Looking for an amazing list of things to do on Kauai? Well then look no further! This extensive guide has 70 unreal things to do on Kauai – all recommended by a Hawaii local!
Kauai is the Hawaiian Island that serves as a hiker’s paradise. Want to feel transported to the land of Jurassic Park with everything except for the dinosaurs? That’s what Kauai feels like. While outdoor adventures make up a large number of the things to do on Kauai, there are food, festivals, and views that are absolutely amazing as well.
Things to Do on the North Shore of Kauai
Visit the Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge
The Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge is one of the coolest things to do on Kauai, especially if you’re interested in encountering some wildlife. Even before you reach the official entrance to the area, you’ll encounter dozens of endangered nene geese along the road! (Please drive slowly, as we want to keep the nene geese safe!)
When you finally reach the entrance to this national wildlife refuge, you may encounter many native birds, turtles, monk seals, and maybe even some humpback whales in the distance during the winter months.
There is an admission fee to enter the Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge, although there is a viewpoint that is free to check out.
Wake Up Early to Catch Sunrise at Larson’s Beach
If you’re visiting Hawaii, there’s a good chance that you’ll be quite jetlagged. (After all, Hawaii does have its own time zone.) Instead of being frustrated from waking up at 4 a.m., use your early wake up call to your advantage by heading to see the sunrise at Larson’s Beach.
Situated on the northeastern tip of the island, Larson’s Beach is one of the best places to watch the sun rise up over the Pacific Ocean. Just don’t stay too late, because Larson’s Beach turns into an unofficial nude beach later in the day!
Take a Plane from the Princeville Airport
The vast majority of people who visit Kauai fly into the Lihue Airport. However, there is also the extremely small Princeville Airport on the North Shore of Kauai. With no buildings and no TSA, you can go straight from your car to the airplane. Plus, it’s super convenient if you happen to be staying on the North Shore of Kauai.
And that’s not even the best part! Because the Lihue Airport is on the southeastern tip of the island, you don’t really get a great view of Kauai as you’re landing. However, because Princeville Airport is on the North Shore of the island, you’ll get stunning views of the East and North Shores of Kauai – views that can usually only be seen by private helicopter tours.
If you’d like to fly into Princeville Airport, check out Princeville Air for flights.
Devour a Box of Holey Grail Donuts
Holey Grail Donuts have become all the rage on the North Shore of Kauai. These taro-based donuts are fried in coconut oil and topped with delicious seasonal flavors that change every single week! If you want some, be sure to get there early, because at peak times, the wait can be over an hour!
To get the best bang for your buck, order the variety box. That’ll give you a box of four donuts for $12 (as opposed to $4 per donut).
Tackle the Trek to Hideaways Beach
Hideaways Beach, also known as Pali Ke Kua Beach, truly lives up to its name, and, despite its recent popularity, it isn’t any easier to reach these pristine shores. In order to reach Hideaways Beach, visitors have to tackle a steep, muddy trail by using rails and ropes for balance. It’s quite the adventure!
Once you conquer this path, you’ll be greeted by a beautiful golden shoreline. During the summer months, Hideaways Beach is a great place to go snorkeling. During the winter months, on the other hand, you can simply sit and watch the waves crash.
Stop by the Waikanaloa and Waikapalae Wet Caves
One of the most popular things to do on Kauai is visit the wet and dry caves. First up, the wet caves. Unlike most caves, the Waikanalo and Waikapalae wet caves are actually filled with water from an underground spring that eventually makes its way into the ocean. (Do know that’s it’s NOT safe to swim in the water in the caves.)
In order to get to the Waikanaloa and Waikapalae wet caves, you’ll have to do a little bit of walking. You’ll park in the same parking area used for Ke’e Beach, and then follow the path and the signs laid out for you.
And the Pop by the Maniniholo Dry Cave
Unlike the wet caves, you can simply drive up to the Maniniholo Dry Cave – no hiking involved. And you can enter the Maniniholo Dry Cave! Do a little exploring and wander around the cave. Know that the farther you venture in, the darker it gets (and the less effective your phone flashlight becomes).
Explore the “Tunnels” at Tunnels Beach
Many people who visit Tunnels Beach have no idea where the name “tunnels” comes from. It’s actually from the tunnels or lava tubes below the surface of the water. Many Kauai local love to dive and explore these lava tubes. Are you up to the challenge?
Do know that you should not attempt to explore the tunnels at Tunnels Beach unless you are an experienced swimmer or diver.
