Hi there! My name is Rifat Sheerin. I’m a dreamer who took the leap and left my career in architecture to explore the world and live life on my own terms!

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Best Things to Do in Kauai, Hawaii

Kauai, also known as the “Garden Island,” is a tropical paradise nestled within the Hawaiian archipelago. Jagged emerald cliffs towering over shimmering turquoise waters, lush rainforests, cascading waterfalls, and earthy canyons displaying a stunning range of colors make Kauai one of the most beautiful places in the world. It’s no surprise that this gorgeous island has been featured as a backdrop in numerous movies and is often considered the best Hawaiian island to visit!

Kauai Island is a must-visit destination if you are seeking adventure and relaxation on your Hawaii trip. From hiking to hidden waterfalls and kayaking along the Na Pali Coast to soaking up the sun on some of the world’s most exquisite beaches, there is no shortage of things to do on this tropical island!  So grab your sunscreen, put on your hiking shoes, and let’s dive into the best things to do in Kauai:

1. Marvel at the majestic Na Pali Coast

The rugged landscapes of Kauai make it best island to visit in hawaii!
Kauai beaches and waterfalls.

A visit to the iconic Na Pali Coast is one of the most awe-inspiring experiences in Kauai. The rugged coastline boasts towering emerald cliffs, hidden sea caves, and cascading waterfalls that are sure to take your breath away! The ideal way to soak up its beauty is by boat, which can be experienced through a guided tour or a private rental. As you navigate the coast, you’ll be treated to spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and the unique geological formations of the coastline.

You can also make the most of your trip by opting for a helicopter tour of the Na Pali Coast – an incredible way to explore one of Hawaii’s most magnificent natural wonders. From the air, you’ll get an exceptional perspective on the rugged beauty of the coast, making your Kauai trip truly unforgettable!

Sea Caves in Hawaii.
Experiencing Na Pali Coast by boat is one of the best things to do in Hawaii.

Imagine Cruising Alongside Dolphins And Meeting Hawaiian Sea Turtles – It’s An Experience You Won’t Forget!

2. Immerse yourself in the grandeur of Waimea Canyon State Park

Visiting Waimea Canyon is one of the top things to do in Kauai.
Waimea Canyon Lookout, Kauai
Pu'u Hinahina Lookout

For all you nature enthusiasts out there, don’t miss the chance to explore Waimea Canyon State Park. Located on the western side of Kauai, it is often called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” for its vast size and grandeur. What makes the canyon truly breathtaking is its earthy hues – deep reds, oranges, and browns that are reminiscent of a beautifully crafted painting.

There are many hiking trails here to experience the canyon’s beauty up close. If you prefer a more leisurely experience, check out these lookout points that offer panoramic vistas of the canyon and the surrounding landscape:

  • Waimea Canyon Lookout
  • Pu’u Hinahina Lookout

3. Take in the views at Kalalau and Pu'u o Kila Lookouts

Kauai boasts some of the world’s most amazing scenery, and the Pu’u o Kila and Kalalau Lookouts are two of the best places to take in the island’s glorious beauty.

Kalalau lookout

Beautiful view of the Kalalau Valley and the Napali coast.

The Kalalau Lookout is one of the most fantastic viewpoints on Kauai. Perched on the edge of Koke’e State Park, this lookout offers a magnificent view of the Kalalau Valley and the Na Pali coastline. At an elevation of over 4,000 feet, the lookout provides a unique perspective of the surrounding landscape, with awe-inspiring views of the rugged cliffs, lush valleys, and the Pacific Ocean. It’s a great spot to take in the beauty of the island and watch the sunrise or sunset, with the changing light casting a different glow on the landscape throughout the day!

Aside from the panoramic views, the Kalalau Lookout is also a starting point for several hiking trails. The most popular is the Kalalau Trail, an 11-mile trek that takes you through the valley and along the coast, offering incredible views of the cliffs and ocean. There are also shorter trails that start from the lookout, including the Pu’u o Kila Lookout Trail, a 2.5-mile round-trip hike that takes you to another scenic viewpoint.

