Are you going to Kauai and need recommendations on the best things to do? You’ve come to the right place! We have compiled a list of the top activities to do while you’re in Kauai.
Whether you’re a thrill seeker looking for hikes and water sports, or a relaxed traveler looking to enjoy the island’s beautiful beaches and scenery, Kauai has something for everyone.
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Best Things to Do in Kauai Map
Top Things to Do on Kauai
Without further ado, here are the top things to do on Kauai:
(1) See the Napali Coast
Did you even go to Kauai if you did not see the Napali (or Nā Pali) Coast? This 17-mile stretch of stunning coastline is one of the most breathtaking in the world. There are several ways to experience it: by boat tour, helicopter, hiking (experienced hikers), or a guided kayak tour.
Our two favorite ways to see the Napali Coast are by boat or helicopter. Being on a boat allows you to be up close and personal with the coastline while exploring the stunning caves and sea arches. On the other hand, a helicopter tour gives you a bird’s-eye view of this magical coastline.
No matter your chosen option, it will be an experience you’ll always remember!
Air Kauai Helicopters offers a Doors Off Air Kauai Helicopter Tour if you need tour recommendations. If you are looking for a boat tour, we recommend the Na Pali Coast Kauai Snorkel and Sail tour or Na Pali Coast Super Raft Adventure tour.
(2) Visit Waimea Canyon
Nicknamed “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” Waimea Canyon is a must-see for all visitors to Kauai. This 14-mile gorge is filled with rugged cliffs and vibrant colors, making it an unforgettable sight.
Visitors can take a scenic drive along the canyon and pull off at various lookout points to enjoy the incredible views. If you’re feeling adventurous, there are also plenty of hiking trails to explore.
For the more adventurous travelers, Waimea Canyon is also an excellent destination for hikers and mountain bikers. There are several trails ranging from easy to moderate difficulty. This is a great way to explore this stunning natural beauty up close and personal.
If you are looking for a unique experience or have a special occasion to celebrate, booking a helicopter tour that goes over the canyon is a great choice. While seeing the canyon from land is impressive, you will get a whole new perspective going over it from the air.
(3) Relax on the Beach
Kauai is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and what better way to experience them than by relaxing? Poipu Beach, Tunnels Beach (in the summer), and Hanalei Bay are our favorite beaches in Kauai.
Soak up the sun, take a dip in the perfect blue waters, or enjoy the sound of the waves crashing on the shore. No matter what you decide to do, spending time at one of Kauai’s gorgeous beaches will be an experience you’ll never forget.
(4) Explore Ha’ena State Park
Ha’ena State Park is a must-see for all visitors to Kauai. This park is home to some of the island’s most spectacular natural beauty, including the famous Kalalau Trail and Ke’e Beach.
This area is also known as the end of the road (the highway ends here). So if you’re looking for a peaceful place to relax and soak up the beauty of Kauai, this is it.
The Kalalau Trail is a 22-mile trail that winds along the Napali Coast. It’s considered one of the most beautiful hikes in the world, and you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of pristine beaches, lush green valleys, and cascading waterfalls.
While at the park, make sure to stop by Ke’e Beach. This beach has perfect blue waters with gorgeous lush scenery and is an ideal spot for swimming (summer) and just taking in the beauty of Kauai.
Note: reservations are required for visitors to enter Ha’ena State Park. You can book your reservations up to 30 days in advance. Guests can choose to drive to the park or take the shuttle. Parking passes are very difficult to get, so most people opt for the shuttle. We tried getting parking passes the day they were available online, but they were sold out before we could check out. We opted for the shuttle and loved it.
No matter how long you spend in Ha’ena State Park, it’s sure to be an unforgettable experience.
(5) Go to a Luau
A visit to Kauai is only complete by attending a traditional Hawaiian luau. This unique experience combines delicious food with Polynesian-style entertainment.
At the luau, you can try traditional Hawaiian dishes like kalua pig and poi (mashed taro root) and local favorites like poke and lomi salmon. The entertainment is also an unforgettable experience, with live music, hula dancing, and fire shows.
