What to do in kauai?

HotbotBy HotBotUpdated: July 9, 2024

Exploring the Natural Wonders

The Na Pali Coast

The Na Pali Coast is one of Kauai’s most iconic landmarks. The dramatic cliffs rise up to 4,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean, creating an awe-inspiring landscape. To truly appreciate its beauty, consider a boat tour, helicopter ride, or even a challenging hike along the Kalalau Trail. Each option provides a different perspective of the lush valleys, cascading waterfalls, and sea caves.

Waimea Canyon

Often referred to as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific," Waimea Canyon stretches approximately 10 miles long and up to 3,000 feet deep. Scenic viewpoints such as the Waimea Canyon Lookout and the Puu Hinahina Lookout offer breathtaking panoramas. For the adventurous, hiking trails like the Canyon Trail to Waipo’o Falls provide a closer look at the canyon’s unique geological features and native flora.

Wailua River

The Wailua River is the only navigable river in Hawaii, making it a prime spot for kayaking and paddleboarding. Journey up the river to discover the Fern Grotto, a natural lava rock cave draped with ferns. Nearby, the Opaekaa Falls offers another picturesque spot, accessible via a short hike or a scenic drive.

Beaches and Water Activities

Poipu Beach

Poipu Beach is a family-friendly destination known for its golden sands and clear waters. This beach is perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and even spotting the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. The nearby Poipu Beach Park offers amenities such as picnic areas, restrooms, and lifeguards, ensuring a comfortable visit.

Hanalei Bay

Set against a backdrop of lush mountains, Hanalei Bay features a two-mile stretch of sandy beach ideal for sunbathing and beachcombing. The bay’s calm waters make it an excellent spot for paddleboarding and beginner surfing. Don’t miss the historic Hanalei Pier, a popular spot for fishing and sunset watching.

Tunnels Beach

Known for its excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities, Tunnels Beach boasts a vibrant underwater ecosystem teeming with marine life. The beach’s offshore coral formations create a labyrinth of tunnels and caverns, making it a fascinating spot for underwater exploration. Just be mindful of the ocean conditions, as currents can be strong.

Cultural and Historical Sites

Hawaii’s Plantation Village

Step back in time at Hawaii’s Plantation Village, an open-air museum that showcases the life and history of the island’s sugar plantation workers. The village features restored and replicated buildings, including homes, a general store, and a church, offering a glimpse into the diverse cultures that have shaped Kauai.

Hanalei Valley Lookout

Overlooking the Hanalei Valley, this lookout offers a stunning view of taro fields and the winding Hanalei River. It’s a great spot to learn about the traditional Hawaiian practice of taro farming, which has been a staple of the local diet for centuries. Interpretive signs provide information about the valley’s history and agricultural significance.

Kilauea Lighthouse

Perched on a dramatic cliff, the Kilauea Lighthouse has been guiding ships since 1913. Now part of the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, the area is a haven for seabirds, including the endangered Hawaiian goose (nene). The visitor center offers exhibits on the lighthouse’s history and the island’s wildlife.

Outdoor Adventures

Hiking the Kalalau Trail

The Kalalau Trail is a challenging 11-mile trek that takes hikers along the Na Pali Coast, offering spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and the island’s rugged terrain. The trail begins at Ke’e Beach and winds through lush valleys and along steep cliffs, culminating at the secluded Kalalau Beach. Due to its difficulty, it’s recommended for experienced hikers, and permits are required for overnight camping.

Ziplining in Princeville

For a thrilling adventure, head to Princeville for a ziplining tour. Soar over lush valleys, waterfalls, and forest canopies while enjoying panoramic views of the island. Several companies offer zipline tours, each with varying lengths and levels of difficulty, making it an activity suitable for all ages.

ATV Tours

Explore Kauai’s rugged backcountry with an ATV tour. These guided excursions take you off the beaten path, through mud trails, over streams, and into dense forests. Along the way, you’ll learn about the island’s history, geology, and native plants. Some tours even include stops at hidden waterfalls and movie filming locations.

Unique Experiences

Helicopter Tours

A helicopter tour offers a bird’s-eye view of Kauai’s diverse landscapes, from the towering cliffs of the Na Pali Coast to the depths of Waimea Canyon. Many tours also fly over Mount Waialeale, one of the wettest spots on Earth, where you can see numerous waterfalls cascading down the mountain’s slopes. It’s an unforgettable way to see the island’s beauty from a new perspective.

