Post Summary: 25 Adventurous Things To Do In Kauai, Hawaii
So you’ve booked your tickets to Kauai, Hawaii – now what?
From whale watching to snorkeling to hiking into hidden waterfalls, there are so many exciting and adventurous things to do in Kauai!
But where do you start? With all the blogs and brochures of information, it can be overwhelming planning your Kauai itinerary!
Well, we’re making this part easier for you by sharing the most adventurous things to do in Kauai, Hawaii!
We’re breaking down this post by sections of the island (North Shore, East Shore, South Shore + adventures), sharing a Kauai map, directions to each location, and tips on how to plan your Hawaii trip!
These are our favorite non-touristy things to do in Kauai, including hiking to secret beaches, hidden waterfalls, and hiking to stunning Kauai viewpoints!
25 Adventurous Things To Do In Kauai, Hawaii
North Shore Activities
1. Take On The Na Pali Coast’s Kalalau Trail
*NOTE* – As of Sept 2018 this part of the island is closed due to Hurricane Lane. Check the road openings for the latest news.
If you love adventure, you can’t leave Hawaii without at least trying a piece of this trail on the North Shore Kauai.
The Kalalau Trail is an 11-mile path that leads hikers into the wild Na Pali Coast, from Ke’e Beach to Kalalau Beach, where there is no land access except by foot.
Doing this, you’ll experience lush valleys, traverse over the rugged coastline, and see some of the most gorgeous views Kauai has to offer. Here are a few variations of this hike:
- Hard (First 2 Miles): Take on the first two miles starting at Ke’e Beach. Don’t be discouraged by the first leg. It’s a pretty rough section climbing over rocks, but the path gets flatter (but definitely not less muddy) as you go further. You’ll end your hike at Hanakapi’ai Beach and then make your way back.
- Harder (Hanakapi’ai Falls): After the first two miles, you have the option to continue for two more miles on a side trail to Hanakapi’ai Falls. The path is usually muddy and rocky, so bring sturdy shoes and accept that they will get dirty! At the end, you’ll be rewarded with a 300-foot waterfall and freshwater pool to swim in.
- Hardest (The Entire Trail): Take on the entire 11-mile trek across the entire Na Pali coast. This requires a camping permit, lots of preparation, and a few good days of roughing it in the wild. If you are going to go this route, do your research before attempting!
2. Take A Dip In The Queen’s Bath
The Queen’s Bath is a unique tide pool in the North Shore Kauai. It’s technically a sinkhole, with igneous rock surrounding it. Here, the water is semi-protected from the Pacific Ocean waves.
In the summer months of Kauai (May through October) the tidal pool’s water is relatively calm, but during the cooler months (November to April) the ocean waves can crash into the pool, making it pretty dangerous.
Take caution when visiting here. Check the surf report the day of your visit, and try going during low tide for the best chance for a swim.
There are tons of warning signs on the way down to these tide pools – just use your best judgment when deciding to get in. Swim or no swim, the pools are beautiful to see!
3. Watch The Sunset At Hanalei Bay
Hanalei Bay is a crescent-shaped shoreline located on the north shore of Kauai.
Here, on a beach called Black Pot Beach, there is a 100-meter dock that stretches out into the ocean. It was once used for shipping crops like rice and sugar. **(Updated in Dec. 2018, Black Pot Beach is still under restoration efforts from the April 2018 flood to Hanalei Bay)
We suggest packing a picnic and heading over to the beach to watch sailboats drift lazily by as the sun goes down.
This bay has calm waves and is ideal for paddle boarding, kayaking, and snorkeling as well. You can even set up a hammock between the rows of tall coconut trees!
4. Watch the Sunrise at Larsen’s Beach
Berty and I love to get up early for sunrise, so our Airbnb host suggested we check out this east-facing Kauai beach for some awesome views.
On this sunrise journey, we drove a short distance on a dirt road and reached the beach trailhead after about 5 minutes.
We stopped to watch the sunrise at the top of the trailhead and then headed to an overgrown path down to the water.
Larsen’s Beach is a long stretch of beautiful white sand and a little hard for the general public to reach – which means you could get it all to yourself on a quiet day!
Our host also told us that it is considered a nude beach! We didn’t see anyone this early in the morning, but they warned us that if we went later in the day, we’d definitely see some people disrobed. Ha!
5. Visit The Kilauea Lighthouse
The Kilauea Lighthouse is located on the North Shore of Kauai. It is part of the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge that protects the seabird population of Kauai.
6. Explore the Dry/Wet Caves
Kauai has an amazing collection of dry and wet caves on the island.
“Wet” caves mean that the cave is filled with water, formed by years and year of pounding waves to erode away the rock wall. “Dry” caves mean it was formed in the same way, but no longer has a water sources to continually erode away at the walls.
Some of the most popular cave on Kauai to visit are Waikanaloa Cave, The Blue Room, and Maniniholo Dry Cave.
