Kauai is known for the natural beauty of its sandy beaches, majestic cliffs, and cascading waterfalls. People come to Kauai to experience old Hawaii. Much of the island remains untouched by human development, allowing a large playground for exploration. There is an abundance of things to do in Kauai from nature hikes, to zip line adventures as well as beautiful beaches and great restaurants.
Kauai is Hawaii’s fourth-largest island and is sometimes known as the “Garden Island”. Kauai is great for couples seeking a romantic vacation as well as a great place for families looking for a peaceful, quiet paradise. The island of Kauai is far less developed than Oahu or Maui but there is still an abundance of activities to enjoy and plenty of sandy beaches to take in the sun and surf.
Fun Fact: The state of Hawaii officially recognizes 137 islands in the state which includes four islands of the Midway Atoll.
52 Things To Do in Kauai
The best things to do in Kauai range from exploring Waimea Canyon to the Allerton Garden and Lawai Bay. Of course, the Na Pali Coast. Na Pali Coast and Hanalei Bay are must Kauai attractions as well. There is also the glorious Hawaiin food! One of the top things to do in Kauai is to visit a Farmers’ Markets for local produce. Don’t leave the island without sampling an Acai Bowl and Tuna Poke.
Kauai’s nickname is “the Garden Isle” because of the tropical rainforest covering much of the island.
The below 5 activities in Kauai are from Diane McAllister with travelswitheli.com
1. Best kayaking in Kauai Rent kayaks and paddle the Wailua River. You don’t need to be an expert paddler to navigate this slow-moving river and the lush greenery and rugged mountain views are absolutely beautiful. There are many guided kayak companies to choose from and they are all about the same price. Wailua Kayak Adventures offers a 4-hour tour, where a guide takes you through the beautiful brackish waters and offers interesting tidbits on the river’s history and facts about the local flora and fauna (not to fear, there are no predatory fish in the river and absolutely no snakes to be found anywhere on the island).
Make sure you bring good walking/hiking shoes on the trip because during the trip the kayaks are parked on the banks of a river tributary and you’ll hike through a tropical rain forest to discover a 125-foot waterfall that cascades into a large pool. After the long paddle and hike, a dip in the cool, fresh water and a shower beneath the pelting falls is so refreshing, you won’t want to leave.
2. Take a bike ride along the 8 mile-long paved coastal trail in Kapaa. Several different stores in town offer bike rentals for adults and kids.
3. Snorkel the protected waters of Lydgate Beach. A rock wall wave-break has been constructed making it one of the best places to snorkel on the East Side of Kauai.
4. Check out the incredible Opaekaa Falls. You can book a guided kayak tour on the Wailua River to the falls, or just drive up Kuamoo Road to see the falls from a viewpoint. This popular spot is one of the best viewpoints on the Island.
5. Try a Shave Ice (as it is called in Hawaii, never a Shaved Ice) from a Shave Ice Stand or truck. Shave ice is such a delicious treat on a hot day. The ice in shave ice is light and fluffy and the flavor is absorbed into the ice rather than sinking to the bottom as it does in a regular snow cone.
Fun Fact: There are eight main islands in the Hawaiian archipelago in the North Pacific.
Fun Fact: There are Six islands in the Hawaiian archipelago that can be visited including Hawaii Island, Kauai, Lanai, Maui, Molokai and Oahu.
Fun Fact: Two of the eight main islands in the Hawaiian archipelago in the North Pacific are forbidden to visitors; they are Niihau and Kahoolawe are forbidden to visitors.
Fun Fact: Kauai is the oldest and northernmost island in the Hawaiian chain.
The below 5 activities in Kauai are from Whitney Kjeldsen of Designs For Travel
Kauai is one of the most popular islands to visit in Hawaii. It’s the greenest island and the most beautiful, with lots of fun things to do.
6. One of the most fun and adventurous things to do is to hike the Napali Coast on the Hanakapiai Trail. This stunning trail is 8 miles round trip. It starts off along the ocean along the side of a cliff, and then heads inland, along a jungle trail and river to a huge waterfall and pool (bring your swimsuit!).
