Top 5 Things to See and Do on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai

Kauai is the fourth largest of the islands in the archipelago that makes up the state of Hawaii, and the northernmost. Known as the Garden Island, Kauai is the least commercially developed, offering a pristine and relaxing paradise. Although relatively small—just 550 square miles—it boasts over 60 beaches, scenic waterfalls in abundance, adventurous hiking, fantastic kayaking, and world-class birding. Colorful chickens run free range around the island as they have no predators. Consider Kauai for your next Hawaii getaway; there are so many adventures to be had it was hard to pick only FIVE.

Relax on the beach.  You’re never far from the water here, and Kauai has more miles of beaches on the coastline than any other Hawaiian island—more than 50 miles total of gorgeous, ocean-hugging shore. Nearly every beach is beautiful, and they range from calm family-friendly bays to open waves perfect for surfing. Try Haena Beach Park, where the summer ocean can be calm as glass. It’s also known as the best snorkeling site on the island. For surfing, Poipu Beach and Hanalei Bay are two of the best.

Check out Kauai’s interior.  Though relaxing on the beach is a must, Kauai has a surprisingly remote interior (fun fact: it’s where all the Jurassic Park movies were filmed!) Some parts of the island are only accessible by air or sea, but the effort to traverse the interior is well-worth it.  The vistas are spectacular: waterfalls galore, pools of pristine beauty, tropical rainforests, and scenic views of the ocean that are heart-stopping in their loveliness.

One popular activity in Kauai’s interior is hiking the Kalalau Trail. It can be strenuous if you hike the entire 11 miles, but there are shorter legs available (2 miles to Hanakapiai Beach is one option). The incline is steep, and you have to walk a rocky path and ford creeks that can get waist high. This is not a luxury hike. But what it takes in strength and energy, it more than repays in views.  It’s also the only way to catch a glimpse of the Napoli Coast by land. Know your limits and be safe on this one – and have the Advil ready if needed!

An easier hike for even families with kids is the Kuilau Ridge Trail. A short two mile hike winds in and out along the ridge offering spectacular views from the start. From huge ferns blanketing the lower level and enormous trees towering above you, it’s a classic Hawaii hike that feels like you are on the set of Jurassic Park. Be prepared for lots of mud!

See Waimea Canyon. Kauai is the oldest island in the Hawaiian chain, and with that comes some spectacular terrain carved out over the centuries. Waimea Canyon has been dubbed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific due to its size and depth.  It’s 3,600 feet deep, 10 miles long, and two miles wide, cut by the Waimea River. Hiking trails are abundant in the canyon and the best easy hike is Waipo’o Falls Trail. The views of Waimea Canyon are insane all along the path. Stop at the Pu’u Ka Pele and Pu’u Hinahina pullouts along the road for breathtaking views.  Bike tours here are popular as well but I recommend you be an experienced rider to attempt it.

River and Ocean Kayaking. Kauai’s rivers are short and placid, which makes them ideal for kayaking. The Hanalei River is the best for river kayaking if you’re on your own. If you want to go sea kayaking, the premier spot is the Napali Coast. National Geographic Adventure rated this #2 of the Best 100 Adventures in the U.S. Rafting the Colorado River was #1. ‘nuff said.

Wildlife viewing. Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge is worth seeing for the host of tropical birds that make it home. Nene geese, which are native to the islands, were endangered for a while, largely due to the presence of mongeese on the other islands. Due to the safety of the Refuge, the species has been brought back to robust survivorship. Visitors can also see dolphins, native plants, and humpback whales. All the wildlife is identifiable by educational markers placed around the Refuge. Views of the surf here are fantastic, and you’ll have wonderful views of the North Shore. The Kilauea Lighthouse, built in 1913, is part of the Refuge and well worth seeing.

Kauai offers a relaxed and authentic vibe with plenty of things to do. While smaller and less busy than neighboring Oahu, Maui, or the Big Island, you definitely shouldn’t rule it out for your next Hawaiian vacation. We match the island to you when working together on your Hawaii vacation. Give us a call today…your Mai Tai awaits!

About Denise

My goal is to simplify travel-planning through an equal exchange process where I acquire your ideas and expectations for your trip relieving you of the worry, hassle, stress and time that accompanies Do-It-Yourself planning.

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