Known as the Garden Isle, Kauai is one of the most beautiful places on earth. This tropical paradise is a great destination for a romantic getaway, outdoor adventure or family vacation. With its lush valleys and dramatic sea cliffs, Kauai offers something for everyone. Whether you’re looking to hike through a rainforest or explore a historic plantation town, there’s plenty to do in Kauai. Here are the must do activities in Kauai.
Activities in Kauai:
Take a helicopter ride
When’s the last time you buzzed a waterfall or hovered near a rainbow? With 70 percent of Kauai inaccessible by foot, a helicopter escort is the only way to get an insider’s look at vast stretches of the island’s hidden natural wonders. That is why a Kauai helicopter tour is the best way to enjoy all the best attractions. A truly splurge-worthy adventure to check off your bucket list.
Kauai is home to some of the most beautiful views in the world. Helicopters allow you to get a quick view of the Na Pali Coast and Waimea Canyon, along with other parts of Kauai, all while flying high above them. You’ll get an aerial view of jagged cliffs that plunge into the cobalt waters of the Napali Coast.
Most helicopter trips leave from Lihue airport and make sure to book early in your stay so that you have ample time to reschedule if it is canceled due to weather.
We all love to hike. It is a great way to see the countryside, appreciate nature and get in touch with our inner selves by challenging ourselves against Mother Nature. Here are some of the goals for hiking on Kauai:
Hike the Kalalau Trail
If you are staying north of the island, or on your way to north shore activities, a must-do activity is hiking the Kalalau Trail. This unforgettable 11-mile trek starts at Ke’e Beach, follows a rugged stretch of the Na Pali Coast, and deposits you at pristine Kalalau Beach. The terrain is accessible only by foot, kayak, or air so you feel like you’re in on a local secret. And if these jaw-dropping vistas look like something right out of Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park”, well . . . it’s because they are.
Many people come to Kauai for hiking and waterfall activities. There are even more options if you want to go river kayaking or camping. Kauai’s north shore is full of unique things to do that are only available on this side of the island!
Tip: Tackle this Trail during the week to beat the crowd. And while you’re at it, save hours by opting for a local guide. They know the best spots for lunch, secret pools, and which roots to cross so you don’t lose your shoes.
Try the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail
The Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail is a long stretch of pristine coastline that makes up the eastern edge of Kauai. To the west, you’ll find cliffs and to the east, there are beautiful empty beaches. It’s flat, so it’s easy walking for anyone in almost any shape or condition.
There are several ways to access this trail. You can hike from the end of Hoonah Rd, drive to a parking lot on the left near mile marker 11 and walk from there, or you can start at Shipwreck beach down in Poipu. Follow the coastline south until you come to an unmarked trail that forks off into the trees. Continue on the trail until it ends at a scenic overlook, then follow the coastline until you’ve reached mile marker 10.
At that point turn inland into the bamboo forest and begin heading west. You should reach mile marker 9 in about 20 minutes or so where there’s another little clearing where you can see a waterfall that feeds into a pool.
Once you’ve had your fill of the sights, continue on the trail until it begins to parallel Maha’ulepu Rd. Follow this path until you reach Hoona Rd where you can turn right and follow it back to your car.
You should wear proper hiking shoes with good ankle support as the trail isn’t well-maintained. It’s also hot, so make sure you bring plenty of water and sunblock.
The Maha’ulepu Trail is truly one of Kauai’s best-hidden gems, don’t miss out on it!
The Kilauea Lighthouse and National Wildlife Refuge is a fascinating stop on a driving tour of the island and it is located at Kauai’s northernmost point . It’s hard to miss the majestic lighthouse, built in 1913 and painted with red, white and black stripes. It was Hawaii’s first electrically operated lighthouse since 1867. A walk through the grounds gives visitors a chance to read some of the informative displays while exploring the historic structures that have been carefully preserved by local conservationists. The fine views from the trail around the refuge are, in themselves, worth the stop.
Spouting Horn Blowhole
Be sure to stop at Spouting Horn, also along Hwy 56 between Haena State Park and Polihale State Park. The area is known for its blowhole that surges water up to 30 feet high with each wave. A walking path leads visitors through a lush coastal setting where wild goats and rabbits can be spotted.