We have had the opportunity to attend the top luaus on Kauai, and our two favorites are the Smith’s Family Luau and the Auli’i Luau. Both offer an authentic Hawaiian experience filled with culture, music, and delicious food.
(6) Visit Limahuli Garden and Preserve
Limahuli Garden and Preserve is a National Tropical Botanical Garden located on the North Shore of Kauai close to Princeville and Hanalei. This garden is home to some of the rarest native Hawaiian plants in the state and stunning views of valleys and sea cliffs.
In addition to its beauty, Limahuli Garden also has a special significance in Hawaiian history and culture. This is the site of an ancient Hawaiian village and remains one of the few places where you can still see many original Hawaiian plants growing in their native setting.
Visitors can explore the gardens alone on foot or take a guided tour with one of the knowledgeable staff members. Either way, it’s sure to be an unforgettable experience.
We visited the gardens after spending the day at Ha’ena State Park since they are close to each other. It was the perfect way to end our day of exploring Kauai’s stunning natural beauty.
If you take the shuttle to Ha’ena State Park, you can ask your driver to drop you off at the Limahuli Garden and Preserve to avoid driving there and securing another parking pass. If you decide to drive to the gardens, reserve your pass online in advance.
(7) Snorkel at Tunnels Beach (Summer)
Tunnels Beach is arguably the best spot to go snorkeling in Kauai. This beach is renowned for its beautiful clear waters and abundant sea life, making it an ideal spot for snorkeling.
The best time to snorkel here is during the summer months when the waters are warm and calmer than in the winter months. Snorkeling here in the winter is nearly impossible due to strong currents and swells.
The beach has a great selection of colorful fish and other sea creatures, including turtles! So be sure to bring your underwater camera and capture some of the fantastic creatures you’ll find here.
Note: Parking is located at Haena Beach Park (not to be confused with Ha’ena State Park) and can be tricky to find if arriving late. Make sure to get there early to secure a parking spot.
(8) Kayak the Wailua River
Enjoy the stunning beauty of Kauai from the water by kayaking along the Wailua River. This river is ideal for beginner and experienced kayakers, as it offers straightforward navigation rails.
Kayaking along the Wailua River is a great way to explore Kauai’s lush jungle scenery and get up close to local wildlife. Plus, it’s an excellent activity for the entire family to enjoy.
Many tours and rental companies offer guided kayaking tours along the Wailua River. We recommend reserving your tour in advance since they fill up quickly. Most of these tours will take you two miles upstream, passing an old Hawaiian village and taking a short hike to the spectacular Uluwehi Falls.
(9) Hike to Queen’s Bath
Queen’s Bath is a stunning natural pool on the North Shore of Kauai. This fantastic spot offers stunning views, a unique rock formation, and crystal-clear waters.
The hike to Queen’s Bath can be tricky due to muddy terrain and slippery rocks, so it’s important to bring proper shoes and take your time.
The hike takes about 15 minutes one way, and you can access the trailhead from public parking, which has minimal spots.
Please note that while Queen’s Bath is a beautiful spot to visit, it can also be dangerous due to the high surf during the winter. We recommend checking the tide and wave reports before attempting this hike and swimming in the pool. There are also other very dangerous pools, so make sure you don’t enter those.
We have attempted to hike to Queen’s Bath a few times in the winter, but some signs warned us not to hike due to the high surf, and the parking lot was also closed. If you see these signs, don’t ignore them; many people have died here due to the surf.
If you are lucky enough to go during a period of low surf, you will be rewarded with an unforgettable experience. Always be mindful of your safety and watch for any potential hazards.
(10) Relax at Hanalei Bay and Beach Park
Hanalei Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches on Kauai and one of the best places to relax while on the North Shore. This bay offers stunning views, perfect blue waters, and a laid-back atmosphere.
This beach park has something for everyone. You can stroll along the beach, sunbathe, snorkel, swim or surf in the bay, or watch others surf.
My favorite part about Hanalei Bay is the gorgeous scenery all around, including the mountains in the distance and the Hanalei Pier. It’s no wonder that this spot is so popular with locals and tourists alike.
(11) See Spectacular Views at Hanalei Valley Lookout
Situated on the North Shore, the Hanalei Valley Lookout offers breathtaking panoramic views of the lush Hanalei Valley and its majestic mountains.
