Best Things To Do in Kauai
The Garden Island offers an endless amount of outdoor activity, whether you're looking to hike, kayak, swim or relax on the beach. By and far the most popular attraction on the island is the one-of-a-kind Napali Coast, which is best seen on foot hiking the infamous Kalalau Trail or trekking the edges of Koke’e State Park. If you're looking for a little less adventure, consider visiting the lower-impact Wailua River State Park or taking a dip in the calm waters of Po’ipu or Kalapaki Beach. Those more interested in the underwater scenery will be in awe of the views from Hanalei Bay, Ke’e Beach or Tunnels Beach, the latter of which is considered one of the top spots for snorkeling on the island.
Updated May 4, 2018
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Waimea Canyon, aptly nicknamed the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific," should be at the top of every traveler's itinerary. This 14-mile-long, mile-wide and approximately 3,600-feet deep gorge is awash with spectacular scenery difficult to find elsewhere on the Hawaiian islands. Here, you'll find craggy red cliffsides and crested buttes blanketed in lush, evergreen vegetation as far as the eye can see, with waterfalls and rivers dotted in between. Most travelers who visit Waimea Canyon choose to take in the sight by car, as there are multiple lookout points situated along Koke'e Road, including the popular Waimea Canyon and Puu Hinahina lookout points. If you're hoping to explore outside your car, there are trails in the canyon that range from easy to difficult. Many trailheads can be found off of Koke'e Road, with some, including the Cliff Trail Lookout and the Waipo'o Falls Trail, accessible from the Pu'u Hinahina lookout point.
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The Napali coast is a 17-mile expanse of rocky, steep, but oh-so-gorgeous series of cliffs that stretch along Kauai's northwest shore. Travelers agree there's no better way to experience Kauai's natural beauty and eye-catching terrain than at Napali, so you should make plans to marvel at it – either on foot, from the water or from the air (there are no roads that go along the Napali Coast).
- #3View all Photos#3 in KauaiBeaches, Natural Wonders, Recreation, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Natural Wonders, Recreation, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
Located on Kauai's west coast, Polihale State Park is the last beach before the Napali Coast begins. On the northern tip of the beach, you can enjoy an eyeful of the edge of Napali's cliffs, and south of that, you'll have a whopping 17 miles of shore all to yourself. Because the beach is so big, it's rarely crowded. But that's also thanks in part to the road to the beach, which is an unpaved, dirt path that stretches for about 5 miles. It's so uneven that some rental car companies prohibit driving on this road. Since the road can sometimes floor during heavy rain, you'll want to check conditions before you go.
- #4View all PhotosfreeKe'e Beach#4 in KauaiBeaches, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
Along with Polihale State Park, Ke'e Beach is the safest beach to access for prime Napali views. Ke'e Beach is conveniently situated at the Kalalau trailhead, offering beachgoers sweeping views of the Napali cliffs from the comfort of the sand instead of the muddy Kalalau Trail. Unlike Polihale State Park, there are lifeguards posted here and depending on the time of year, it is safe to swim and snorkel, so long as you keep close to the shore. The beach also offers restrooms and showers, though due to its close proximity to the cliffs, there is no cell phone service.
- #5View all PhotosfreeTunnels Beach#5 in KauaiNatural Wonders, Swimming/Pools, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, Swimming/Pools, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
If you're looking for a great place to snorkel in Kauai, head to Tunnels Beach. Tunnels Beach is located on the north shore of Kauai in Wainiha, about 2 miles east of the Kalalau Trail and 9 miles west of Princeville. The beach offers an expansive reef that is suitable for both novice and experienced snorkelers. Travelers can expect to see batches of coral, small sea caves and tunnels as well as wildlife, such as turtles, plenty of colorful fish, and if you're lucky, a Hawaiian monk seal. If you're not up for snorkeling, visitors say this beach is still worth a trip for its fantastic location. Here, the water is clear, palm trees abound and if you look toward the west, you can admire the cluster of lush, jagged peaks that flank the beach.
- #6View all PhotosfreeKalapaki Beach#6 in KauaiBeaches, Swimming/Pools, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Swimming/Pools, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
Despite its close proximity to the airport, cruise port and multiple hotels, travelers maintain Kalapaki Beach is a relaxing spot. The beach is located on the west side of the island in Lihue, an area known for friendlier swimming conditions and easy access to amenities. Kalapaki is an especially swimmer-friendly shoreline because of the nearby Nawiliwili Bay, which features a jetty and breakwaters that stop big waves from coming in. As such, this won't be the most exciting surf spot, but rather the perfect place for a relaxing dip or an afternoon of paddleboarding. And thanks to its location right in back of the popular Kauai Marriott Resort, travelers are steps away from eateries, shops on Rice Street, as well as water sport rentals.
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Po'ipu Beach is considered one of the most popular beaches in Kauai. This small shoreline situated on the southern shore of the island appeals to many types of beachgoers thanks to its golden sands, calm waters and convenient location in the heart of the Po'ipu resort area. Here, sun seekers can easily kick back, relax and layout for hours in between the palm trees while those with kiddos needn't worry about heavy waves interrupting a family swim. Those looking for a little more adventure can enjoy boogie boarding (the beach features small waves) and snorkeling.
- #8View all PhotosfreeHanalei Bay#8 in KauaiBeaches, Recreation, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Recreation, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
Hanalei Bay is located about 4 miles southwest of Princeville, one of the island's premier resort areas. Hanalei Bay is composed of three different beaches: Waioli Beach Park, Hanalei Beach Park and Black Pot Beach, the latter of which is sandwiched between the historic Hanalei Pier and the mouth of the Hanalei River. Travelers say they didn't notice much of a difference between the three beaches, noting that unless there are signs posting otherwise, it's safe to swim. Lifeguards can be found at multiple points along the beach and bathroom facilities are also on-site. And just a few blocks south on Kuhio Highway, travelers will find many more amenities, including dining options, shopping, as well as various water sport rentals, including kayaks and catamarans. If you're looking to surf in Kauai, know that this spot is loved by locals.
- #9View all Photos#9 in KauaiHiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDHiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
If you want to experience Kauai's majestic rainforests without breaking too much of a sweat, then you'll want to add Wailua River State Park to your itinerary. This park is home to the only navigable river in Hawaii, allowing visitors to get an eyeful of the lush valley on a boat tour. Other popular points of interest in the park include Opaekaa Falls and Wailua Falls, both of which travelers can drive to. Wailua Falls is unique in that that the rocky terrain of the river above forms two separate streams that create two waterfalls in one spot. Meanwhile, the water of Opaekaa Falls glides down a jagged cliffside. From its vantage point, you can't see the source of the falls nor its end point; the area is completely shrouded in jungle vegetation. However, it is one of the most accessible waterfalls in Hawaii, with its vista point located right off of Kuamoo Road.
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