Best Things To Do On Kauai

You could spend a great deal of your life and your savings traveling the world to find that perfect vacation getaway.  Kauai is synonymous with beauty and this tiny island in the Pacific has been voted by National Geographic as one of the Top 50 Places in the World to Live and Play.  After exploring Kauai you may just forget about the rest of the world.  I am often asked, “What are the best things to do on Kauai?” so here are my top picks for your Kauai getaway.

Hiking the Napali Coast

The Napali Coast is a fifteen mile coastline that stretches the from the north end of the island at Kee beach to the west side at Polihale beach.  The Napali coast is accessible only by boat with the exception of the 12 mile stretch of coastline along the Kalalau Trail.  This remarkable coast carved out by years of erosion is made up of sheer sea cliffs rising sharply out of the ocean to heights of 4,000 feet, hanging valleys, sea caves, and cascading waterfalls that make their way to the ocean from thousands of feet above.

The Kalalau Trail provides the only land access to the Napali Coast on Kauai.  The Kalalau Trail begins at Kee Beach in Haena and ending after a challenging 11 miles at Kalalau Beach. The 11-mile trail is graded but almost never level as it crisscrosses above towering sea cliffs and through lush valleys, dropping to sea level on the beaches of Hanakapiai and Kalalau.  A similar foot trail linked earlier Hawaiian settlements along the coastline originally built in the late 1800s, portions of the trail were rebuilt in the 1930s.

Don your hiking shoes and trek the first two miles into Hanakapiai Beach, kayak the coast during the calm of the summer months or book a boat trip to experience one of the many wonders of Kauai.

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge started in 1985 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is marked by its towering lighthouse.  The ocean cliffs and tall grassy slopes of a dormant volcano provide a protective breeding ground for many Hawaiian seabirds.  It is also one of the few locations where you can observe the Brown Booby, Red-footed Booby, Albatross, Wedge-tailed Shear-water amongst other Kauai wildlife in their natural habitat.  The coastal front also provides a safe haven for the Hawaiian monk seals, green turtles, and the humpback whale.

Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park

Waimea Canyon State Park is the largest canyon in the Pacific and will undoubtedly capture your gaze, with its 10 mile long stretch at a mile wide and measuring more than 3,500 feet deep. The history of Kauai can be seen in the walls and crags of the canyon as you explore the more than 45 miles of trails.  This is truly a remarkable sight, offering numerous scenic overlooks and photo opportunities. Surrounding the Waimea Canyon is the Kokee State Park which occupies 4,345 acres of land. Norfolk pines, Koa hardwoods, native plants and wildlife are just a small fraction of what you will see here.My favorite way to explore the canyon and the Kokee State Park is to hit the trails. There are dozens of hiking trails for every level of expertise. My favorite hike is the  Pihea Alakai Boardwalk Trail is a must do while visiting Kauai. This hike is a challenging yet rewarding hike that will take you to the edge of one of the most spectacular valleys and on a clear day vistas of Hanalei Bay and as far as the Kilauea Light House.

State operated cabins are available year-round with advance reservations.  Waimea Canyon hiking maps can be found at the Kokee Natural History Museum.

Wailua FallsWalua Falls Kauai

The Wailua Falls are one of Kauai’s little secrets known not only for its flowing beauty, but also ease of access. This 140 foot waterfall appears on many postcards, print and media collections and was used as the opening scene for the 1970’s Television series Fantasy Island. The Wailua falls are located off Maalo Road or Hwy 583and is easily accessed. These easy to photograph falls will involve no hiking. The size and appearance of the falls is determined by the amount of rainfall further up the mountains.

Hanalei Valley and the North Shore

Hanalei Valley is one of the most beautiful and lush places in all Hawaii and some argue the world.  Hanalei is surrounded by majestic mountains and countless cascading waterfalls that drain into the lush valley, taro fields, and rivers below. If that doesn’t bring you to your senses then perhaps Hanalei Bay with its perfect swimming waves and soft white sand may entice you. You will also want to spend some time on the Hanalei Bay and explore the eight mile scenic drive from the town of Hanalei to the end of the road at Kee Beach.

Polihale BeachPolihale Kauai

Polihale Beach is the longest stretch of white sand beach in Hawaii. Located at the end of an old dirt cane haul road off the last stretch of highway on the West Side. This is a favorite and beautiful beach for long walks, amazing sunsets and camping with the proper permits. Ocean conditions can be dangerous especially during winter months and high swells. Polihale is exposed to open ocean with no protective reefs and no lifeguard.

Mahaulepu Heritage Trail

As part of a special dedicated stretch of coastline The Mahaulepu Coastal Trail is a beautiful hike along the last stretch of accessible coastline. The hike takes you from the south east corner of Shipwreck Beach and The Grand Hyatt Kauai. along sand-dune cliffs, limestone formations, Kiawe trees, and rocky inlets to Mahaulepu Beach. There are dozens of great spots for tide-pool exploration, learning about marine life and spotting the rare Hawaiian sea turtles and the endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal. This area has amazing rock formations and numerous amount of blow holes along the coastal trail. Children enjoy throwing sand or leaves into the blow holes and await the rush of and haunting sound that fills the air.