Find the Hidden Paradise of Lumahai Beach
Rumor has it that the current hidden beach on Kauai’s North Shore is Lumahai Beach. Complete with soft sand and lava rock outcroppings, Lumahai Beach looks like a picture-perfect postcard! All of that said, it’s not a good idea to go swimming at Lumahai Beach. It is one of the most dangerous beaches on Kauai, in terms of the number of drownings that occur. It may be a better idea just to stick to the shore.
Stare in Awe at the Hanalei Valley Lookout
The island of Kauai has its share of stunning lookout points – whether it’s the ones of Waimea Canyon or the Kalalau Trail. Yet one that stands its ground alongside these amazing viewpoints is the Hanalei Valley Lookout.
The Hanalei Valley Lookout is one of the easiest lookouts to access on the entire island – and one of the most beautiful. Along with views of the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge, you can also see the organized, geometric taro patties arranged in the area. Hanalei is home to one of the largest taro patties in all of Hawaii – and Kauai locals definitely make use of them (for example: those delicious Holey Grail Donuts).
Relax at the Queen’s Bath
This natural lava rock pool right on the ocean looks straight out of a fairytale! The turquoise waters and sunny weather make for a perfect spot to relax. However, the Queen’s Bath can be VERY dangerous. There have been several drownings at this spot, because people underestimate the powerful waves.
For your safety, do NOT go to the Queen’s Bath if the tide is high or if the waves or high (over three to four feet). When the tide or waves are high, they can easily pull unaware visitors out to see. To put it bluntly, the Queen’s Bath should be off limits for all of winter, and large parts of fall and spring. Even then, use caution when visiting this natural pool.
Feel Fancy at the Princeville Resort
This five-star luxury resort is the fanciest hotel on Kauai. With amenities like stunning ocean views, the relaxing Halelea Spa, the Princeville Makai Golf Club, and one of the top 10 infinity pools in the world, you’re sure to find things to do at this Kauai resort. Plus, with four delicious dining options in addition to in-room dining, you’ve got your pick of tasty treats as well at the Princeville Resort!
*Pro Tip: If you wait until 5 p.m. each evening to book your room, you’ll get it at an extremely discounted price!
Things to Do on the East Side of Kauai
Gape in Awe at Opaekaa Falls
Hawaii has so many stunning waterfalls, and Opaekaa Falls is one of them. And what makes this particular waterfall fantastic for many people is that it’s so easy to access. You can literally just drive up, park, and see the stunning 150-foot waterfall in the distance!
Kayak to Secret Falls
One of the activities that has been on my bucket list for the longest time is to kayak to Secret Falls. While Secret Falls, also known as Uluwehi Falls, isn’t all that much of a secret anymore, that doesn’t mean it’s not an adventure to get there.
In order to reach this cascading 100-foot waterfall, you have to endure a four-hour kayaking expedition up the Wailua River. During the journey, you’ll also be able to see the magical fern grotto and even a swimming hole or two! Are you ready for an adventure?
Book Here: Secret Falls Kayaking Tour
Experience a Real-Life Lazy River While Mountain Tubing
We all know what a lazy river is: a river-like section of a pool that you float around on a pool floatie. But on Kauai, you can experience a lazy river NOT in a pool, but in a natural, flowing river!
If you’re looking for some unique things to do on Kauai, mountain tubing should definitely be at the top of your list. This three-hour tour takes guests on a thrilling ride filled with fun, nature, and just a small touch of Hawaiian history – all while on a pool tube. To learn more, check out Kauai Backcountry Adventures.
Cycle on the Kapaa Bike Path
Cycling on the Kapaa Bike Path is one of the most popular things to do in Kapaa. There are tons of Kauai hotels, restaurants, and stores along this path – along with the stunning ocean views. Don’t forget to stop by Fuji Beach, Kealia Beach, the Kapaa Food Truck Court, Donkey’s Beach, and even the Kauai Pineapple Dump – where the Native Hawaiians used to dump the unusable parts of the pineapple.
If you’d like to rent a bike to try out this path, check out Coconut Coasters, Hele on Kauai Bike Rentals, Kapaa Beach Shop, or Kauai Cycle. Or if biking isn’t your thing, you can also walk on the path and still take in the views. It makes for a perfect easy hike on Kauai!
Learn to Make a Haku
Haku leis, also known as hakus, are, simply put, Hawaiian flower crowns with a bit of significance. Just like the well-known leis worn as necklaces, hakus were used in native Hawaiian culture to indicate sacredness, status, and peace.
On the second Friday of each month, you can learn to make your own haku lei at the Kauai Museum from a local expert. This is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the local culture and develop an amazing new skill. Do know that this three-hour class costs $50 per person.
