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30 Best Kauai, Hawaii Adventures | Bucket List Attractions

Nov 12, 2022

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Turquoise blue waters, epic ridgelines, dolphins, and fluffy sand beaches are just some of the things waiting for you on your trip to Kauai, Hawaii!

And trust me, there’s a LOT waiting for you on this island paradise.

That’s why in this post, we’ll be covering a complete list of the best Kauai adventures so that you can have the trip of a lifetime.

I’ll be giving you a map to use too. But to make this post easier for you to read, I’ve divided your adventures by “shores”: North, South, East, West.

Ready? Let’s dive right in!

P.S. When you’re done with this post, check out my Kauai travel guide for all the planning must-knows!

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Disclaimer: Hey explorer! This post contains affiliate links which means I earn a small percentage of each purchase made through my links. I only ever recommend products I believe in and appreciate your support if you decide to use my links—thank you!

Where to Stay in Kauai, Hawaii

Before you head out on some of the best Kauai adventures, you’ll need to book a place to stay.

Here are a few vacation rentals I recommend!

  • Ocean-View Studio Rental on South Shore Kauai
    • This studio apartment rental is in the Poipu area on Kauai’s South Shore. The location makes it easy to explore the island. PLUS, it has a full kitchen so you can cook your meals.
  •  Ocean-View Studio Apartment on East Shore
    • Enjoy an ocean view from your home away from home. This studio is located on the East shore, about 6 or so miles from the Lihue Airport. It’s location makes it easy to go to Kauai adventures!
  • Condo at the Cliffs Resort
    • Stay in Kauai’s North Shore with an ocean view condo! You’ll love that this accommodation has a full kitchen, a view and is near Queen’s Bath and Hanalei Bay.

List of the 30 Best Things to Do in Kauai, HI

  1. Hike to Queen’s Bath
  2. Hike the Kalalau Trail
  3. Watch Sunset at the Kilauea Lighthouse
  4. Sunbathe at One of Kauai’s Best Beaches
  5. Walk Around Princeville
  6. Have a Date Night on Hanalei Bay
  7. Watch Sunrise on Larson’s Beach
  8. Explore the Blue Room
  9. Hike Kalepa Ridge Trail
  10. Camp in Waimea Canyon
  11. Explore Waipo’o Falls via Canyon Trail
  12. Hike Awaawapuhi Trail for Sunset
  13. Spend a Day at Polihale State Park
  14. Take a Kauai Boat Tour Along the Na Pali Coast
  15. Hike More of Waimea via Kukui Trail
  16. Bask in the Sun at Shipwreck Beach
  17. Admire the Cliff Views Along Mahaulepu Trail
  18. Go Swimming in Poipu Beach Park
  19. Visit the Spouting Horn
  20. Kayak Kauai and the Secret Falls
  21. Hike the Lush Kuilau Ridge Trail
  22. Breathe the Fresh Air at Wailua Falls
  23. Hike to the Top of Sleeping Giant
  24. Swim at One of the Kauai East Shore Beaches
  25. Stand in Awe at Opaekaa Falls
  26. Go on a Kauai Helicopter Tour
  27. Hop on a Kauai Boat Tour
  28. Explore a Coffee Plantation
  29. Get in Some Kauai Snorkeling
  30. Kayak Kauai on Just About Any Shoreline

Don’t worry—we’ll cover each of these in the post!

Below is a map for you to reference.

Click here for a live version of the map!

Best Kauai Adventures on the North Shore

Kauai’s North Shore is home to some of the best beaches in Kauai, Hawaii and one of the most popular Kauai, Hawaii adventures, the Kalalau Trail.

So to start things off, ket’s talk more about the Kauai attractions on the North Shore now.

#1 Hike to Queen’s Bath

The hike to Queen’s Bath beautiful and a must-do on the North Shore of Kauai, Hawaii. If you’re an adventure lover, you’re going to want to add it to your list of Kauai activities!

Unfortunately, this trail is almost always super muddy, so wear shoes you don’t care to get dirty, or maybe a hiking sandal.

It’s around a 20min hike and isn’t hard. If the swell is low, you can go swimming in the pool too.

Otherwise, the Queen’s Bath area offers so many different tide pools you can take pictures around and admire from afar.

