Kauai is renowned for its natural beauty, with the Na Pali Coast, the Waimea Canyon and the only navigable rivers in the state of Hawaii. The dazzling panorama of the island is the first thing visitors notice and the last memory they take with them. Trees and flowers everywhere, Kauai is the greenest island in Hawaii.
You can also find beautiful sandy beaches, coral reefs, mysterious mountains and many other things. For us, we loved Kauai a lot, and would definitely want to come back to see even more of it.
Kauai is the oldest island in the archipelago of Hawaii. It offers the perfect blend of natural wonders and interesting culture. In Kauai, you will be charmed by waterfalls, scenic drives, mountains and the many beaches. Kauai is quite a small island, you can drive around in a day. However, we decided to stay for a week, to take it easy, go hiking in some of the island most beautiful trail, and of course we went surfing to enjoy some of the finest waves in Hawaii.
1. Admire the Na Pali CoAst by boat
The tallest cliffs in the world that flow directly into the Pacific Ocean. Dizzying, The Na Pali coast is one of the most famous and stunning landscape in Kauai and Hawaii. Na Pali can only be admired by boat, helicopter or on foot along the Kalalau trail that runs alongside them. We chose the sea route aboard the Blue Dolphin.
During this majestic cruise, you will see waterfalls, caves and several dolphins. You can even swim with exotic fish and sea turtles near a reef. But first and foremost, you will be captivated by the highest cliffs in the world, which contrast with the ocean. We highly recommend to book the boat tour, as this was by far our best memory of almost all our trips around the world.
We recommend to book in advance. You can do so, here.
2.Visit the impressive Waimea Canyon
Nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, the Waimea Canyon is however more accessible. You can take long hikes through the forest, before discovering the first breathtaking cliffs of the Waimea Canyon. The trail is safe and ends at the top of the huge Waipoo waterfall.
This fall is especially visible on the road leading to the hike, so take the time to stop at all the viewpoints that you will come across, not to miss the spectacular panoramas.
3. Hike the Kalalau Trail
The Kalalau trail is a cliff-side trail that crosses the coasts of Na Pali.The full hike can done in 2 or 3 days. However, you can cover the first kilometers in one day. Just enough to dive in the tropical forest and to have a glimpse of the spectacular landscapes offered by the coasts of Na Pali. The Kalalau trail is one of the most beautiful hikes without a doubt.
4. Relax at some of the most beautiful beaches
If Kauai is famous for its cliffs, canyons and spectacular tropical forests, its beaches are also among the most beautiful in the archipelago. Almost 80 km of coastline around the island, offering breathtaking unspoiled landscapes and a relaxed atmosphere away from the crowds on white sandy beaches.
Whether you are thirsty for adventure or want a moment of relaxation, the island offers activities for all, from Hanalei Bay surf spots on the north coast to whales and turtles watching excursions. and family place at Poipu Beach.
Note: Swimming conditions, swells and currents vary on each beach over the seasons, so always be attentive and check the warning signs when you venture into the water.
Anini Beach Park offers miles of white sandy beaches protected by a huge coral reef. This lagoon with peaceful waters is ideal for snorkelers and novice windsurfers. Want a wilder experience? Try camping in the park. Amenities are provided, but no lifeguard is on site.
Kee Beach is located at the end of Highway 560. The reefs make it an excellent place for snorkelllng in calm weather, but sunbathing facing the sublime landscapes of the Napali coast is already a pleasure in itself. Kee Beach is also the starting point of the Kalalau Trail which leads to the coast of Napali. This beach is supervised by lifeguards.
A wall of volcanic rock protects Lydgate Beach Park from the ocean, making Lydgate Lagoon a popular spot for snorkelling and kids’ games. Restrooms, picnic areas and lifeguard stations are also available on this family beach.
Kalapaki Beach overlooks the Marriott Kauai Beach Club. Pack a picnic, treat yourself to a shaved ice and enjoy the show offered by Kauai’ surfers. Partially protected from ocean currents, this beach also benefits from calm waters, ideal for allowing children to play safely.
The golden sands of Kealia Beach extend 800 meters along the large bend in Highway 56. A long sandbar serves as a breakwater. Go swimming or bodyboard to the north coast protected by a breakwater. Amenities and lifeguards are also on site.
