Visiting the Hawaiian island of Kauai is a dream come true for so many travelers. Beautiful beaches, colorful sunsets, dramatic cliffs, and rich green rainforests are perfect descriptions of this small but dramatic island.
Kauai is your spot if you want to vacation in a less touristy area and still have an adventure-filled trip.
Let’s look at all the ways you can have fun in this tropical paradise. Here are 8 unforgettable things to do in Kauai…
1. Kayak the Wailua River
Taking a guided kayaking tour down the Wailua River is the way to go. There are numerous outfitters to choose from, but we decided on Kayak Wailua.
Their price is lower than most because they do not provide lunch – just a cooler for the snacks you bring, which is OK with us because the point of the trip was for the experience of kayaking in Kauai, not the sandwich provided!
We chose an early start time, so it allowed us to get cleaned up for our planned luau later in the day, but there are many time options depending on what works best for your schedule.
The guided tour lasts about 4.5 hours and includes paddling, hiking, swimming in the base pool of the Secret Falls and having a quick picnic – remember, with the lunch you bring.
Most companies offer different sized kayaks to choose from – single, double, triple, but the most popular is the double.
Your guide will help instruct you and your partner on ways to work together to navigate the waters in hopes of ending the day peacefully!
If you had a great time and were impressed with your guide, which we were, you can always slide a few bucks their way to show your appreciation.
Where: 4565 Haleilio Road, Kapa’a, HI 96746
2. Explore Waimea Canyon State Park
If you are looking for a million-dollar view, Waimea Canyon State Park is your go-to spot. Nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, your visit to Waimea Canyon can be as relaxing or as strenuous as you would like.
We took the more relaxing approach and visited viewpoints along Highway 550.
When visiting in the winter, you risk having cloudy days, which creates low visibility at the overlooks (so keep that in mind), but it is still worth your time.
A few Waimea Canyon hikes you can check into are:
- Cliff Trail – Easy
- Canyon Trail – Moderate
- Black Pipe Trail – Moderate
Picnicking is another excellent option if you want to enjoy the outdoors without exerting too much energy.
A pavilion and picnic tables are available, so all you need to bring are your favorite snacks.
Note: Keep in mind there is an entrance fee and a parking charge. Fill up on gas and take a restroom break; it is very remote once you start heading up Highway 550.
Don’t Miss: Kauai’s Best Photo Spots
3. Take a Helicopter Tour
Kauai helicopter tours are one of the best ways to view the Garden Isle’s unique, lush green landscape that is otherwise left unseen since over 70% of the island is unreachable by land.
There are many options when choosing what helicopter tour is best for you, so do your research.
Read reviews, compare pricing, pay attention to flight duration and understand the tour route.
Let’s say you decide to tour with Sunshine Helicopters.
The flight is 50-55 minutes long, taking off from Lihue Airport. Prices range from $230 to $320, depending on your seat choice.
Best of all, you will see some of the most awe-inspiring sites like the beautiful Napali Coast, Waimea Canyon and Manawaiopuna Falls – which is seen in the film Jurassic Park.
With over 100 daily helicopter flights on Kauai, I am positive you will find the best tour that meets your expectations.
Where: Most helicopter tours take off from the Lihue Airport, but some companies have locations at Princeville Airport as well.
4. Go Whale Watching
When you are trying to figure out what to do on Kauai in the winter months, whale watching is an absolute must!
Whether that is from the comfort of your balcony, an overlook area on the shoreline or a whale-watching boat tour.
The peak season to spot a humpback whale in Kauai’s warm waters is December to April.
If you are hoping to see these gentle giants from land, some of the best spots for viewing are the Kilauea Lighthouse on the North Shore, Poipu Beach on the island’s Southside, and the East shoreline at Kapaa Overlook.
Whale watching tours can get you up close and personal to these majestic mammals as they use the Pacific Ocean as their playground.
Boat tour pricing varies depending on the number of people on the boat, whether food and drinks are provided, and the tour duration.
5. Visit the Kilauea Lighthouse
Standing at 52 feet high, Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean waters and rugged green cliffs.
You can see the lighthouse at a distance from the Kilauea Viewpoint or pay a reservation fee and get up close and personal.
The best part is that you will get a view of the lighthouse and an array of wildlife.
From seabirds to wetland birds, native plants and marine life, like humpback whales if you are visiting in the winter.
Give yourself at least 30 minutes to an hour to explore the peninsula.
Where: 3580 Kilauea Rd, Kilauea, HI 96754
6. Enjoy Hanalei Bay
Hanalei Bay is a small, charming town on the Northshore of Kauai with beautiful white sandy beaches, shopping, eateries and art.
If you are itching to catch some rays, Hanalei Bay has 2 miles of beach to enjoy.
Rental shops are available for those who want to try their hand at water activities, whether that is surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking or snorkeling.
Hanalei Bay Pier offers a different perspective of the surrounding landscape and even sunsets, so make sure to take the 340 feet stroll down the wooden planks.
When it comes to shopping, the town proudly boasts their mom and pop shops.
Small clothing boutiques and art galleries help bring the Hawaiian vibe to life. A couple of our favorite shops are Slow Yourself Down and Havaiki Art.
Note: The road to Hanalei Bay has a one-way bridge, so use caution when crossing. The area has also battled mudslides that have damaged areas of the road.
Check locally for road closures, as there is still intermittent road construction.
7. Experience Smith’s Garden Luau
When visiting a Hawaiian island, experiencing a Luau is a must. After some research for our Kauai trip, we attended Smith’s Garden Luau, which did not disappoint.
It is a family-operated event and you almost feel as if you are a part of the event.
Your evening first starts with a ride on a tram around the beautiful tropical gardens. You then have time to explore the land and take pictures but don’t stray too far because you will want to be back to attend the Imu Ceremony.
This ceremony demonstrates the Hawaiian tradition of using an underground oven full of hot coals for cooking the delicious pulled pork you will have the option of eating at dinner time.
Drinks and music are also a part of the experience before heading to the amphitheater to watch their famous Aloha Show.
Although the Smith’s Luau takes place all year, there is a seasonal schedule, so check their website for the specific days and times to attend.
Where: 3-5971 Kuhio Highway, Kapaa, HI 96746
Related: Where to Eat on Kauai
8. View Wailua Falls
Wailua Falls is easily visible from an overlook off Maalo Road (Highway 583), just north of Lihue.
Known for morning rainbows and being in the opening credits of “Fantasy Island”, this double waterfall will not disappoint.
Note: It is off-limits to hike down to the base of the waterfall. Parking is limited but usually is a quick stop for many, so parking spots are constantly opening up.
Where: At the end of Highway 583, which is about 4 miles once you turn off Kuhio Highway.
What is the number one thing to do in Kauai?
If you can only do one thing in Kauai make sure to check out the Na Pali coast. There are plenty of boat tours or even better book an airplane or helicopter tour to check out the Na Pali coastline from above. Either way you will leave Kauai with no regrets because words and other people’s pictures do not do the NaPali coast justice!
What is Kauai popular for?
Kauai is most popular for the distinct and dramatic natural beauty all around this Hawaiian island. Whether you visit Waimea Canyon, take a boat or helicopter tour of the Na Pali coast, kayak to a waterfall or just hang out at the beach in Hanalei Bay you will be left in awe of everything Kauai has to offer!
Wrapping It Up…
Even if you are not able to fit all of these experiences in on your trip there are enough things to do on Kauai that will provide spectacular memories for years to come!
Check out our Google Web Story – Things to Do in Kauai
If you’ve already visited the Garden Isle what are your can’t-miss activities? Let us know in the comments…