18 Best Things to Do in Kauai, Hawaii (with Map)

Kauai is a popular Hawaiian island, and it’s the fourth largest! It’s known as the Garden Island; it got this nickname thanks to the lush vegetation that wraps the island’s landscape.

The island will awe you with steep mountain spires, rugged coastal cliffs, and emerald green valleys with a jungle feel to them.

The island’s North Shore is known to be wilder and attracts adventurous souls who are ready to take on the challenge of exploring the rough mountainous terrain – the rewards in spectacular views and hidden wonders are bountiful!

More relaxed things to do in Kauai can be found on the South Shore with its soft sand beaches. It also offers a more gentle landscape while the east and west have everything in-between.

18. Ninini Point Lighthouse

© Dreamstime

This picturesque lighthouse overlooking Nawiliwili Bay is the perfect spot to take seaside photos and catch a scenic sunset. The lighthouse was built in 1906, making it more than a hundred years old!

The lighthouse was automated back in 1953, so it gradually lost the usual lantern room and Fresnel lenses that characterize most lighthouses. It’s not the cutest of lighthouses, but it’s set on a rocky shore line with good views.

If you drive and park by Ninini Beach then the lighthouse on Ninini Point is just a short walk away.

17. Shipwreck Beach

Shipwreck Beach© Dreamstime

Shipwreck Beach is near Poipu. It’s wild and untamed, giving it a different sort of charm. There was once an old shipwreck on its shores, hence the name.

It’s more the sort of place you visit for hiking than sunbathing. This beach is perfect for adventurers who want to kayak, bodyboard, and explore the rugged coastline on foot. There’s also a 40-foot ocean jump for adrenaline junkies!

Something else that Shipwreck Beach is great for is whale watching – keep your eyes on the ocean in whale season.

16. Kauai’s Hindu Temple

Kauai's Hindu Temple© Shutterstock

The Hindu Temple in Kauai offers you the unique chance to meditate amongst monks in their daily prayer, known as puja, and to get an intimate look at the Hindu beliefs and way of life.

The monastery and temple are nestled along the bank of the Wailua River. The temple is a place of reflection, silence, and introspection. The complex and its surrounding land are decorated with Hindu deities, like the sculpture of Lord Shanmuga that sits in the center of an enormous banyan tree.

Stroll through the temple’s gardens, which are riddled with medicinal plants, and let your mind and soul find a new sense of peace.

15. Kauai Coffee Company

Kauai Coffee Company© Shutterstock

We’ve all heard of Colombian coffee, but Kauai has its own coffee beans to show off – and they’re just as good as some of the world’s finest! The Kauai Coffee Company is the largest coffee grower in Hawaii and the US.

The company began in the early 1800s as a sugar producer, and they now have more than 4 million coffee trees to their name!

Visit their Visitor Center and Kauai Coffee Estate, where you can tour their coffee plantation, sip on a hot cup of freshly roasted coffee, and see step by step how coffee is grown, harvested, and roasted before being bagged up for you to take home!

14. National Tropical Botanical Garden

National Tropical Botanical Garden© Dreamstime

Kauai is home to hundreds of endemic plant species that are rare and beautiful. Many are at risk of going extinct, so the NTBG’s conservation efforts and educational schemes are trying to put a stop to it.

The NTBG have two separate botanical gardens on Kauai Island, one (the Limahuli Garden and Preserve) in the north and one (the McBryde and Allerton Gardens) in the south.

Spend a relaxing day strolling through tall palms, rare flowers, and lush Hawaiian jungle flora. Tours last a few hours!

13. Koloa Heritage Trail

Koloa Heritage Trail© Shutterstock

The Koloa Heritage Trail is a 10-mile long trail that runs along the South Shore of the island and passes through Koloa and Poipu. It’s popular as it’s lined with the area’s most important historical, cultural, and geological sites.

There are 14 monuments for you to stop at on the Koloa Heritage Trail. Koloa was historically a region with an array of sugar plantations, and this part of the area’s history is reflected in monuments like the Sugar Monument.

