Planning a vacation to the island of Kauai in 2021? Well you’re in for the trip of a lifetime!
To make the planning process easier for you, we’ve detailed the 32 best things to do in Kauai including directions, important details, and secret tips.
Table of Contents
What Is Kauai Known For?
32 Best Things To Do In Kauai 2021
Best Things To Do In Kauai With Kids
Off -The-Beaten-Path Things To Do In Kauai
Where To Stay In Kauai
Where To Stay In Kauai On A Budget
How To Get Around Kauai During Your Trip
How To Travel Between Hawaiian Islands
Tips For Traveling To Kauai
How Long Should I Stay In Kauai?
What To Pack For Kauai
The Wrap-Up: Things To Do In Kauai 2021
What Is Kauai Known For?
Kauai is one of Hawaii’s eight main islands. It is known as the Garden State thanks to its lush landscape and diverse flora. The island spans 552 square miles and is just 1/7th of the size of Hawaii’s Big Island.
But, the size of Kauai isn’t what sets this island apart from the others.
Thanks to its world famous Nā Pali Coast, beautiful beaches, and endless waterfalls, Kauai is touted as the most beautiful Hawaiian Island.
And with competition like Maui, Oahu, and the Big Island, that’s saying a LOT!
Kauai is the perfect mix of tranquility and adventure, so whether you want to spend your vacation hiking epic trails or just lounging on the beach, you’ll find it on this island.
32 Best Things To Do In Kauai 2021
As one of the smaller Hawaiian islands, it could be assumed that there are limited activities for tourists. But surprisingly, Kauai is filled with exciting things to do.
To make planning your holiday easier, here are the 32 best things to do on the island of Kauai:
1. Tour The Nā Pali Coast By Boat
As mentioned above, Kauai’s Na Pali Coast is incredibly famous, boasting some of the most beautiful scenery in the entire world.
There are many ways to explore the Na Pali Coast, but above all, the best way to see this craggy coast is by boat.
With plenty of sailing companies to choose from, you won’t need to worry about securing your spot on a Na Pali Coast cruise. They run periodically throughout the day and each company offers something different.
While you can take a boat tour to the Na Pali Coast for lunch and snorkeling, you can also opt to sail the seas in the evening for a sunset dinner cruise.
Before you select a tour company, we recommend checking out the Na Pali Sunset & Sightsee Dinner Cruise.
This is the boat tour we took during our time in Kauai and we thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. Although we didn’t see any sea life, the dinner and the views were beyond belief.
Note: If you are prone to seasickness, be sure to take some Dramamine before the boat takes off. Many passengers tend to get sick, but the captains are great about keeping it on the down-low as to not spoil anyone else’s time.
You should also know that you will likely get very wet during your boat ride, so wear clothes that you don’t mind getting soaked.
2. Hike Kalepa Ridge
Speaking of the Na Pali Coast, another one of the best ways to see the coast and one of the most exciting things to do in Kauai is hike the Kalepa Ridge Trail.
Starting at the Kalalau Lookout, you’ll descend down into the valley for an up-close view of the jagged cliffs that make up the Na Pali Coast.
Kalepa Ridge Trail Description
Kalepa Ridge is a fairly short hike, but it isn’t for the faint of heart. On the trail’s edge, you’ll find a thousand foot drop to the valley floor below.
Not to mention, the path that leads down to this viewpoint is steep, muddy, and exposed. If you aren’t one for heights or you’re not quick on your feet, you might want to choose another hike in the area and enjoy the views from the Kalalau Lookout above.
In total, this hike is approximately two miles. We recommend wearing proper shoes (sandals would be a really bad idea for this trek) and packing some water.
Note: The Kalepa Ridge Trail is periodically closed. Coming from someone who has done this hike and thousands of other hikes around the world, I highly suggest following the rules.
I’ve seen how dangerous this trek can be and in the end, it isn’t worth your life.
3. Swim In Queen’s Bath
As one of the most popular things to do in Kauai, you won’t want to miss out on Queen’s Bath.
Queen’s Bath is a distinguishable tide pool located near Princeville on Kauai’s North Shore. It is the perfect cove for a dip in the ocean or to see the waves crash into the coastal barrier.
One thing you must be aware of before visiting Queen’s Bath is that it is NOT for inexperienced swimmers. Thanks to rough ocean and frequent undertows, this swimming hole can become dangerous within seconds.
Before diving in, be sure to assess ocean conditions. If the waves look harsh or the water looks choppy, I would choose to come back a different day.
Not only can the swimming in Queen’s Bath be dangerous, but the trek out to this location can also be a very difficult feat. Although it’s a short trek out, prepare for slick and steep conditions.
To prepare for the sketchy walk down to Queen’s Bath, I recommend wearing proper shoes. Sandals are NOT a good idea.
