Ever since I was little, my grandparents have owned a timeshare on Kauai and have welcomed me and my family into the indescribable beauty that is the oldest of the Hawaiian islands. Therefore, while I may be biased, Kauai is my preference to rejuvenate my soul and fully sink into the slow livin’ of island life. With this insider Kauai travel guide to the most noteworthy things to do in Kauai, you will never be sitting around wondering what this stunning place has to offer. 

Essential Things To Do In Kauai 

Napali Coast 

hiking in kauai napali coast is the best way to see them all
Hiking is the absolute best way to see the Napali Coast.

My first recommendation for things to do in Kauai is hiking the Napali Coast. My dad and I did this together when I was in middle school, and let me tell you, it was far from easy. The route we took began with the Nu’alolo Trail and linked with the Awa’awapuhi Trail for a total 12 mile loop. The trails don’t begin and end in the same place though, so be mindful of this if you choose to drive here. I would highly recommend parking near the end of the Awa’awapuhi trail and then walking down the almost 2 miles to the start of the Nu’alolo Trail, so that you don’t have to do that at the end of your already exhausting hike. 

If you are brave enough to complete this trek though, you will not be disappointed. This is the absolute best way to see the Napali Coast and it will take you through jungle, forest and chaparral ecosystems, which means despite the typical mild weather in Kauai, this hike will vary greatly in temperature so bring layers with you so you don’t get too hold/ cold and bring lots of sunscreen! For an adventurous and memorable addition to your trip, you definitely need to try hiking in Kauai Napali Coast. 

If however you and your party are not the hiking type, there are other ways to experience the majesty of this stretch of coastline. You can take either a Catamaran or a Zodiac tour around (and sometimes between) the cliffs to get a true up close view of these natural wonders. Along the way it’s not uncommon to catch glimpses of whales and dolphins as well! 

Po‘ipū Beach 

things to see and do in kauai
Perfect place for snorkeling, body surfing, boogie boarding, tanning or having a drink.

Also top of the list of Kauai things to do and see is Po‘ipū Beach. This pristine stretch of land is perfect for snorkeling, body surfing, boogie boarding, tanning or having a drink. This is a favorite beach spot of mine because every time I go I see turtles or seals soaking up the sun on the sand, or pods of dolphins swimming on the horizon. The waters are always crystal clear and so warm. If you go during new years, this is also where they host their annual New Years Eve fireworks show that always dazzles the crowds in attendance. If you are looking for a beach house on Kauai to rent, this is one of the most exclusive places to look.

There are only two houses that are directly on the beach and their views are unmatched, so be sure to check availability far in advance. Make sure to also check out shipwreck beach in Kauai too, as it’s located right next to Po‘ipū and is a spot you don’t want to miss. 

Not far from the shore is Old Kōloa Town Kauai which has some of the best shopping on the island. From local eateries to custom jewelry, local art, and of course, the infamous “crazy shirt” store, this is the perfect place to find a souvenir from your trip while also supporting local businesses. 

Visit The North Shore

weather in kauai is great for water activities
Kauai’s North Shore and is an excellent spot for scuba diving and snorkeling.

Tunnels Beach, often mispronounced Tunnel Beach Kauai, is situated on the Kauai’s North Shore and is an excellent spot for scuba diving and snorkeling. This beach is named for the little caves that formed in its reef from volcanic activity. My family and I always make sure to come to this beach at least once during our stay as its crescent shaped bay creates a serene atmosphere perfect for sun bathing or swimming for hours in its cool waters. 

“Anini Beach Kauai Hawaii” is one of the most searched places for information on things to do in Kauai and it isn’t without good reason. Also located on the North Shore, not far from Tunnels, is popular for its long stretches of white sand and its wind surfing opportunities. This beach is a favorite of mine because the trees come up right to the water’s edge, making this place fit right in with the typical island vibes. If you are looking to camp in Kauai, camping permits are available for the Anini Beach Park, and you can find more information on that here

things to see and do in kauai
My brother drinking coconut water at tunnels beach.

Queen’s Bath in Princeville is the perfect excursion if you are looking for a little more of a thrill. To access these natural pools, you hike 10 minutes through dense jungle, down steep terrain, and over and under roots and rocks. (This is not a hike to bring those who have a difficult time walking). Once you reach the cliff, you walk about 5 minutes across slippery lava rock, so water shoes are recommended to prevent falling. Upon arrival, you will see a large pool of water surrounded by other smaller pools of water where you are allowed to swim. 

Hike through dense jungle, down steep terrain, and over and under roots and rocks for this view from above.
diving and boat tour kauai hi
Me and my family before the dive.

Be very careful here though, as people have died at this spot because of the big swells. Even on days where the surf looks mild, a rogue wave can come and drag you out to sea or smash you against the rocks. Proceed with caution and don’t risk anything for a picture. 

Helicopter Tour 

helicopter tour kauai
Captivating views from above.

Remember the helicopter scene from Jurassic Park? Well, here it is. To experience a waterfall in Kauai, flying over Manawaiopuna Falls is the peak way to do it. Since the waterfall is on private property, a helicopter tour is the only way to be able to experience its beauty up close. 

Getting a birds eye view of Kauai’s landscape is easily one of my favorite excursions to do on the island. The views that you are able to see from up in the air are unmatched. This helicopter tour Kauai advice will help you and your party find the perfect fit so you can have as much fun as I did. 

camp in kauai is great fun
Most thrilling things to do in Kauai is to go on a helicopter tour.