A popular trail with many day hikers is from the one at Ke’e Beach to Hanakapiai Beach (a total of two miles) and then another two miles inland to Hanakpiai Falls, and return.
7. Visit Waimea Canyon, the “Grand Canyon of Hawaii. This canyon can be viewed from just beyond the parking lot, or you can hike down into it. Both are highly recommended!
8. Stroll on the Beach. One of the best walks in Kauai is along Poipu beach and beyond, starting at the Sheraton, and ending at the beautiful Grand Hyatt. Stop here for a coffee and sit and appreciate the fantastic views before heading back and sitting on the beach near the Sheraton.
9. Try Saimin! A trip to Kauai isn’t complete without a delicious bowl of saimin. One of the oldest and most popular establishments is Hamura Saimin in Lihue near the airport (great for a quick lunch after flying in.)
10. Visit Old Koloa Town. it’s one of the most iconic towns in Kauai.
Find out more about Kauai in this Kauai Vacation Guide
The below 5 Kauai things to do are from Marcie Cheung of Hawaii Travel with Kids
There are so many incredible things to do on Kauai that you simply can’t do on other islands.
11. The Kauai Jungle Tub is a unique photography experience where people are made to feel like magazine models while luxuriously posing in an outdoor bathtub filled with tropical leaves and flowers. It’s perfect for people on a Kauai honeymoon, babymoon, or just want to be pampered for a few hours.
12. For a more adventurous experience, try Kauai mountain tubing through an old sugar cane canal. This is the only place in Hawaii to do this and kids as young as 5 years old can participate.
13. Kauai is famous for its food scene. One of the tastiest Kauai activities is a food tour. They offer them all over the island, but the North Shore of Kauai one is pretty special. It focuses on organic options and highlights a lot of cool local businesses.
14. Speaking of the North Shore, one of the cutest small towns is Hanalei. This is a cool artsy/surfing town with adorable boutiques, food trucks, and the picturesque Hanalei Bay. Getting there requires driving across some little one-lane bridges through taro patches. It’s such a scenic drive.
15. Finally, one of the best Kauai luaus is the Ahi Lele Hawaiian fire show in Kilauea. This is the only luau in Hawaii that focuses solely on Polynesian fire dancing from Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, and New Zealand. The show is pretty incredible and the food is fantastic. Definitely a great way to end an epic Kauai vacation.
The below 5 Kauai things to do are from Theodore at Foodies Family
16. Hike up the Sleeping Giant Park. The Sleeping Giant Trail (Nounou Mountain) is a 3.5 mile (roundtrip) very trafficked trail that is primarily used for hiking. The trail is located near Kapaʻa, Kauai, Hawaii and features lots of attractive wildflowers. When you look up from the town of Kapa’a, the mountain resembles a giant sleeping on its back, which is where the name came from. While you can climb the “Sleeping Giant Trail” all year round; from May to October is the best time of the year to climb it, in terms of weather. To visit the trailhead, go through Haleilio Road to the parking garage, which you will find almost at the end.
17. Watch the Kauai sunset. If you want to experience the power of nature, watch Kauai sunsets, it is quite magical. Kauai sunset can be enjoyed from most places on the island; however, we recommend you view it from Hanalei as it’s the best Kauai sunset spot. Relax on the Hanalei beach and drink in the beautiful golden scene.
18. Eat and Shop at Warehouse 3540, This is an interesting warehouse where artisans sell locally produced arts, clothes, and jewelry with some delicious food trucks parked outside. While Warehouse 3540 is a bit away from the towns (about a 10-minute drive from Poipu), it’s definitely worth a brief stop when you’re driving past the south coast. If you’re a vegetarian, you should visit Kauai Poke Co for a tasty vegan tofu poke. You can also visit the farmer’s market, which is usually open on Friday mornings (currently on hold).
19. Buy Local Food Items at Farmers’ Markets. How about checking out some of the locally made produce on Kauai from the farmers’ market? I bet you will be super excited at what you will get, including foodie gifts and treats such as fruit pies, flavored macadamia nuts, jams, and honey.
