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Kauai is my favorite destination in the world. Sure there are many other beautiful places in the world. But there is just something about Kauai. The remote Hawaiian Island is just so lush and relaxing. On our most recent trip to the island both my husband and I commented that we could physically feel ourselves relax once we arrived. If you’re looking to do more than relax there are a number of activities to keep you busy. Here are my favorite 15 things to do in Kauai.
Things To Do In Kauai
We recently took our 3rd (my son’s 1st) trip to Kauai. My husband and I honeymooned there 16 years ago. I made him promise on our honeymoon that we would come back every 5 years. We made it back for our 5th anniversary but since we had a two year old at the time missed our 10 year. For our 15th anniversary another vacation with some friends caused us to postpone our trip until our 16th anniversary. It was well worth the wait. Kauai is still as gorgeous as ever. I couldn’t wait to share it with our son.
A trip to Kauai is the perfect balance of a relaxing vacation with plenty of activities to keep you busy and immersed in the island. There are so many things to do, but here are our favorite things to do in Kauai.
1. Take In the Scenery
Kauai is the oldest of the Hawaiian islands and the most undeveloped. Nothing can be built taller than a coconut tree. It’s called the garden isle for good reason. The island is covered in gorgeous mountains, lush plants, beautiful flowers and surrounded by beautiful blue water. If you’re looking to connect with nature, Kauai is the place to be. It’s got everything you could ask for.
I highly suggest renting a convertible and just taking a drive around the island. We rented a jeep this time and found it to be very roomy. We spent some time just driving around, taking in the sights and pulling over at several lookout points.
2. Visit Ke’e Beach
Ke’e beach is my favorite beach on the island. It is located on the north side of Kauai at the furthest point you can drive on the north shore. The beach is protected by a reef making the water calm and perfect for snorkeling. I still remember screaming under water when a giant sea turtle surprised me while we were snorkeling at Ke’e.
Ke’e is near some wet and dry caves that you can explore. It is also the beginning of the Napali Coast and Kalalau Trail.
Unfortunately, on our most recent visit the area had experienced some flooding, washing away the road and bridges which access the park.
3. Hike the Kalalau Trail
The Kalalau Trail provides the only land access to the Na Pali Coast. My husband will tell you we’ve hiked all 11 miles of the trail. In reality we’ve only hiked the first 2 miles. It’s still quite a feat in my book. Those two miles of the trail take you up and down towering sea cliffs, through a stream that leads to the ocean and to Hanakapi’ai Beach. The waves at the beach are insane and swimming is not recommended. The beach also has a small cave you can explore.
You’ll want to wear shoes made for water and hiking. Pack water, snacks, sunscreen and your camera. The views are amazing.
4. Na Pali Coast Boat Tour
If hiking isn’t your thing you can still experience the Na Pali Coast by boat. We took a sunset cruise of the Na Pali Coast and it is still one of our favorite Kauai memories. The landscape is breathtaking. Our tour also included dinner & drinks. Nothing better than being out on the blue ocean, sipping the best Mai Tais I’ve ever had, listening to Jack Johnson with the wind in my hair taking in the beautiful scenery.
Definitely a must do. To prevent motion sickness we borrowed some prescription motion sickness patches from my dad. We didn’t have any problems.
5. Visit Waimea Canyon
Often called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”, Waimea Canyon offers colorful, panoramic views carved thousands of years ago by rivers and floods. A windy trip up Highway 505 takes you to the Waimea Canyon Lookout. The lookout area has parking and restrooms. There was even a stand with locally grown fruits and drinks for sale. You can stop and take in the views at the lookout point or hike through Waimea Canyon State Park.
6. Zip Line
Get a bird’s eye view of Kauai, literally, by soaring across the island via zip line. It’s really quite exhilarating. Especially taking that first step off the platform. You get to immerse yourself in the island and take in the lush vegetation of the valleys below.
There are a couple of different companies that offer zip line tours. My husband and I have been twice now. Be sure to check the weight limits. We went with a different company on our last trip because they offered zip lines that would work for our 9 year old. If you don’t weigh enough you won’t make it across the longer zip lines.
7. ATV Tour
This is one of our favorite things to do in Kauai. We’ve been every time we visited the island. It’s changed a little since our first time. Instead of 4 wheelers you now tour historic plantation lands on side by sides. We take the waterfall tour. The 4 hour tour takes you through 23 miles of amazing views, famous movie sites and a tunnel you can drive through. Enjoy a dip in a waterfall & snacks. Also, tour a WWII bunker.
“Do Something Dirty” is not just a tagline. You will get dirty. If it’s been rainy you’ll get muddy. If it’s dry you’ll get covered in red dirt. It’s the best way to really immerse yourself in the island. You literally become one with the land.
8. Swim In a Waterfall
When you think Hawaii images of waterfalls usually come to mind. There are many different waterfalls you can access in Kauai. The first time my husband and I visited Kauai on our honeymoon we stumbled upon a hidden waterfall. After seeing some cars parked along the road we were on, we decided to follow the little trail through the tall grass to see where it led. We were blown away by finding a little swimming hole with a waterfall. We haven’t been able to find it again and have no idea where we were.
There are a number of waterfalls to explore on the island. You can also book tours that take you to the different waterfalls. Our favorite ATV Tour includes a swim in a waterfall.
9. Catch some waves
The waves on Kauai are no joke. They are strong and powerful. My son had a blast playing on the beach in the waves near the Grand Hyatt Kauai. Be sure to heed any warning signs posted at the beach for rip currents and strong tides. The beaches are also rocky so I’d suggest water shoes.
Kauai has amazing snorkeling. So many reefs and colorful fish. There are many spots where waters are calm and perfect for snorkeling. After reading some reviews on-line I purchased this full-face snorkel mask from Amazon. It made snorkeling so easy for both me and my son.
My favorite spots to snorkel on Kauai are at Ke’e and Poipu beaches.
You can’t visit Hawaii without experiencing a traditional Luau. There a number of different Luaus on the island. Expect a delicious dinner featuring a traditional roasted pig. The buffet dinner usually includes an open bar. Dinner is followed by a spectacular show highlighting Hawaii’s rich culture through traditional dances like the Hula.
12. Family Pictures
On our last trip we arranged to have family pictures taken at sunrise through our hotel. It was a fun experience and the pictures turned out amazing. A great souvenir of the memories we made during our trip.
13. Spa Treatment
If you’re looking to relax and indulge your senses I would highly recommend a garden massage. The sound of the waves crashing nearby and birds singing along with the breeze brushing my skin was just heavenly. Many different hotels office spa services. Check out my post on How Moms Can Relax On Vacation with Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa to read about my recent experience.
14. Visit Spouting Horn
On Kauai’s South Shore near Poipu you’ll find this scenic blowhole of Hawaiian legend. Waves channel into a natural lava tube and release a huge spout of water. The spout can reach as high as 50 feet! The spouting water makes a unique sound as it thrusts through the lava tube. Legend has it, the sound you hear is made by a giant lizard that used to guard the island’s shore.
15. Enjoy a Shave Ice
I love a good shave ice and apparently so do Hawaiians! There are shave ice stands all over Kauai. They literally take a block of ice and shave pieces off creating a melt in your mouth treat. Shave ice is topped with a variety of flavored syrups. You can also add a scoop of ice cream or request a “snow cap” of sweetened condensed milk on top.