Check the Kauai beach water conditions before you go on this Kauai adventure because the swell can be extremely dangerous and should be avoided when high.

Hiking the Kalalau Trail is easily one of the best Kauai adventures, and for a good reason: it’s pretty damn beautiful. This 11-mile trail is said to be one of the most scenic hikes in the world.

The Kalalalu Trail will take you from Ke-e Beach to Kalalau Beach, and yes, you can only access the beach on foot. During your hike, you’ll wander through beautiful valleys and witness waves crash on coastline formations you didn’t know existed!

If you’re not keen on going 11 miles, don’t worry! You can opt to do chunks of the hike.

Some of the trail destinations include:

  • Hanakapi’ai Beach—The first two miles of the hike will start at Ke’e Beach. The trail might be extremely muddy, so watch your footing!
  • Hanakapi’ai Falls—After finishing the first 2 miles of the hike, continue on the footpath to get to Hanakapi’ai Falls! The fall stands at 300-feet tall, AND you can go swimming in its pool! Talk about a reward.
  • Kalalau Beach—Your Kauai adventure will finish on Kalalau Beach, giving you epic views of the Na Pali Coast. The water is also so blue that you’ll think you’re swimming in a pool of gems.

Note: You will need a permit to hike the Kalalau Trail. I recommend checking out the official Kalalau Trail website. This resource will give you general information about the Kalalau Trail, including weather reports, closures, and permit information.

#3 Watch Sunset at the Kilauea Lighthouse

As one of the best Kauai adventures, the Kilauea is the perfect place for bird lovers!

Scott and I loved to come here and watch the coastline. It’s a great photo spot around sunset too.

#4 Sunbathe at One of Kauai’s Best Beaches

Below you’ll find a quick list of beaches on the Kauai, Hawaii North Shore.

They’re all drop-dead gorgeous in their way, and worth the stop if you can make it to them!

  • Haena Beach Park
  • Hanalei Bay
  • Kalihiwai Beach
  • Secret Beach
  • Anini Beach
  • Ke’e Beach

I will say that I’m a bit biased, though.

Scott and I went to Secret Beach Kauai, Hawaii, and LOVED it. There are some low-hanging trees on the sand that you can use to hang a hammock.

This beach is the perfect place to end a full day of exploring.

#5 Walk Around Princeville

Princeville is such a boujee and beautiful community on Kauai’s North Shore!

If this were my Kauai adventure trip, I would do a day hike to Queen’s Bath or hike a short section of the Kalalau Trail, head to Princeville, and snag some acai bowls.

People rave about The Spot— just looking at their menu makes my mouth water.

Click here to book a Princeville Botanical Garden & Chocolate Tasting tour!

#6 Have a Date Night on Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay in Kauai Hawaii

Visiting Hanalei Bay is one of the most scenic and popular Kauai must-dos. I promise it’s worth it!

The crescent shaped beach stretches out to 2 miles and features a gorgeous mountain view. Talk about dreamy!

If you’re looking for unique things to do in Kauai, HI, I suggest heading to the Bay for a sunset session. You can kayak Hanalei Bay, eat acai bowls, ride bikes, or just chill at the beach area.

Click here to book a bestselling Hanalei Bay kayak tour!

#7 Watch Sunrise on Larson’s Beach

A dirt road and a short walk will take you to Larson’s Beach. It’s typically one of the less crowded Kauai attractions because people don’t want to drive the dirt road to get there.

That just means you won’t have to deal with a swarm of people, and you can enjoy the white sand all morning.

#8 Explore the Blue Room

Have you ever wanted to visit a grotto and feel like Ariel for the day? Well, who hasn’t? LOL. The Blue Room is a Kauai treasure.

When the water levels are just right, you can go inside this sea cave and watch the light reflect the water’s magnificent blue color all around the cave walls, making it one of the best Kauai adventures.

Best Kauai Adventures on the West Side

Kauai’s West Shore is where a lot of the fun can happen (in my opinion). Here is where you will find some of the best Kauai hiking trails that will give you access to some amazing viewpoints.

Notably, the West Shore is where Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, lives, which is where you’ll see a lot of Kauai adventures.