Some of the farmer’s markets you can visit include:
• Kukui’ula Kauai Culinary Market: Located outside a shopping center in Poipu, and it’s usually open on Wednesdays from 3.30 pm to 6 pm.
• Hale Halawai Farmers’ Market in Hanalei: Open on Saturday mornings, this is a big market with stunning mountain views and a mix of fresh produce, clothes, crafts, and well-prepared dishes. Check out their spicy mango salsa, you’ll certainly love it.
• Anaina Hou Community Park: This market is located on the north shore, close to Secret Beach, and is open on Saturday mornings. While it’s somewhat smaller than the Hanalei market, it has some of the same stalls including a local goat’s cheese stall, and mango salsa lady.
20. See Seals and Turtles on Poipu Beach. Have you ever seen seals and turtles? If not, then this is your time to see them while you’re in Hawaii, and it’s pretty easy. Just stroll along Poipu Beach and you will see a number of beautiful monk seals and huge green sea turtles sleeping in the sand. Trust me, you will enjoy the sight. But you want to avoid touching or getting too close to them as they are protected by law.
The below 5 Kauai attractions are from Dani Ward of Diapers in Paradise
21. Take a helicopter tour. If you have ever wanted to splurge on a helicopter tour, there is no better place to do it. Most Kauai helicopter tours take you through Waimea Canyon and along the Nepali Coast. You won’t find a more majestic landscape to view from the air.
22. Play at Kamalani Playground. Within Lydgate Beach State Park, you’ll find the best playground on the island. This sprawling, dark wood playground with a gothic feel is a unique place to play on Kauai with toddlers or older kids alike.
23. Take a ukulele class. Did you know that it’s possible to learn to play an instrument in a 1-hour class? You’re not going to become Israel Kamakawiwoʻole overnight, but you will walk away from the class knowing how to play a handful of songs. And you might even choose to bring home an authentic Hawaiian ukulele as a souvenir!
24. Visit a local farmer’s market. There are several farmer’s markets across the island on varying days, and this is a great way to stock up on the freshest fruits as well as get a glimpse into the everyday lives of the locals.
25. Go to a luau. A Hawaiian vacation wouldn’t be complete without experiencing a luau. Kauai has a few great ones to offer, including the Smith Family Garden Luau and the Luau Kalamaku, where you can explore the extensive grounds and craft fair before the show.
The below 5 Kauai attractions are from Mary from Mary Does Life
26. The view over Waimea Canyon State Park will take your breath away. Located on the western side of the island, it is known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. The Waimea Canyon lookout offers a spectacular view of the canyon and the waterfalls. This is one of the top things to do in Kauai for visitors.
27. Tunnels Beach is the perfect spot to snorkel. The underwater “tunnels” formed by lava are a beautiful world to explore by snorkeling. When the current is too strong to snorkel, Tunnels beach becomes the perfect place to watch the sunset surrounded by mountains and the lush jungle.
28. Relax at beautiful Ke’e Beach. Ke’e beach is located on the northern side of the island. The lagoon is the perfect spot for snorkeling. The transparent water reveals a rich underwater world with lots of colorful fish. The beach is surrounded by mountains and coconut trees and is absolutely beautiful. The sand is white and thin and makes Ke’e beach the go-to spot to relax and read a book.
29. The Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park is located in the northwest of the island. It is recognizable by its sea cliffs and its sharp edges. This unique landscape definitely deserves to be added to anyone’s bucket list. The Napali Coast spans 17 miles along Kauai’s North Shore and is one of the most beautiful places on the island of Kauai.
30. The Wailua Falls are a must-see for all visitors. Located in the Wailua River State Park, the Wailua River cascades into two streams forming the Wailua falls. They are the perfect Hawaiian waterfalls and are easily visible from the road.
31. Take a surf lesson! The Nukumoi Surf Shop, located across the street from Brenneke’s beach offered lessons from a pro and all the gear at a good price. It was thrilling to get into the warm 78° water and attempt to ride the big ones! Well, maybe not so big, but very fun.