*Pro Tip: Many Kauai hotels offer similar classes included with your stay or at a lower cost. Check your hotel activity guide for other lei or haku making classes.
Watch for a Rainbow at Wailua Falls
If there’s one waterfall that might be just a tad more popular that Opaekaa Falls, it’s Wailua Falls. This 140-foot waterfall draws hundreds of thousands of visitors its each year. And if you want to get the best view of Wailua Falls, head over to this natural beauty in the morning, as, if the sunlight hits it right, you’ll get to see this powerful waterfall wrapped in a rainbow!
Head to Hoopii Falls
The hike to Hoopii Falls is short, yet challenging. Over the course of two miles, you’ll step through mud and hike through tree tunnels before reaching the two sets of waterfalls. The first falls of Hoopii Falls has a pool that is good for cliff jumping – but be sure to jump where the locals jump! There are a few hidden rocks beneath the surface!
The second set of falls is even more amazing. With its wide and rock-filled appearance, Hoopii Falls looks different from any other Kauai waterfall. As a matter of fact, it’s distinct looked allowed it to be featured in Jurassic Park! At the falls, you can also go for a swim and swing on a rope swing! What a way to enjoy nature!
Go on the Adventure of a Lifetime to the Weeping Wall
If you REALLY want to experience as many of Kauai’s waterfalls as possible, the Weeping Wall, also known as the Blue Hole Hike, is an option. Before I give you any more information on this experience, I need to make it clear that hiking to the Weeping Wall is one of the most dangerous things to do on Kauai. Because this area is at the base of Mount Waialeale, one of the wettest spots in the world, it is frequently prone to flash flooding, which can create very dangerous conditions.
Should the conditions be right for hiking to Kauai’s Weeping Wall, you’ll still need to have a 4WD and be prepared for several river crossings. Plus, because this hike isn’t trafficked all that much, you’ll also need a local guide (such as one from Kauai Hiking Adventures) for this full-day hike. If you actually make it to the Blue Hole, you’ll be able to see a picturesque scene unlike anywhere else in the world. The rock walls all around you seem to be “weeping” with waterfalls seeping down – now you know where it gets its name.
Find the Sleeping Giant (Nounou Mountain Trail)
One of the most popular Kauai hikes is the Sleeping Giant Trail, also known as the Nounou Mountain Trail. The reason for its creative name is that the mountains curve in a way that they look like a giant lying on his back.
There are a few different ways to hike the Sleeping Giant: East, Kuamoo, and West. Most people tend to prefer the East and West options as they are a bit shorter and have more varied landscapes. That said, no matter which path you take, you’ll end up with breathtaking views of the West side of the island.
Stock Up on Local Goodies at the Kauai Community College Farmers Market
The biggest and best farmers market on Kauai is the one at the Kauai Community College every Saturday morning from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. You can buy both fresh produce and prepared food from some of the best local vendors on the island. Don’t forget to bring cash with you!
Eat Where the Locals Eat at Hamura Saimin
Saimin is a local noodle dish that’s a combination of Japanese ramen, Chinese mein, and Filipino pancit. It’s basically the pinnacle of Hawaii’s fusion food. And if you want to try saimin, you should definitely eat where the locals eat. On Kauai, that’s at Hamura Saimin.
Enjoy a Free Rum Tasting at Koloa Rum
Located in Lihue, the Koloa Rum Company Store & Tasting Room offers visitors a chance to sample and purchase some award-winning, locally produced rum. Koloa Rum is made using the pure rainwater from Mount Waialeale and locally grown Hawaiian sugar cane. To put it simply, this drink tastes unlike anything else on Earth.
The scheduled tastings run every half an hour, so, while the tasting groups may be small, you’ll only have to wait another thirty minutes to have your chance to try some of the Hawaiian Islands’ best alcohol. And if you find that you want to take a bottle or two home, you can do that as well!
Dive for a Shipwreck
While most of Kauai’s adventures are actually on land, the Lukemback Shipwreck is below the surface of the water. And if you want to get your start diving for shipwrecks, this Kauai shipwreck is perfect! This boat is submerged in only 20 feet of water, which means you won’t have to dive too deep to explore all the nooks and crannies of this underwater remnant. If you’re interested, check out Bubbles Below Scuba Charters.
Embrace the Hawaiian Culture with the Kauai Mokihana Festival
Every September, the island of Kauai comes together for a week to celebrate Hawaiian culture. Run by the Maile Foundation, this festival aims to “provide events that educate, promote, preserve and perpetuate the Hawaiian culture,” and it most definitely does so.
