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Five Great Things to Do in Kauai

Five Great Things to Do in Kauai

Get ready for a breathtaking experience and explore the beauty, culture and adventure of Kauai! From stunning white sand beaches and mesmerizing waterfalls to lush jungles and captivating culture – there is something for everyone on this paradise island. Whether you are looking to relax under the sun or take up some thrilling activities, Kauai has plenty to offer. From learning traditional Hawaiian customs from hula lessons at Kalalau Lookout to learning about the natural environment on a Na Pali Coast Kayaking Adventure, keep reading for five great things that you must do in Kauai!

Five Ways to Explore Kauai

Sail the Napali Coast

The northwestern side of the island showcases the extraordinary natural beauty of the Napali coast. Due to the extreme peaks in this area, the coastline is best viewed by sea or air, as it is mainly inaccessible otherwise. There are several companies on the island offering treks out to view the coast in sailboats and catamarans, such as Capt Andy’s. Smaller vessels like rafts can also access small sea caves hidden along the shoreline. Tours are typically booked in advance and are time specific. Some daytime trips include time to get in the water and snorkel.

In contrast, others focus on the view and history of the island, including sightseeing specific spots featured in movies and television. Depending on the season and time of day, you may also be able to see whales, turtles, pods of dolphins and other wild animals during your journey at sea. Sunset cruises are available to view the waterfalls, eat a chef-prepared dinner on board and wrap up with evening drinks as the sun sinks into the ocean. Most tours will include beverages, snacks or meals, and guides will provide detailed information about what to wear and bring with you for the trip.

Boat Tours in Kauai (©Jim Carroll)
Boat Tours in Kauai (©Jim Carroll)

Helicopter Tour Over Kauai

Another fantastic view of the island of Kauai is available from the sky. Helicopter tours are available to get an unbeatable aerial view of the lush rainforests, steep peaks and famous waterfalls of the island. Not for the faint of heart, these guided tours span Waimea Canyon, Napali coastline and local volcano sites from a six-seater helicopter. Group tours from companies like Blue Hawaiian Helicopters typically take 50 minutes to view all of the sites. Your tour guide can answer questions or focus on specific landmarks as requested. Customizable charters are available for more extended tours, special occasions or larger groups. Note that rainy weather can impact visibility and safety and that there are weight requirements for safely balancing the aircraft. For the truly daring, some companies offer a “doors off” experience.

Kauai Helicopter Tour (©Spencer Watson)
Kauai Helicopter Tour (©Spencer Watson)

Secret Falls Kayak and Hike

A great guided experience is the Secret Falls kayak and hiking adventure from Kayak Kauai. Book in advance for this active adventure, where you’ll kayak along the Wailua River until you reach the trailhead to hike to your destination at the Uluwehi Falls. The tour is family-friendly and appropriate for most activity levels, and your guide will point out sites and provide information on island lore as you go. Life vests are provided for the kayaking portion. Much of the hike is on elevated wood planks, where you will pass ancient Hawaiian burial grounds and iconic sites featured in Jurassic Park and other movies. You will make your way to the waterfall at the end, which was historically a site exclusively for female members of the Hawaiian royal family. Once there, snap a few photos and eat a picnic lunch before heading back out the way you came and being sure to leave no trace. Though island visitors are technically free to bring their own kayaks and hiking gear and follow the trail on their own without a tour group, the safety and information provided by the guided option are highly recommended for those unfamiliar with the area or well versed in wilderness safety practices.

Kayaking in Kauai (©Tim Foster)
Kayaking in Kauai (©Tim Foster)

Waimea Canyon State Park

No trip to Kauai is complete without a visit to Waimea Canyon State Park! Nicknamed “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” the geologic wonder provides incredible panoramic views of the steep peaks and deep gorges. Visitors will need a vehicle to access the park on the island’s west side and purchase a parking pass or can access the park using the public bus service on the island. Even from inside the vehicle, the views are incredible. Maps and signage mark important sites, scenic overlooks and trailheads. Those wanting to get out and stretch their legs can pick from a few trails of varying difficulty, including the Kukui Trail and the Iliau Nature Loop. Due to the rainy weather often found on the island, hikers are advised to wear sturdy sneakers and bring walking sticks. Keep an eye out for the many wild chickens in the area, as well as native deer, goats and pigs.

Aerial View of Kauai (©Karsten Winegeart)
Aerial View of Kauai (©Karsten Winegeart)
Waimea Canyon State Park (©Nick Mealey)
Waimea Canyon State Park (©Nick Mealey)

Food Tours

Perhaps you think Kauai is not for you if you aren’t interested in adrenaline-pumping adventures in the wild. Not so fast, food lovers will enjoy the plentiful dining options on the island and can either join a guided food tour or create one of their own to explore the local restaurants, markets and food trucks. Companies like Tasting Kauai offer guided food tours at local hot spots with hosts to coordinate the experience, provide information on the restaurant and local culture and answer questions. This option is also an excellent opportunity to hear from a local about other restaurants to hit up for meals during the rest of your visit. You can also build your own food tour by planning a progressive meal stopping at one spot for appetizers, shared entrees, drinks and dessert. Kauai also has a thriving food truck scene. Use our Five Fantastic Food Trucks on Kauai article to plan out your own tour.

Poke Bowl (©Jonathan Borba)
Poke Bowl (©Jonathan Borba)
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