32. Have Lunch at Keoki’s Paradise in the Poipu Beach Shopping Village. The restaurant is surrounded by a lush tropical landscape including lava rocks, running waters, poi ponds and tiki torches. You can grab a table or, if there’s a long wait, sit in the outdoor bar and order lunch or appetizers. I recommend the BBQ pulled pork sandwich with the passion fruit iced tea or the fish taco plate with a refreshing cold beer. There is a great kids menu as well with old standbys like fish and chips and grilled cheese sandwiches.
33. Eat where the locals eat. A James Beard Foundation honoree, Hamura Saimin has been a mainstay in Kauai for decades. The wooden stools and formica counters look like they have been there for just as long. With counter-only seating, the menu is as unassuming as its decor. Get there early, as locals and tourists alike wait in line for the steaming hot bowls of saimin. The special includes pieces of pork and vegetables along with won ton mein. The teriyaki barbecue chicken skewers are a must-do with the Chinese hot mustard. Just when you think you can’t eat anymore, order a slice of their famous lilikoi chiffon pie and savor it. This is truly one of the best things to do in Kauai for foodies.
34. Visit Poipu Beach, the southernmost point on Kauai. Poipu Beach was named America’s Best Beach by The Travel Channel. Though it hardly ever rains in Poipu, Mt. Waialeale on the west side of Kauai averages of over 39 feet of rain annually and is the rainiest and wettest spot on the planet. Walk along the beach with the sand between your toes inhaling the crisp salt air. If you are lucky, you will see a Hawaiian monk seal basking in the sun.
35. Bike Waimea Canyon. Outfitters Kauai offers a Waimea Canyon Bicycle Downhill excursion beginning at 3,600 feet traveling 12 miles to sea level. After a brief safety lesson, travel by van with ten of your closest new friends for an hour to Waimea Canyon Lookout, where you view the beauty of the canyon first hand. The bikes are unloaded a short distance from the Lookout and you begin to head down.
Two guides from Outfitters Kauai accompany you the entire way, one on a bike and the other in the van following the caravan of riders. The bikes are similar to beach cruisers; they are easy to ride and operate. There are two hills where light pedaling is necessary, but most of the way, your feet can rest on the pedals as you glide gracefully down the canyon. The canyon cliffs and picturesque views go on for miles, and what better to experience the beauty than on a bike?
36. Enjoy the local produce. From pineapple guava to Mango, Lychee, Rambutan, Lilikoi, Dragon Fruit, Star Fruit and Papaya; they are all local and delicious.
37. Enjoy a Mai Tai The best Mai Tai cocktail can be found in Hanalei at Tahiti Nui.
38. Try Poke. Head to Makai Sushi, Koloa Fish Market, The Fish Express, or one of the many food trucks on the island to enjoy poke. Traditional poke is usually made with cubed ahi or yellowfin tuna that is tossed with a soy sauce or shoyu and sesame oil.
39. Enjoy a Hula Pie, made with vanilla and coffee ice cream on a chocolate cookie crust topped with chocolate fudge sauce, whipped cream, and macadamia nuts.
40. Best camping in Kauai. There are 13 campgrounds on Kauai, ranging from beach campsites to mountain cabins. There are eight beach campsites run by the government of Kauai, and they are evenly scattered around the island. You’ll have to apply for a permit to camp at any of these sites, and the permits are rather affordable at only $3 per person, per night.
41. Visit the Queen’s Bath This is one of Princeville’s favorite summertime attractions. An easy 10-minute hike past a beautiful waterfall leads to a rocky landscape of lava and to this unique tide pool known as the Queen’s Bath. It was created by a sinkhole.
42. Best whale watching in Kauai. Taking a whale watching boat trip is the best way to see whales in the winter months in Kauai. Large groups of humpback whales migrate to the waters of this island during the cold weather.
43. Visit the Maniniholo Dry Cave. Located right on the main highway across from Ha’ena Beach Park on Kauai’s north shore, this is an interesting cave to explore. Some say it’s haunted. Others say an evil spirit lives in the cave.