Read Next: How to Become an Adventure Photographer

#9 Hike Kalepa Ridge Trail (My Fave Thing to Do in Kauai)

Okay, I just have to say that if you like once-in-a-lifetime type views and are in the mood to hike a short Kauai hike, you NEED to add the Kalepa Ridge Trail to your list of best Kauai adventures.

Before you even get there, go to Aloha Aina Juice Café for an acai or pitaya bowl. Then, drive to the tip-top of the Waimea Canyon.

There you’ll find Kalepa Ridge Trail, where you’ll hit it for sunset.

You’ll see the most jaw-dropping ridge views. On this trail, I wore my favorite hiking boots and recommend you give them a try!

#10 Camp in Waimea Canyon

You can opt to camp in Waimea Canyon after your Kalepa Ridge hike or you can come any other time that works for you. Note that you will have to get permits to stay at the Waimea campground.

Waimea Canyon is arguably one of the most popular attractions on the West Shore, so I find it much easier to camp there if you plan on exploring the Canyon for multiple days.

#11 Explore Waipo’o Falls via Canyon Trail

Canyon Trail Waimea Canyon Kauai Hawaii

Waipo’o Falls via Canyon Trail is a must-do in Kauai, Hawaii. This Kauai hike will take you up close and personal with one of the largest waterfalls in Waimea Canyon.

From my experience, it’s a pretty accessible hiking trail that offers beautiful views of the Canyon without breaking your feet.

You’ll also see more of Waimea’s colorful canyon walls, which will leave you speechless.

Note: Be super careful during your Kauai adventures in the canyon! I’ve seen many people sit oddly close to the canyon edge, and I would NOT trust it. The rock and soil are so crumbly. Standing at the edge of the Canyon is not worth the drop-off risk.

#12 Hike Awaawapuhi Trail for Sunset

If you want some fantastic views of the Na Pali Coast, look no further! Hiking the Awaawapuhi Trail is one of the top Kauai adventures for those wanting epic views of the Na Pali Coast.

Unlike the Canyon Trail, Awaawapuhi is much longer and will offer you a clear sight of the Na Pali Coast. The classic ridgelines you see people always sharing on Instagram are what bring hiking lovers to this Kauai attraction!

This hiking trail goes for about 6.4 miles round trip and is considered difficult.

Fair Warning: if the weather in the Canyon will be cloudy, your chances of seeing any sort of view from this hike are slim to none. I am speaking from experience here.

#13 Spend a Day at Polihale State Park

Polihale State Park in Kauai Hawaii

Okay, if there is one non-touristy thing you MUST add to your list, let it be Polihale State Park.

The beach is surrounded by epic mountains, which means you’ll have a view the entire time you’re there.

A rough dirt road will take you to a secluded beach with sand so deep; you’ll think your sinking!

Before you head there, you have to make sure your rental car company will allow you to go here. You can get stuck in the sand, and the dirt road is so crappy that the Hawaii Gov suggests having four-wheel drive.

Camping is available at the park too, but PLEASE be respectful! In the past, the park was shut down due to over abuse and illegal camping.

Here are the Polihale State Park camp permit rates for non-residents:

$18 per campsite per night for up to 6 persons; $3 per night for each additional person*. Maximum fee per site: $30/night.

#14 Take a Kauai Boat Tour Along the Na Pali Coast (My Fave Kauai Adventure)

There’s nothing quite like admiring Kauai’s Na Pali Coast from a boat. This is where you can see dolphins and some of the most notable natural landmarks the island has to offer like the Kauai Open Ceiling Sea Cave.

To book an experience like this, click here!

#15 Hike More of Waimea via Kukui Trail

You can find the Kukui Trail at the beginning of the Iliau Nature Loop. The hike will be approximately 5 miles round trip and can be steep.

Along the first mile of this Kauai attraction, you’ll see some of the most amazing views of Waimea Canyon. You can even see waterfalls throughout the Canyon’s walls!

Best Kauai Adventures on the South Shore

Now let’s get to the South Shore part of this Kauai must do list. I thoroughly enjoy the Kauai, Hawaii South Shore! I find it the most accessible place to stay and treat like a ‘hub’ while you’re exploring the rest of Kauai, HI.

There are great places to eat and amazing Kauai beaches here too. So let’s talk a bit more about the South Shore Kauai adventures!