Princeville is the resort community of Kauai’s North Shore. Here you can stay in beautiful condos, resorts, and enjoy the luxurious life of North Kauai. Princeville also has access to many beautiful beaches including Hideaways Beach and Puu Poa Beach.
8. Best Beaches In Kauai, Hawaii (North Shore)
The North Shore
- Anini Beach
- Secret Beach
- Larsen’s Beach (Best spot for sunrise)
- Hanalei Bay
- Kalihiwai Beach
- Haena Beach Park (beautiful views of the Na Pali Coast)
- Ke’e Beach
East Shore Activities In Kauai, Hawaii
- Wailua River State Park is located on the East Shore of Kauai, Hawaii. This is an incredible park for water sports, cruising, and even exploring cultural heritage sites!
- The state park is easily accessible from the East Shore of Kauai. If you ares taying in the town of Kapa’a, this is an incredible adventure hub not far from your home base!
Other Things To See In Wailua River State Park:
- Opaeka’a Falls
- Fern Grotto
- Hikinaakala Heiau
- Kauai’s Hindu Monastery
10. Hike To The Top Of The Sleeping Giant
The Sleeping Giant is a 3.5-mile moderate hike atop Nounou Mountain.
The trail and mountain get its name from the “sleeping giant” shape the hill creates from the perspective of the city of Kapa’a below.
We began hiking at 5:00 am with headlamps in order to reach the top for sunrise. The trail was slippery (no surprise – October), there were lots of switchbacks, and we had to turn around sometimes because the trail forks off into false paths.
However, despite all these setbacks, it’s well worth the effort – the sun revealing itself over the ocean to light up the town below is something we will cherish forever.
11. Eat Your Way Around The Town Of Kapa’a
Take a “food adventure” around the main commercial street of Kapa’a and in a matter of seconds you’ll stumble across a delicious restaurant.
Oh, and don’t forget the shave ice stands that are around every corner!
12. Explore Kauai’s Epic Waterfalls
While most waterfalls in Kauai are unreachable (either no trails or roads lead to them or they’re on private lands), there is a generous handful of stunning falls that are accessible for different levels of adventure.
Some waterfalls are easy to get to, like Opaeka’a Falls and Wailua Falls. Some require extra effort, like Secret Falls (you must kayak up the river!), and others require extreme efforts like the journey to Hanakapa’ia Falls or the Blue Hole of Mt. Waialeale.
You can also see many inaccessible falls if you take a Kauai helicopter tour. Most of the island’s waterfalls are found in the deep crevices of the aging mountains, all sourced from rainfall!
13. List Of East Shore Beaches In Kauai, Hawaii
Kauai’s East Shore Beaches are known for their general accessibility and proximity to condos and hotels. They typically tend to be on the windy side, but that makes it fun to play in the waves! Here are some recommended and popular East Shore beaches on Kauai:
- Kealia Beach
- Kapa’a Beach Park
- Waipouli Beach Park
- Wailu Beach
- Lydgate Park
South Shore Activities In Kauai, Hawaii
14. Play in the Waves at Shipwreck’s Beach
Located on the south shore in Poipu, Kauai, this beach has wild waves perfect for an adrenaline junkie.
Berty and I had fun getting knocked over by large waves, but we didn’t really do much “swimming”. The deepest we got was probably to our knees!
Besides playing in the water, you can also climb up the rock formation next to the beach to get great views of the ocean, and the surfers catching waves.
If you are wanting some calmer Hawaii waves, drive along the Kauai south shore to the west just a little bit more to reach Poipu Beach Park.
Here the water is protected by a reef, has a lifeguard on duty 7 days a week, and is ranked one of the safest beaches in the US!
15. See Mind-Blowing Views At Waimea Canyon
Waimea Canyon is commonly referred to as “The Grand Canyon Of The Pacific” for its dramatic vistas and colorful landscape.
In parts of the canyon, it can get up to 3,000 feet deep! Along the Waimea Canyon Road (Hawaii State Route 550) there are plenty of overlooks to pull your car over and check out the views.
From the main lookout, Waimea Canyon Overlook, you can see Waipo’o Falls in the distance – a waterfall cascading 800 feet! There are also lots of trails (including the Kalepa Ridge trail!) to get different perspectives of the canyon and the Na Pali Coast.
Bring a sweater because it is usually 10-15 degrees cooler up in the Canyon. Hang onto your hats because it is windy too!
16. Explore Koke’e State Park
Koke’e State Park is an adventure lover’s paradise.
From the amazing hikes 4000 feet above the Kalalau Valley to the rim of Waimea Canyon, there won’t be a shortage of beautiful things to see.
To get even more of an already-nature-filled trip to Kauai, you can opt to go tent camping or picnicking in their many beautiful developed campsites. Koke’e State Park is also an excellent place to go bird watching, see wildlife, and study the flora and fauna!
17. See The Spouting Horn
The Spouting Horn of Kauai’s South Shore is one of the most photographed locations on the entire island! It’s unique shape and behavior is from an ancient lava tube.