There are many different companies to choose from, and most of them are located in Lihue, where the airport is. We went with Island Helicopters but Air Kauai and Blue Hawaiian Helicopters are also great options as well. 

When we went, we started off our day by eating at Dukes (which I talk more about in my Oahu article) and then headed to the helicopter base where we were briefed and then given headphones and microphones so we could hear the pilot describe all the sights to us and we could talk to each other during the flight. I recommend bringing a windbreaker or light jacket with you as it can get a little chilly in the air. Some companies even fly without the doors on, in which case you will definitely want to bring some layers. This will perhaps be one of the most thrilling things to do in Kauai, and it’s worth every second. 

Rum Tasting 

For those that are of age, this free rum tasting on the Kilohana Plantation in Lihue is an essential stop. They don’t take reservations, so you need to make sure to drop by during their operating hours and sign you and your party up. If you’re able to get on the list, you will be taken into their quaint tasting room where the guide will walk you through five different types of rum that they distill on site. 

This is a unique and interactive way to learn about the history of rum distillation on Kauai, while expanding your palate. Afterwards, you are able to go to their gift shop and buy bottles of your favorite flavors. To me, their chocolate and coffee flavored rums were the biggest hit. 

Spouting Horn 

This blowhole on the southern side of the island spews water into the air from the crashing waves and changes the formation of the lava rocks it emerges from. The Spouting Horn Flea Market nearby is also great to buy anything from jewelry to toys to pieces of art. Driving here is easy or you can choose to walk along the golf course for prolonged views. This is the perfect lazy day activity as it’s simple, not strenuous, and easy for the whole family to enjoy. 

Where To Eat

Kalapaki Joe’s 

Just steps from the beach in Po‘ipū sits this quiet unassuming bar and grill that has the best happy hour specials on the island. When my family and I visited Kauai earlier this year, we came here three times in a week. In addition to their vast assortment of popular dishes like their Nobu Poke Nachos and of course their Original Ahi Tacos, (my personal choice), they have some of the best drinks in Kauai. Whether you have a sweet tooth or a little more balanced palette, there is something that will grab your attention. I prefer spicier drinks, so I typically go with the mango margarita with a chili rim. A large hit with my family though is their mai tais, or any one of their 50 different beers they offer! 

Da Crack Mexican Grinds

Tucked away so well you would miss it if you didn’t already know about it, lies a joint with some of the most satiating tacos you’ll find. Located in Po‘ipū and always seen with a line wrapped around the building, Da Crack Mexican Grinds offers all of your favorite Mexican dishes from burritos to bowls to tacos, served with your choice of meat, fish or veggies. Their easy to follow menu and simple but purposeful ingredients make for a very pleasant experience each time you go. I can’t resist fish tacos when I’m at the beach so that is my go – to dish, however my family has tried almost everything on the menu and we have yet to be disappointed– so you really can’t go wrong. For foodies, this is one of the most epic things to do in Kauai. 

Oasis On The Beach 

what to do in kauai
Kauai on a bright and sunny day.

My parents discovered this restaurant when they visited the island with some friends, and they loved it so much they made sure we all went together on our most recent trip. It’s a little difficult to find, since it’s positioned on the Waipouli Beach Resort, but you don’t need to be a guest to dine. You definitely should make reservations though as it’s a popular spot and walk-ins aren’t guaranteed a table. 

Now, I’m only going to say this once, but you have to order the Mauka Burger. I know what you may be thinking– why would I order something as commonplace as a burger at a stunning upper scale restaurant on the beach? Okay. I thought the same thing. But this isn’t just any ordinary burger. This beautiful surprise is served with seasonal cheese (we had goat– it was to die for), bacon jam, crispy onions, greens, and zesty mustard. Each bite you take brings about a new burst of flavor that will have you licking your fingers at the end and ordering another for dessert. 

Why These Are The Best Things To See And Do In Kauai

 beach house on kauai
I have spent numerous summers and winters here on this picturesque Kauai.

Like I mentioned at the beginning, I have spent numerous summers and winters here on this picturesque island paradise and I cannot say enough about its charm and good vibes. Kauai is unique in that the buildings on the island cannot be taller than 4 stories, so there are no skyscrapers there. Since it’s the oldest island within the Hawaiian Island Chain, its natural beauty exceeds those of the rest and grips its onlookers with unbridled awe. I hope you use this list of the most memorable things to do in Kauai on your next visit so you never have to wonder what to do in Kauai. 


Is Kauai the Prettiest Island?

In my opinion, yes. Its age combined with the large amounts of annual rainfall the island receives has created a rainforest over almost all of the island. Even on the roads, plants sprout up from the cement in an attempt to reclaim their land. It all depends on your preference though, as the Big Island of Hawaii is the youngest and therefore has the most volcanic activity and lava rock. So if that is something you consider to be more beautiful than sprawling jungle, then that may be the place for you instead.

What Side of Kauai is the Best to Stay On?

I’ve stayed on both the South Shore and North Shore and both have their perks. North Shore is definitely quieter and more lush, however it does receive more rainfall which can impede on fun beach days. The South Shore has more shops and businesses to explore as well as more open landscape. You truly can’t go wrong with whatever you decide.

Are the Beaches in Kauai Free?

There are a couple of beaches that are a part of state parks and so those require a small entrance fee, but for the most part, all of the essential noteworthy beaches are public access and they are perfect for snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming, surfing or just lounging around so be sure to take full advantage of the possibilities offered.


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