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A handful of the best things to do in Kauai, the most isolated of the Hawaiian Islands.
Kauai, known as The Garden Island, is one of the oldest and wildest Hawaiian islands.
It is known for its rich greenery, its abundance of waterfalls, and its lack of tourists (compared to other more popular Hawaiian islands like Maui, O’ahu, or the Big Island).
Travelers who want to spend lots of time in nature, try a few adventure sports, and really soak in the Hawaiian culture should definitely visit Kauai.
I was lucky enough to spend 10 days on this beautiful island with my sister, mom, aunt, and grandmother. It was truly the trip of a lifetime.
Based on my personal experience and a little research, here are some of the best things to do in Kauai, Hawaii.
10 Best Things To Do In Kauai, Hawaii
1. Hit The Beach
You can’t visit a tropical island paradise without having a few quality beach days.
Kauai has lots of gorgeous beaches scattered with golden sand and fringed with palm trees.
Most of them are scattered evenly around the coast. However, the west coast of Kauai is mostly dominated by cliffs and mountains so there aren’t many swimming beaches here.
Some of the island’s best beaches for swimming and sunbathing are:
- Hanalei Beach, on the north of the island
- Anini Beach Park, on the north of the island
- Anahola Beach Park, on the upper east of the island
- Lydgate Beach, on the lower east of the island
- Poipu Beach, on the south of the island
2. Taste Lots of Local Foods
Kauai has some delicious local food, including juicy tropical fruits and local seafood.
As an avid fruit and fish addict, Hawaii transported me to food heaven.
Every morning for breakfast, I ate locally made mango-ginger granola and fresh papayas and bananas from the farmer’s market.
Farmer’s markets are very popular on the island, and they’re a great place to pick up some cheap produce.
Be sure to check out:
Kauai Community Market
- Location: 3 Kaumualii Hwy, Lihue, HI 96766
- Hours: Saturdays from 9:30 am to 1 pm
Waipa Farmer’s Market
- Location: 55785A Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei, HI 96714
- Hours: Tuesdays from 1:30 pm to 4 pm
Koloa Farmer’s Market
- Location: 428005004, Koloa, HI 96756,
- Hours: Mondays from 12pm to 2 pm
Also make sure to eat at some local restaurants and try some fish specialties like opah, ahi, monchong, and mahi mahi.
The highlight of my food experience was walking outside our condo and picking up fresh mangoes that had fallen from a tree. They were the best mangoes I’ve ever tasted.
3. Take a Boat Tour along the Na Pali Coast
One of the most incredible things to do in Kauai is to visit the Na Pali Coast.
Here, gigantic cliffs and jagged rock formations dominate the island’s west coast, creating unique natural shapes and amazing photo opportunities.
But the terrain is so rough that it’s hard to see the cliffs up-close from the land.
You can drive to Polihale Beach or Kee Beach to look out over the coastline, or visit the Kalalau Lookout in Koke’e State Park. These viewpoints allow you to see the rugged coast, but only from one angle.
The two best ways to really see all the beauty of the Na Pali Coast are from the water or from the air.
Viewing the Na Pali cliffs from the ocean gets you right up close to the cliffs and you can swim in the sea with the cliffs towering over you.
Click here to book a top-rated boat tour through Get Your Guide.
A sightseeing flight over the cliffs would be also awesome, though I didn’t try that out myself.
4. Go Snorkeling
The clear, turquoise waters of Kauai are so inviting and full of marine life that you’ll want to spend as much time underwater as possible.
Snorkeling is a fun and easy way to see the underwater world of Hawaii.
If you book a Na Pali Coast boat tour, they usually include snorkeling as well. We saw lots of sea turtles on our tour and got to swim right next to them.
You can also rent snorkels from any hotels or shops along the beach. Or bring your own gear to save some money.
Poipu Beach and Lawai Beach are two of the best snorkeling spots on Kauai.
5. Kayak to the Secret Falls
One of the best things to do in Kauai is taking a day trip to the “Secret Falls”.
This stunning waterfall is accurately named because there is only one way to access it.
First, you have to kayak for two miles down the Wailua River.
Then you have to hike through the dense forest, trudge through a knee-deep stream and crawl up steep, rocky hills.
This turned out to be quite an adventure, but it was so worth it.
After stopping at the waterfall for a picnic and swimming, we journeyed back through the woods and enjoyed a leisurely kayak home.
Here is the link to the tour we used. I definitely recommend doing this journey with a guide because it’s too easy to get lost in the forest.
6. Tour the Art Galleries in Hanapepe
Every Friday night from 5 pm to 9 pm, the little neighborhood of Hanapepe on the west side of Kauai hosts an Art Night.