#16 Bask in the Sun at Shipwreck Beach

Mahaulepu Trail Kauai Hawaii

Located on the Kauai South Shore by the Marriott, you’ll find Shipwreck Beach.

It’s pretty chill if you’re looking for relaxing activities in Kauai!

The water here can get a bit rough, but if you like surfing, this is the beach! I loved coming here on a down day between my Kauai adventures.

#17 Admire the Cliff Views Along Mahaulepu Trail

View of Mahaulepu Trail in Kauai Hawaii

The Mahaulepu Trail is located on Shipwreck Beach and offers some of the best coastal views you can get on the South Shore of Kauai, Hawaii. I recommend hitting this Kauai hike for sunset!

Along the trail, you’ll also find caves and other epic views.

The best part about this trail, though, is that you can go as far as you want to go! Should you choose to walk the whole shore, you’ll clock in about 4 miles round trip.

#18 Go Swimming in Poipu Beach Park

The water at Poipu Beach Park is much calmer than that of Shipwreck Beach, making it one of the more popular Kauai attractions for families!

If you choose to swim at this Kauai, Hawaii beach, bring a pair of goggles for a bit of snorkeling.

Poipu Beach Park is a famous spot for sea turtle sightings!

Click here to book your own snorkel adventure!

#19 Visit the Spouting Horn

Well, if you’re looking for a new place to photograph, consider the Spouting Horn!

As the tide comes in, the water fills the lava tube and shoots water into the sky! Spouting Horn is a great place to take the family if you’re looking for something relaxing and fun to do.

This goes without saying, but yes, Spouting Horn is a touristy Kauai adventure. However, touristy spots are usually popular for a reason. So if you’re passing by, you might as well check it out!

If you visit between December and May, you might even see humpback whales!

Best Kauai Adventures on the East Side

Kauai’s East Shore is pretty lush compared to other parts of Kauai, Hawaii. I love the East Shore for hiking and more beach days.

Let’s get into one of our last sections of Kauai adventures.

#20 Kayak Kauai and the Secret Falls

The Wailua River runs through the island of Kauai, and if you’re looking for unique activities in Kauai, Hawaii that require kayaking, you’re in luck!

You can easily rent a kayak along the river and ask for a map to Secret Falls. After paddling up the river for a bit, you’ll come to a slight pull-off, park your boat, and hike a short trail to Kauai’s “Secret Falls.”

Spoiler alert: it’s not very secret, BUT still awesome.

Bring your swimsuit; you’re going to want to take a dip in the water!

Click here to book a Wailua River and Secret Falls tour!

#21 Hike the Lush Kuilau Ridge Trail

In the morning, you can hit up Kuilau Ridge trail for an easy Kauai hike to ridge views. The hike itself is about a 2mi round trip and will not take long to complete!

I couldn’t believe how green it was here! Along the trail, you will find multiple places to pull off and either picnic, take a break or admire the view.

Make sure you snag some reliable hiking boots and socks.

#22 Breathe the Fresh Air at Wailua Falls

Wailua Falls in Kauai Hawaii

Wailua Falls consists of twin waterfalls that cascade over a ridge on Kauai’s East Shore. I have come here a couple of times now, and I find it a more and more unbelievable Kauai attraction every time I go!

While it’s not allowed anymore, people sometimes hike to the bottom of the waterfall and explore for a unique Kauai adventure.

Do so at your own risk!

#23 Hike to the Top of Sleeping Giant

The Sleeping Giant mountain gets its name because of the way the peak forms into what looks like the head of, well, a sleeping giant.

If you’d like, you can do this best Kauai adventure for sunrise, which will require waking up early. The trail is about 4 miles round trip and rated as moderate. Make sure you give yourself ample time to get to the top!

#24 Swim at One of the Kauai East Shore Beaches

The East Shore beaches are close to hotels and reasonably accessible! So you should have no problems getting to them and enjoying a day by the water. Below is a list of the best beaches in the area.

  • Lydgate Park
  • Waipouli Beach Park
  • Kealia Beach
  • Kapa’a Beach Park
  • Wailua Beach

I have been to Kapaa Beach Park and used it to break between some of the Kauai hiking trails I was visiting!

#25 Stand in Awe at Opaekaa Falls

This attraction is located in Wailua River State Park.

