Things to do in Kauai

Things to do in  Kauai

Where nature runs the show

Time has dramatically carved the landscape of Kauai, the northernmost and oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands. It has a more rural and intimate feel than neighboring Oahu, and still teems with authentic Hawaiian culture and heritage. Lush and enchanting, many of the aptly named Garden Isle’s natural wonders are seen only by air or water, and myriad tours and backcountry adventures abound. A first stop for many visitors is the western Na Pali Coast, where snorkel, kayak, and sunset sailing cruises navigate the waters beneath steep, brilliantly hued mountain ridges framing waterfalls and deep valleys. Some boat tours visit sea caves and nearby Niihau, the Forbidden Island, or ply the Pacific in search of spinner dolphins and migrating humpback whales. Back on land, coursing down trails on a mountain bike is an exhilarating way to explore Waimea Canyon—the Grand Canyon of the Pacific—and neighboring Koke'e State Park. Head east to the serene Wailua River for kayaking and hiking among fern grottos and hidden waterfalls. Down south, fly through the treetops on a Koloa zipline tour. And then, of course, there are Kauai’s heavenly beaches—Hanalei Bay and Spouting Horn are two of the island’s most scenic. Come evening, head to Luau Kalamaku for Hawaiian cuisine and Polynesian entertainment. And don’t be fooled by Kauai’s small size: There is a lot to do, so a multi-day tour may be the best way to see it all—or if you’re short on time, a helicopter tour reveals Kauai’s natural beauty from above.

Top 15 attractions in Kauai

Na Pali Coast

With steep emerald cliffs, lush valleys, and remote cascading waterfalls, the Na Pali Coast is one of Hawaii’s most beautiful regions, and no visit to Kauai is complete without a visit to this magical coastline. There are only three ways to explore the Na Pali Coast—by air, by sea, and on foot—and each offers its own unique perspective.More

Mt. Waialeale

Be prepared for more colors of green than you’ve ever seen before in the area surrounding Kauai’s central Mt. Waialeale—it’s one of the wettest places on planet Earth, receiving more than 450 inches of rainfall each year. It’s dominating sheer green 5,066 cliff wall has also been called the Wall of Tears, for the many waterfalls that fill its crevices and stream down its face during frequent rains. And, if the setting looks familiar, that could be because it starred as the backdrop for opening scenes of the original 1992 Jurassic Park movie. To get to the base of Waialeale, and to the the Wailua River, you’ll have to take a 4x4 down the bumpy Wailua Forestry Management Road and then trek in. Alternatively, several helicopter tours take you much closer to its cliff face—and its waterfalls—than you could easily get to on a hike.More


Kauai’s capital city, Lihue is located on the eastern side of the island and is home to both the main cruise port and the only commercial airport. The city is also Kauai’s main shopping destination and boasts several historic spots, such as Kilohana, a historic plantation, and the Kauai Museum.More

Waimea Canyon

A geological kaleidoscope of reds and browns, Kauai’s impressive Waimea Canyon—at 14 miles (22.5 kilometers) long, one mile (1.6 kilometers) wide, and 3,600 feet (1,097 meters) deep—is Hawaii’s version of the Grand Canyon. In fact, some say Mark Twain was the first to lend it its nickname: the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Stop on its winding rim road for views of a far-below river, sheer drop-offs, spectacular views, excellent hiking, and waterfall-lined crevasses, all just a short way away from the Garden Isle’s legendary Na Pali Coast.More

Hanalei Bay

Located on the north shore of Kauai, Hanalei Bay is one of the island’s most picturesque stretches of water. This crescent-shaped bay boasts over 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) of white sand beach backed by mountains, waterfalls, and laid-back towns and offers an array of watersports, including kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, and surfing.More


Situated on the northern end of Hawaii’s Big Island, Waimea is the center of Hawaiian cowboy (paniolo) country. This historic area is filled with rolling green hills, endless open pastures, and spectacular valleys. With its stunning scenery and great local food, Waimea is one of the Big Island’s top tourist towns.More