Note: As one of the most popular things to do in Kauai, you’ll want to arrive early in the morning to avoid crowds.
4. Visit Hanalei Bay
When I think of paradise, I always think of Hanalei Bay. This Hawaiian neighborhood is so unique and enjoyable with plenty of shops, restaurants, hiking trails, waterfalls, and beaches.
What more could someone on holiday want?
While Hanalei Bay is located about an hour north of the airport in Lihue, it is definitely worth the drive. Here are a few things you should do when visiting Hanalei Bay:
This laidback beach is surrounded by Hawaiian mountains that are sprinkled with waterfalls.
It is the perfect place to take a dip after a long day of adventuring. If you aren’t thrilled about swimming in the ocean, watch the surfers catch some waves from the beach.
Don’t forget to take a stroll over to Hanalei’s pier and admire the sweeping views from a different perspective.
Cool off from the Hawaiian humidity with a chocolate milkshake from Pinks Creamery located just steps from the beach. You’ll find that Pinks has some of the richest ice cream in the world, meaning that finding better ice cream on the island is next to impossible.
And if you’re hungry for more than ice cream, grab their famous grilled cheese “Original”. You’ll thank me later!
Hanalei River Kayak
Rent a kayak from the local shop and cruise down the Hanalei River in search of unspoiled views and tranquility.
This river trip is relatively easy and short in comparison to other kayaking routes. That means that anyone in decent physical condition can explore this side of Kauai.
5. Go To A Coffee Plantation
The state of Hawaii is well-known for its tropical climate, mountainous terrain, and.. COFFEE!
If you’re a coffee lover then you’ve come to the right place. Even if you don’t indulge in daily cups of coffee, you’ll love seeing how coffee is made from start to finish.
The people at Kauai Coffee Company are so passionate about coffee that it seems like a form of art. Walk through the coffee plantation to see how the plants grow and how they are harvested.
Next, you’ll get to see how these tiny coffee beans are processed and turned into a rich caffeinated drink.
This process is extremely fascinating and not only that, but Kauai Coffee Company offers each of their guests as much free coffee as they’d like.
Kauai Coffee Company Location
Find Kauai Coffee Company by using the map below. And for a full day of fun tours, check out the Kauai Chocolate Company after you’re finished; it’s right down the road.
7. Sip On A Cocktail On The Lanai
Vacations are for relaxation and what’s more relaxing than sipping on an ice cold piña colada on the patio of your hotel room or Airbnb?
If your accommodations don’t have spectacular lanais that look out onto the ocean, I highly recommend grabbing a drink at a fun beach bar.
Here are a few of our favorite beach bars:
Happy Talk Lounge
Enjoy happy hour at the Happy Talk Lounge located in Princeville. This is an ideal spot to watch the sunset from their patio and unwind after a day of adventuring.
If you’re looking for an ocean front view, live music, and tasty island drinks, Mamahune’s should be at the top of your list. You’ll find this fun tiki bar in Kapa’a, about 15 minutes north of the airport in Lihue.
Hanging out in the Poipu area? Then Honu Bar is the top choice for cocktails with a view. They also offer simple food in case you get hungry after all of that swimming and surfing.
8. Walk Along The Beaches In Princeville
There are plenty of beautiful beaches on Kauai, but taking a stroll along the beaches in Princeville is one of the best things to do on this island.
Since Princeville is situated on the coast, there are several different beaches you can explore. Here are our two favorites:
Tucked away out of sight is Hideaway Beach, a “secret” beach that most tourists don’t bother to visit.
Due to its seclusion, you’ll need to hike down a steep hillside in order to reach it. There are ropes to help you descend, but we don’t recommend visiting this beach if you aren’t in decent physical condition.
You can find Hideaway Beach using this Google Maps link. Park in the designated parking lot and begin your hike next to the white building.
If we’re talking about Princeville beaches, we can’t forget Wyllie’s Beach. This is another secluded hidden gem on the island of Kauai.
This beach will also require a bit of a hike, but that’s what makes it so peaceful. Wear athletic shoes on the short but steep hike down to the coastline.
You can find Wyllie’s Beach using this Google Maps link.
9. Swim Under Hanakapiai Falls
One of our favorite adventures and one of the most unique things to do on the island of Kauai is visit Hanakapiai Falls.
Now to be clear, Hanakapiai Falls isn’t your ordinary waterfall. At nearly 300 feet high, this waterfall is only accessible via a 4-mile strenuous hike.
But the best part? You can totally swim in the pool below. Cool off in the waterfall after an intense trek to this desolate area. This is an experience you won’t want to pass up.
As you prepare for Hanakapiai Falls, be sure to wear athletic shoes. Shoes with good grip are best since the trail can be slippery.