Pu'u O kila Lookout

Puu O Kila Lookout offers spectacular views of the best island in hawaii - Kauai!

The Pu’u o Kila Lookout is located at the end of Highway 550 (also known as the Koke’e Road). From this vantage point, you can witness the raw beauty of Kauai’s rugged terrain and marvel at the striking contrast between the azure expanse of the Pacific Ocean and the lush greenery of the island’s interior! If you want to explore the area further, several hiking trails start from the lookout, including the Alakai Swamp Trail, which leads to incredible views of the Wainiha Valley.

4. Explore the gorgeous Hanalei Bay

Crescent-shaped Hanalei Bay located on Kauai’s north shore.

Nestled on Kauai’s north shore, the crescent-shaped Hanalei Bay is a paradise on Earth. With crystal clear waters framed by emerald slopes, it’s no wonder that this bay is often considered one of Hawaii’s most picturesque spots. It’s perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and other water activities, thanks to its calm, shallow waters that are protected by a coral reef. If you’re not much of a water person, you can still appreciate its beauty by taking a stroll along its two-mile stretch of white sand beach. Or, simply enjoy a relaxing promenade along the Hanalei Pier to watch the sunset, or try your luck at fishing!

5. Behold the picturesque panorama at Hanalei Valley Lookout

Panoramic view of Hanalei Valley, Kauai, Hawaii.

Hanalei Valley Lookout is a breathtaking spot on the island of Kauai in Hawaii and a must-see! Perched atop a ridge on Kuhio Highway, it offers picturesque views of the verdant Hanalei Valley and the surrounding mountains. As you stand at the lookout point, you’ll be able to see the lush taro fields that have been cultivated for centuries by native Hawaiians, as well as the winding Hanalei River that flows through the valley. The vista is nothing short of spectacular, with the emerald green mountains serving as a stunning backdrop to the splendid scenery! 

The lookout is easily accessible and can be reached by car or on foot. Once you arrive, take your time to soak in the captivating scenery and snap a few photos. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a rainbow forming over the valley!

6. Experience the best of land and sea at Haena Beach Park and Maniniholo Dry Cave

One of the best beaches in Kauai.

Haena Beach Park is a beautiful stretch of sand and sea located on Kauai’s north shore. It’s the perfect place to relax, soak up the sun, and take a refreshing swim in the ocean. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also try your hand at snorkeling, paddleboarding, or even surfing, as the waves here are some of the best on the island. Also, the beach is surrounded by a dense jungle-like area that is home to a variety of plants and animals, making it a great spot for a leisurely hike or nature walk. Haena Beach is undoubtedly one of the best beaches in Kauai!

Just a short walk from the beach lies Maniniholo Dry Cave, a fascinating geological formation carved out of the island’s limestone cliffs. As the name suggests, the cave is dry, so there’s no need to worry about getting wet! Inside, you’ll find impressive rock formations and unique textures created by the flow of lava and erosion caused by the ocean. The cave is easily accessible, with a short walkway leading from the parking area to the entrance.

7. Cruise the Wailua River and discover the magical Fern Grotto

Located on the east side of the island, the Wailua River is one of the most scenic and tranquil waterways in Hawaii. If you’re visiting Kauai, consider taking Smith’s Wailua River Cruise and Fern Grotto Tour for an excellent way to experience its beauty and learn about the island’s history and culture.

The tour starts at Smith’s Tropical Paradise, where you’ll board a spacious open-air boat and be welcomed by the friendly crew. As you cruise along the calm waters, you’ll enjoy serene views of the lush tropical landscape, accompanied by live Hawaiian music and hula dancing, adding to the authentic island experience!