Visit a Luau

Experience traditional Hawaiian culture at a luau, a festive gathering featuring music, dance, and a feast. Luaus often include a buffet of local dishes, such as kalua pig, poi, lomi lomi salmon, and haupia (coconut pudding). Performances typically showcase hula dancing, fire knife dancing, and storytelling, providing insight into Hawaii’s rich cultural heritage.

Farm Tours

Kauai’s fertile soil and favorable climate make it an ideal location for farming. Several local farms offer tours where you can learn about organic farming practices, sample fresh produce, and even participate in farm activities. Popular stops include coffee plantations, tropical fruit farms, and botanical gardens.

Relaxation and Wellness

Spas and Wellness Centers

Indulge in some pampering at one of Kauai’s luxurious spas and wellness centers. Many resorts offer spa treatments that incorporate local ingredients, such as coconut oil, sea salt, and tropical fruit extracts. Options range from traditional Hawaiian lomi lomi massage to rejuvenating facials and body scrubs.

Yoga Retreats

Reconnect with your inner self at a yoga retreat on Kauai. The island’s serene environment and natural beauty provide the perfect backdrop for relaxation and mindfulness. Many retreats offer a combination of yoga classes, meditation sessions, and wellness workshops, allowing you to unwind and rejuvenate.

Beachfront Relaxation

Sometimes, the best way to enjoy Kauai is to simply relax on one of its pristine beaches. Whether you prefer the bustling Poipu Beach or the secluded Polihale State Park, there’s a spot for everyone. Bring a book, a picnic, and let the soothing sounds of the ocean wash away your stress.

Local Cuisine

Shave Ice

No visit to Kauai is complete without trying shave ice, a popular Hawaiian treat. This refreshing dessert consists of finely shaved ice topped with flavored syrups and often garnished with condensed milk or a scoop of ice cream. JoJo’s Shave Ice and Wailua Shave Ice are local favorites.


Poke, a traditional Hawaiian dish featuring marinated raw fish, is a must-try for seafood lovers. Many local markets and restaurants offer a variety of poke bowls, made with fresh ahi tuna, octopus, or other seafood, and seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil, and other flavorful ingredients.

Farm-to-Table Dining

Kauai’s farm-to-table dining scene emphasizes fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Many restaurants collaborate with local farmers and fishermen to create seasonal menus that highlight the island’s bounty. Popular spots include The Garden Cafe at Common Ground, Hukilau Lanai, and Bar Acuda.

Shopping and Souvenirs

Hanalei Town

Hanalei Town is a charming destination for shopping and exploring local boutiques. Stroll along the main street to find unique shops selling handmade jewelry, island-inspired clothing, and art. Don’t forget to stop by the Hanalei Farmers Market for fresh produce and locally made goods.

Kilauea’s Kong Lung Historic Market Center

Located in a historic building, the Kong Lung Market Center offers a mix of specialty shops, galleries, and eateries. It’s a great place to find one-of-a-kind souvenirs, such as handcrafted pottery, gourmet food products, and Hawaiian-themed home decor.

Kauai Made Products

Support local artisans by purchasing Kauai Made products, a program that promotes goods made on the island. Look for items like Kauai Coffee, locally crafted soaps and lotions, and hand-carved wooden bowls. These products make perfect gifts or mementos of your trip.

Seasonal Events and Festivals

Kauai County Farm Fair

Held annually in August, the Kauai County Farm Fair is a celebration of the island’s agricultural heritage. The fair features livestock exhibits, agricultural displays, carnival rides, and local food vendors. It’s a fun event for the whole family and a great way to experience the local community.

Kauai Marathon

The Kauai Marathon, held every September, attracts runners from around the world. The race course takes participants through some of the island’s most scenic areas, including Poipu, Omao, and Lawai. Whether you’re a seasoned runner or a spectator, the event offers a festive atmosphere and stunning views.

Eo E Emalani I Alakai Festival

This annual festival, held in October, honors Queen Emma’s historic journey to the Alakai Swamp in 1871. The event features traditional Hawaiian music, hula performances, and cultural demonstrations. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn about Hawaiian history and heritage.

The island of Kauai, with its blend of natural beauty, cultural richness, and diverse activities, offers something for every traveler.

Related Questions

Where to stay in kauai?

Kauai, known as the "Garden Isle," is the fourth largest of the Hawaiian Islands and offers a blend of lush landscapes, stunning beaches, and rich cultural experiences. Whether you're an adventurer, a beach lover, or someone seeking tranquility, Kauai has something to offer everyone. Deciding where to stay can significantly impact your experience, so here’s a detailed guide to help you choose the best accommodations based on your preferences.

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