Kauai seems to be THE wonder of Mother Nature – lush green valleys, numerous waterfalls, Mars-red earth and deep, a dramatic canyon. Hawaii’s northernmost island is full of gems and breathtaking places! With a size of only 550 mi², Kauai is the smallest island in comparison to Oahu, Maui and Big Island. However, this doesn’t mean, you cannot do a lot of activities on Kauai. The diversity of the landscape makes the garden isle a perfect playground for adventure seekers! Pretty much everything is possible on Kauai and I’ll give you an overview of the activities on Kauai!
1. Beach hopping – One of the best activities on Kauai
Kauai has many beautiful beaches! From secret beaches to popular snorkeling and surfing spots – this tiny island has the most variety of beaches in my point of view.
In the North of the island there are numerous beaches: Starting with the Ke’e beach at the trailhead of the Kalalau trail, followed by the Haena beach and the Tunnels beach for snorkeling, Hanalei beach, Hideaway beach, Lumahai beach, Anini beach, and I could continue forever. You could just take look at Google maps and you will see the uncountable beaches and coves. That’s why I believe beach hopping is one of the best activities on Kauai! You can freely choose, at which beach you want to stay and for how long.
However, the North can be rainy, so you may wanna check out the dryer part of the island: The South. There is the world famous Poipu Beach, where tourists relax all day long. If you haven’t gotten the hint: It’s super busy and crowded.
Around the Poipu Beach area, you can also find a lot of other beaches, which can be good for bodyboarding (Shipwreck Beach), snorkeling (Turtle Cove), or just swimming.
The Sea Glass beach might not be for swimming, but it is also a nice place for beach hopping. Although the sea glass is decreasing, it is still nice if you haven’t seen a glass beach yet.
2. Stroll through Koloa Old Town
In the South of the island is the cute Koloa Old Town. It’s worth to visit it for an afternoon stroll through all the cute, little shops. One of the shops is a Macadamia Nut shop – you have to go there! There are around 24 jars with different flavors of macadamia nuts lined up on a table, ready for you to try. Needless to say, I ended up buying a huge bag, because they were super tasty and I tried a lot of samples…
Low on a budget for your Kauai trip? Get more money saving tips here!
3. Drive through the Tree Tunnel
Once you are in the South, you have to take highway 520, because it is the tree tunnel road. It’s stunning how the sunlight falls through the leaves of the trees.
4. Join the Hanapepe Art Walk
Hanapepe made me fall in love with Kauai. On Fridays, there is the Hanapepe art night and it is definitely worth a visit! People are taking over the streets of the town and stroll from shop to stall. There is food, art and music, and all the galleries are open. When we were there, a young man played his e-violin and an old black & white movie was projected on the wall behind him – do I have to point out how epic this was?
Make sure you come early enough to get a picture of the hanging bridge at sunset.
5. Drive and hike the Waimea Canyon
If you don’t visit the Waimea Canyon while you are in Kauai, then something is wrong with you! It’s the little sister of the Grand Canyon and it’s in the middle of the Pacific. These should be enough reasons to go there.
Take highway 550 up and the Kokee Road down, if you want to see both streets. The 550 is surely the best way, though. You will stop every few feet for another lookout and take pictures or chill with beautiful views!
You can do several hikes in the Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park. We did the Canyon trail to the waterfalls, which offers great views into the valley!
6. Hike the Kalalau trail
Just as the Waimea Canyon, the Kalalau trail is a must-see attraction on Kauai! You haven’t truly visited Kauai if you haven’t hiked the Kalalau trail. It’s one of the greatest activities on Kauai because it offers breathtaking views.
The whole trail to the Kalalau beach is 11 mi one way and is a very difficult hike. You also need a camping permit, so you kinda have to plan in advance.
If you don’t have enough time to do the whole trail, at least go to the Hanakapi’ai beach, which is 2 mi (one way). I have done the Hanakapi’ai falls twice, which is 8 mi round trip. The falls trail splits off from the main trail at the beach and goes into the lush green valley of the waterfall. If it’s very muddy, the trail can be very exhausting.
7. Go kayaking & Mountain Tubing
If you are into watersports more than hiking, you can also paddle the Na Pali coast between April and October. There are many tours offered by different companies. The winter months are too rough on the North Shore, so they don’t offer kayaking along the coast.
You can also go kayaking in one of the numerous bays or the Wailua River.
Mountain tubing also has become quite popular there. You are sitting in an air-filled hoop and slide down a man-made river through tunnels.
8. Take a boat cruise
If you have hiked, surfed and snorkeled all day, you may wanna go on a boat cruise for sunset. It’s a nice way to end the day and relax after a very active day.
You can take a dinner cruise or just a sunset cruise. There are of course boat cruises that start in the mornings.
The boats bring you along the Na Pali coast to show you a different perspective of the massive cliff. Unlike the kayaking, these boat cruises are offered throughout the whole year.