Also note that you’ll need to cross a few streams to get here. If you aren’t keen on steep hikes or river crossings, you might try a different waterfall.
And don’t forget to bring enough water! Thanks to Kauai’s humidity, you don’t want to be without water for too long.
Hanakapiai Falls Location
To get to Hanakapiai Falls, you must begin your hike on the Kalalau Trail. You’ll hike two miles to the beach before finding the official trail that will take you to the waterfall.
Note: The trail is 8 miles in total. Start early because this will likely take up most of your day.
10. Discover Inland Kauai On A 4-Wheeler
While most Kauai-goers spend their time on the coast (Na Pali or beaches), you should definitely consider heading inland as it is one of the best things to do on the island.
Find out what is hidden in Kauai’s unspoiled interior by signing up for the highly-rated Kauai Ultimate Off-Road Ranch Tour.
On this tour, you’ll jump into a four wheeler and make your way through muddy and wet land to find rivers, hidden waterfalls, and some of the most beautiful scenery on the entire island.
Oh, and if you’re a fan of Jurassic Park, you can’t miss out on this activity. This tour will bring you to some of the most iconic filming areas for the movie.
Since most tourists spend their time elsewhere, this is the perfect opportunity to get away from the crowds and see what Kauai really has to offer.
11. Trek The Kalalau Trail
Sure, you can get up close and personal with the Na Pali Coast by trekking down the Kalepa Ridge Trail, but you’ll only get to experience one valley during that hike.
To fully experience the Na Pali Coast, I strongly suggest adding the Kalalau Trail to your itinerary as it is one of the most spectacular things to do in Kauai.
Kalalau Trail Description
Now before you set off on this hike, there are a few things you should know.
✅ This is a 22-mile hike and we only recommend this for avid hikers with plenty of experience.
✅ You will need reservations if you plan to camp at Kalalau Beach (the turnaround point). You can make reservations on the Ha’ena State Park website.
✅ This hike has many exposed sections. If you are afraid of heights or you aren’t confident about your hiking skills, I don’t recommend this trek.
Overall, this is a very rewarding hike to a very remote location on the island of Kauai. If you’ve got the guts and the endurance to do this, don’t hesitate.
You’ll begin your Kalalau trek on the North Shore. You can find the trailhead by using this Google Maps link.
12. Explore Waimea Canyon
You can’t go to Kauai without visiting the memorable Waimea Canyon. This state park encompasses 10 miles of canyon, plenty of hiking trails, and awe-inspiring views.
Although most tourists come to see the views and leave without further exploration, we strongly encourage you to spend some time seeing everything that Waimea Canyon has to offer.
Here are a few ways to see it all:
Our favorite trail in Waimea Canyon State Park is the Kukui Trail. This is a 5-mile hike that leads you down to the bottom of the canyon.
If 5 miles seems like a lot to you, don’t worry! You don’t have to complete the entire thing to be rewarded. Even just hiking in one mile will deliver incredible views from a completely different perspective.
Take A Scenic Drive
Waimea Canyon is often referred to as the Grand Canyon of Hawaii.. and for good reason!
Due to its sheer size, you may want to spend a few hours driving around the state park to find the best views of the canyon and Waipo’o Falls.
Don’t forget to stop at all of the lookout points to capture this beautiful scenery on film.
Waipo’o Falls Trail
And of course, we couldn’t forget the most well-known hiking trail in the canyon: Waipo’o Falls Trail.
This is a short but relatively steep hike that can turn muddy due to traffic and weather. Wear comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty.
Before you start this hike, keep in mind that the views won’t be astonishing until the very end, so don’t give up!
Note: Complete the Waipo’o Falls Trail early in the morning to avoid the throngs of people.
13. Lounge On Tunnels Beach
As one of the best things to do in Kauai, it’s no wonder that Tunnels Beach is typically packed with people.
But don’t let that scare you away from enjoying this pristine coastline that is perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing.
As one of the largest beaches on Kauai, there is plenty of room to spread out and enjoy your little section of the beach without being bothered by others.
Or, simply arrive to Tunnels Beach early in the morning to secure a parking spot and to have the beach all to yourself.
One of the best things about this beach is that the marine life is flourishing. Spot tropical fish and seals right below you as you snorkel your way around the reef.
Missing out on Tunnels Beach would be a huge letdown to your whole trip, so add this to your itinerary now.
You can find Tunnels Beach by using this Google Maps link.
Note: Always check the road conditions before going to Tunnels Beach. It can periodically be closed due to poor weather.
14. Eat Traditional Hawaiian Food
As travelers, one of our favorite things to do while traveling is to try local cuisine. Although Kauai is part of the United States, their specialties vary greatly from typical American food.