44. Visit the Fern Grotto. The Fern Grotto is a geological wonder of Kauai where ferns grow upside down from the roof of the grotto and was originally formed millions of years ago. The grotto is one of the top things to do in Kauai on the eastern side of the island and can be found on the south fork of the Wailua River. You can take a tour by boat from the Smith family tour group or rent a kayak and paddle up the river yourself to see the Fern Grotto. There is no way to drive to it.
45. Hike the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail This seaside trail takes about two hours (round trip). It is not strenuous and well worth it as the trek is along Kauai’s southern coastline from Shipwreck’s Beach on Keoneloa Bay to Mahaulepu Beach with views of dramatic and picturesque cliffs.
46. The Kalalau Trail on the Napali Coast is 11-miles one-way and follows the Na Pali Coast with its incredible views of five lush valleys, waterfalls, and ancient Hawaiian ruins. The first mile or so is easy. The trail is a gentle upward slope, but the views distract you from its potential rigors and it is close enough to the trailhead to merit plenty of care from the park officials. In some places, there are even steps.
47. Try Taro. Head to the Hanalei Taro & Juice Co for a farm tour and to taste the Hawaiian specialty!
48. Visit the Hanalei pier. The Historic Hanalei Pier is a popular landmark that at one time was used as a place boats would come to load or unload sugar and other goods. The pier was originally built of wood sometime prior to 1892. This beachy area is also where you will find the calmest spot for kids to play in the surf. This is one of the most visited Kauai attractions.
49. Visit Uluwehi Falls. Also known as Secret Falls, access is via Wailua River hike that is about 6.1 miles out and back near Kapaʻa, Kauai. The payoff for this hike is a 120′ waterfall spilling into a freshwater pool that you can swim in.
50. Visit Allerton Garden Garden. Located on the south shore of Kauai in the picturesque Lawai Valley. Tours run daily and include a ride from the Visitors Center in Poipu along a scenic coastal route and continue along the valley rim on a former sugarcane train railbed.
51. Zipline! With some of the longest courses and most breathtaking views, ziplining in Kauai is a must during your trip. The longest zipline in Kauai is a 4000′ flight over the beautiful Kipu ranch, reaching speeds over 60 mph.
52. Enjoy Kona Coffee! The ultimate end to any perfect day in Kauai is a cup of 100% Kona coffee.
A lot of people ask “why are there so many chickens in Kauai“, so I thought I’d give some insight into this popular question.
Kauai’s wild chicken population has grown as a result of domesticated birds inadvertently let loose, and breeding with each other as well as wild fowl. There are few to non natural predators, so the wild chicken population continues growing.
Best Time to Visit Kauai
The best time to visit Kauai is between September and November or from April to June when the weather is most beautiful and mild. This time of year also sees airfare and hotel rates at their most reasonable. All of the Hawaiian Islands, including Kauai, are considered a perfect winter travel destination.
The Best Month to visit Kauai
Choosing the best time to go to Kauai may depend on the activities you want to do and your budget. Here are a few statistics that might help your decision.
The hottest month in Kauai is August with an average temperature of 85 degrees F. The coldest month in Kauai is January with an average temperature of 65 degrees F. The rainiest month in Kauai is December with an average rainfall of 5.2 inches. The best months for ocean swimming in Kauai is August and September when the water temperature averages 82 degrees F.
As far as crowds, October and early November before the Thanksgiving week tend to be less crowded. Also, between Spring break and summer vacation can be a great time to beat the crowds.
Pin for Later!
Alexa Meisler is the editorial director of 52 Perfect Days. Born in Paris, France she has since lived in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. She currently resides in San Diego with her husband and son where they enjoy exploring California and Mexico.
Travel has always been a part of her life; traveling to such places as Morocco, Tangiers and Spain as a young child as well as taking many road trips to Mexico with her grandparents as a young girl. Since then, she has traveled abroad to locations such as Russia, Taiwan and throughout Europe.
Prior to working at 52 Perfect Days she was a freelance travel writer; focusing on family and women’s adventure experiences.