As you gaze out over the beautiful landscape, you’ll be captivated by the patchwork of taro fields, vibrant greenery, and the meandering Hanalei River.
The scenery is particularly spectacular during sunrise or sunset when the golden light casts a magical glow over the valley.
Don’t forget to take a moment to soak in the serene ambiance and snap some stunning photographs to preserve the memory of this picturesque spot in Kauai.
(12) Hike in Kokeʻe State Park
Hiking in Kokeʻe State Park is a true nature lover’s delight. Located on the western side of Kauai, this park boasts an extensive network of trails that wind through lush forests, scenic canyons, and breathtaking vistas.
Lace up your hiking boots and set out on the renowned Awaʻawapuhi Trail (moderately difficult), which rewards you with awe-inspiring panoramic views of the Napali Coast.
Alternatively, the Cliff Canyon (moderately difficult) and Waimea Canyon Trails (easy-moderate) offer glimpses of dramatic waterfalls and vibrant flora.
(13) Take an ATV Tour
An ATV tour in Kauai is an excellent choice for an adrenaline-fueled adventure. Hop on an all-terrain vehicle and get ready to explore the island’s rugged landscapes in an exhilarating way.
As you rev your engine, you’ll navigate through diverse terrains, from muddy trails to rocky paths, traversing dense forests and open fields. These guided tours often take you to hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path locations inaccessible by other means.
Whether you’re a seasoned rider or a beginner, an ATV tour provides a thrilling experience and an opportunity to discover the raw beauty of Kauai’s untamed terrain uniquely and memorably.
(14) Go Whale Watching
From December to May, the warm waters surrounding the island become a playground for humpback whales, who migrate from Alaska to breed and give birth.
Go on a whale-watching excursion and prepare to be amazed as you witness these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. Keep your eyes peeled for breaches, tail slaps, and graceful fluke dives as the whales display their incredible acrobatics.
The sight of a massive humpback whale breaching the water’s surface is a sight you’ll never forget. In addition to the whales, you may also spot playful dolphins, sea turtles, and a variety of seabirds during your adventure on the ocean. It’s an enchanting opportunity to connect with nature and appreciate the beauty and grandeur of these magnificent marine creatures.
You can also spot whales while you’re on land without going on a tour, but your chances are higher while on the ocean. Either way, it’s an experience you don’t want to miss out on!
(15) Visit Kilauea Lighthouse
A visit to the Kilauea Lighthouse is a must for nature enthusiasts and history buffs. Located on the northernmost point of Kauai, this historic lighthouse offers stunning views and a glimpse into the island’s past.
Built in 1913, the lighthouse stands as a beacon of maritime history and has played a vital role in guiding ships through the treacherous waters of the Pacific Ocean. Today, it is a wildlife refuge and a symbol of conservation efforts.
As you explore the area, you’ll have the opportunity to observe a variety of seabirds, including the iconic red-footed booby, as they nest and soar above the rugged coastline.
The panoramic vistas of the Pacific Ocean, dramatic cliffs, and crashing waves make this a picturesque spot, perfect for capturing memorable photographs.
(16) Spot Some Wildlife at Poipu Beach
Poipu Beach is a sun-soaked paradise and a fantastic spot for wildlife enthusiasts. This beautiful beach, located on the southern coast of Kauai, offers an opportunity to spot various fascinating marine life.
Keep your eyes peeled for Hawaiian green sea turtles as they gracefully swim close to shore or bask in the sun on the golden sands. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of playful Hawaiian monk seals, one of the rarest marine mammals in the world. We spotted turtles and monk seals multiple times while visiting Poipu Beach.
Poipu Beach offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature and observe the remarkable wildlife that calls Kauai’s shores home.
While there, don’t forget to watch one of the most beautiful sunsets on the island. You might even get a monk seal in your sunset photo if you’re lucky, as we did.
(17) Snorkel at Ni’ihau
Snorkeling at Ni’ihau is an adventure that takes you to the pristine waters surrounding the “Forbidden Island.” Located just southwest of Kauai, Ni’ihau is a privately owned island known for its untouched beauty and crystal clear waters.