Spend an entire day trying different Hawaiian foods at local cafes, food trucks, and tiki bars. Here are a few must-try foods on Kauai:
One of the best foods to try on the island of Kauai is poke. You’ve likely heard of poke before since it’s making its way to mainland USA, but you’ve likely never tried poke Hawaiian style.
Inside a poke bowl, you’ll have cut up raw fish, rice, and any toppings of your choice. We especially enjoyed raw ahi, pickled radishes, and carrots. We also chose to top ours with spicy sauce and sesame seeds.
For the best poke on the island of Kauai, head to the Kauai Poke Co. Food Truck in Lawai. Use this Google Maps link to find the exact location.
For a sweet treat after a hefty and sweaty hike, grab a cup of shave ice (psst! Calling it “shaved ice” will attract stares of disapproval).
Think of shave ice as an epic snow cone that contains flavored ice, ice cream (most of the time), condensed milk, and toppings of your choice.
For the best places to try shave ice, make sure to add Wailua Shave Ice (Kapa’a) and Jojo’s Shave Ice (Hanalei) to your itinerary.
Wailua Shave Ice is unique because they use fresh juice in their recipes. In particular, I recommend ordering the Almond Joy or the Pineapple Strawberry.
Jojo’s Shave Ice is known for their delicious ice cream and condensed milk at the center of the cup. If you’re looking for the best item on the menu, don’t pass up the Berry Berry shave ice.
Here’s a popular Hawaiian dish that most tourists have never heard of before: Loco Moco.
Loco Moco is a layered dish containing rice, hamburger, gravy, and a fried egg on top. If this sounds weird, it is, but it is oh so good.
To find the best loco moco on the island of Kauai, go to Mark’s Place in Lihue.
This cafe is located near the airport, so we recommend going here once you arrive on the island. Keep in mind, this local spot is only open on weekdays, so take that into consideration.
And if loco moco doesn’t sound appetizing, order the famous Hawaiian plate because it includes another Hawaiian delicacy, Kalua pig.
15. Visit The Kilauea Lighthouse
One of the most popular things to do in Kauai is visit the Kilauea Lighthouse on the North Shore of the island.
Whether you take a guided tour of the lighthouse and the surrounding area or you simply go for the views, the Kilauea Lighthouse is a great way to spend half a day during your trip.
Note: There is an entrance fee for the Kilauea Lighthouse. Tickets cost $10 per person or you can use your national parks pass for free entry.
If you want to stay on a budget, you can still get a decent view of the lighthouse from further down the coast. Reach the Kilauea Lighthouse using this Google Maps link.
16. Jump Off A Cliff
There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as jumping off a cliff in a paradise destination. Luckily, Kauai has several locations to do just that!
Two of the best places to experience this adrenaline rush are Queen’s Bath and Shipwreck’s Beach.
Cliff jumping spots are obvious upon arrival at Queen’s Bath. And since this is such a popular tourist location, you will likely find other people jumping into the cove before you.
Take note of where they are jumping to make sure you’re not putting yourself at risk.
Unlike Queen’s Bath, the popular jumping spots at Shipwreck’s Beach aren’t AS obvious. But it is still relatively easy to locate.
The picture above shows the location of the cliff jumping spot at Shipwreck’s Beach. It will be to the left of the beach when you arrive.
Note: Cliff jumping is only for strong swimmers. In addition, always pay attention to the tide and the condition of the ocean before deciding to take the leap.
17. Go Deep Into A Kauai Cave
Waterfalls, beaches, mountain trails, and.. caves?
Yes! Kauai has plenty of amazing caves to explore during your vacation and it’s one of the most exciting things to do on the island.
With various caves to discover, both popular and hidden gems, here is a list of must-see caves in Kauai:
Let’s start on the South Shore with Makauwahi Cave.
This is an easy-to-find cave near Shipwreck’s Beach. It’s a short and relatively easy walk from the parking lot, so it’s perfect for families with children, too!
To enter the cave, you’ll need to crouch down. Once you get inside, you’ll be able to explore with or without a tour guide.
In addition to the cave, be sure to visit the nearby tortoises; ask the locals for directions but they are hard to miss.
To find the Makauwahi Cave, use this Google Maps link.
Maniniholo Dry Cave
On the opposite end of the island, you’ll find Maniniholo Dry Cave. Located near Ha’ena State Park, this is a great place to add to your itinerary if you are in the area.
Maniniholo Dry Cave extends deep into the earth, so be sure to bring a flashlight if you plan on exploring it beyond the entrance.
To find Maniniholo Dry Cave, use this Google Maps link.
Na Pali Sea Caves
And now for the most unbelievable caves on the island of Kauai. Dotted along the shores of the Na Pali Coast are sea caves formed by the ocean over millions of years.
If you get the opportunity, I highly suggest hiring a boat or taking a tour along the Na Pali Coast to explore these sea caves.
