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The Top 10 Best Things to Do In Kauai, Hawaii

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Kauai, the northernmost among Hawaii’s major islands, is affectionately known as the Garden Island, and for a good reason.

It’s a haven of green landscapes and abundant rainfall, creating a lush, green paradise. Kauai is a place where relaxation harmoniously coexists with thrilling adventures.

With its stunning coastline, majestic mountains, meandering rivers, and charming towns, Kauai offers an array of activities to suit every taste. Having spent many years residing on Oahu as a traveling therapist and visiting Kauai multiple times, I’ve had the privilege of uncovering some of the island’s hidden treasures.

Allow me to share my top recommendations for the finest experiences Kauai has to offer!

na pali coast cave
Cave along the Na Pali coast

1. Experience the Na Pali Coast By Boat

The Na Pali coast is a 16-mile stretch of northwestern Kauai that is completely inaccessible by car. The stunning coastline is comprised of mountains reaching nearly 4,000 feet tall and is viewable from the ocean or helicopter.

The view by boat is incredible.

You can take small chartered boats to view the coast from Port Allen and Hanalei.

Blue Ocean Adventures offers a boat tour for the more adventurous in nature. I enjoy this tour because it is on a small Navy zodiac boat, which is small enough to get in and out of all of the caves on the coast. You get an intimate tour with a captain and small group. The tour takes you down the coast, in and out of caves, and snorkeling in front of the coastline!

Read More: Blue Ocean Adventures

Note: There is an 11-mile one-way hiking trail that traverses the Na Pali coast. You need a permit to camp on the beach. You can learn more information and apply for a permit here.

2. Chase Waterfalls

Kauai is filled with waterfalls, which makes chasing waterfalls one of the best things to do in Kauai!

While many of them require hiking to see, there are a couple that are visible pretty easily. Wailua Falls and O’peaka’a Falls are both a couple of miles off the road and have scenic lookout points to view the falls. Waipoo Falls in Waimea Canyon is also visible from multiple lookout points.

Read More: Must See Waterfalls in Kauai

Wailua Falls
Wailua Falls is a beautiful must-see in Kauai

3. Visit Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. It is at least a 10-mile long canyon filled with beautiful reddish-colored vistas, waterfalls, and wonderful views.

You can drive through the canyon and stop at multiple lookout points for scenic views. If you drive to the end of the canyon, you will reach the Kalalau Lookout, where you see jaw-dropping views of the ocean.

If you are interested in hiking or camping in the canyon, check out Kokee Lodge. The lodge is located in the middle of Waimea Canyon and offers cabin rentals, a coffee and souvenir shop, as well as a small restaurant. You can buy hiking maps here of the canyon, which offer clear views of all of the trails. If you want to spend a night in the canyon and do some hiking, this is a perfect spot to grab a cabin!

4. Kayak The Wailua River To Secret Falls

One of the more popular excursions on Kauai is the kayak tour of the Wailua River to Secret Falls. After completing the tour, I understand why!

Secret Falls is a gorgeous waterfall that is only accessible via kayaking to the trailhead and then hiking to the falls. It is well worth the trek!

This is a half-day tour that leaves at the basin of the Wailua River in Wailua and kayaks about 2 miles down the river to the trailhead for Secret Falls. Once you get to the trailhead, you hike for about 1.5 miles, cross multiple streams, and trek through some pretty muddy ground to reach the falls. Definitely wear water shoes and old clothes on this tour.

Secret Falls
Secret Falls

5. Relax at Poipu Beach

Poipu beach is one of the more popular beaches on the south side of Kauai. It has been named by different publications as one of the best beaches in America. This is one to visit while in Kauai. While there are many resorts right on the beach, it is also easy to access by the public. There is ample parking, indoor bathrooms, and picnic tables in the beach area.

At the beach you can find snorkeling, paddle boarding, surfing, and a wading pond. If you’re lucky you may even see a Hawaiian Monk Seal washed on shore!

poipo beach
Poipo beach

6. Stop For Some Eats In Kapaa

Kapaa is a small town located on the east side of the island. It’s a great place to walk around into some cute shops and also grab some food!

Breakfast: Kountry Kitchen will fill your tummy at breakfast. The portions are gigantic and the quality is amazing. The Kauai-made coffee will start you on the right track for the day!

Lunch: Bubba’s Burger is your traditional burger place with a good twist. They only serve 100% grass-fed beef and put pride in their natural ingredients. The quality will not disappoint!

Dinner/Drinks: Lava Lava Beach Club, is a beach club located right on the ocean. Go at nighttime for some live music and eats on the ocean! Grab a full dinner or a drink and something off of the pupu (appetizer) menu with friends.

7. Soak In Queen’s Bath

Queen’s Bath is a tide pool located in Princeville. Get your mermaid shots and bask in the water at this beautiful tide pool. The tide pools are a short, but muddy, hike from the parking lot. Come prepared with correct footwear to do a muddy, short, but steep hike.

8. Take A Hike

Speaking of hiking, don’t forget to pack your hiking shoes and take a hike in Kauai. With so many beautiful mountains and peaks, there are endless trails.

For a moderate trail with great views, I recommend Sleeping Giant. There are different trails with varying lengths to get to different peaks on the Sleeping Giant Trail. Check out All Trails for trail recommendations. I recommend doing the Sleeping Giant hike because the majority of the trails are moderate intensity with easy-to-follow switchbacks. It’s a fairly easy trail to follow to some nice lookout points. For the more adventurous, you can scramble a bit to the top of beautiful ridges for even better views!

view at the top of sleeping giant hike
A hidden cave in the Sleeping Giant hike

9. Stroll Through Hanalei

Hanalei, situated on Kauai’s far north shore, is an absolute gem for anyone looking to embrace the beauty of the island. It’s a perfect haven for those seeking a mix of activities, whether it’s taking a refreshing swim, catching some waves while surfing, or leisurely exploring the charming beach town.

Hanalei truly has it all – from delightful shave ice stands that offer a taste of the island’s sweet treats to surf shops brimming with gear and local boutiques showcasing unique island treasures. This laid-back town invites you to take a leisurely stroll through its picturesque streets, effortlessly hopping in and out of the inviting stores, all while soaking in the island’s enchanting vibes.

10. Unwind and Take Time for Yourself

In the enchanting island of Kauai, Hawaii, finding moments to unwind and truly relax is a rewarding endeavor. Take a moment to immerse yourself in the tranquility of Kauai’s pristine beaches, where the rhythmic sounds of the waves and the warm, golden sands invite you to unwind under the sun.

For those seeking ultimate relaxation, indulging in a traditional Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage or a yoga session amidst the island’s breathtaking landscapes can be incredibly rejuvenating.

Kauai’s naturally soothing ambiance provides a canvas for self-discovery and relaxation, allowing you to take a step back from the bustle of daily life and simply revel in the pure essence of the Garden Island.

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