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Top 17 Best Things to Do on Kauai

Many people think of a Hawaii vacation as the ultimate form of relaxation, but there’s lots more that you can do here besides just soaking up sunshine on the beach. Kauai is a favorite tropical destination for active travelers and an incredible place to get in touch with your outdoorsy and adventurous sides. Here are our favorite things to do when visiting Kauai!

Na Pali Coast Na Pali coast, Kauai, Hawaii
Credit: Na Pali coast, Kauai, Hawaii by bigstock.com

Na Pali Coast

What Is It? A top thing to do in Hawaii, the Na Pali coast is definitely one of the most famous and stunning things you can see while visiting Kauai. 

Why Do It? It was made famous by the movie, Jurassic Park, so you might think the coast looks a bit familiar! These cliffs stretch along the coast for about 15 miles along the northwest shore of the area. You can choose to see the cliffs on a drive, on a hike, via kayak, while taking a catamaran, or even hopping on board a helicopter. Just be advised that the hike is strenuous, and the waves are rough and rocky. The drive to the end of Route 550 will give you awesome views of the cliffs without that level of challenge. 

Good to Know: While a bit expensive, helicopter rides over the cliffs give travelers an unforgettable bird’s eye view.

Waimea Canyon and Koke'e State Park Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii
Credit: Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii by © MNStudio | Dreamstime.com

Waimea Canyon and Koke'e State Park

What Is It? Waimea Canyon is sometimes referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and it’s certainly worth checking out to experience one of the most beautiful sights in Hawaii

Why Do It? This is a place to see waterfalls, red rocks, and lush foliage. The canyon gorge stretches at least 3,500 feet deep and is a perfect spot for both scenic drives and epic hikes. Early morning is a great time to visit this area so you can see the canyon’s vibrant colors and also beat the crowds. The gorge also stretches into Koke’e State Park to continue on with your adventurous day. The park is just north of the canyon and has seven major hiking trails. 

Good to Know: You can also check out the natural history museum here, camp and hunt at the park, and attend the Queen Emma of Hawaii festival in October.

Mahaulepu Beach Mahaulepu Beach, Kauai
Credit: Mahaulepu Beach, Kauai by Bigstock.com

Mahaulepu Beach

What Is It? One of the best beaches on Kauai is Mahaulepu Beach.

Why Do It? It’s a lovely stretch of remote golden sand at the end of Poipu Road. 

Good to Know: This is a great place to come for swimming, windsurfing, snorkeling, sunbathing, and fishing.

Kauai Trail Kalalau Trail
Credit: Kalalau Trail by bigstockphoto.com

Kauai Trail

What Is It? There are several popular hiking trails on Kauai, but perhaps the most famous one is the Kauai Trail. 

Why Do It? This is an 11-mile hike that should only be attempted by experienced hikers, but it’s a very rewarding one through the rugged scenery of Kauai. 

Good to Know: This is a hike that’s pretty much always hot in terms of weather, so you’ll need to bring plenty of water and food for the steep climb. It’s possible to hike to Hanakapiai Beach and Falls in a day, but the full hike is considered to be one of the most dangerous in the world because of the narrow paths, wet conditions, and steep drop-offs. It is necessary to obtain a permit for certain stretches of the trail for day hiking and also for camping overnight if you plan to split the hike into two days.

Hanakapiai Falls view at remote waterfall at the island of kauai hawaii from helicopter
Credit: view at remote waterfall at the island of kauai hawaii from helicopter by bigstock.com

Hanakapiai Falls

What Is It? This is a Kauai waterfall that’s about 300 feet high and requires a two-mile hike from Hanakapi’ai Beach to see it.

Why Do It? On the way to the falls, you’ll see mountain apple trees and bamboo forests. While this hike is pretty strenuous, you’ll have the chance to cross several streams. 

Good to Know: Be aware this trail is often rainy, muddy, and slippery, so dress accordingly and take every step with caution. Trekking poles can make this hike a bit easier and safer.

Hanalei Bay Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay

What Is It? Hanalei Bay is popular among kayakers and also swimmers because the water here is typically pretty calm in the summer months. 

Why Do It? Hanalei Beach Park is one good access point to get to the bay, and there are also quite a few nice hotels in the area.

Good to Know: Beaches to spend time at here include Black Pot, Hanalei Pavilion, and Waikoko.

Koloa Rum Company Koloa Rum Company
Credit: Koloa Rum Company by Koloa Rum Company

Koloa Rum Company

What Is It? To kick back and relax after long days of hiking and sightseeing, make sure to stop by the Koloa Rum Company.

Why Do It? Located at the Kilohana Plantation in Lihue, the Kōloa Rum Company Store offers our full range of single-batch, premium Hawaiian rums, ready-to-drink cocktails, as well as tempting rum cakes, rum fudge sauce, and tropical fruit jellies/jams.

Good to Know: There’s a tasting room with scheduled tastings of the award-winning premium rums, which are made from locally grown coconuts, pineapples, sugar, and coffee. You can also purchase a bottle to make your own Mai Tais back at your hotel!

Kauai Coffee Company Kauai Coffee Company
Credit: Kauai Coffee Company by Kauai Coffee Company

Kauai Coffee Company

What Is It? If coffee is more your style, then make sure to stop by the Kauai Coffee Company or book a walking tour to learn more about how local coffee is grown. 

Why Do It? You can visit the Kauai Coffee Estate to walk through the coffee orchard, shop for gifts, and sample coffee. 

Good to Know: Estate tours are complimentary, require no advance reservations, and are offered daily.

