Kauai is one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and the best things to do on the island involve experiencing the beauty of the island. The island is a great destination for people who love the outdoors, pretty places, and serene and relaxing environments, and this list reflects that. The beauty of Kauai begs your attention, whether it is hiking the awe-inspiring Na Pali coast, taking in the grandeur of Waimea Canyon, snorkeling pristine reefs or relaxing at the island’s many stunning beaches. Making it even better is that Kauai’s best attractions are free. Additionally, there are many other outdoor activities on the island of Kauai that are made even better by the island’s gorgeous scenery, including golfing, horse back riding, ATVs, ziplines, stand up paddleboarding, kayaking, helicopter tours, whale watching and more. It would be tough to fit in everything Kauai has to offer in one vacation, so you’ll want to return again, and again. Pick a special experience, such as a helicopter tour or whale watching excursion, each time you visit. Below are our picks of the top things to do in Kauai.
1. Na Pali Hike
It’s one of the most beautiful hikes in the world, and one most any reasonably fit person can accomplish. The entire hike along the Kalalua Trail is 11 miles each way, but many people hike the first two miles to beautiful Hanakapiai Beach. The trail begins at Ke’e Beach, another beautiful place to visit. The first 15 minutes or so of the trail is a workout, but once you get to the top, you’ll be treated to some of the finest scenery in the world. Bring some water and walking or hiking shoes for the trek.
It’s called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and for good reason. It really does look like the Grand Canyon, with a touch of green. On the way to the canyon, make sure to stop in Waimea town for lunch.
3. Hanalei Town
If you’re not already staying in Hanalei or Princeville, be sure to make it up to this beautiful town. The quaint surfer town sits on beautiful Hanalei Bay. Relax at the beach and take in views of famed Bali Hai from the Hanalei Pier. Stand up paddleboard in the bay or kayak down the Hanalei River. And after you work up an appetite, grab a burger at Bubba’s in the town square.
If you’re not already staying in the Poipu area, be sure to visit this beautiful town. While the Hanalei area is more tropical and wet, the Poipu area is somewhat sunnier and drier, but everything is just as green. Hang out at Poipu Beach, and later, enjoy a sunset dinner at the Beach House Restaurant. To get to Poipu, take the Tree Tunnel for another unforgettable Kauai experience.
Many people who’ve been to Kauai will tell you the number one thing to do in Kauai is to take a helicopter tour of the island. With much of the interior island inaccessible by other means, a helicopter tour is perhaps the best way to see the incredible beauty of Kauai. See it all with a helicopter tour, including Waimea Canyon, the Na Pali Coast, and weather permitting, the lush volcanic crater of Mt. Waialeale where you’ll be surrounded by 3,000 foot walls and waterfalls.
Whale watching season is from November through May, and the best way to see the whales is up close on a whale watching tour out of Port Allen. In addition to seeing the whales, the boat ride tour is an experience unto itself, with views of the beautiful Kauai coastline.
The lighthouse sits on a beautiful promontory in a wildlife refuge, so in addition to the lighthouse you will have opportunities for bird and whale watching (in season). The lighthouse is a short drive from the town of Kilauea.
Kauai has great deep sea fishing due to its location as the outermost western island in the Hawaiian chain and also because the sea becomes very deep a short distance from the island. If you don’t catch a thousand pound Marlin, which sometimes happens, you’ll at least catch some big tuna and perhaps some mahi-mahi and other fish. Don’t worry if you’ve never been fishing or deep sea fishing, most if not all of the deep sea fishing charters will do most of the work for you.
With lush tropical mountains on one side and legendary beaches on the other, you’ll marvel at the beauty of Kauai’s north shore. A number of one-lane bridges await on this drive, friendly reminders to slow down, take it easy and take it all in. Stop at beautiful beaches along the way and perhaps have a lunch or dinner at the Mediterranean Gourmet at Hanalei Colony Resort. It’s one of the most scenic drives in the world in our opinion.
10: Kapaa Town
Centrally located, Kapaa town has it all. The town boasts a nice downtown catering to tourists and a cycling path along the coast. Places to eat abound, including more than a few food trucks serving up delicious fish tacos and the like. Nearby are a host of attractions, including Kealia Beach, waterfalls including Wailua Falls and Opaeka’a Falls, and Smith’s Tropical Paradise and Smith’s Family Garden Luau.