There are SO many activities that showcase the beauty of Hawaiian culture, from hula dancing to coconut weaving to kapa dying to lei-making contests and more!
Things to Do on the South Shore of Kauai
Watch the Sand Sparkle at the Glass Beach
Many people who visit Kauai’s glass beach are disappointed because they expect to go and take bucket loads of large sea glass pieces from its shores. Unfortunately, because so many people have done just that, there are only tiny pieces of sea glass left on the shoreline. But in my opinion, it’s beautiful in its own way.
If you pick up a handful of sand on Kauai’s glass beach, you’ll notice that it’s almost all tiny sparkling sea glass pieces. The few specks that aren’t sea glass are actually black sand particles! So you get a black sand beach and a glass beach wrapped all in one! That’s definitely one of the most unique things to do on Kauai.
Munch on a Tropical Cookie from Kauai Kookie
Kauai Kookie has been a local establishment for over 50 years. While in the past, guests could only visit their tiny gift shop at their bustling bakery, they now have two other gift shops around the island dedicated to selling their tropical cookies! That said, I still recommend stopping by their original location in Hanapepe.
At any of the locations, you’ll be able to sample bite-sized versions of all of their cookies! That way, you’ll be able to choose the ones that you like best. I recommend the guava macadamia nut cookies and the Kona coffee macadamia nut cookies.
Sip as Much Coffee as You Could Desire at Kauai Coffee
Hawaii is well-known for its coffee, and while most people think of visiting a coffee estate while they’re in Kona, Kauai actually has the most welcoming coffee estate on all of the islands: Kauai Coffee.
Kauai Coffee is home to nearly four million trees, as well as the processing and roasting equipment. While there, you can sample dozens of types of coffee – all grown on the property – for free! And, once you pick your favorite, you can buy a bag from the gift shop just a few steps away!
My personal favorite thing to do while visiting Kauai Coffee is to follow the free self-guided tour that they have. While they also have guided tours, they are quite expensive and not worth it in my opinion. On the guided tour, you basically follow the same path as the self-guided tour. The only difference: you get a guide that tells you a bit more than the posted signs do.
ATV at Kipu Ranch
Explore Kauai’s South Shore a little bit differently by experiencing an ATV tour at Kipu Ranch. There are a few different ATV tours available at this stunning ranch, including the Ultimate Kauai Off-Road Ranch Tour and Kauai Waterfalls ATV & Picnic Tour. There are so many amazing spots to see on these tours, including waterfalls, bamboo forests, swimming holes, and even movie shooting locations for hits like Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Descendants.
*Pro Tip: If you visit during non-peak times, you can take the early ATV tour at 7 a.m. for a 20% discount.
Wander Around the Allerton Garden
In order to visit all of the Allerton Garden, you’ll have to take quite a pricey tour (granted, it comes with additional transportation, so the fees aren’t for nothing). However, if you just want to take a glimpse at the magical flora that grows on Kauai, there’s actually a free section of the Allerton Garden. (It’s right behind the gift shop. As you wander the path, you’ll be able to see tons of beautiful plants, including bright orchids and fruit-laden trees.
*Pro Tip: If there are ripe fruits in the free section, you may be able to ask to pick some!
Face Your Fears at the Hanapepe Swinging Bridge
If you have a fear of heights, consider skipping this thing to do on Kauai. The Hanapepe Swinging Bridge is a slim bridge (only three wooden planks wide) that takes you from one side of a small river to the other. Because the bridge is so slim, when there are multiple people on it, it really does swing!
Once you reach the other side of the bridge, there isn’t much to see. As a matter of fact, it’s a residential area, so, to not disturb the residents, just head back once you reach the end of the bridge.
Relax at Poipu Beach
If you’re looking for a beach that has it all, Poipu Beach is a great one to stop by. With sandy shores, bright sunshine, snorkeling, you’ll definitely manage to stay entertained at this Kauai Beach. If you’re lucky, you may be able to catch a glimpse of a visiting turtle or two, and maybe even a monk seal!
Explore the Mahaulepu Heritage Coastal Trail
Mahaulepu Heritage Coastal Trail is one of the easy hikes on Kauai (a real rarity when you think about all of the difficult hikes on the island). And just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s missing stunning views. Starting on the left side of Shipwreck Beach, the Mahaulepu Heritage Coastal Trail has so many things to see, from humpback whales to turtles to ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs.
