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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 lie 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 10 favorite things to do when visiting Kauai!
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The Na Pali coast is definitely one of the most famous and stunning things you can see while visiting Kauai. 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. While a bit expensive, helicopter rides over the cliffs give travelers an unforgettable bird’s eye view.
Waimea Canyon is sometimes referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and it’s certainly worth checking out to experience the natural beauty of the region. 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. 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.
This is a Kauai waterfall that’s about 300 feet high and requires a two-mile hike from Hanakapi’ai Beach to see it. This hike typically requires several stream crossings and is pretty strenuous. On the way to the falls, you’ll see mountain apple trees and bamboo forests. Just know that 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.
There are several popular hiking trails on Kauai, but perhaps the most famous one is the Kauai Trail. 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. 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. Camping is allowed at Hanakoa and Kalalau, and permits can be obtained from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources’ online reservation system.
To kick back and relax after long days of hiking and sightseeing, make sure to stop by the Koloa Rum Company. There’s a tasting room here that serves tasty rum that’s made from locally grown coconuts, pineapples, sugar, and coffee. The tasting room opens at 10:30 daily and closes between 2pm and 7:30pm depending on the day. You can also purchase a bottle to make your own Mai Tais back at your hotel!
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. You can visit the Kauai Coffee Estate to walk through the coffee orchard, shop for gifts, and sample coffee. Estate tours are complimentary, require no advance reservations, and are offered daily at 10am, 12pm, 2pm, and 4pm. Coffee on the Brain Tours are offered Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday mornings for $20.
One of our favorite beaches on Kauai is Mahaulepu Beach, which is a lovely stretch of remote golden sand at the end of Poipu Road. This is a great place to come for swimming, wind surfing, snorkeling, sunbathing, and fishing.
Hanalei Bay is popular among kayakers and also swimmers because the water here is typically pretty calm in the summer months. 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. Beaches to spend time at here include Black Pot, Hanalei Pavilion, and Waikoko.
Anyone who enjoys a good game of golf should plan to play the Poipu Bay Golf Course. This extraordinary course features beautiful scenery with lots of tropical plants and native wildlife, such as sea turtles and monk seals. Golfers will enjoy unique amenities like in-cart satellite navigation systems that provide exact distances to the hole, cold towels, and complimentary bottled water. Standard golf rates typically range between $195 and $209 depending on the season.
Another great hiking trail on Kauai is called the Sleeping Giant, which is about a four-mile round-trip hike. 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. 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.