Wailua River

Wailua River (Attraction - Kauai, USA)Protected by Wailua River State Park, the Wailua is the largest navigable river in the Hawaiian archipelago (a feature found only on the island of Kauai). As the 20-mile (32-kilometer) river meanders through a lush valley, it passes through jungle landscapes and past two notable waterfalls: Opaekaa Falls and Wailua Falls.More

Spouting Horn

When the island of Kauai erupted from the sea between 4 and 5 million years ago, parts of the coastline were riddled with tubes where molten lava once flowed. One of those spots is the Spouting Horn on the island’s southern coast, where waves are channeled into the tube before violently erupting in a saltwater geyser over 50 feet in the air. Compared to other Hawaiian blowholes, what makes Kauai’s Spouting Horn unique is the guttural moan that precedes the powerful eruption. A second, smaller hole in the rocks funnels air as opposed to water, and the result is a sound that makes it seem like the rocks themselves are groaning. No wonder Hawaiians believed that amo’o was stuck inside of the rocks—a mischievous lizard of Polynesian lore that can still be heard to this day. Once finished admiring the geyser and feeling the ocean’s fury, peruse the homemade souvenir stalls erected by local vendors. Even if you don’t find that perfect give to bring back from your Hawaiian vacation, the locals are always a good source of friendly conversation.More

Wailua Falls

A prize of the Garden Isle, the dual curtains of Wailua Falls cascade into a glistening pool surrounded by lush tropical forests and—if you catch it at the right moment—dancing with rainbows. The picture-perfect falls got their fame when they were featured in the TV show “Fantasy Island” and they are now on the must-visit list of many Kaui vacationers.More

Opaekaa Falls

With more than 400 inches of rainfall every year, it’s no wonder Kauai is nicknamed the “Garden Isle.” This Hawaiian island comes blanketed in Mother Nature’s most fabulous works, from lush canyons to explosive waterfalls—and none is more accessible than Opaekaa Falls. Visible from the roadside, this 151-foot waterfall is a guaranteed show, no admission fee required.More


Known as the Forbidden Island, Niʻihau is mostly untouched by outsiders, creating a microcosm of Hawaiian history and culture. Just 17 miles (27 kilometers) off the coast of Kauai, the island’s fewer than 200 residents speak Hawaiian and live without cars, electricity, and modern amenities.More

Kauai Coffee Company

Warm temperatures and mineral-rich soil make Kauai an ideal spot for growing coffee, so it's no surprise that the Garden Isle is home to the largest coffee estate in the country. While Kauai Coffee Company's focus is on producing and roasting beans, they also welcome visitors who want to see—and taste—their offerings.More

Menehune Fish Pond

The Menehune Fishpond is scenic—set amid lush jungle where craggy mountains are close enough to frame the edges of a killer sunset photo shot. But this giant pool of green-brown water has been attributed mythical qualities that are evident even in its name. Menehune is a mysterious race of little people—some say they’re like Hawaiian leprechauns—that have been credited with building sites throughout the Hawaiian Islands swiftly and stealthily. Legend has it they built this particular 39-acre loko wai (freshwater pond) by passing stones to each other from the village of Makaweli more than two dozen miles away, damming up the Hule’ia River with walls 900 feet long and five feet tall. In a single night. To get up close and personal with the work of the Menehune, join a kayak tour of the Hule’ia—it’s the only way to gain access into the otherwise off-limits Hule’ia National Wildlife Refuge that surrounds the pond. Fishponds like this one are found throughout the Hawaiian Islands and were used to store and easily retrieve fish for the alii or ruling class. And, the Menehune Fishpond is one of the best preserved examples of a Hawaiian freshwater fishpond still in existence today.More