To make sure that you don’t miss anything on the Mahaulepu Heritage Coastal Trail, keep your eyes peeled for a helpful brochure from the Poipu Beach Foundation when you’re at the airport, your hotel, or popular tourist attractions. That brochure tells you all about the unique things to see on this trail and where to spot them!
Wander Around Shipwreck Beach
When people go to the beach, they tend to lie on the sand, enjoy the sun, and maybe take a dip in the water. And while you can do that at Shipwreck Beach, this unassuming beach has so much more to do. Take a walk on the Mahaulepu Heritage Coastal Trail, do a little cliff jumping, watch the surfers, and maybe spot some whales!
Watch the Water at Spouting Horn
A spouting horn is an interesting natural phenomenon. On Kauai, there is just one. In order for a spouting horn to occur, there needs to be a series of events. First, there need to be decently-sized waves. Second, these waves need to crash into some rocks. Third, the rocks will need to have a decent-sized hole on them pretty close to the edge. Finally, when the waves hit the rocks, the water will shoot up from the hole in the rocks, creating a sort of eruption-like image.
Have a One-of-a-Kind Dining Experience at the Japanese Grandma Café
Eating at the Japanese Grandma Café is a dining experience unlike any other. This cute, cozy restaurant in Hanapape only seats about two dozen people. It really does make you feel like you’re dining in the home of a Japanese grandma. Add the cozy environment to top-notch food created by a Japanese sushi chef with 30 years of experience, and you’ve got yourself one of the best restaurants on the island of Kauai!
Watch the Salt Making Process at Salt Pond Beach Park
As you wander around Kauai, you’ll start to notice that many of the stores sell Hawaiian salt. A lot of that Hawaiian salt is gathered at Salt Pond Beach Park. Quite a few Hawaiian families on Kauai own a section of the salt collecting area (known as “saltpans”). To put it simply, these Hawaiian families use the salt from the ocean and the heat of the sun to gather a flavorful seasoning. If you’re lucky, you’ll even be able to watch the salt workers harvest the salt, especially in the summer!
Learn about Local Literature at Talk Story Bookstore
Talk Story Bookstore is a true gem. Located in Hanapepe, Kauai’s little town with a big personality, Talk Story Bookstore definitely contributes to Hanapepe’s unique culture. This bookstore is home to over 150,000 books, most of which have been written by local writers! It’s truly one of a kind.
Find the Turtles at Brennecke’s Beach and Lawai Beach
Hawaii is home to a special species of turtle known as the Hawaiian green sea turtle – or honu – that can only be found in this little chain of islands! So while you’re visiting, one of the things to do on Kauai is find these honu! Head to Brennecke’s Beach or Lawai Beach to have your best shot of seeing them!
Stay Out a Little Later for Hanapepe’s Art Night
Usually, everything on Kauai closes quite early, which can be great for a super relaxing vacation. But if there’s one night that you should spend out on the town, it’s Friday night.
Every Friday night from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., the little town of Hanapepe stays open late and becomes the home of Art Night. In addition to the many gems of Hanapepe, like the Talk Story Bookstore, Japanese Grandma Café, and the handful of art galleries, local vendors also come and set up tents. So while you’re there, you can also listen to some live music, grab some fresh produce, eat some dinner, and maybe even purchase a new painting for that one bare wall in your house.
*Pro Tip: Parking is SUPER limited in Hanapepe, so come early (around 5:30, or even earlier) and just hang out for a bit before the festivities officially begin.
Try the Gorilla Poke Bowl at Makai Sushi
Most poke bowls come with one kind of fish, usually ahi or salmon. But Makai Sushi takes poke to a whole new level with its gorilla bowl. The gorilla bowl includes THREE types of fish: ahi, ono, and salmon. And if you want to amp it up another notch, there’s also the Godzilla bowl, which comes with crab in addition to those three types of fish!
Fly in to See Manawaiopuna Falls
Manawaiopuna Falls became famous when it was featured in Jurassic Park. Ever since then, visitors to the islands have wanted to see it in person – and Island Helicopters can make that dream possible. Because this 400-foot waterfall can’t be accessed by car or on foot, the only way to see it is by taking one of Island Helicopters’ tours.
Discover a Little Piece of the Mainland at Warehouse 3540
Warehouse 3540 is unlike any other place on the island of Kauai. While most of the island has a laidback style, you can tell that each and every detail of Warehouse 3540’s minimalistic, aesthetic design has been thought out. This collection of local vendors sells everything from clothing to décor to food.
Wander Around the Shops at Kukuiula
The Shops at Kukuiula is one of the nicest shopping areas on Kauai. With retailers like, Tommy Bahama and Martin & MacArthur, it’s the perfect place for someone who wants to do a little retail therapy.