Although you won’t be able to swim in these sea caves, they are some of the most secluded and scenic spots on the island.
A few of these sea caves include the Waikanaloa Cave and the iconic Open Ceiling Cave. You can find them on the map by using this Google Maps link.
Important: One of the most popular caves on the island of Kauai is the Blue Room Cave. Unfortunately, this cave is closed to the public indefinitely. You won’t be able to go inside even if you navigate to the location.
18. Watch For Whales
You may have done some awesome things in your life, but nothing is quite as sweet as seeing whales breaching next to your boat.
From November to March, humpback whales frequent the waters surrounding Hawaii. If your trip falls in between these months, don’t hesitate to book a whale watching tour.
We recommend the Whale Watch Tour by Sea Rider Adventures.
This tour group will get you as close to the humpback whales as possible while still being respectful of their space.
They also have a very high success rate of spotting these majestic creatures thanks to their experience and expertise.
Even though Kauai might not be the most epic dive location in the world, it is still worth exploring under the sea. And if you have your PADI, you know that diving is one of the best things to do in any destination, including Kauai.
With many companies to choose from on the island, we wanted to help make the decision easier for you. Check out Kauai’s Ultimate South Shore 2-Tank Dive with Kauai Down Under Dive Team.
No matter which guide you are paired with, you are guaranteed to have a fabulous time. And if sea turtles are on your mind, this company will deliver.
Note: For a 2-tank dive, expect to pay approximately $180 per person.
20. Check Out Wailua Falls
Sure, we mentioned Hanakapiai Falls and how you’re able to swim in the pool below. But getting to Hanakapiai Falls requires a lot of work.
Luckily, there’s a waterfall that is much easier to get to and requires just 5% of the work: Wailua Falls.
Wailua Falls is located just 15 minutes from Lihue and you can drive directly up to the waterfall. This makes it extremely accessible for all travelers.
Once you reach the parking lot, hike down toward the falls for a better view. You can swim in the plunge pool or get some awesome snapshots from behind the waterfall.
Note: For an even more spectacular view of Wailua Falls, consider taking a helicopter tour of the island’s best waterfalls.
21. Day Trip To Another Hawaiian Island
Okay, so I must confess.. this idea isn’t technically on the island of Kauai, but it is well-worth looking into if you are spending a lot of time here.
Day tripping to another island via a puddle-jumper is an awesome excursion and will allow you to tour the other nearby islands. The cool part about Hawaii is that each island is unique and offers different scenery and activities.
To take a day trip to another island from Kauai, you’ll want to book a round trip flight from Lihue on one of these airlines:
✅. Hawaiian Airlines
✅ Mokulele Airlines
Roundtrip flights typically range in price from $25 to $200 depending on your destination. If you’re unsure which island to visit, here’s a quick rundown of what you can expect on the other main Hawaiian Islands:
We tend to think of Oahu as an island version of Los Angeles. Here, you’ll find fancy resorts, skyscrapers, and beaches. Of course, Oahu has a lot more to offer than the big city of Honolulu, but that is where most tourists tend to flock.
If you plan on visiting Oahu, we recommend getting off-the-beaten-path as much as possible. With so many incredible hiking trails, it would be a shame to spend all of your time on crowded Waikiki Beach.
The Big Island (Hawaii)
The Big Island offers the best of both worlds. If you want luxury resorts, you can find them in Kona. And if you’re looking for outdoor adventures, check out Mauna Kea, Volcanoes National Park, or Waipi’o Valley.
Most travelers skip the Big Island, but that would be a shame. The Big Island has many hidden gems and unspoiled locations to explore.
And of course, we can’t forget to mention Maui.
Maui is known for its laidback vibes, impressive beaches, and Haleakalā National Park. Spend your time relaxing in the sand during sunset or driving the Hana Highway.
You really can’t go wrong with a day trip to this tranquil island.
22. Helicopter Tour Over Kauai
On the island of Kauai, you can see the breathtaking landscape from many points of view: on a boat in the ocean, on a remote hiking trail, and even on a helicopter.
I’m sure you’ve heard before but taking a helicopter tour of Kauai is a must-do since it’s one of the best ways to see island.
Float over the Na Pali Coast, the Waimea Canyon, and all of the hidden waterfalls sprinkled throughout the rugged cliffs.
While other helicopter companies insist that their tours are the best, I’m here to tell you that you can’t go wrong with Kauai ECO Adventure Helicopter Tour.
23. See The Spouting Horn Blowhole
One of our favorite things to do on the island of Kauai is see the ocean waves blast into the coast and create the most epic blowhole.
The Spouting Horn Blowhole is a must-see when visiting Kauai and it’s completely free.