Go ziplining in Poipu
Don’t you love those dreams where you can fly? How about right through a majestic emerald rainforest? With ziplining, you can enjoy speeds of up to 50 miles per hour on lines as long as half a mile. Fly backward, in tandem with a friend, and even upside down. And the views? Your goosebumps are not just from those occasional rain showers . . .
There are many tours that you can go on, but Poipu ziplining is the only place that has it all. They have eight lines for you to take your pick from across 2 miles of beautiful property. And if you’re interested in learning about the area around Poipu, you can join one of their three-hour history tours.
You can enjoy ziplining by yourself or with a big group of friends. You will be taken to the top where you’ll find amazing views of Poipu and its surroundings. And if you’re feeling up for it, Poipu has several extreme lines that are sure to provide an exhilarating experience. So don’t wait any longer, make Poipu ziplining your next adventure!
Visiting Waimea Canyon
The so-called “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” may pale in size to its mainland cousin but this Hawaiian natural wonder is no less spectacular. With dramatic gorge views, colorful hiking trails, and cascading waterfalls, you almost wonder if Mother Nature was just showing off here.
If you’re looking for a breathtaking view of Kauai, look no further than the grand canyon lookout. This canyon is over ten miles long and nearly 2,000 feet deep. Not only does it have an amazing view, but several hiking trails as well.
So don’t miss out on the opportunity to hike through this one-of-a-kind place. You can choose the maze, which is an 8-mile round trip hike, or you can take one of their shuttles to explore other areas on different trails. Either way, you’re bound to feel inspired when you visit this beautiful canyon.
Be sure to explore Waimea canyon. It’s a great place to admire the beauty of nature and will provide you with many amazing photo ops.
Whale Watching along the Stunning Napali Coast
Kauaians do not believe in keeping sea life captive, so the only way to glimpse Hawaii’s finest creatures is in their natural habitat. Hop on a comfortable catamaran that flies across the turquoise waters of the Na Pali coast. Pods of spinner dolphins race alongside you and Humpback whales can breach close enough to look you in the eye.
Kauai is not just popular for pristine beaches and lush tropical vegetation. It can also be a great place to see whales up close and personal during the winter months! With the Pacific Ocean as an incredible backdrop, it’s hard to think of a better place to do this activity than along the Napali Coast of Kauai.
The animals are part of a group that migrates from Alaska to Hawaii, spending their winters feasting on krill and their summers up north feeding on small fish. During this time, they swim close to the shore so it makes it even easier for you to see them!
There are several ways to go about watching these magnificent animals, such as joining a tour group or renting an all-terrain vehicle and going around the countryside. Whale watch tours typically take you either on a boat or plane where you can see at least 20 whales in one day. A plane ride gives you the added advantage of seeing whales breaching – when they jump almost completely out of the water!
Boat tours are popular during whale season, which is from December to March. This provides visitors with an opportunity to save money on their grand Hawaii vacation by bundling up all activities into one package instead of paying for each activity separately.
Another adventure you can do on the Napali coast is the sea caves wherein you ride smaller vessels to explore the ancient lava tubes.
You can ask our activity center to help you out with the adventures you desire.
Enjoy the views at Kauai’s lookouts
Check out the Hanalei lookout
At the Hanalei lookout on Kauai, there is a stunning view of the mountains and of Hanalei Bay. Hunter, jade, olive, moss, kelly: It seems as though every shade of green is on display layer after layer of taro fields, riverbank, and mountain foliage. The best part? These staggering views can be yours with just a quick stop along highway 56 in Princeville, and they deliver that quintessentially Hawaiian setting you crave. Perfect for jealousy-inducing selfies.
This lookout also has lots of parking if you are driving there. There are also some small shops on the side of the road for you to buy souvenirs if your budget is looking tight, so maybe check out those while you are there too!
You will also find food trucks at Hanalei. They serve poke, juice, organic coffee, macadamia nut ice cream, wishing well shaved ice, and açai bowls. Enjoy the view and the delectable foods here.
