Kauai is arguably one of the most beautiful places in the world. Filled with gorgeous beaches and incredible natural beauty, it’s no wonder why it’s on everyone’s bucket list. With so much to do and never enough time, we decided to compile this list of our favorite things to do in Kauai to help you plan your next trip.
This past spring we took our family of seven to Kauai for the first time. We’ve been to other Hawaiian islands before but this one is my favorite. It’s significantly less crowded than Oahu and Maui and the island’s natural beauty is unparalleled. Now matter what your interests are, there are numerous things for you to see and do while you’re there.
Our family was able to fly there using one of the best award travel sweet spots out there. Even if you don’t live on the West Coast, there are other inexpensive ways to get there. I frequently see great airfare sales to Hawaii from all across the U.S. Plus, now that Southwest flies there, you can even use the Companion Pass to fly there. However you get there, just make sure to pay for your flights using a card that gives you a bonus on travel purchases. If you don’t have one, my favorite travel card is the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.
Best Adventure Activities To Do
Na Pali Coast Boat Tour – Visiting the Na Pali coast is an absolute must-do when you visit Kauai. It is absolutely breathtaking and there’s nothing else like it in the world. There are no roads that go to this coast line, so the only way to see the whole thing is by air or by sea.
There are a few tour companies that offer tours of the Na Pali coast and we booked ours with Captain Andy’s. The cruise was fantastic and provided great views of the coast! The trip also included about 45 minutes of snorkeling and a BBQ lunch which were great. This cruise was the highlight of everyone’s trip. If you book a boat tour, and I highly recommend that you do, here are two important tips.
First, the water can get choppy, so be sure to take your motion sickness medicine before you go. Second, book your tour near the beginning of your trip. The day we planned to go, out trip was cancelled because of a rainstorm. Luckily, it was on the second day of our trip so we were able to reschedule for later in the week.
Kauai Tubing – You can book a tubing trip down the canals of an old sugar plantation with Kauai Backcountry Adventures. You’ll float down about 2 miles of the canal system and go through 5 tunnels along the way. The water is calm the entire way so this trip is great for travelers of all ages. While it’s not as adventurous as I had originally thought, each one of my kids had a fantastic time.
Helicopter Tours – There are several companies that offer helicopter tours of Kauai. While these tours can be a little pricey, there’s nothing like seeing Kauai from the air. The tours typically last about 45 minutes and they’ll take you all around the island. You’ll be able to see several waterfalls, Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali coast. If you’re going to pay for a helicopter tour, I would definitely pay the extra fee to sit in the front so you have the best views.
Bike Along The Coast – One of my new favorite things to do on vacation, is to enjoy a bike ride around town. We rented bikes in Kapa’a and rode the bike paths up and down the coast. While not quite as “adventurous” as my other recommendations, it’s a fantastic way to enjoy a beautiful afternoon at the beach.
Best Beaches In Kauai
Hideaways Beach – My favorite beach on the island is Hideaways Beach on the north shore of Kauai. The trail head down to the beach is located just outside of the Princeville Resort. There’s a small public parking lot that only has space for about 6 cars, so be sure to get there early.
From the parking lot you’ll have to hike down to the beach using various ropes along the way. While it is a little steep, our 5 year old did it without a problem, so it’s definitely doable. Just go slow and take your time, it’s absolutely worth it!
Poipu Beach – This beach is located on the south side of the island. This is a great beach for snorkeling and seeing wildlife. Each time we visited, we either saw seals or sea turtles resting on the beach. This beach is pretty popular, so it can get a little crowded at times.
Hanalei Bay – If you want to try your hand at surfing or kayaking, spend an afternoon at Hanalei Bay on the north shore. My favorite thing about this visiting this beach was the views surrounding it. Directly behind the beach are the lush green mountains that have several waterfalls flowing from the top. Where else in the world can you enjoy that kind of a view while relaxing on a beach!
Kalihiwai Beach – This beach is located on the north side of the island near the Princeville airport. It’s a small, quiet beach where a small river empties into the ocean. You can take kayaks or paddle boards up the river to some waterfalls nearby.
Scenic Things To Do
Waimea Canyon – Nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, visiting Waimea Canyon is something you have to see when you visit Kauai. The canyon is located on the southwest side of the island. It can take several hours to make the round trip, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get up there and enjoy it.
When you get to the canyon, there are a couple of look out areas that can give you a great view of the canyon and waterfall. It can get windy and chilly up here, so be sure to bring a jacket or sweatshirt.
Kalalau & Pu’u O Kila Lookouts – After you’ve had a chance to visit Waimea Canyon, continue up the highway for about another 20 minutes until you reach these lookouts. From the lookouts you can see the gorgeous Kalalau Valley which is also the start of the Na Pali coast. If you aren’t able to do a boat cruise or helicopter tour, this view can give you a small sample of what the coast looks like.
Queen’s Bath – Located up north in Princeville, Queen’s Bath is a natural rock formation that forms a large pool next to the ocean. To get there, you have to hike down a trail from the parking lot. We went right after it had rained and so it made it a little tougher to get to. When the tide is low, you can get swim inside Queen’s Bath. However, when the tide is high it can be very dangerous to enter. Use common sense and be careful.
Kauai Waterfalls – Kauai is littered with gorgeous waterfalls. Some of them are easy to get to by car and others require a lot more effort to get to. I would recommend driving up to see Opaekaa Falls and Wailua Falls when you’re on the southeast side of the island. Each has a designated area to park your car so you can get out and enjoy the view of the falls. Another gorgeous waterfall on the east side of the island is Ho’opi’i Falls but this one requires a short hike to get to.
Best Hikes To Do
Kalalau Trail – This trail just recently opened after being closed for months due to damage caused by a storm. The total trail is about 11 miles along the Na Pali coast and can be difficult in some places. You won’t be able to do it in one day so you’ll need to plan to do some camping along the way. If you want to see the beginning of the Na Pali coast, you can hike in a couple of miles and come back. Either way, you will need a permit if you want to hike the trail.
The Sleeping Giant – This trail is located up in the Nounou Mountains. The hike gives you beautiful views of the island and is a popular place to watch the sun rise. Some portions of the trail are narrow and have steep drop offs, so be very careful you go on this hike. If you decided to go, here’s some additional info that will help you on your hike.
Bonus Things To Do In Kauai
Visit Hanalei – The town of Hanalei is on the north side of the island, just past Princeville. It’s a picturesque town that’s a great place to walk around, relax and enjoy the island life. If you have a sweet tooth like me, there are two places you need to visit while you’re there.
The first is Pink’s Creamery. They have some of the best ice cream you will ever eat. The other place is JoJo’s Shave Ice. Treat your taste buds to a snow cone with a scoop of Macadamia nut ice cream at the bottom and their homemade vanilla cream on top.
Go To A Luau – There’s nothing more Hawaiian that enjoying a luau! There are several places on the island that host a luau most nights. The menus will vary slightly but they all serve delicious traditional Hawaiian food. We have been to several luaus before, so we skipped going to one on this trip. However, I did have some friends who went to the Smith Family Luau that’s located near the airport and they had nothing but great things to say about it.
There’s no shortage of incredible things to do while you’re in Kauai. No matter what you decide to do, I have no doubt you’ll enjoy the tip of a lifetime. If there’s something you loved doing on your trip to Kauai that I missed, leave me a comment below and let me know what it was. I’ll be sure to check it out the next time I’m there.