Arrive early to escape the crowds; this will allow for you to hear the power of the Spouting Horn without people chatting. It will make it a much more peaceful experience.
Note: Since this is a quick activity, we recommend planning other excursions on the South Shore for when you are finished at the Spouting Horn.
To get to the Spouting Horn, use this Google Maps link.
24. Enjoy The Beaches In Poipu
Speaking of the South Shore, why not visit the beaches of Poipu while you’re down there?
Take a stroll along the coastline or sit on a lounge chair and watch the sunset over the ocean. With a cocktail or fresh Hawaiian juice in hand, what else could you want?
And since Poipu is one of the best places on the island for sunsets, this destination is a must.
Poipu also boasts some of the most exquisite beaches on Kauai and it’s central to many other fun activities. Spend a day soaring through the trees at the Koloa Zipline or walk the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail.
Best Things To Do In Kauai With Kids
Planning a trip to Kauai for the entire family? As it turns out, many of the activities we listed above can be difficult to accomplish with small children.
To make trip planning easier for you, here are a few excursions and activities you’ll want to add to your Kauai family trip itinerary:
25. See And Swim With Sea Turtles
Prior to visiting Kauai, I had never seen a sea turtle in the wild before. And of course, after watching Finding Nemo, it was a dream of mine to swim with them.
Luckily, spotting sea turtles in Kauai is extremely common, so chalk this up as one of the most popular things to do on the island.
With tons of beaches and swimming holes, it might be difficult to pick out the best locations to spot these magical creatures. Here are the three best places to see (and possibly swim with) sea turtles:
Not only is Brennecke’s Beach special for its aquamarine glow, but it is the perfect place to spot sea turtles.
During our extended stay in Kauai, we had no issue finding sea turtles at Brennecke’s Beach. You can find Brennecke’s Beach using this Google Maps link.
The South Shore of Kauai isn’t the only place to spot sea turtles; the North Shore has their fair share of turtles, too.
Tunnels Beach is typically known for its coral reef and snorkeling opportunities so it’s no wonder that sea turtles love to hangout here. Find Tunnels Beach using this Google Maps link.
Back to the South Shore, Poipu Beach is a popular location to see sea turtles as well.
This is where we chose to go snorkeling and we were able to see and swim with plenty of sea turtles. To find Poipu Beach, use this Google Maps link.
26. Surf The Swells At Kalapaki Beach
If you’re traveling to Kauai with children, one of the most exciting things you can do is sign them up for surf lessons.
I remember as a child, my dream was to become a surfer just like Kelly Slater. But unfortunately, I never got the chance to hone my skills.
That doesn’t have to be the case for your kids and Kauai is an excellent place to give it a go.
In particular, Kalapaki Beach is a great place to start. Thanks to its (typically) small waves, the kids can learn without the pressure of getting wiped out by massive swells.
Whether you’d like to just rent equipment or have your children learn with a teacher, I highly recommend Hanalei Surf School.
27. Catch Dinner While Deep Sea Fishing
Round up the kids so they can help catch dinner for the family!
Deep sea fishing is one of those excursions where the memories will last a lifetime and Kauai is the perfect place to do it.
In order to go deep sea fishing, you’ll need to book a private boat with an experienced captain. And the truth is, some companies are much more experienced than others.
Let’s just say that we’ve booked deep sea fishing excursions with companies that just didn’t deliver.
So, in order to get your money’s worth, we recommend booking with Hunt Fish Kauai. They are an extremely reputable company that prides themselves on being patient and knowledgable.
Note: For an extremely unique experience on Kauai, consider a hog hunting trip with this company as well.
On this tropical island surrounded by immaculate ocean, snorkeling is a favorite pastime for locals and visitors alike.
Whether you’re hoping to spot sea turtles or the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa (also known as triggerfish), you won’t miss out while snorkeling in Kauai.
There are plenty of places to explore under the sea but you can start with Tunnels Beach, Poipu Beach, and Anini Beach. All three of these locations offer a unique snorkeling experience.
But, if you aren’t keen on snorkeling by yourself, join a snorkeling tour.
There are plenty on the island but we strongly suggest Kauai’s Ultimate South Island Zodiac Boat Snorkel Adventure by Z Tourz.
This is the company we went with when we snorkeled in Poipu and we were blown away by the sea life and knowledge of our guide.
Note: Snorkeling tours cost between $70 to over $150 depending on the company you choose. If you decide to go with another company besides Z Tourz, be sure that they have positive customer reviews.
Off -The-Beaten-Path Things To Do In Kauai
On an island as popular as the Garden Island, it can be difficult to find places that aren’t swamped with people.
To help you get off-the-beaten-path, here are a few activities to add to your itinerary:
29. Gawk At The Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees
One of my favorite things to do in Kauai was visit the rainbow eucalyptus trees. Up close, these unique trees shine green, orange, and red; a fascinating work of art.