During the two-mile journey along the river, you’ll pass by waterfalls, historic landmarks, and picturesque landscapes, providing excellent photo opportunities. The highlight of the tour is the famous Fern Grotto, a natural amphitheater covered in lush ferns and tropical foliage that adorn both its walls and ceiling. Accessible only by boat, it’s a unique and unforgettable experience that will leave you in awe!

8. Go waterfall chasing

Chasing waterfalls is one of the most fun things to do in Hawaii!

One of the most exciting things to do in Hawaii is waterfall chasing! Kauai, Hawaii boasts a plethora of waterfalls, each with its distinctive beauty and allure. The Garden Island’s waterfalls are simply mind-blowing, making it a popular destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike. Make sure to check out these waterfalls:

Wailua Falls

Perhaps the most famous waterfall on the island, Wailua Falls has been featured in numerous movies and TV shows. It’s located in the Wailua River State Park and is easily accessible by car. Surrounded by lush vegetation and soaring cliffs, this awe-inspiring 80-foot waterfall cascades into a mesmerizing turquoise pool below.

Opaekaa Falls

Opaekaa Falls is another popular waterfall in Kauai, located near the town of Wailua. The falls can be viewed from a lookout point just a few steps away from the parking lot. You’ll be fascinated by the magnificent double-tiered Opaekaa Falls, which cascade 151 feet into a hidden pool below, creating a truly spectacular sight!

9. Take a scenic break at Hānapepe Valley Lookout

Nestled in the heart of Kauai’s lush greenery, away from all the popular tourist attractions is the tranquil Hānapepe Valley Lookout. This hidden gem offers impressive views of one of the most beautiful valleys on the island, complete with rugged mountains, and vibrant lush vegetation.

The lookout is located just a short drive from the town of Waimea and is a quick roadside stop. The road leading up to it is extremely scenic with picturesque views of the island’s countryside and coastline.

10. Witness palm trees silhouetted against purple skies

Palm trees against purple skies at sunset in Kauai, Hawaii

One of the most amazing things to see in Kauai is the sight of palm trees silhouetted against a purple sky during sunset! The tall and slender palm trees appear like black cutouts, creating a striking and unforgettable scene against the vivid backdrop. Watching this scene unfold is a true feast for the senses – the warm breeze on your skin, the sound of rustling palm leaves, and the sublime natural beauty all around you. No matter where you are on the island, be sure to take a moment to stop and appreciate this beauty!

11. Drive through the magical Tree Tunnel

One of the most unique and memorable drives on Kauai is through the Tree Tunnel. This two-mile stretch of road is lined with eucalyptus trees that form a natural canopy overhead, creating a tunnel-like effect that is so surreal. Get ready to roll down your windows, breathe in the fresh air, and soak up the stunning scenery as you drive through this unforgettable natural wonder!

While the Kauai Tree Tunnel is undoubtedly one of the most iconic landmarks on the island, please note that it’s also one of the most challenging places to photograph. Due to safety concerns, stopping along the tunnel to take pictures is strictly prohibited.

12. Treat yourself to a shave ice

Eating shave ice is a must when you travel to Hawaii.

One of the best things to do in Hawaii is you shouldn’t miss is to try “shave ice,” a popular frozen treat made from finely shaved ice with an incredibly light and fluffy texture. This local specialty is the perfect way to beat the heat and cool down after a long day of exploring the island. Be sure to indulge in this tropical treat to satisfy your sweet tooth during your visit to Kauai!

Kauai’s unique blend of jaw-dropping natural beauty, a wide range of outdoor activities, a rich cultural heritage, and opportunities for relaxation and rejuvenation makes it an idyllic destination for the ultimate Hawaii vacation. From exploring the Na Pali Coast and Waimea Canyon to indulging in local cuisine and learning about Hawaiian culture, there are plenty of things to do and see on this enchanting island. Whether you’re hiking to waterfalls, snorkeling in crystal-clear waters, or simply lounging on a sandy beach,  Garden Island is sure to leave you spellbound!

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