While there is no landing on the actual island, you can swim and snorkel in the magnificent waters around it.
During the tour, you’ll discover a vibrant underwater world teeming with marine life. The reefs surrounding Ni’ihau are home to abundant colorful tropical fish, mesmerizing coral formations, and even the occasional sighting of sea turtles and dolphins.
The visibility is often exceptional, allowing you to witness the underwater wonders in all their glory.
Below is the best snorkeling tour on Kauai: Ni’ihau and Na Pali Coast Snorkel Boat Tour.
(18) Beach Hop on Kauai’s North Shore
Beach hopping on Kauai’s North Shore is a must-do for beach lovers and those seeking serene coastal landscapes.
Begin your journey at Ke’e Beach, where the pristine beauty of golden sands, gorgeous waters, and lush green cliffs surround you. Next, head over to Tunnels Beach for some good snorkeling.
Next, Hanalei Bay enchants with its postcard-perfect scenery—a crescent-shaped beach caressed by emerald mountains, creating an idyllic setting.
Anini Beach offers a tranquil escape with its serene turquoise waters, showcasing a stunning reef that beckons snorkelers and swimmers.
Lastly, uncover the allure of Secret Beach, a hidden gem secluded by dramatic cliffs, where you can enjoy golden sands, picturesque vistas, and a sense of serenity.
Each beach on Kauai presents its unique charm, ensuring an extraordinary beach-hopping experience for all who visit.
(19) Beach Hop on Kauai’s South Shore
If you are on the South Shore of Kauai, you are in luck, as there are plenty of fantastic beaches to explore there too.
Start your day at the renowned Poipu Beach, where golden sands, gentle waves, and warm sunshine create the perfect atmosphere for swimming, sunbathing, and water activities. Move on to the picturesque Shipwreck Beach, where you can marvel at the rugged beauty of its dramatic shoreline and catch glimpses of the historic shipwreck remnants.
Next, visit the tranquil Keiki Cove, a hidden gem tucked away within Poipu, offering a sheltered cove ideal for families with young children to enjoy the ocean safely.
Continue to Kiahuna Beach, a pristine stretch of sand embraced by lush vegetation and blessed with turquoise waters, providing an idyllic setting for relaxation and beachfront picnics.
Finally, explore the enchanting beauty of Baby Beach, where you can witness breathtaking ocean vistas, experience gentle waves for swimming, and enjoy beautiful sunsets.
(20) Hike the Kalalau Trail
Hiking the Kalalau Trail is an epic adventure that takes you through some of the most breathtaking landscapes in Kauai. This challenging 22-mile trail, located along the rugged Napali Coast, offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience for avid hikers and nature enthusiasts.
During the hike, you’ll encounter stunning vistas of towering sea cliffs, lush valleys, cascading waterfalls, and pristine beaches. The trail takes you deep into the heart of the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park, immersing you in the unspoiled beauty of Kauai’s wilderness.
Along the way, you’ll pass iconic landmarks like Hanakapiai Beach and Hanakapiai Falls, where you can take refreshing dips in the cool waters.
The Kalalau Trail is a challenging endeavor that requires proper preparation and permits, but the rewards are immeasurable—an unforgettable journey through one of the world’s most awe-inspiring landscapes.
You can make your reservations here with Go Ha’ena.
(21) Take a Dinner Sunset Cruise
A dinner sunset cruise is a magical way to experience the beauty of Kauai’s coastline while indulging in a delicious meal. What better way to end your night in Kauai than aboard a luxurious catamaran or sailing vessel and setting sail along the scenic waters as the sun begins its descent?
Guests will be treated to panoramic views of the coastline, rugged cliffs, and the vibrant colors of the sunset painting the sky. Eat a delectable dinner prepared onboard, some featuring fresh local ingredients and flavors inspired by Hawaiian cuisine.
It’s a beautiful experience that combines delectable dining, stunning views, and the tranquil ambiance of a sunset at sea.
(22) Go Horse Back Riding
Going on a horseback riding adventure in Kauai allows you to explore the island’s natural beauty from a unique perspective. You can ride through lush valleys, picturesque mountains, and pristine beaches.