Check out the Pu’u O Kila Lookout
This one is a quick stop, only ten minutes from the highway. The views though are stunning and it’s definitely worth a peek!
The Pu’u O Kila lookout is located in Ha’ena State Park on the North Shore of Kauai. It is one of the most popular lookouts because it provides views of Nā Pali Coast, Hanalei Bay, Wainiha Valley, and Mount Waialeale.
The park charges a fee of $3 per vehicle to enter, but it’s well worth it. There are also plenty of hiking trails in the area that range from easy to strenuous.
If you’re looking for convenience or just want a quick photo op, then Pu’u O Kila is your best bet.
Go find a waterfall . . . or three
While the undisputed gem of the Hawaiian Islands is Hawaii, all islands are renowned for their beauty. Kauai isn’t just known for its waterfalls, but it does have quite a few that visitors shouldn’t miss. With a little adventurous spirit, you can find yourself face-to-face with some of God’s loveliest handiwork:
Hanakapiai Falls near Ke’e Beach
Hanakapiai is one of the most popular backpacking trips on Kauai. The trail starts at Ke’e Beach and leads to Hanakapiai Falls (2 miles round trip) and Hanakapiai Beach (4-5 miles round trip). Though the trail has many stream crossings, it is flat and easy. This is a great trip for all levels, but it’s best to do this hike during the summer dry season as parts of the trail can be very muddy.
The Na Pali Coast’s Manawaiopuna Falls — aka “Jurassic Falls”
This is a waterfall in Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii. It is also known as the “Jurassic Falls” because it looks almost prehistoric when visitors stand at the bottom of the falls and look up. It is said that the falls appear different depending on the angle of sunlight.
The “Weeping Wall” of Mount Waialeale (among the wettest places on earth)
The Weeping Wall is a roundabout way of saying “waterfall,” but the name holds to its own. This waterfall located in Kauai, Hawaii has the highest rainfall rate at approximately 420 inches per year. It is not uncommon that if you were to hike long enough up this mountainside, you could experience seeing the wall from both sides. The mist from the waterfall is so dense that people have been known to hike up there without a raincoat and return soaked from head to toe. This waterfall has made it into several different news articles with its heavy amount of rainfall, but it isn’t just because of the high rainfall rate that makes the Weeping Wall special. The mist that is produced from the waterfall has created its own ecosystem of plants, animals, and bacteria that are not found anywhere else in the world. Scientific studies have been done to determine the uniqueness, but there is no correct answer yet in terms of what type of environment has formed at this waterfall because it’s so unique.
Visiting the Weeping Wall can be a challenge in itself. The best time to visit is during the summer months from May-November which would give you a better chance of hiking without rain gear, but it still poses a high level of danger. If you were to hike over 15 miles round trip on some pretty steep terrain with slippery rocks and lots of mud, you would eventually end up crossing the Weeping Wall. The best way to get there is to take a tour with one of the many companies available for this hike. Many companies will offer different packages that may include transportation whereas others may only provide the equipment necessary for an all-day hike. This is one of Kauai’s must-do activities.
The Wailua Falls
Wailua Falls is on the east coast of the island. The trailhead for this hike begins at the end of Kuamo’o Road near where it meets Highway 56. For a little trickling water action, you will find a number of other smaller falls along the trail to Wailua. The falls are surrounded by lush greenery.
The Secret Beach
Another easily accessed falls is Secret Beach. It is the perfect place to visit right after a rainstorm. Waterfalls by the lava formations are at their strongest at this time. There is no formal trailhead or path. To get there, park at Kee Beach and walk south along the shore. Beyond Ha’ena Point, you’ll see a small strip of sand beside some very sharp rocks.
The Secret Falls
The Secret Falls is also one of the frequently visited falls and is no secret anymore, can only be reached by waterways and then on foot. You can rent your own kayak and journey there yourself or you can take a guided tour. Drop your kayak into the water at Wailua River State Park and start paddling upstream.
Kauai is a place of incomparable natural beauty, with waterfalls that are sure to take your breath away. So if you get the chance to visit Kauai, be sure to put these falls on your list of things to see!