However, if you’re not that into shopping, stop by on Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m. or Friday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. On Wednesdays, the Shops at Kukuiula become filled with local vendors selling everything from produce to beef jerky, creating one of the best farmers markets on Kauai. On Fridays, it’s a night for the arts, as the shopping center takes the time to showcase the island’s up-and-coming musicians.
Things to Do on the West Side of Kauai
Make a Day Trip to Kokee State Park
While pretty much all of Kauai is absolutely stunning, Kokee State Park is high up on the list of breathtakingly beautiful places on the island. Kokee State Park is home to two amazing viewpoints and a handful of awesome hikes. If you’re not much of a hiker, the two viewpoints – the Kalalau Lookout and the Puu O Kila lookout – are worth the drive by themselves, as they showcase the wonderful, carved Kauai mountains. Plus, on most days, you can even spot, Mount Waialeale!
Take in Waimea Canyon
Known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon is one of the best things to do on Kauai. This naturally-created artwork-like landscape complete with the contrasting colors of the green plants and red dirt create a stunning visual. And the cascading Waipoo Falls adds the perfect centerpiece.
While the Waimea Canyon may seem like a one-stop attraction, try to pull over at several of the parking lots and pull outs. That way, you’ll be able to get multiple perspectives of this stunning natural wonder.
Book Here: Waimea Canyon Half-Day Tour
Tackle the Waipoo Falls Trail
If simply seeing Waimea Canyon from afar isn’t enough for you, you can venture into the canyon on the Waipoo Falls Trail. There are a few different ways to tackle this hike, all ranging from just two to four miles, making them very doable! And by going on this hike, you’ll be able to really get an up-close look at this amazing landscape.
Despite the fact that the trail is called the Waipoo Falls Trail, you don’t actually get a direct view of the falls. As a matter of fact, the reason it’s known as the Waipoo Falls Trail is because hikers end up at the top of the falls.
Hike the Pihea Trail
If you are a hiker, on the other hand, there are a few Kauai hikes that start from Kokee State Park, including the Pihea Trail. The first half of this 2.5-mile hike is relatively easy. While the ground can be muddy after some rainfall, it’s pretty flat and it offers additional views of Kauai’s stunning mountain ranges and the Pacific Ocean. If you wouldn’t consider yourself an adventurous hiker, don’t venture past the first mile of this trail.
However, if you are adventurous and ready to get dirty, go ahead and tackle the second half of the Pihea Trail! While you could avoid getting muddy during the first half of the hike, you certainly won’t be able to avoid it during the second half. There are seconds that require you to climb up mud walls, using tree roots as hand and footholds. Needless to say, you’ll be covered in mud, but the views after all of that effort will be extraordinary.
Do know that there is no place to wash off after this hike, so bring some towels to sit on in your car, as to not get the seats muddy.
Discover the Hidden Gem of Waimea State Recreation Pier
While quite a few people know about the Hanalei Pier, the Waimea State Recreation Pier has managed to slip on the radar. Set on one of Kauai’s only black sand beaches, the Waimea State Recreation Pier is truly a sight to see. So take in the views, soak in the sun, feel the breeze, and maybe even do a little fishing!
Find the Red Dirt Waterfall
On the road to Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park, there is a stunning red dirt waterfall. Because it can be quite hard to find if you don’t know the exact location, the GPS coordinates are 22.009, -159.677. It’s kind of amazing that dirt and water can paint such a pretty picture.
Do know that the red dirt waterfall isn’t flowing all the time. If seeing this waterfall is high up on your list of things to do on Kauai, wait until after a day of heavy rainfall in Waimea.
Relax at Polihale State Park
While there are quite a few remote beaches on Kauai, Polihale State Park is the only one that is accessible by car (albeit, the car must drive on a bumpy dirt road for a while, so a 4WD would be ideal). But it’s difficult drive and remote location are what give Polihale State Park all of its benefits!
This beach is relatively empty, despite the fact it has amazing views of the Na Pali Coast. And while the beach isn’t safe for swimming, there is a small area known as the Queen’s Pond that is! This Kauai beach truly does seem like paradise.
Grab Some Poke at Ishihara Market
Ishihara Market is an unassuming little grocery store in Waimea. But this unassuming little grocery store may have the best poke on the island! So be sure to grab some of this delicious cubed fish at some point on your vacation.