Whether you’re a seasoned rider or a beginner, there are options for every skill level, with experienced guides to ensure your safety and provide insightful commentary about the area’s history and flora/fauna.
CJM Country Stables offers a variety of horseback riding tours tailored for all ages and experience levels.
(23) Go Zip-lining
Zip lining in Kauai is an exhilarating adventure that allows you to soar through the lush tropical landscapes and take in breathtaking views from above.
With several zip line courses, you can immerse yourself in the beauty of Kauai’s diverse terrain, from soaring above dense rainforests to gliding over scenic valleys. You will feel the adrenaline rush as you zip through the air, experiencing the thrill of speed and the freedom of flight.
(24) Body Surf at Shipwreck Beach
Want a thrilling experience that allows you to ride the mighty waves of Kauai’s South Shore? Go body surfing at Shipwreck Beach.
Known for its consistent surf and beautiful sandy shoreline, Shipwreck Beach offers ideal conditions for body surfing enthusiasts.
Stunning cliffs also surround the beach and offer breathtaking panoramic views, adding to the overall allure of the experience.
Whether you’re a seasoned surfer or a beginner looking to try something new, body surfing at Shipwreck Beach is a top activity that will leave you with unforgettable memories of your time in Kauai.
(25) Go to a Top Restaurant in Kauai
Kauai has some of the best restaurants in Hawaii and is home to various cuisines. From world-class Hawaiian seafood to authentic Italian fare, there’s something for everyone.
While you’re on the island, don’t forget to experience the vibrant dining scene with a visit to these top restaurants in Kauai:
- Sam’s Ocean View Restaurant and Bar offer gorgeous views of the ocean and a menu filled with fresh seafood and island-inspired dishes.
- Hukilau Lanai is known for its cozy atmosphere and menu showcasing locally sourced ingredients, including mouthwatering delicious dishes.
- AMA Restaurant combines contemporary Asian flavors with locally grown produce for a unique and memorable dining experience with spectacular views.
- Tidepools at the Grand Hyatt Kauai enchants its romantic setting with gorgeous sunset views serving Pacific Rim cuisine with Hawaiian/Polynesian flair.
- Lastly, Ilima Terrace Restaurant offers a delightful open-air dining experience and a menu featuring American and vegan options.
(26) Explore Kauais Food Truck Scene
If you are on a budget or love food trucks as much as we do, Kauai’s food truck scene is a must-explore. The island features some of the best food trucks in Hawaii if we do say so ourselves. There’s something for everyone, from tacos, Brazilian, and acai bowls to burgers and shaved ice.
Some of our favorite food trucks on the island include:
- Carlito’s Way offers an irresistible fusion of Mexican flavors with must-try dishes like their mouthwatering al pastor tacos and flavorful burritos.
- Namaste Indian brings India’s aromatic spices and traditional flavors to Kauai, serving up authentic curries that will transport your taste buds.
- Da Fazenda brings the taste of Brazil to the island with their delectable Brazilian barbecue and mouthwatering grilled meats.
- Small Town Coffee is a perfect spot for coffee lovers and one of the best places to get coffee in Kauai. Not only do they have coffee, but they are also one of the best places on Kauai to grab breakfast on the go.
- Lastly, don’t miss Al Pastor Tacos, where you can indulge in delicious, flavor-packed tacos and more.
(27) Play Golf
Playing golf in Kauai is a golfer’s paradise, offering stunning courses alongside the island’s natural beauty. There are multiple gold courses, such as the Princeville Makai Golf Club, located on the North Shore. This championship course boasts breathtaking ocean views, lush fairways, and holes that will test your skills.
Another notable course is the Poipu Bay Golf Course, which hosts prestigious golf tournaments.
The Ocean Course at Hokuala is another gem, providing panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and featuring a design that seamlessly incorporates the island’s rugged terrain.
With a range of courses catering to players of all skill levels, playing golf in Kauai offers a chance to improve your game and immerse yourself in the island’s natural splendor.
(28) Take a Scenic Drive on Kauai’s Tree Tunnel
The Kauai Tree Tunnel is a beautiful natural wonder that captivates visitors with its enchanting beauty. Located on Maluhia Road in Koloa, the tunnel is formed by towering eucalyptus trees that create a canopy overhead, forming a picturesque corridor.