Snorkel at Tunnels
The coral reef at Tunnels is so massive you can see it from space. Currents are strong and parking scarce but if you’re a good swimmer with good gear you will be regaled by a rainbow of sea life. Make friends with sea turtles, boxfish, unicornfish, grouper, moray eels, and of course the humuhumunukunukuapua’a — Hawaii’s shimmer-golden state fish.
Every visitor to Kauai should experience Tunnels Beach at least once in their lifetime. The beach is located on the North Shore of Kauai and is the best place in Hawaii to snorkel because of its shallow water and abundance of marine life.
If you want to take a trip on your own when visiting, there are many things that can be considered when traveling here. You also have to know what not to do at this beach because it is an extremely popular snorkeling spot and can get very crowded. That means that there are many rules to be aware of when coming here and we wanted you to know what they were so you don’t get yourself into any trouble.
Rules at Tunnels
The tide will determine where you should go on the beach. If the tide is going out you should go to the right of the beach while if the tide is coming in you should go to the left. The area that you should be watching for when snorkeling at Tunnels Beach is called Shark’s Cove, which is on the far right. The last spot you should snorkel is Horseshoe Cove, which is located on the far left. This area has a sand bottom with rocks that jut out of the top or into the sand for about two feet deep.
Make sure that you know when low and high tides occur at Tunnels Beach before going out into the water. If you don’t, you could get stranded on a rock or in the middle of the ocean.
The best time to visit is when low tide is going out. At this point, all of the rocks will be accessible and it would be easier for you to get around them if need be. The time to come here when high tide is coming in is when you want to watch surfers play around in the water, but be cautious of riptides because this is a popular spot for them.
When going out onto Tunnels Beach you will have to pass through a lava tube that goes underneath the highway. This area can get very dark and it’s best to carry a flashlight if you want to go through this passageway. There are usually people guarding the entrance of this lava tube so just ask them how long it takes to get out and they will let you know if it is safe or not.
You must pay a small fee to enter if you are over the age of 14. This money goes to the upkeep of the beach and for lost items that are found.
There is no lifeguard so you must be very cautious when entering this area or getting out of the water if need be. You will have to pay a visitor fee of $5 per day, but it will help keep this tourist attraction clean which can be a chore if people just leave their trash on the ground.
You must have a snorkeling license to go snorkeling at Tunnels Beach, which you can get from your local area. This is to protect the fish and coral reefs so you won’t harm them as much as if you went without this license.
It would be best to get a license because if you are caught snorkeling without one you could get fined up to $100. Each state in the US has its own rules when it comes to licenses, so just check with your local government agency that deals with protecting our oceans and beaches.
The most important rule is to have fun. Don’t worry about not having a good time because this beach will be a blast for you, so just embrace the fun and don’t let anything hold you back from doing stuff.
Enjoy the Beautiful Beaches
From swimming in the ocean and sunbathing to playing games and helping children build sandcastles, it’s easy to see why everyone loves spending time on a Kauai beach. Here are some of the top beaches to enjoy during your vacation on Kauai.
Spend a day-into-night at Poipu Beach on the South Shore
Check out an aerial shot of this “Best Beach in America” (The Travel Channel) to truly appreciate Poipu’s unique shape and splendor. You can’t help but sense the divine in its design. No wonder families, dreamers, surfers, napper-readers, and sea turtles flock here. Stay into the golden hour of early evening and be rewarded with some of the grandest sunsets on the planet.
Spend a day at Poipu Beach, where the sandy beaches and warm waters make it a popular place to hang out all day or relax under a shady tree. This is the safest place to swim. The calm, protected waters are ideal for children and first-time swimmers learning how to snorkel or surf and even boogie boarding. There’s also a lagoon toward the north end of the beach where kids can play in slightly shallower water. It is also the most popular beach on the south shore.
You’re almost guaranteed to see several species of fish and other marine life when you go snorkeling. Turtles, eels, and brightly-colored tropical fish are all regularly spotted here – and if you’re like most people, it will be the highlight of your trip.