Along with all these the natural wonders there are numerous activities and fun things to do. So experience Kauai for yourself and create your own Best of Kauai List.

19 replies
  1. The Roots
    The Roots says:

    Thanks for all of your wonderful anecdotes! We are looking forward to immersing ourselves in the awesomeness of Kauai.

  2. Beekeeper
    Beekeeper says:

    Waking up to the sunshine on your face and falling out of bed. The oceans healing properties makes the beach an amazing place for yoga or meditation in the morning followed by a dip in the warm sea. Anywhere you walk is a fruit tree full of ripe fruit ready to enjoy. Living healthy on the island of Kauai is easy. Kauai is a child’s playground, there are no poisonous snakes or bugs! Which is kind of amazing for an island. Kauai..is..paradise…

  3. Gabriela
    Gabriela says:

    Kauai is my favorite place in the world. It’s as close to paradise as it gets. I can imagine going there on every single one of my future vacations and never get tired of it.

  4. Chris Azar
    Chris Azar says:

    Going on the Kauai Photo Tour…they take you to a lot of the places that you wouldn’t normally go. Great family run business. You get to do the best of both worlds – see even more of Kauai and get to take some awesome pictures.
    LOVE going to Hanapepe on Friday nights.
    LOVE the lighthouse (happy 100th birthday).
    LOVE Tahiti Nui (pizza is awesome).
    wow – this list could go on forever.

  5. Cynthia Porcaro
    Cynthia Porcaro says:

    Horseback riding with CJM along secret beach, river kayaking to secret falls was awesome. The beach along Kiahuna Plantation where we stayed was peaceful. The entire island is so beautiful, and so much to do, I need to come back to do all the things I didnt get to do the first time!

  6. Ann Bridges
    Ann Bridges says:

    While hiking the Napali Coastline we enjoyed the wild and breathtaking scenery.My husband and I hiked down to an isolated beach and saw an albino monk seal sunning on a rock. We sat in the sand while the pounding surf serenaded us with its song. On the hike back to Kee Beach, we stood together on top of the mountain admiring the turquiose-blue water below when we spotted a whale spouting off in the distance. That was the best hike of my life. We are going back this October and I can’t wait.

  7. Ellen
    Ellen says:

    Hike the Maha’ulepu trail, snorkel anywhere LOTS!, ice cream cones from Lappert’s, plate lunches (Times Market in Lihue has a good one), happy hour at Joe’s on the Green, tour the National Tropical Botanical Garden, fish tacos at Kalapaki Joe’s at Lihue Marriott, listen to the birds chatter and the palms sway morning and evening every day you are there.

  8. stephen russell
    stephen russell says:

    swim, sun, surf sans swimsuit in select locales,
    Tarzan style in jungles nearby, rock climb
    scuba, boating, ride SeaDoos, attend luau,
    beach cabana events, yachting.

  9. Karen
    Karen says:

    All of the above. The drive to Ke’e Beach. So much beauty on the way there and when you arrive. Lumahai Beach. Limahuli Gardens-like going to Shangri-La. Hanalei town. Haena. Bubba’s (any of them). The view of the mountains from Princeville. The Cook Pines in Princeville. Sunset over Hanalei Bay. A plumeria lei bought at a roadside stand. The fish tacos at Duke’s. A helicopter tour over the island, particularly Na Pali and the waterfalls. The waterfalls on the mountains near Princeville after a good rain. The chickens. The Brazilian cardinals and Mynah birds. The geckos. The farmers’ markets. The craft fairs at the end of the year. Ancient hula performed by a halau. Sunsets at Poipu. Sunrises. The people. Being mistaken for a local : )

  10. Rosemary
    Rosemary says:

    There is so much to do there for such a small island. I have been twice in the past year and will go there again. I like to explore and shop and walk the beaches; watch the sunrise and watch the sun sets. LOVE IT!!!!

  11. Leslie
    Leslie says:

    Our very favorite thing to do on the island of Kauai is taking a NaPali cruise…doesn’t matter which one…we’ve taken three different ones. We really enjoyed the 7 1/2 Nihau Snorkel Tour. We love Kauai so much and all our days are full when we visit, from the South, to the East, to the West, to the North.

  12. Carisa
    Carisa says:

    Polihale Beach was phenomenal. Worth the long, rutty drive. Just don’t get stuck in the sand!

    Snorkeling at Poipu Beach Park is so enjoyable and relaxing. And the sunsets there are stunning.

    Hiking up Sleeping Giant. All the way to the head, giving a 360 degree view of the east side of the island.

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