Because of the waterfall’s size, you can view it from afar. You’ll most likely pass the pullout for the falls on your way to other activities, so make sure you stop here for a quick picture or Instagram Story!

Unique Things to Do in Kauai

Kauai, Hawaii is a beautiful island if you couldn’t tell by now. So I’d like to wrap up this list of Kauai attractions with an overview of some more unique Kauai adventures you can have.

I briefly mentioned a few of these activities in Kauai, but I will lay out some additional details here before we get into everything else you need to know about the island.

#26 Go on a Kauai Helicopter Tour

Okay, question: why wouldn’t you want to go on a Kauai helicopter tour? Maybe you’re afraid of heights, but if you’re an adrenaline junky or photographer, this Kauai must do might be for you!

During your tour, you can get views of the Na Pali Coast, waterfalls, and more!

Click here to book a private helicopter tour!

#27 Hop on a Kauai Boat Tour

You’re going to want to see all the dolphins and cliff views a Kauai boat tour has to offer, making it one of the most unique Kauai adventures.

What’s cool is some Kauai, Hawaii boat companies will let you book unique experiences like a sunset dinner on the Na Pali Coast. December through May, you can also opt in to see whales along the Kauai, HI coast.

Boat tours will go around just about every coastline, but the most popular and my recommendation would be to stick to the Na Pali Coast. It’s arguably the most scenic coastline on the island.

Click here to book a bestselling Na Pali Coast Boat tour!

#28 Explore a Coffee Plantation

Hawaii, in general, grows quite a bit of coffee, and it’s pretty good! So if you’re a morning cup of Joe lover, then this is the perfect Kauai activity for you!

At Kauai Coffee Company, you can book a tour almost any day of the week!

#29 Get in Some Kauai Snorkeling

The island is the PERFECT place for snorkeling—it’s one of the major Kauai attractions! You’ll be able to see reefs, fish of all colors, and maybe even turtles if you’re lucky!

If you’re just getting started with snorkeling, you can visit Lydgate Beach.

Otherwise, more advanced snorkelers tend to head to Tunnels Beach, which has some of the best snorkeling in Kauai, Hawaii.

#30 Kayak Kauai on Just About Any Shoreline

Girl and boy kayaking on the Wailua River in Kauai Hawaii

If you want to kayak Kauai, Hawaii, you have more options than you might think.

We’ve talked about the Na Pali Coast quite a bit at this point in our Kaua, but believe you may want to consider exploring it by kayak.

Remember when I said that you could only get to Kalalau Beach on foot? Well, what you might not know is that if you’re up for a real Kauai adventure, you can kayak to the beach.

Before you get all excited, just know that this kind of adventure is about a 17-mile excursion. You will not be able to camp at the beach, and these kinds of tours are typically not for beginners.

If it’s something on your bucket list and you want to get a guide’s help, you can check out Na Pali Kayak.

Otherwise, your next option is to kayak in the Wailua River or kayak Hanalei Bay, which we’ve discussed earlier!

Click here to book a Wailua River and Secret Falls tour!

Final Thoughts on Kauai Adventures

View of Waimea Canyon from Canyon Trail

Well, first, I want to say that I hope you found this blog helpful! Kauai, Hawaii is lovely and I know you’ll love it there.

If you’re having trouble deciding which Kauai adventures to embark on, I would focus more on what you thoroughly enjoy doing and pick sides of the island that feature more of that activity.

To help you plan your trip, read these next:

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  1. These photos are seriously incredible! Thanks for sharing – I cannot wait to visit Kauai and make all of these stops!

  2. samantha encalada says:

    where is that last picture of you sitting on the big rock under the waterfall?! looks amazing ! I gotta go!

  3. Catherine says:

    How/where did you get your private boat (in some of your pics)? Rental?

  4. Tanya says:

    Where is the beach surrounded by mountains in the top picture?

  5. Emily Gullickson says:

    one of the best guides I’ve found! Can’t wait to go to Kauai!

  6. Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular post!
    It’s the little changes that produce the greatest changes.
    Thanks a lot for sharing!

    My blog post … 5 Čšinte tir cu arcul 40×40 cm

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I'm a burrito loving explorer who got fired from corporate America and turned that into my dream career as a photographer and blogger. Now I'm here to help you explore life's magic. Thanks for stopping by!