Give a Google search on “things to do on Kauai” and you’re instantly bombarded with millions of results — each one offering dozens of suggestions about things to do in Kauai. For someone planning a relaxing vacation, this initial search can easily turn overwhelming!
To relieve some of the stress of planning, we’ve written this guide to Kauai from the perspective of locals—native Hawaiians who live here and know the best places to see (and to avoid). We’ve divided the points of interest into four categories, so you can browse by topics of interest:
Want to visit storied state parks, amazing canyons, and trails untamed by civilization? Then you’re in the perfect place. Kauai is a nature-lover’s paradise, with unbelievable venues for snorkeling, hiking, adventuring, boating, and exploring. Here are our top picks for outdoor adventures in Kauai:
- The Na’Pali Coast
- Hiking: Kokee State Park, Waimea Canyon; Polihale State Park
- Snorkeling: Lydgate Beach Park, Ke’e Beach, Anini, Queens Pond
- Drive to Hanalei
Other great things to do include the following:
Hike the Kalalau Trail.
In the middle of Kauai’s Na’Pali coast is the Kalalau Trail, an epic hike that takes you through a valley full of beauty and wonder. For an intimate encounter with the coast, hike the 11-mile trail from Ke’e beach to Kalalau. The trail is one of the toughest, as well as the most beautiful of all the Kauai hikes—and we think it’s one of the best things to do in Kauai. Learn more about the Kalalau Trail here.
Enjoy breathtaking waterfalls.
Ask anyone who visits Kauai and they will likely say that seeing the island’s waterfalls was one of the highlights of their vacation. Some are difficult to get to; others are just a short walk from your car. We’ve identified a few of the most photographic (and easiest to access) waterfalls on Kauai in our article, The 7+ Best Easy-to-view Waterfalls in Kauai. Pick a couple, or make a day of viewing all these natural wonders.
Swim with the fish.
If you enjoy snorkeling, Lydgate Beach Park is a must. It has two pools covered by boulders, protecting them from ocean currents. The water is calm and has plenty of fish, which makes it great for snorkelling. The park has bathrooms, picnic tables, and room for recreational activities. It is centrally located on the eastern coast of Kauai, not far from the road.
Pro-Tip: If you want to see it all, this is the only way.
The best and most recommended way to see all the world-famous Na’Pali Coastline—beaches, sea caves, amazing vistas, pristine blue water, wildlife, and more—is by cruising with Makana Charters. You won’t get a better, more up-close (and picture perfect) view of Kauai’s sites any other way. Learn more about our tours here, and find out how you can save 10% when you book your cruise!
What is a visit to Kauai without at least a day spent exploring, lounging, and swimming at our pristine, legendary beaches? No matter which shoreline you visit, the awesome beauty and magic of Kauai’s beaches will leave you awestruck. But to make it a little easier to choose, we want to share some of our top beaches to visit on Kauai—wherever you’re staying, there’s a beautiful cove or wide-open shoreline near you.
- Maha’ulepu Beach
- Poipu Beach
- Shipwreck Beach
- PK’s Beach
- Salt Pond Beach
- Kekaha Beach
- Hanelei – Ke’e beach
Our article Top 10 Kauai Beaches has the scoop on all ten of these iconic beaches, as well as a detailed map of the island so you can easily plan your itinerary.
Educational & Historical Sites: Places to Visit in Kauai
Looking for a little education while you’re having fun? Or maybe you’re seeking out some historical curiosities. You’ve come to the right place: Kauai’s rich history and culture is unlike many other places on earth.
The following things to do in Kauai, Hawaii, with the kids make up a short list of interesting activities that also stimulate the mind. (It’s an island classroom—the kids won’t even consider it learning!)
The Russian fort is a historic example of the 1800s military extensions around the Pacific. Before the U.S. took military control, several Russian outposts were created on Kauai. Today you can view the ruins of those outposts, along with a beautiful view of the ocean and the town of Waimea.