Drive to the End of Highway 50
Most visitors don’t bother to wander further West than Waimea Canyon, but one of the best things to do on Kauai is drive to the end of Highway 50. This 33-mile road starts in Lihue on the East Side and ends all the way by the Barking Sands Airport on the east side. The latter half of the drive takes visitors on an oceanfront drive past amazing landmarks like the Waimea State Recreational Park. And if you keep going just a tad further, you’ll reach the nearly untouched Polihale State Park.
Tackle the Kalalau Trail
One of the most famous things to do on Kauai is to explore the Na Pali Coast. As a matter of fact, it’s so stunning that it’s at the top of our Hawaii bucket list. Even though it’s only eleven miles (one way), this Kauai hike is BRUTAL and usually takes a few days. No part of this hike is flat. You’ll either being going uphill or downhill the entire time, so make sure you are physically and mentally prepared to tackle the Kalalau Trail. That said, if you do decide to hike this trail, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most amazing views, not only in Hawaii, but in the entire world.
Before hiking this amazing Kauai hike, you’ll need to get a variety of permits and reservations for both hiking and camping. For more information, visit the Kalalau Trail website.
Hanakapiai Beach and Falls
If the entire eleven miles of the Kalalau Trail sounds a little difficult but you still want to do a bit of hiking, consider just going two miles to Hanakapiai Beach.
Once you reach Hanakapiai Beach, you can also add another stop: Hanakapiai Falls. Just two miles away (four miles round trip to return back to Hanakapiai Beach, eight miles total) is the 300-foot tall Hanakapiai Falls. And the reward of this hike isn’t just at the end. Follow a path filled with towering bamboo and tasty mountain apples!
While you don’t need a permit for this part of the hike, you do need a reservation – and they get filled up fast! Reservations become available on the Haena State Park website 30 days in advance, so it’s best to book it early.
Take a Na Pali Coast Boat Tour
If tackling the Kalalau Trail is too difficult, you can also experience the Na Pali Coast through a Na Pali Coast boat tour. From that viewpoint, you can get breathtaking views of the creviced Na Pali Coast mountains alongside the deep blue Pacific Ocean. Plus, many Na Pali Coast boat tours couple the views of the Na Pali Coast with some amazing snorkeling!
Book Here: Na Pali Coast and Niihau Snorkeling Tour
Head to the Honopu Arch and Beach
Visiting the Honopu Arch and Beach is one of the most difficult and dangerous things to do on Kauai – and between the Kalalau Trail and the Weeping Wall, that’s really saying something.
Let me paint a picture for you to tell you just how difficult it is to reach the Honopu Arch and Beach. To start the journey, you’ll have to make it to Kalalau Beach, which is only accessible by the already grueling Kalalau Trail. From there, you have to cross the entirety of Kalalau Beach and then swim a little over a quarter mile in open ocean with a strong current (bring fins for sure!). After all, you’re on the northwestern part of Kauai, where the waves and currents are STRONG. As a matter of fact, this swim is pretty much only doable in the summer, because that’s when the water is the calmest. Plus, it’s actually illegal to take any sort of boat, including a kayak, to Honopu Beach. Only then have you finally made it to this secluded beach.
Honopu Beach is actually split into two sections by the famed 90-foot Honopu Arch. So as you sit on the golden sands on either side of the arch, you’ll have a little piece of paradise all to yourself. You’ll only have the ocean in front of you and the sheer cliffs behind you.
This natural landscape is so beautiful that it’s actually been featured in many movies, including King Kong, Six Days Seven Nights, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
*Pro Tip: There’s actually a hidden waterfall at Honopu Beach as well!
Dive into Waimea Town Celebration Week
Every February, the little town of Waimea puts on the Waimea Town Celebration Week – and it really is a celebration unlike any other. Filled with physical fitness contests, like a long-distance canoe race and a paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) showdown rodeo, this festival has events that you likely won’t get to see anywhere else during your stay. But there’s also a calmer side to this event. You can opt to watch a few movies or listen to some lovely local live music instead.
Things to Do Anywhere on Kauai
Enjoy Some Acai
Determining the best acai bowl place on Kauai is nearly impossible. While some will argue that Kalaheo Juice Hale on the North Shore is the best, others will advocate for Akale’s on the South Shore. Personally, Little Fish Coffee is my favorite.
Even though it took us three whole days to finally get an acai bowl from Little Fish Coffee (thanks to the absurdly long lines), once I got to try the acai bowl, it was delicious! The extra toasted, honey-laden granola was definitely the best part. There was also something different about the acai too, but it’s hard to pinpoint. It’s also topped with an amazing array of local fresh fruits, giving it a fun Hawaii twist.