If you are looking for a secluded beach, you can’t get much more quiet than Koloa Landing Beach Park. Located in Kalaheo on the western end of the island, this beach features breathtaking views of Bali Hai and sandy shores that are great for relaxing, sunbathing and jumping in the water to cool off. The beach can get crowded on weekends when locals come to enjoy the ocean views. The park also has facilities like restrooms, picnic tables, barbeque grills and showers, making it easy to spend a morning or afternoon here.
Lydgate Beach Park
Another top beach is Lydgate Beach Park. This is a public park and most of the time lifeguards are on duty so swimmers can be confident that they are safe in the ocean. There are also additional facilities like showers, restrooms, pavilions, barbecue grills and picnic tables to make your visit even more comfortable. In addition to the beautiful views, Lydgate Beach Park offers an outdoor shower to rinse off after spending time in the water.
Kekaha Kai State Park
If you are looking for a lush tropical beach to swim at instead of a rocky coastline, it’s worth visiting one of Kauai’s nearly 30 miles of sandy beaches. Kekaha Kai State Park is located on the west side of the island and features scenery that most people would expect to see in Hawaii. If you plan to visit, be aware that this is a remote location so there are no facilities like restrooms or lifeguards.
On Kauai’s south shore, Hansens Beach offers both quiet serenity and fun for the whole family. This beach is a hidden gem, tucked away from the highway to make it feel like you are escaping civilization. Visitors can enjoy views of Shipwreck Beach and Kapaa Quarry while cooling off in the ocean or swimming above submerged ship hulls. For those who would rather explore than float in the water, there are tide pools at the water’s edge to search for fish and crabs. There are also picnic tables, restrooms, showers, and camping facilities available onsite, as well as a designated area for surfing and kayaking.
Kuilau Beach Park
Finally, Kuilau Creek Beach Park is another peaceful place to spend an afternoon or morning enjoying the ocean. This is a great beach for families with small children because it is close to amenities like restrooms and showers, and the calm waters make it ideal for learning how to swim. The park also has areas designated for fishing and snorkeling so visitors can spend an entire day on the beach when they come here.
Anini Beach Park
This Beach Park is a great destination for those who would rather swim in the ocean than lounge on the beach. This location, located at the northern end of Kauai, hosts a number of activities that take place out in the water. Whether you want to fish or windsurf, this is a great place to go because it has calm waters so you can enjoy fun activities without worrying about the dangers of the ocean. If you are interested in fishing, Anini is known as a hotspot for beginner Hawaiian fish including Moi, or Pacific Tarpon. It’s also located close to restaurants and resorts that offer snorkeling equipment rentals if you want to explore the coral reefs in the area.
If you are interested in exploring Kauai’s beaches, you need to know that many of them can get crowded, depending on the time of year and day of the week. Those who want to avoid crowds often come early in the morning or later in the afternoon when families with children have returned home for dinner and tourists have headed to their hotels. If you plan to spend your day at the beach, pack sunscreen, towels, and comfortable water shoes so you can truly relax in comfort on this tropical island.
Kauai’s beaches are truly some of the best places to enjoy fun activities with friends and family because they provide plenty of options for people who prefer land or sea activities. When you have a chance to visit this beautiful island, be sure to stop at one of its many gorgeous beaches so you can truly relax in paradise.
Dance at the Royal Luau
Koloa Landing puts the “wow” in luau: This elegant evening under the stars riffs reverently on Hawaiian culture and is paired with a dazzling array of island delicacies from celebrity chef Sam Choy. Enjoy another glass of champagne and join the dancers on stage to test out your hula skills for the crowd. Brought to you by local legend, Wallis Punua and family, this is simply the best luau you’ve ever experienced.
Kauai is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Whether you’re looking to hike through a rainforest, snorkeling, scuba diving, or explore a historic plantation town, we’ve got your must-do activities covered with these top picks! If you’re considering booking that romantic getaway or family vacation and want more information about what Kauai has to offer, contact us today! We can help make sure that your next trip is as amazing as possible by giving you all the insider tips so you don’t miss out on any hidden gems along the way.
Kauai natives Lehua Ho’okano, Robert Seyranian — and all the members of Koloa Landing Resort’s Personal Concierge Team are your one-stop adventure spot for activities at the resort and beyond. Find them on our website at Koloa Landing Resort Activities or call them directly at 808.240-6609.