With crystal clear waters and regularly visited by Hawaiian monk seals, Poipu Beach Park is one of Kauai’s most popular beach. Young apprentice swimmers will even benefit from a natural paddling pool. The presence of lifeguards, picnic areas, showers and pavilions make this southern beach a successful family destination.
Shipwreck Beach and Maha’ulepu Trail
Right beside Poipu beach, we enjoyed a private yoga lesson, which was truly amazing at Shipwreck Beach.The settings was stunning as we were surrounded by nature with the sound of the waves right behind us. You can check it out here.
After our yoga lesson we decided to on a hike along the coast at Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail which starts from Shipwreck Beach. The walk so really pleasant facing the ocean. At the end you will reach a secret beach, where you will probably be all alone.
Salt Pond Beach
Salt Pond Beach Park awaits you near Hanapepe, on the west coast of Kauai. This pretty seaside park is ideal for relaxing, swimming and exploring the shallow natural pools. For generations, every summer, Hawaiians have traditionally harvested natural sea salt, which is deposited in salt ponds.
Kekaha Beach is the popular meeting place for local surfers and fishermen. Very pleasant at sunset, this long stretch of sand also lends itself to adventures. Strong winds and strong currents sometimes make swimming dangerous, so always be aware of current conditions.
Polihale State Park
At the western end of the island, you will find one of the most amazing place in Kauai, Polihale State Park, right before the Na Pali Coast starts. It is very hard to get there as the road is not paved, hence only adventure there if you have a proper car (insurance won’t cover any damage caused at Polihale State Park). Once there, no lifeguard, no amenities, but the pure Hawaiian wild. Our favorite spot in Kauai.
5. Check out the impressive Wailua Falls
Wailua Falls are stunning falls in Hawaii and a must-see if you are in Kauai. Formerly, warriors would jump from the top of Wailua Falls (25 meters high) to prove their bravery. Even today, some people still take the jump.
A less drastic way to descend to the base of the falls is to use one of the two trails. The shorter one, which starts from the falls observation area, is not recommended because it is poorly maintained. It is best to use another trail located a little further, about 500 meters down the road. Going down is longer, but less risky (the ground is still slippery in some places).
Depending on the volume of water, the Wailua falls change, sometimes flowing in 3 cascades or in one. To get to Wailua Falls from Lihue take Route 56 north and then to Ma’alo Road (Route 583). The falls are at the end of this road.
6. Go on a river tour at Wailua State River Park
Near the Wailua Falls you can continue your journey to Wailua State Park, where you can see Fern Grotto. You can get there by boat, paddle board or kayak via the Wailua River. This place is an ancient sanctuary of the God Lono, God of agriculture and fertility. The cave is not very spectacular to see, but the journey to get there is magnificent. To take part in a kayaking activity on the river, combined with a hike through the rainforest, you can book here.
7. Enjoy an Afternoon at Hanalei Bay
Our favorite place on the North Coast, and even all of Kauai Island in Hawaii, is the charming little village of Hanalei. A lively little village, perfect for families, surfers and tourists on a budget. Stop at the Hanalei Valley Lookout, there is a parking lot on the side of the road to admire the superb view. Just on the other side of this same road, you can also see the panorama of the taro fields and Mount Waialeale.
The road overlooks this lush valley, crossed by the Hanalei river, much appreciated by kayakers. Hanalei Bay is also bordered by superb surfing beaches, such as Waikoko Beach and Lumahai Beach.
8.Check out the view from Kilauea Lighthouse
Kilauea is a charming little town on the North Coast of Kauai with beautiful beaches, great places to shop and eat. This town which remained very rural and there are many organic farms, hippie surfers and rare birds who have also found refuge there. Kilauea Lighthouse marks the northernmost point of the inhabited islands of Hawaii. It belongs to the Kilauea National Refuge. Several dozen species of birds nest in the area and can be seen at leisure.
9. Go Surfing
Many professional surfers come from North Kauai, like Andy Irons, Bethany Hamilton and Alana Blanchard to name a few. You can even get your private surf lesson with a world renowed athlete, check it out here.