Wander Around the Art Galleries
Kauai has tons of aspiring artists, and, because they want to have a place to showcase their artwork, Kauai is also filled with art galleries! While there are art galleries all over the island that you’re bound to come across, consider stopping by the Halelea Gallery in Koloa, the Hanalei Art Gallery in Hanalei, and Havaiki Oceanic and Tribal Art in Hanalei. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find a new Kauai-inspired art piece for your home!
Wake Up to a Rooster’s Crow
Honestly, this one shouldn’t be hard to do. After Hurricane Iniki in 1992, all of the chickens and roosters of Kauai were released into the wild. Now, there are TONS of wild chickens roaming around the island, crowing all day long (not just in the morning). That said, there’s a good chance that you’ll still be able to wake up to a rooster’s crow.
Get Some Shave Ice
Shave ice is a Hawaii classic. After all, that’s why it’s on our Hawaii food bucket list. But, just like with acai bowls, deciding where to get the best shave ice on Kauai is quite the difficult task. While some vote for Uncle’s Shave Ice, others think Wailua Shave Ice is the best, as it’s managed to expand to the mainland. Still yet, others think JoJo’s Shave Ice tops the list, but I’m casting my vote for Waikomo Shave Ice.
If shave ice is one of your favorite desserts, consider stopping by all four and deciding for yourself which one is the best!
Get a Bird’s Eye View of the Island with a Helicopter Tour
If I were to pick the best Hawaiian Island for a helicopter tour, I would waver between the Big Island with its active volcano and Kauai with its stunning waterfalls and the Na Pali Coast. Both are breathtaking landscapes that you wouldn’t be able to see anywhere else in the world.
I think Kauai would win out in the end. Out of the island’s 552 square miles, only about 55 of them are accessible by car! The rest can only be access by foot, by boat, or – you guessed it – by helicopter!
Book Here: Kauai Helicopter Tour
Find Dolphins in the Wild
Many people can only dream of swimming with dolphins in the wild, but in Hawaii that dream can become a reality. One of the best things to do on Kauai is finding the dolphins in the wild, watching them play, and listening to them communicate. The best places to find them on Kauai are the Na Pali Coast and Kauapea Beach.
*Note: As with all wild animals, be sure to give them their space!
Get a Scoop of the Locally-Crafted Lappert’s Ice Cream
From the moment you step into any of the Lappert’s Hawaii locations, you can tell that you’ll be getting a good quality product, just from the sweet smell of the shop. This Hanapepe-based ice cream company stands outs from its competitors, not just because of the types of flavors they offer – like lilikoi (passion fruit) and Kona coffee – but also the concentration of these flavors. While many companies just put a little bit of flavoring, the flavors in Lappert’s Hawaii’s ice cream hits your taste buds at full force – and is absolutely amazing!
Pop On Over to Niihau
Just 17 miles off the Western Coast of Kauai is the tiny island of Niihau. Niihau is a privately-owned, 70-square-mile island that inhabited by a Native Hawaiian family. It is nearly impossible to get to Niihau unless you know a member of the family. But there is one exception to that rule. The people of Niihau do allow a limited number of visitors each day to take a helicopter tour of the island. You’ll be able to step foot on an island that very few people have the opportunity to visit!
Find Beauty in the Rain
Because Kauai is home to Mount Waialeale, one of the wettest spots on the planet, many parts of the island frequently have rainy weather. While many visitors get frustrated by the rain on their Hawaii vacations, it’s important to find beauty in the island’s rain, just as the locals do. After all, it’s the rain that creates so many beautiful parts of the island – from the stunning waterfalls to the healthy taro patches to the lush green mountains.
For a few ideas on how to enjoy (or avoid the rain), here’s a list of 11 things to do on Kauai when it rains.
Sip on the Island’s Best Juice at Kauai Juice Co.
Hawaii is filled with lovely fresh fruits and veggies, and the Kauai Juice Co. has whipped this produce up into some delicious drinks! With locations in Kilauea, Kapaa, and Poipu, you’ll be able to down a refreshing fruity drink no matter where you are on the island. While there are quite a few healthy green drinks, I’m more into tasty sweet combinations, like Akala and Omega.
Do a Hike or Beach Clean-Up
After enjoying so much of the nature of Kauai, it’s important to keep it that way. In order to do so, we all need to do our part. Consider dedicating a few hours of your trip to do a beach clean-up or hike clean-up. Picking up a just a few pieces of trash could make more of a difference than you know. Thank you in advance for your contribution!
Are there other amazing things to do on Kauai that you think should have made it onto this list? Let me know in the comments!
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