Historians and hikers will especially love the Koloa Heritage Trail! If you’re not up to walking all ten miles, map out a shorter stretch of path that has your favorite monuments along the way.

12. Anini Beach

Anini Beach© Dreamstime

Beautiful and quintessentially tropical, Anini’s Beach is a must-visit for visitors who want to lay back and chill for the day. The beaches’ blindingly white sand and pristine ocean front is the perfect backdrop for some downtime.

It’s easy to get to, and you can drive practically onto the beach – a hassle free day out! There are picnic tables, showers, and restrooms there too, so the practicalities are covered.

The beach has the widest fringing reef of all the Hawaiian islands, so bring your snorkeling gear! It’s also close to plenty of campsites, so why not turn your visit into a multiple day trip?

11. Kauai Plantation Railway

Kauai Plantation Railway© Shutterstock

The Kilohana Plantation is best explored on-board a train! There are 3 train tours available on-site, each led by a conductor who will tell you curious and exciting facts about the plantation’s past and present.

Jump on-board one of the old trains and weave through the sugarcane and taro, and past rows of tropical fruit trees like papaya, mangos, bananas, and pineapples.

At the end of the ride you can stop to feed the plantation’s animals – a fun day out for the whole family! Side note, there is also a rum safari on the grounds.

10. Napali Coast

Napali Coast© Shutterstock

The dramatic Napali coast is one of the most alluring spots on the island. It boasts steep and protruding mountains covered in tropical vegetation, rocky shorelines, and a glistening, bright blue ocean.

Whilst you’re here you should go on a snorkeling or sailing tour, that will take you out into the ocean where you can see the shoreline from afar and get close to the local marine life. There’s also the option of taking a sunset dinner cruise, perfect for couples looking for a bit of romance!

This stretch of coast gets a lot of rain, so there are incredible waterfalls everywhere! Another top-attraction along the Napali coast is the Kalalau Trail, one of the most renowned hiking routes in Hawaii.

9. Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay© Shutterstock

Hanalei Bay is a tropical paradise. The long stretch of white-sand beach is surrounded by imposing mountains and positioned at the front of one of the island’s hippest towns, Hanalei.

It’s the perfect place to come and surf, chill, sip on a cocktail at sunset and marvel at the views. If you tire of relaxing on the beach, head into town and browse the cute shops or stop for a bite at one of the tasty food trucks.

Hanalei Bay is a great spot to get all your Insta-worthy holiday pictures and buy fun gifts to take home with you. Come and enjoy the sun, surf, and urban feel of the place!

8. Wailua Falls

Wailua Falls© Shutterstock

The Wailua Falls on the east coast of Kauai are breathtaking. Two stunning waterfalls drop side by side of a cliff and into a wide pool below.

The waterfalls are easy to get to, you can drive right up to them and park, but the landscape gives the impression of being in a secluded and remote spot. The thick vegetation and rocky cliffs enhance the waterfall’s beauty and make Wailua Falls a great place to take holiday pictures!

To top it off, there are almost always rainbows rising playfully out of the water! The best time of day to catch a rainbow is in the morning when the sun shines down on the 80-foot waterfalls.

7. Princeville Botanical Gardens

Princeville Botanical Gardens© Shutterstock

This unique botanical garden is hidden away deep in the valleys of Princeville on Kauai’s North Shore. It’s not like anything you will have experienced back home. The usual, pretty flower beds you see at botanical gardens are replaced with jungle-like foliage and there’s a wild feel to the place.

Come explore the island’s native flora and see some of the medicinal and rare plant species that are growing in these mystical gardens. Along the way, keep a lookout for animals and insects.

If nature and plants aren’t enough to lure you in, maybe the chocolate and honey tasting tours are!

6. Poipu Beach Park

Poipu Beach Park© Shutterstock

This tropical, crescent-shaped beach near Poipu is the perfect place to come and chill for the day. Laze around in the sun and read that book you’ve been trying to finish for weeks.

If you’re feeling adventurous head out into the ocean and do some snorkeling, or bring your fishing rod and try to catch dinner! Some days the beach gets a good swell and you can tackle the waves on a surf or bodyboard.