The village streets fill up with live music, food vendors, and local artists showcasing their work.
This charming town has a super laid-back vibe, and it’s lovely to chat to some of the artists about their work.
So if you’re in Kauai on a Friday night, head to Hanapepe’s Art Night.
7. Hike Waimea Canyon
In terms of views and photo opportunities, Waimea Canyon is one of the best places to visit in Kauai.
If you’re physically fit, there are lots of hiking trails in the canyon that provide excellent views and great exercise.
Try out these hikes:
- The Cliff Trail: Less than 1 mile in total, takes about 30 minutes. Great views of the canyon.
- Ilaiu Nature Loop: Takes about 20 minutes, nice and easy with canyon views and lots of wildflowers.
- Black Pipe Trail: About 1 mile long, takes around 1 hour. Steep terrain but full of beautiful native flowers and two waterfalls.
- The Canyon Trail: 3.4 miles in total, takes about 2-3 hours. Includes Waipo’o Waterfall.
- Kohua Ridge: Takes around 3 hours, narrow, steep and difficult trail. Incredible views but only for brave, fit, and experienced hikers.
If you’re not into hiking, you can always drive up the canyon and still enjoy the jaw-dropping views.
Just pull over at any scenic lookout and keep driving until you reach the top!
8. Do a Fruit and Chocolate Tasting
I don’t even need to elaborate on this point too much because I’m sure the headline has already convinced you to go!
An exotic fruit and chocolate tasting is one of the best things to do in Kauai.
My family and I booked a tour of Lydgate Farm and loved every second of it.
We tasted Tahitian limes, fresh sugar cane, lychees, longans, watermelon radishes, mountain apples, cinnamon pears, ice cream beans, soursop, and raw cacao beans, all of which grow on the farm.
After exciting our tastebuds with exotic fruits, we sampled eleven of the world’s rarest dark chocolates from places including Madagascar, Trinidad, Ecuador, Colombia, and other parts of Hawaii.
9. Zip-Line Through The Jungle
One of the most exciting things to do in Kauai is zip-lining over the jungle.
You’ll feel like you’re one of the tropical birds as you soar over the treetops and watch the beautiful landscapes whiz by.
This is the zip-lining company that we used. They were great, and they let us choose to zip-line “Flyin’ Hawaiian” style, or laying horizontally like superman.
The only downside was that I didn’t zip-line fast enough on one of the lines, so I started rolling backward before I reached the other side.
So I was stuck in the middle of the line, hanging horizontally at least hundreds of feet above the jungle floor. It was actually kind of fun, and one of the guides rescued me pretty easily.
10. Swim in the Queen’s Baths
I’ve saved the best for last!!
The Queen’s Baths used to be a secret place, but it’s gaining popularity via social media.
I actually found out about this place from an Instagram photo.
I saw a gorgeous photo of someone floating in a natural ocean pool surrounded by cliffs.
So I announced to my family that we were going to try to find this place when we arrived in Kauai.
The Queen’s Baths are not easy to reach. I had searched for the location online, and when we arrived at a seemingly dead-end road on the north of the island, we had to ask some strangers where the heck we were.
We were in the right spot, but we had to hike downwards through the jungle for about 20 minutes.
Eventually, the trees opened up to reveal a spacious cliffside of jagged volcanic rocks and ferocious waves.
Up on the cliffs, the rocks curved to create little lagoons where the periwinkle sea filled in the gaps and formed calm swimming pools.
We spent the afternoon swimming and watching the sunset over the ocean. It was one of my favorite memories from Kauai.
So those are 10 of the best things to do in Kauai, Hawaii!
There are plenty more things to do in Kauai that I didn’t mention.
You can do more water sports, like surfing, stand up paddleboarding or scuba diving.
You can also visit a botanic garden or wildlife center to see more of the native flora and fauna.
This island is absolutely jam-packed with lush natural beauty and fun things to do.
The culture is warm and welcoming, and the locals are always willing to chat with tourists.
Exotic flowers flourish at every corner, dolphins and turtles frolic in the sea, and chickens run free all over the island.
It is touristy enough to have lots of great tours and activities available, but not too touristy that places are overcrowded.
My mom, aunt and I at the top of Waimea Canyon.
A few travel tips for Hawaii:
- Hawaii is part of the USA, and foreigners need a visa to visit! Visit iVisa.com to check visa requirements and apply for your visa online.
- Also, it is smart to have travel insurance, especially if you’ll be hiking, surfing, zip-lining, or doing any other potentially dangerous activities. I recommend Squaremouth Insurance, as they are affordable and reliable in my personal experience.