Kauai is all your Hawaiian dreams come true with lush forests, majestic waterfalls, powdery beaches and towering sea cliffs. The island isn’t huge – it takes just a few hours to drive from one end to the other – but it sure offers a lot to keep one occupied. Whether it’s a treetop adventure in the jungle, a picnic at the beach, or a kayaking trip on one of Kauai’s rivers, you’ll find a multitude of things to do in Kauai. We won’t blame you if you want to stay forever here in Garden Island; this place is beautiful. These are the best things to do in Kauai, an island where nature and adventure live side by side.
1. See the Nā Pali Coast
One of the top things to do in Kauai is to witness the Nā Pali Coast. Spanning 17 miles (27.4km), Nā Pali Coast is a sacred place defined by its extraordinary beauty – towering sea cliffs and emerald mountains that rise dramatically. There are several ways to explore Nā Pali Coast, mainly via land, sea or air. Most people sail the coastline on a boat tour or get a bird’s eye view from a helicopter, but avid hikers can undertake an 11-mile (17.7km) adventure along the famous Kalalau Trail. The trek can get intense and require overnight camping, as well as a special permit from the Hawaii State Park.
2. Kayak in Wailua River
The 20-mile (32km) long Wailua River once weaved through seven different Hawaiian temples known as heiau. It flows from the 5,148-foot (1,569m) Mount Waialeale in the center of the island and feeds Opaekaa Falls and Wailua Falls. Flanked by all kinds of jungle greenery, visitors can explore on a kayak, SUP or outrigger canoe, or even do a boat tour. If you much rather stay on land instead, you can get a great view overlooking a dramatic bend in the river at the Wailua River Overlook.
3. Do a zipline tour
If you’re craving for a bit more adrenaline, try a ziplining tour above Kauai’s jungles. It’s a fun and exciting way to explore the island’s rugged natural beauty as you zip from treetop to treetop. You can also combine your zipline tour with other activities such as hiking, kayaking, ATV, horseback ride and a trip to a waterfall! There are several operators out there such as Outfitters Kauai Kipu Zipline, who has the longest line at 3,960 feet (1,197m) in length! Skyline Eco Adventures has eight different ziplines, which is the most lines per course on Kauai.
4. Hike (or drive) on Waimea Canyon
Due to its sheer size, Waimea Canyon is often referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Avid hikers and backpackers may take on the challenging trails. However, a less physically-taxing way to enjoy this slice of paradise is by driving up Waimea Canyon Drive. On this iconic drive you’ll go from flat ground, up past a cascading waterfall passing steep canyon walls, before reaching the vantage point for panoramic views. If you do choose to hike instead, make sure to have proper footwear and bring lightweight clothes that can be layered easily, since the temperature changes from the bottom to the top.
5. See Waialeale Waterfalls
Also known as the ‘Wall of Tears’, this waterfall cascades down the magnificence that is Mount Waialeale, the second tallest peak on Kauai. At an elevation of 5,148 feet (1,569m) it is also one of the wettest places on earth. The best way to access the falls is with a helicopter tour. It is possible to hike, but the journey is extremely treacherous and best left to very skilled hikers. Another option for avid hikers is to take the 8-mile Alakai Swamp Trail in Koke‘e State Park, where you will see views of the mountain about midway through your hike.
6. Go beach hopping
Exploring the beaches is, of course, one of the top things to do in Kauai. There are many great beaches on the island, such as Poipu Beach on South Shore which is ideal for sunbathing and for families with kids. If you’re looking to catch some waves, Hanalei Bay is a great spot for beginners in summer, and experienced surfers in the winter. Ke’e Beach is protected by a reef that makes it a safe place for snorkeling and swimming, though winter months bring dangerous conditions. For a dose of adrenaline, folks head to Shipwreck’s Beach for cliff jumping. However it’s not a great idea if you’re not comfortable in the water, as the waves can get rough and the swim back to shore is pretty far. Be careful!
7. Try some local rum
Thanks to Hawaii’s rich history of sugar cane plantations, rum has long been part of the island. Located at the Kilohana Plantation in Lihue, the Kōloa Rum Company Store recreates the ambience of a bygone era. Here, explore their range of single-batch, premium Hawaiian rums, ready-to-drink cocktails, as well as tempting rum cakes, rum fudge sauce, Hawaiian Kukui Mai Tai Mix, tropical fruit jellies, jams, and many more. They also offer daily scheduled tastings of their award-winning rums every hour – make sure to check their website to see what’s on for the day!