If you are headed to the Hawaiian island of Kauai, the first thing you will notice is the beautiful scenery everywhere around you. When you see the naturally formed rock cliffs, the majestic waterfalls, and the lush vegetation, you will understand why Kauai is called the Garden Isle. As a result, the best things to do in Kauai occur in the unparalleled beauty of the outdoors.
Take a look at these fun things to do in Kauai the next time you are on the island, and you will have plenty of time to appreciate the natural splendor of Hawaii.
1. Experience Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Park
At 10 miles long and 3,600 feet deep, Waimea Canyon rivals the Grand Canyon in terms of size and beauty. Volcanic flow over hundreds of years created the deep greens, reds, and browns of the land, and the Waimea River cut through the rocks to create this indescribable sight.
For things to do in Kauai around the canyon, check out the Waimea Canyon Lookout or the Pu’u Ka Pele Lookout for great views of the cascading Waipo’o Falls. Another option is to enter Koke’e State Park and the Ku’la Natural Area Reserve. You can also check out the Koke’e Museum along the canyon edge.
Best for: Anyone
Season: Access year-round, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Address: Waimea Canyon Drive, Waimea, HI 96796
Cost: Hike through the canyon or the state park for $1 per person, or drive through either for $5 per car.
2. Relax on Poipu Beach
Visiting a beach is one of the top things to do in Kauai, and the island has many beach options for you to consider. Check out Poipu Beach, which offers popular activities like surfing, swimming, and boogie boarding. If you would prefer to imply recline on the golden sand, you can certainly spend time at Poipu Beach doing just that.
There are several hotels lining the beach if you are interested in staying nearby, or you can drive to Poipu and visit for the day. There are conveniently located changing rooms and showers on this beach, as well as picnic tables and lifeguard protection, making Poipu Beach a great choice for families. Little kids can hang out near the sandbar, where the water is shallow, while older beachgoers can access the open water for snorkeling and swimming.
Best for: Anyone
Season: Open all year, typically from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Address: Koloa, HI 96756
3. Roam Limahuli Garden and Preserve
The American Horticultural Society selected Limahuli Garden and Preserve as the best natural botanical garden in the nation in 1997, and you will quickly see why it is one of the most beautiful things to do in Kauai. With an expanse covering more than 1,000 acres on the north side of Kauai, this garden’s name literally means “turning hands” in memory of the ancient Hawaiians who turned the old lava rock into agricultural terraces.
You will find plants that are culturally significant and native to Hawaii in this garden, including those that were introduced by Polynesian explorers. These collections are part of ongoing conservation efforts, as well as educational programs about the culture of Hawaii. There are both guided and self-guided tours available.
Best for: Families
Season: Daily guided tours occur at 10:00 a.m. or self-guided tours are available from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Address: 58301 Kuhio Highway, Hanalei, HI 96714
Cost: $20 per adult for a self-guided tour or $40 per adult for a guided tour; children under 17 years are free for a self-guided tour or $20 for a guided tour
4. Hike the Kalalau Trail
There are many coastal hiking things to do in Kauai, but few are quite as breathtaking as the Kalalau Trail. This path is the only land access to this area of Kauai, and you can choose your trail based on your fitness and ability. There are trails of 2 miles, 4 miles, 5 miles, and 11 miles, and all are striking in their views of the natural flora and fauna.
The Kalalau Trail was originally blazed in the 1800s, but portions of it were later rebuilt during the 1930s. The 11-mile path, in particular, is never level, ending at the Kalalau Beach and taking most hikers a full day to traverse. The 2-mile trail is the most popular option for most able-bodied hikers, and you will get great views of the surf and of the local vegetation on this path.
Best for: Able-bodied adults, teens, and older children
Season: Year-round, but weather can make these trails impassible and closed. It is best to check the website before undertaking the journey. Keep in mind that the trail is limited to a small number of permits as well.
Address: Kalalau Trail, Kapaa, HI 96746
Cost: $20 per person for a camping permit if you are hiking anything more than the 2-mile trail and even if you do not plan to camp.
5. Stroll the Hanalei Pier
Originally built in 1892 from wood, the Hanalei Pier was extended and reconstructed of concrete in 1912 when the local residents saw how damaging the weather was to it. A roof was constructed in the 1940s to protect fishermen and other walkers from the Hawaiian sun. Unfortunately, the pier was heavily damaged by Hurricane Iniki during the 1992 storm, but it has since been restored to its former glory.
Things to do in Kauai at Hanalei Pier include viewing the fantastic Hawaiian sunsets from its walkway and joining a snorkel or catamaran sailing adventure. You can also enjoy the boat tours or the Tahiti Nui Restaurant while you are on the pier.
Best for: Anyone
Season: Open year-round in favorable weather
Address: End of Weke Road, Hanalei, HI 96714
Cost: Free to enjoy the pier, but costs vary for other activities.
6. Explore Kilohana Plantation
Near Lihue, you will find Kilohana Plantation, the only place on the island where you can hike through the rainforest, indulge in rum, participate in a luau, and ride a historic train all in one day. Begin all of these things to do in Kauai at the Gaylord Wilcox mansion, built in 1935. Indulge in a decadent dinner at Gaylords at Kilohana, one of the best restaurants on the island.
Next, if you are over 21 years old, check out the tasting room of the Koloa Rum Company before jumping on the Kauai Plantation Railway for a ride on a recreated sugar train. This 2.5-mile trek will show you the many exotic crops and scenic views of the 70-acre plantation. Finally, end your visit with the Lu’au Kalamaku, Hawaii’s only in-the-round luau that features 50 dancers and musicians, as well a fire knife dancer.
Best for: Anyone, but the rum tasting is limited to visitors over the age of 21 years
Season: Open year-round Monday through Saturday
Address: 3-2087 Kaumualii Highway, Lihue, HI 96766
Cost: Prices for each activity vary by date and age of participants. It is best to check the website for more details
7. Indulge Yourself at the Aloha Spice Company
Although it is a little out of the way, make one of your things to do in Kauai a stop at the Aloha Spice Company. You will find these products sold at several locations throughout the island, but check out the unique store in Hanapepe. There are a huge number of different types of spices, salts, and other seasonings here. Additionally, you should definitely try their peanut butter assortments. For example, the Macadamia Nut Honey Coconut Peanut Butter is an unusual but delicious option. The store also sells tiles, mugs, and other whimsical souvenirs of your time on the island.
Best for: Anyone
Season: Open Monday through Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Address: 3857 Hanapepe Road, Hanapepe, HI 96716
Cost: The purchase prices vary, but most spices run between $5-10
With some of the most beautiful natural beauty anywhere in Hawaii, the best things to do in Kauai involve getting outside and enjoying the scenery. Whether you are hiking the picturesque trails or getting to know more about the local culture, you will be impressed with the carefully preserved island of Kauai. Since you’re in Hawaii, don’t miss out on the great things you can do in Oahu!