In Kauai, there are many places where you can see these rainbow eucalyptus trees. Here are two places you can find these trees:
You can find the Keāhua Arboretum approximately 20 minutes west of Kapa’a. This is a hidden gem location in Kauai and shouldn’t be missed during your visit.
Princeville Golf Course Entrance
While driving by the Princeville Golf Course, we noticed that there were many rainbow eucalyptus trees lining the streets. If you’re in the area, keep an eye out for them!
30. Nualolo Trail
If you’re up for a challenge and you want to get off-the-beaten path on the island of Kauai, I highly recommend adding the Nualolo Trail to your hiking to-do list.
While most adventurers set their eyes on the Kalepa Ridge Trail for fantastic views of the Nā Pali Coast, most don’t know that you can get equally as stunning views with half the foot traffic.
Nualolo Trail stretches for 7.5 miles through the cliffs of the west side of Kauai.
If you add the Nualolo Trail to your itinerary, I highly recommend wearing non-slip shoes (hiking shoes are best) since you’ll be covering muddy terrain for the majority of your trek.
I also suggest packing at least 2 liters of water for this hike. The first part of this hike descends toward the sea cliffs, but the walk back out is uphill, so save enough water to last you until the end.
Nualolo Trailhead Location
Finding trailheads can be difficult, especially for someone who isn’t familiar with the area. Use the map below to find exactly where the Nualolo Trail begins.
31. Chocolate Farm Tour
Did someone say… chocolate?
Oh yeah! One of the coolest and most unique things to do on the island of Kauai is to visit the Lydgate Kauai Chocolate Farm.
Here, you’ll get to see exactly how chocolate is made starting at the cacao fruit all the way to packaging. You’ll also learn all about the specific facilities and tools needed in order to produce high-quality chocolate.
My favorite part of the entire tour was being able to taste the chocolate at different stages and levels of purity.
Find the type of chocolate that appeases your appetite the most and purchase some to take home with you.
Lydgate Chocolate Farm is located near Wailua, approximately 25 minutes from Lihue. To make it easier to find, use this Google Maps link.
32. Camp On Polihale State Park
For another unique experience on Kauai (and a great way to save money), consider camping on the secluded beach in Polihale State Park.
As one of the most beautiful beaches on the island, being able to stay overnight and experience the cove when no one else around is unlike anything you could imagine.
Picture camping on a remote beach with lush rugged peaks that looks like they are straight out of the movie Jurassic Park.. Nothing is quite as sweet.
To make camping reservations, check out the Polihale State Park website for more details.
Note: To get to Polihale State Park, you’ll need to have a 4WD vehicle and have experience driving on rough terrain. If you aren’t comfortable driving on the beach, we recommend parking and hiking out.
Where To Stay In Kauai
As a small island, Kauai has many different neighborhoods and areas to stay that are ideal for tourists. Here are the three best locations to stay during your vacation:
Our favorite location on Kauai is Princeville. Princeville is an upscale coastal town approximately 50 minutes from the main airport in Lihue.
Princeville is located on the North Shore of the island, which is well-known for waterfalls, hidden beaches, state parks, and lush cliffs. Although it is quite far from Waimea Canyon and the South Shore of the island, you’re in the perfect location for adventure.
If you decide to stay in Princeville, we recommend checking out The Cliffs at Princeville. This resort includes cliffside views, immaculate pools, and it’s less than 2 kilometers from the Princeville Golf Course.
Keep in mind, you will pay top-tier prices if you want to stay at a resort or hotel on the North Shore.
Hanalei is a magical bay located on the North Shore of Kauai. Being able to stay here during your vacation is like a dream come true.
Out your backdoor, you’ll have the most gorgeous view of the bay and surrounding cliffs. Not to mention quick access to Tunnels Beach, Ka’ena State Park, and plenty of hiking trails.
If Hanalei sounds like your cup of tea, the place we recommend is called Hanalei Bay Resort. Personally, I like Hanalei Bay Resort for its breathtaking lanais and swim-up bar.
Maybe you want quicker access to activities on the east side of the island. If that’s the case, Poipu might be your answer.
Primarily known for its pristine beaches, Poipu offers plenty of luxury resorts and mid-range hotels. You’ll also get the best sunset view from your villa or hotel room window.
If you want to splurge during your Kauai vacation, we recommend the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa. Picture the most luxurious facilities and top-notch amenities; that’s what you will get at this resort.
But if $600+ per night seems a bit steep (don’t worry, it is for us too), check out the Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club. You’ll still pay several hundreds of dollars per night, but not nearly as much as the Grand Hyatt.