Kalalau Lookout

The Napali Coast tops nearly everyone’s Kauai bucketlists with its sheer green undulating cliffs dropping directly into cerulean waters. The Kalalau Trail takes you back in and along Napali’s Valleys for 11 miles down to the beach and back up and out for another 11—a trip that takes most people at least two days to complete. Not for everyone. Enter the Kalalau Lookout, an easily accessible vantage from which to take in the deep expanse of Napali’s most recognizable Kalalau Valley and get a taste of Napali from land without all of the hiking. Sitting at an elevation of 4,000 feet, the lookout is perfectly positioned to take in the full two-mile-across valley and the ocean beyond.More

Fern Grotto

Kauai’s Fern Grotto is a fern-covered lava cave on the south fork of the Wailua River. Once off-limits to all but Hawaiian royalty, the Fern Grotto is now accessible to visitors, but only by boat. The grotto acts like an amphitheatre, and musicians are drawn to the site for its incredible natural acoustics.More

Trip ideas

Best Beaches on Kauai

Best Beaches on Kauai

Top activities in Kauai

Secret Falls Kayak Hike in Kauai
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Koloa Zipline in Kauai
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Koloa Zipline in Kauai

Entire Kauai Island Air Tour

Entire Kauai Island Air Tour

Hughes 500 Doors-Off Helicopter - ALL WINDOW SEATS
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Wailua River and Secret Falls Kayak and Hiking Tour on Kauai
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Kauai's Ultimate SOUTH SIDE Whale & Dolphin Zodiac Boat Adventure
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Kauai Waimea Canyon and Koke'e Tour with Lunch
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Kauai Waimea Canyon and Koke'e Tour with Lunch

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Kauai ECO Adventure Helicopter Tour
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Winter Whale Watching Adventure in Kauai
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RAFT ADVENTURE - Na Pali 1/2 Day Snorkel
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Na Pali Coast Super Raft Adventure

Na Pali Coast Super Raft Adventure

LUCKY LADY - Deluxe Na Pali Sunset Tour
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Na Pali Coast Kauai Snorkel and Sail
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Na Pali Sunset & Sightsee Boat Tour
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All about Kauai

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People Also Ask

What is Kauai known for?

Kauai is known for its dramatic natural beauty and is often called “The Garden Island” due to its verdant landscapes. The island is studded with lush, emerald-colored valleys, jagged mountain spires, cascading waterfalls, and tropical rainforest. Kauai’s most famous natural attractions are the tall sea cliffs of the Na Pali Coast.

What is the best month to go to Kauai?

Any time of year is a great time to visit Kauai but, considering such factors as crowds, rainfall, and temperature, the ideal months are April, May, June, September, October, and November. September may just be the best time to visit Kauai as you’ll avoid crowds and heavy rain, and have the opportunity to attend the Kauai Mokihana Festival.

Is Kauai or Maui better for families?

Maui. While it depends on your family’s preferences, Maui has more family-friendly resorts, accessible attractions, and beaches that are suitable for swimming. That said, Kauai offers more adventurous options, such as paddling and hiking, and children will likely love exploring the locations where Jurassic Park was filmed.

How many days do you need to visit Kauai?

Five days on Kauai should be enough time to see the most important attractions, but longer is better to truly get a feel for the island. With five days you could split your time between the North Shore and the South Shore in Poipu to thoroughly explore each side of the island.

What do you recommend to do and see in Kauai?

Much of the island can only be seen from the air, so take a helicopter tour. Drive to Waimea Canyon on the south side of Kauai and along the North Shore to the Hanalei Valley Overlook. Take a surf lesson at Hanalei Bay and a snorkeling cruise along the Na Pali Coast. Finally visit Allerton Garden to see where Jurassic Park was filmed.

What is the best way to explore Kauai?

Public transportation on Kauai is of limited use to tourists so the best way to get around is by renting a car. If you don’t want to drive, book a few guided tours with hotel pickup. Some of Kauai’s top sights cannot be reached by road, so you’ll need to book a boat or helicopter tour.

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