At Poipu Beach you can occasionally spot a Hawaiian monk seal. The species is experiencing declining populations due to hungry sharks, an increasingly hot planet, and a few other factors. There aren’t many spots in Hawaii that are still visited by monk seals; there are just some 1,400 across the island – so keep your eyes peeled!

5. Tunnels Beach

Tunnels Beach© Shutterstock

The Tunnels Beach is known locally as Makua. It’s the tropical beach of your dreams, right here in Kauai. There are long stretches of lush, white sand beaches you can spend the day sunbathing on, as well as lots of fun sports you can do!

It is a popular spot for snorkeling and scuba diving through the reef, that is super close to shore! If you’re lucky you might spot a sea turtle, and you’ll definitely see plenty of tropical fish.

Tunnels Beach is along the North Shore of Kauai and it’s a fantastic place to come on a camping trip. Aside from that you can explore the nearby hiking trails that take you deep into the rocky cliffs around the beach, surf, and investigate remote coastal caves.

4. Take a Helicopter Tour

Take a Helicopter Tour© Shutterstock

Ever wondered what Kauai looks like from above? This fun and easy way to explore the island is a great family outing. Jump on board then let the adrenaline kick in as you soar into the air.

In just a short ride you’ll be able to get a good look at some of Kauai’s best spots, like the Napali coast, dramatic Waipuna waterfalls and Manawaiopuna Falls, and the jaw-dropping Waimea Canyon and Olokele Canyon. If the weather is good you can also fly over Mount Waialeale, one of the wettest places on the planet.

A tour company worth looking into is Blue Hawaiian, they’ve got great reviews and boast the FAA’s Certificate of Excellence, so you can guarantee you’re in safe hands! The company you pick will determine the route you take, so make sure you’re getting a bird’s eye view of your favorite spots.

3. Queen’s Bath

Queen's Bath© Dreamstime

Queen’s Bath is one of the rare places on earth where you can walk along hardened lava to ancient lava pools. The dramatic landscape, where the shore’s volcanic black rock meets the clear blue sea, will leave you in awe.

The rugged cliffs around Queen’s Bath are a prime sunset spot, and the pool itself, a natural tide pool nestled by ancient lava rocks, is spectacular.

But… Queen’s Bath is not very safe. The waves crash onto the shore and have pushed many tourists into the ocean. Sadly, escaping the rough tides and getting back onto the rock is nearly impossible – lots of tourists have died here. The pool is fenced off now, but you can see the pool from above and the views are amazing!

2. Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon© Shutterstock

The Waimea Canyon is a definite must-see on your trip to Kaiau. It wasn’t given the nickname “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” for no reason – it’s vast and spectacular. The canyon is riddled with breath-taking views of lush, green cliffs that lead down to the Pacific Ocean.

One of the best spots for those of you looking to take the best pictures is the Waimea Canyon Lookout. From this high-up vantage point there are sweeping views of the rugged canyon that extends around you in every direction.

The canyon is easy to get to from Poipu, but it’s a fair few hours drive from the North Shore of Kauai. Either way, you should do your best to fit it into your trip!

1. Kalalau Trail

Kalalau Trail© Dreamstime

Along the north shore of Kauai there is a scenic and untamed 11-mile long hike, the Kalalau Trail. You can walk as much or as little of the trail as you like, but put it at the top of your things-to-do in Kauai.

The trail runs along the Napali Coast on the island’s North Shore. The landscape is characterized by cliffs covered in thick, luscious vegetation and a turquoise blue view of the ocean. Follow the red dirt path up and down the steep hills, passing red hibiscus flowers and stopping to awe at the exotic views!

Be warned, the path can get rather steep – hiking poles are highly recommended. Hiking the whole trail (and then back again) is only advisable for experienced hikers, but everyone should walk at least the first mile or two of this one-off trail. Most day hikers do the first 2 miles (and then 2 more back) from Ke’e Beach to Hanakapiai Beach.

Map of Things to Do in Kauai, Hawaii

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