Where To Stay In Kauai On A Budget
I want to make one thing very clear in this blog post… in no way is Kauai budget-friendly. Everywhere you go, you can expect to pay top-dollar for food, transportation, and activities.
And of course, accommodations in Kauai are some of the most expensive in the entire United States.
So, even though this section is labeled “where to stay in Kauai on a budget,” the prices you’ll find in the following locations are probably not what you would expect.
But, if you’re curious where the cheapest places in Kauai to stay are, here’s your answer:
Kapa’a is located on the east side of the island just 20 minutes from the Lihue airport.
With access to plenty of beaches and thanks to its central location, Kapa’a can be a great place to stay, especially if you want to stick to a budget.
The cheapest accommodation options I have found are in Kapa’a. On Airbnb, I’ve found private rooms starting at just $50 per night (depending on availability and the time of year) and entire apartments for $75 per night.
The cheapest hotel in Kapa’a is The ISO starting at $163 per night. Keep in mind, this isn’t going to be a 5-star experience, so I definitely wouldn’t expect top-tier rooms or facilities, but it gets the job done (and they have a pool!).
Cool With Camping?
For budget-friendly accommodation on the North Shore of Kauai, I recommend researching the camping options at Kōkeʻe State Park.
State park prices in Kauai typically range from $20-30 per night depending on your residency. Bear in mind, campground permits can be difficult to obtain. You’ll only be able to reserve camping spots 30 days in advance, so be ready to book it when they are available to you.
How To Get Around Kauai During Your Trip
Unfortunately, moving around on the island of Kauai isn’t easy or cheap. Since public transport isn’t typically available, there are only a few ways to get from point A to point B.
Your first option for transport is by rental car.
Expect to pay over $100 per day for your rental car, however, this is by far the best option because you’ll be able to easily explore all of the best things to do in Kauai.
Note: For a 5-star local car rental company, we recommend Alli Rental Cars LLC. They truly care about delivering top-quality service and vehicles to their customers.
If renting a car doesn’t seem plausible for your trip, you can also opt to hire a taxi service. The company we recommend is called Princeville Taxi.
You can get a quote for your trip(s) around the island on their website here.
How To Travel Between Hawaiian Islands
Many people visiting Hawaii prefer to jump between islands. This allows them to experience each unique island. If this sounds like something you might want to do during your trip, you’re in luck!
Travel between Hawaiian islands can actually be quite affordable, even if you only want to take a day trip.
To start planning your inter-island Hawaiian travel, check out these 3 airlines that service the islands:
✅ Hawaiian Airlines
✅. Mokulele Airlines
Your flight will leave out of Lihue and from there, you can fly to any of the major Hawaiian islands.
Tips For Traveling To Kauai
During our trip to Kauai, I learned two very important things about traveling to this paradise island. They are important enough to mention them here so that you can benefit from them as well:
1. Cook For Yourself
The first tip I want to extend to Kauai-vacationers is that cooking for yourself can save you a LOT of money.
Book an Airbnb that has a kitchen so that you can go to the grocery store and make your own dinners a few times during your stay. This will help keep costs down so that you can do more exciting things like deep sea fishing and scuba diving.
2. Clean Up After Yourself
Kauai is one of the most beautiful islands in the entire world.
As a visitor, showing respect for the island and the locals is extremely important. Please do your part to keep beaches, parks, etc. as clean as possible. Pack out what you pack in.
How Long Should I Stay In Kauai?
In my opinion, Kauai is the most beautiful island with the most things to do and see. The longer you can stay on the island, the better.
With that said, I realize that most people can’t spend 3+ months exploring because not only is it crazy expensive, but we have obligations to attend to.
Therefore, I believe a week on Kauai would be sufficient for seeing and doing many of the best activities listed above.
What To Pack For Kauai
There are obvious things that you’ll need to pack for your trip to Kauai (like a swimsuit, t-shirts, and shorts), but there are a few items that aren’t so obvious that you definitely don’t want to forget:
✔️ Rain Jacket
Throughout most of the year, Kauai will receive rain at least once per day. But don’t let the rain stop you from having an amazing time on your trip.
A rain jacket is vital for enjoying all of the hiking trails, waterfalls, and state parks on the island.
This seems like an obvious item to pack, however, many people (*cough cough* me) forget to bring this. Although you can purchase sunscreen on the island, you’re going to pay 3x more for it than you would at home.
✔️ Bug Spray
As a tropical island with plenty of rainfall, bugs are prevalent and quite annoying. Bug spray will save your life during many of your excursions, so don’t forget to pack it!
The Wrap-Up: Things To Do In Kauai 2021
Using this guide, you’ll be able to plan the ultimate itinerary that will allow you to see the most exquisite and astonishing things that Kauai has to offer.
Enjoy your paradise holiday in Hawaii’s most beautiful location, the Garden Island.
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