9. Take a dip in the Queensbath
A tide pool to cool off – the Queensbath is a great, but also well-known place. The natural pool is surrounded by black rocks and high waves are constantly washing fresh water into the pool.
Please be cautious of high waves, because they have caused many deaths already! There is even a very inviting sign at the entrance to show how many people haven’t had as much fun as we had… We were lucky because the tide was just right and the waves were not too crazy.
10. Fly in a helicopter
If you wanna change your perspective from frog to bird, get on a helicopter. There are many companies, which offer rides. You will hear many helicopters each day when you are visiting Kauai.
Nonetheless, you can see places by helicopter, that are not accessible by foot or car – e.g. the Jurassic Falls from the movie Jurassic Park. So it might be worth it to invest in a tour. Sometimes it’s smart to check online if they have an early bird deal or something similar going on. The deal magazines at the airport or tourist attractions may help in finding a good deal as well.
11. Go surfing & stand-up paddleboard
When you think of Hawai’i, the first thing that comes to your mind is: Surfing. Hence, you may wanna try surfing on your Kauai visit. Although the North Shore of Oahu is more famous for surfing, you can still catch some waves on Kauai, or observe the pros on the board.
The Poipu beach is a good place to learn surfing and the Hanalei Bay is also a good surfing spot. Find out more…
12. Paraglide along the Na Pali Coast
This is definitely on my bucket list! This has to be one of the greatest things! Imagine you are flying over the Kalalau valley – unbridled like a bird! It must be an unforgettable moment. Can you imagine how it would feel?! If not, here is a video that will convince you.
13. Eat fish tacos
Something simple, but nonetheless important: Fish tacos are available everywhere and they are super delicious. They can get a bit pricey, so you may not want to eat it daily. In Kapa’a, for example, there are some trucks, which offer mouth-watering fish tacos!
14. Rent a bike and cruise along the coast (Kapa’a)
If you want to be a bit active before you eat the fish tacos, you could rent a bike. There is a bike path along the coast between Kapa’a and Donkey beach.
When you are driving towards Kapa’a from the South, stop at the Kauai Beach Bike Rentals to get the “$10 for 2” deal or one of the many other deals! You can cruise along the coastal path, which is a very enjoyable and relaxing activity!
15. Enjoy sunsets and sunrises
Of course, who would not like to end a day full of activities with a breathtaking sunset?! I highly recommend using every day for this, because they are the greatest! A wonderful place for sunsets is the Polihale beach.
However, I love sunrises just as much as sunsets. It’s a great way to wake up! If you are sleeping in the car or camping somewhere, make sure you catch the sunrise at the beach!
16. Zipline through native forests
Do you need more action? No problem! Swing your butt through forests and over valleys with beautiful views! Zipline in Hawai’i is a fantastic experience because you fly through nature and you can even do it upside-down and hands-free.
Is Kauai not the only Hawaiian island you are visiting? Check out my Hawai’i collection!
17. Hike to the Blue Hole
Like most activities on Kauai, this one is also active. If you are a hiker, you should hike some trails in the Blue Hole area. I have not been there, but I have heard incredible stories about this area. It’s one of the wettest points of the island, so you will hike through the rainforest and encounter cascade-like waterfalls.
18. Walk to waterfalls
What is a holiday in Hawai’i without waterfalls?! On Kauai, there are multiple accessible waterfalls. If you are looking for a short and easy hike, the Hoopii falls trail will be your best bet. There are two waterfalls, where you can jump in to take a refreshing dip.
19. Jump off a cliff
Are you looking for rather crazy activities on Kauai? Maybe a place to do cliff jumping? The Shipwreck beach is a great spot for this! It’s very high – so I chickened out – but I am pretty sure, that there are many brave people among my readers to dare a jump. 😉 The area is safe for cliff jumping. The people, who did it, came out in one piece.
20. Snorkeling and diving
There are many shops on the island that rent snorkeling gear if you don’t have your own. The Poipu beach and Tunnels beach are famous snorkeling spots. Also, the Ke’e beach is amazing for snorkeling, but only seasonally.
The Lydgate and Anini beach are other options, but we found almost no fish at Lydgate (maybe because of the winter season). Are you looking for more snorkeling spots? Have a look here.
If there is snorkeling, there must be diving as well. You can go free diving at the North Shore, which is nothing else than diving without an oxygen resource. If that’s too crazy for you, classic scuba diving is available as well, so that you can also explore Kauai from below.
21. Lie under the starry sky
If you love to observe the Milky Way, then you should go to Polihale State Park. Once the sun is gone, millions of stars appear.
Within minutes you are lying underneath a starry night sky. It’s incredible! This place is so far from any pollution, that you can even see the farthest stars.
There are many thrilling activities on Kauai, even though this island is so small! Many of these activities are even free! So you can actually be adventurous without paying for tours.