As you drive or walk through the tunnel, you’ll be immersed in a magical world of dappled sunlight, swaying branches, and a tranquil ambiance. The trees, with their intertwined branches and lush foliage, create a serene, almost ethereal atmosphere perfect for photography and taking in the natural surroundings.
The Kauai Tree Tunnel is a scenic attraction and a symbol of the island’s rich history and natural heritage, making it a must-visit destination for nature lovers and those seeking a unique and memorable experience on Kauai.
(29) Explore Hanapepe Town
Hanapepe Town is a charming and vibrant town worth visiting while on the island. Known as Kauai’s “Biggest Little Town,” it offers a unique blend of history, art, and local culture.
Visitors can stroll down Hanapepe Road and discover the town’s colorful storefronts, quaint buildings, and vibrant street art. While there, stop by the Hanapepe Swinging Bridge, an iconic landmark that goes back to the town’s plantation era.
Explore the numerous art galleries and shops showcasing the work of local artists and artisans. Don’t miss the Hanapepe Art Night on Friday evenings, where the town comes alive with live music, food vendors, and local artisans showcasing their creations.
Hanapepe Town provides a nostalgic and welcoming atmosphere that invites visitors to immerse themselves in its rich heritage and artistic spirit.
(30) Spouting Horn Blowhole
The Spouting Horn Blowhole is a natural wonder that never fails to impress visitors with its dramatic display of nature’s power. This unique geological formation occurs when ocean waves rush into an underwater lava tube, creating a spout of water that shoots up through a small rock opening.
As the waves crash against the shore, you’ll hear a distinct hissing sound, followed by a powerful spray reaching up to 50 feet high. The sight is mesmerizing, and the spray often takes on a beautiful rainbow hue under the right lighting conditions.
Alongside the blowhole, you can enjoy panoramic views of the rugged coastline and watch for magnificent marine life.
(31) See the Sleeping Giant
The Sleeping Giant, also known as Nounou Mountain, is an iconic landmark on Kauai that offers scenic beauty and a sense of awe.
Located near Wailua, the mountain got its nickname due to its resemblance to a reclining figure when viewed from certain angles.
Visitors can also hike the Sleeping Giant Trail, one of our favorite hikes in Kauai. You will get to hike through lush vegetation to the summit, where breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes await. As you make your way up, you’ll encounter diverse flora, including native Hawaiian plants, and you may even spot colorful birds.
Reaching the top rewards you with sweeping vistas of the Wailua River, neighboring mountains, and the sparkling coastline. Whether you’re an avid hiker or simply seeking a memorable outdoor adventure, exploring the Sleeping Giant is a must-do activity in Kauai.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Days Should You Spend in Kauai?
The number of days to spend in Kauai depends on various factors, including your travel preferences, available time, and the activities you wish to pursue. However, to fully experience the island’s highlights and immerse yourself in its beauty, we recommend spending around 5 to 7 days.
What Is the Best Month to Visit Kauai?
The best month to visit Kauai depends on your preferences and what you want to experience on the island. Considering the weather, prices, and demand, the best months to visit are April, May, August, September, and October.
During these months, the weather is typically pleasant, with warm temperatures, lower humidity levels, and less rainfall than in winter. Since this is the off-season, you can also find great deals on flights and accommodations.
What Should You Not Miss in Kauai?
Kauai is home to some of Hawaii’s most captivating attractions and activities. If we had to pick the top five things to do on Kauai, they would be: exploring the Napali Coast, Ha’ena State Park, Waimea Canyon, going to a luau, and exploring the spectacular beaches of the island.
Best Things to Do on Kauai: Final Thoughts
Kauai offers an array of incredible experiences for visitors to indulge in. The island has something for everyone, from breathtaking natural wonders to vibrant cultural attractions.
Whether you are looking for a romantic getaway, adventure-filled activities, or simply a chance to relax and unwind, Kauai is an ideal destination that will never disappoint.
Mahalo for viewing our article, and enjoy your wonderful trip to Kauai!