As the tide and waves come closer to shore, the water shoots up into the lava tube, creating a blowhole of water that shoots as high as 50 feet!
It’s also a great place to watch for humpback whales! They can usually be seen between the months of December and May.
18. Drive Through The Tree Tunnel
There is no grander entrance to Kauai’s South Shore than the Maliuhi Road Tree Tunnel.
This beautiful one-mile Eucalyptus-lined highway was planted in 1911 and the trees have survived hurricanes, rough weather, and so much more! It connects towns like Koloa and Poipu to the rest of the island.
Photographer’s Tip: This place is challenging to shoot during the day. There aren’t many safe pullouts and cars frequently come and go in each direction. The best time to get a clear view would be during sunrise hours! Still then, watch out for fast cars coming from either direction!
19. List Of South Shore Beaches In Kauai, Hawaii
The South Shore beaches in Kauai are known to be the sunniest, as well as some of the safest.
Here is a list of popular beaches to visit during your days by the sand:
- Shipwreck Beach
- Po’ipu Beach Park
- Baby Beach
20. Explore The Na Pali Coast Via Kalepa Ridge Trail
This hike in Kauai, Hawaii was entirely stunning, dangerous, and terribly difficult all wrapped into one experience.
The Kalepa Ridge Trail is a 1.6 mile out and back trail with several sections of extremely steep paths right on the edge of the ridge.* Later I found out that some of those sections had a 1000 foot drop off (!!!!!).
Despite the danger, the views are absolutely breathtaking and we were able to see ridges of Na Pali Coast pretty much the entire way.
*After returning from our hike, we learned that this is actually an “unofficial” trail and that the ecosystem on this ridge is pretty delicate. While we got caught hiking in the rain and mud, and we don’t recommend you do the same. Try coming back when the trail is dry so that you stay safe, and protect the trail from further erosion.
See More Photos: Hiking The Kalepa Ridge Trail
21. Take A Helicopter Tour Around The Entire Island
If you want to appreciate Kauai in all its glory, we highly recommend taking a tour by air.
Flying also allows you to go deep into the Waimea Canyon, see the weeping walls of Mt. Waialeale, and experience waterfalls you wouldn’t be able to access otherwise.
Besides by boat, it’s also the only way to see the beauty of the rugged 16-miles of the Na Pali Coast.
Most tours are 60 minutes long, but you can spend a little more and opt for a “photography” tour which is a longer experience, with the doors off the helicopter!
22. Sail Around The Na Pali Coast
One of the crown jewels of Kauai is the beautiful Na Pali coast, located in the Northwest corner of the island. There are no access roads to the coastline, so the only way to visit these beautiful shores are by boat or by hiking in.
There are several catamaran, sailing, snorkeling, and diving companies that will take you on a tour up and down the coast!
Blue Dolphin Charters has many tour options to pick from, and can cater everyone from families to adrenaline junkies. The adventure is yours to choose!
23. Kayak Down The Wailua River
The Wailua River is a 20-mile river that runs through Kauai and exits at the East Shore.
It’s the largest river on the island, and the only one navigable by anything larger than a man-powered boat. This means there are plenty of activities like water skiing, cruising, and tubing that can be seen on the river.
If you’re looking for a little adventure, Kayak Wailua provides visitors with five-hour tours, which includes a pleasant trip down the river, through the jungle, and a route to a hidden waterfall!
Another popular place along the Wailua River is Fern Grotto, where you can experience a river cruise, beautiful nature walk, and a celebration of the islands rich culture!
24. Explore A Coffee Plantation
Kauai is home to the state’s largest coffee plantation.
“The warm Pacific sun, rich volcanic earth, abundant mountain rain, and cool trade winds” are just some of the things that make Kauai coffee spectacular.
At Kauai Coffee Company, there are daily walking tours of the estate available, as well as private, more in-depth tours.
25. Go Snorkeling
There are several snorkeling beaches in Kauai. Some of the most popular beaches for snorkeling are are listed by skill level:
Beginner Snorkeling Beaches:
- Lydgate Park
- Lawai Beach,
- Poipu Beach Park (beginners)
Intermediate Snorkeling Beaches:
- Nualolo Kai (Off the Na Pali Coast)
- Lawai Beach
Advanced Snorkeling Beaches:
- Hideaways Beach
- Tunnels Beach
- Ke’e Beach
Note: If you are hoping to go out on a self-guided tour, take some time to read this snorkeling safety guide to educate yourself before you swim out!
Map of Things To Do In Kauai
Below, you’ll find an interactive map of all the adventurous things to do in Kauai, Hawaii!
Thank you Alaska Airlines for making this trip possible! We were honored to share our favorite things to do in Kauai. As always, all opinions and experiences are our own, planned and executed by Berty and Emily Mandagie.
What are some things to do in Kauai that you have liked? Anything you would add to this list? Tell us in the comments below!
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