up just being the two of us plus the pilot. We did the Captain Andy’s Sunset Tour this time around and it was also beautiful but I greatly preferred the heli tour (waters were pretty rough going out, though I felt fine).
I wrote out an entire “welcome letter” for our guests, let me know if you’re interested and I’ll send it to you if you PM me your email. I do suggest Andrew Doughty’s “Ultimate Kauai Guidebook.” I understand locals have major issues with the book but I have to say we have seen some amazing beaches and sights because of it; we have been very conscious about respecting signs and being aware of potential hazards. We NEVER went on private property and only places that were heavily discussed elsewhere on the internet. Trip Advisor forums has also been an awesome resource.
But seriously, PM me if you want lots more info, I am more than happy to share!!!