Poipu Bay Golf Course Poipu Bay Golf Course
Credit: Poipu Bay Golf Course by Poipu Bay Golf Course

Poipu Bay Golf Course

What Is It? Anyone who enjoys a good game of golf should plan to play the Poipu Bay Golf Course. 

Why Do It? This extraordinary course features beautiful scenery with lots of tropical plants and native wildlife, such as sea turtles and monk seals. 

Good to Know: Golfers will enjoy unique amenities like in-cart satellite navigation systems that provide exact distances to the hole, cold towels, and complimentary bottled water.

Sleeping Giant Trail Pine forest grove along Sleeping Giant Trail
Credit: Pine forest grove along Sleeping Giant Trail by bigstock.com

Sleeping Giant Trail

What Is It? Another great hiking trail on Kauai is called the Sleeping Giant, which is about a four-mile round-trip hike. 

Why Do It? This is more suitable for beginner and intermediate hikers than the Kauai Trail but still offers stunning views of the ocean and nearby towns as you climb the mountain. 

Good to Know: This is one of three Nounou Mountain trails, and it starts from the Wailua house lots neighborhood near the top of Haleilo Road. The trail is called “Sleeping Giant” because of the mountain’s profile shape that looks like a giant lying down.

Helicopter Ride Over the Island Helicopter tour in Kauai, Hawaii
Credit: Helicopter tour in Kauai, Hawaii by bigstock.com

Helicopter Ride Over the Island

What Is It? Helicopter rides are offered over the island of Kauai to give you a whole new perspective of the region. The flight time is about 45 to 50 minutes from start to finish and takes you over rainforests, cliffs, and waterfalls.

Why Do It? Kauai is incredibly beautiful when viewed from the land but perhaps even more so from way up high in the sky. There are morning and afternoon departure times to work around your sightseeing schedule and a small group atmosphere with six passengers maximum to give you a personalized experience.

Good to Know: Helicopter rides take off from the Lihue Airport and typically run every day of the week.

Luau Dinner and Show Kilohana Plantation
Credit: Kilohana Plantation by Kilohana Plantation

Luau Dinner and Show

What Is It? Luaus are held in various places throughout Hawaii, and Kauai is certainly no exception. They are a great way to learn about local culture while sampling delicious Hawaiian foods and being entertained by talented performers.

Why Do It? At a Kauai luau, you’ll enjoy live music and dancing, be greeted with a fresh flower lei, get photos with the cast, and experience an award-winning theatrical dinner show.

Good to Know: You can attend a luau on the grounds of the historical Kilohana Plantation. The ticket price includes the show, buffet dinner, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and an optional add-on train ride.

Snorkeling Tour by Boat Snorkeling underwater
Credit: Snorkeling underwater by tropical studio/shutterstock.com

Snorkeling Tour by Boat

What Is It? Hop on a catamaran boat cruise from Kauai to head away from land and get underwater. Boat tours take visitors out to snorkeling spots to see deep-sea landscapes and fish and turtles in their natural habitats.

Why Do It? This experience is a wonderful way to see the Na Pali Coast and all of its waterfalls, sea cliffs, and maybe even dolphins.

Good to Know: On the boat, you’ll enjoy a continental breakfast and buffet lunch with drinks. All of the snorkel equipment you need will be provided as well.

Zipline Experience Soar through the lush forest
Credit: Soar through the lush forest by viator.com

Zipline Experience

What Is It? Around the Waita Reservoir, you can go ziplining to experience the lush forests in Kauai. This is an eight-track course near Koloa and one of the longest ziplines on the island.

Why Do It? You’ll get incredible views of the island as you soar through the sky in a safe and controlled way.

Good to Know: Complimentary snacks are available during a break during your day of ziplining. Make sure to check in for your ziplining tour about 30 minutes before the start time.

Enjoy Some Shave Ice JoJo’s Shave Ice
Credit: JoJo’s Shave Ice by JoJo’s Shave Ice

Enjoy Some Shave Ice

What Is It? Shave ice is a traditional Hawaiian treat that is perfect for cooling off on a hot day. There are some highly recommended shave ice stands to visit on Kauai.

Why Do It? It’s easy and fun to visit shave ice stands during your trip to Kauai. It’s an important part of Hawaiian culture and a must-do for travelers of all ages who have a sweet tooth.

Good to Know: Some top spots for shave ice on Kauai are JoJo’s Shave Ice, Ono Family Restaurant, Hee Fat General Store, and Waikomo Shave Ice.

Sunset Dinner Cruise Wine, dine, and sail along the coast
Credit: Wine, dine, and sail along the coast by viator.com

Sunset Dinner Cruise

What Is It? Sunset dinner cruises are available along the Napali Coast and onboard a sailing catamaran. During the sail, you’ll enjoy appetizers, beer, wine, and mai tais as you soak up the views.

Why Do It? The sunsets on Kauai are nothing short of incredible, and one of the best ways to experience them is out on a boat.

Good to Know: It’s possible to see humpback whales during one of these cruising expeditions. Bring a light jacket with you in case of splashes or a breezy day.

Shop at a Farmers’ Market Fresh organic produce on sale at the local farmers market
Credit: Fresh organic produce on sale at the local farmers market by Arina P. Habich/shutterstock.com

Shop at a Farmers’ Market

What Is It? There are numerous farmer’s markets on Kauai where you can browse or buy produce, jams, honey, nuts, pies, crafts, and clothing.

Why Do It? Even if you don’t plan to cook your own meals while visiting Kauai, it’s fun to visit a local farmer’s market to learn about the local produce grown here. It’s also a good way to stock up on some healthy items for breakfast or find souvenirs to take home with you.

Good to Know: The most popular farmers markets on the island are held in Hanalei, Kapaa, Kilauea, Lihue, and Koloa.

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