Andy Irons, famous surfer from Kauai Island. It is unthinkable not to talk a little bit about surfing when you visit Hawaii and especially Hanalei. Andy Irons is a professional American surfer born on July 24, 1978 in Hanalei, on the island of Kauai in Hawaii, and died on November 2, 2010. Triple world champion, he was part of the Billabong team. He is considered to have been Kelly Slater’s greatest rival in the 2000s.
Bethany Hamilton, inspiring surfer from Kauai. Bethany Hamilton has become a source of inspiration for millions of people through her history and determination. At the age of thirteen, Bethany lost her left arm, ripped off by a 14-foot tiger shark while surfing with her friend Alana Blanchard and her family in Kauai. Only a month after the attack, Bethany returned to the water and 2 years later, she won her first national title.
Alana Blanchard, professional surfer native of Kauai Alana Blanchard first surfed at the age of four. She participated in her first competition at the age of nine. Alana was with her friend Bethany Hamilton on the day of the shark attack. Alana Blanchard is a professional surfer, an avid vegan, a mother and the spouse of Australian professional surfer Jack Freestone.
Where are the best places to surf in Kauai?
n general, the waves are stronger in the North shore during winter and stronger in the South shore during summer. On Kauai, it is also in winter that you will find the biggest waves on the north coast. Stop at Donkey’s Beach but especially at Hanalei Bay, the beach with perfect waves. Poipu Beach in the summer is also very popular among surfers. You can easily rent a surfboard there. Otherwise, while driving around the island you will find some great random spots. So if you have your surfboard with you, the pleasure will be all yours!
10. Visit a Coffee Plantation
Don’t leave without visiting a coffee plantation during your stay in Kauai. The island’s coffee is one of the most popular in the world and its natural aroma will captivate you. To learn more about the coffee plantations in Kauai, the island has a coffee museum in which you can learn a lot about this drink.
At first we didn’t think about adding a visit of coffee plantation on our to do list in Kauai. We saw the advertisement while driving and instinctly decided to stop to take a look. We didn’t imagine we would enjoy the visit so much and got immersed in the entire coffee growing process. The staff was really nice and the entire tour was really informative.
On top of it, you get a free coffee at the end of the tour. All prices were reasonable and the tour was free. Add this on your bucket list and enjoy this hidden treasure. Kauai Coffee Company is located on the South Shore, not far from Poipu Beach.
Flowers everywhere, thick jungle, spectacular waterfalls, colossal canyon, perfect waves for surfers, the island of Kauai brings together all the fantasies of how an island should look like.
Kauai is the less developed island of the archipelago, none of the building exceeds the height of a coconut tree (regulated by law). Kauai is one of the most isolated territories in the world, 4,000 kilometers from the mainland of the United States, 6,500 kilometers from Asia and 5,000 kilometers from Tahiti and other Polynesian islands, from where come the first inhabitants.
We recommend to stay a week in Kauai to really enjoy what the island has to offer. It goes without saying that in Kauai, landscapes are the main attraction. For more than six million years, rain and wind have shaped cliffs and beaches. Result of this shaping: a small tropical paradise.Kauai was one of our favorite place to visit in all our travels.
How to get around?
Renting a car is the best option for visiting Kauai and having the freedom to stop wherever you want. The island of Kauai in Hawaii is not very large and a car will be a great asset to freely visit the island. Otherwise, the people of Kauai Island take on hitchhikers, even if you have a surfboard under your arm. It’s the Aloha Life or Aloha Spirit.
Where to stay in Kauai?
Most of hotels in Kauai are located on the southeast coast between Lihue, Poipu and Kealia. Many bars and restaurants can be found here. In the north, you can also stay in Princeville and Hanalei to explore the north coast of the island, hike in the central forest reserves or stroll on Hanalei Bay.
Camping is another popular way to stay in Kauai and surely the most economical as Hawaii in general can be quite expensive.
We opted for Poipu Beach after many recommendations from our friends. We chose the Kiahuna Plantation Resort Kauai by Outrigger. It was simply amazing and probably one of the best option on Kauai, with awesome value for money, at least that’s what we felt. From Kiahuna Plantation Resort Kauai by Outrigger, you can access a private stretch of beach, and you can even surf there. It is also the perfect place to admire the sunset, simply stunning!