If the weather is stormy, this museum is a great rainy-day activity for both kids and adults. The Kaua’i Museum in Lihue shares thousands of years of island history with visitors and residents daily. Here you can see artifacts from Hawaiian and immigrant culture. The history of the island is rich with stories and legends, all worth finding out more about.
Kauai Mini Golf
Who knew that playing mini golf could be educational? Kaua’i Mini Golf in Kilauea is part family fun, part interpretive walk, as each hole features a different native plant with informational plaques. Kids will love the challenging course, and parents will love the fact that, even if they aren’t consciously reading the signs, the kids will be introduced to Kauai’s native flora.
The historical town of Koloa
The ancient town of Koloa offers an excellent look at the birthplace of the Hawaiian sugar industry. Since its inception in 1835, the sugar mill thrived for over a hundred years before finally closing down in 1996. It has now been declared as a National Historical Landmark. Start by taking a tour of Koloa Sugar Mill, which marks an important chapter in the history of Kauai. The sugar mill is located at the center of Koloa and is surrounded by numerous art galleries and dining options.
This large estate is a beautiful remnant of Kauai’s plantation culture of the early 1900s. The estate tour includes fantastic food and drink options—even a rum tasting room where parents can sample local rum! Kids will love the train ride that leads around the property, while a tour guide shares interpretive insights.
The Menehune Ditch may seem like just another ditch, but the ditch’s size, the tunnel it leads to, and the local legend behind it make this a unique local attraction. There is also a plaque telling the story of the mythical Menehune people, a smaller race of local Hawaiians rumored to have lived here before Europeans made contact. Legend has it that the Menehune ditch was built by these people hundreds of years ago, whereby they had a hand in helping to irrigate the dry west side. You and your family can see for yourselves and judge whether or not the legend is true based on what you see!
In-Town & Cultural Destinations: Things to See in Kauai
See a Hula show.
If you are in Kauai, you cannot miss a Hula show. The following locations offer luau and Hula shows:
- Grand Hyatt Kauai: Sea View Terrace (Keiki Hula show on Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m.)
- Poipu Shopping Village (Tahitian Hula on Thursdays at 5 p.m.)
- Harbor Mall Lihue (Hawaiian entertainment and Hula on Wednesdays at 12:15 p.m.)
- Coconut MarketPlace, Wailua (Hula shows on Wednesday at 5 p.m. and Saturdays at 1 p.m.)
Get a cuppa joe at Kauai Coffee Company.
Kauai Coffee Company is the largest coffee grower in the United States. From growing the coffee to roasting and packaging, Kauai Coffee employs sustainable, environmentally sound practices throughout every step of the process. It is famous for its well harvested, roasted, and freshly served coffee. You can take a tour of the plantation to understand the entire process of coffee making. The experience will only increase your love for coffee.
Go to Hanapepe Art Night.
The ““Biggest Little Town on Kauai” (and the setting for Disney’s “Lilo and Stitch”) hosts an Art Night every Friday, where the streets come alive with artists, visitors, and musicians. The laid back vibe fits in perfectly with Aloha spirit, and the no-pressure gallery owners always welcome people with a big smile.
See historic Waimea.
Waimea is definitely worth seeing. Many of the buildings are over 100 years old, giving the streets a historic feel. You can pick up a walking tour map at the Makana Charters booking office, located immediately on your right as you cross the river entering town. The small guide will give you a great overview of the town’s best landmarks.
A trip to Waimea is not complete without a walk to the pier. If you are able to get there at sunrise or sunset, you will be treated to a spectacular view of the bay and beautiful colors. You will also find the sunset on the beach to be much different than other beaches on Kauai—the black sand is unique to the area, and the dark colors will give you some picture-perfect memories.
Every vacation is incomplete without a little shopping. We recommend:
- Poipu Shopping Village: Home to award-winning restaurants, juice bars, and a variety of shops selling clothing, jewelry, surfing gear, art, and souvenirs. The shopping village offers free live entertainment with traditional Hula and Hawaiian music every Monday and Thursday.
- If you are a bookworm, head to the Talk Story bookstore in Hanapepe, which has a huge collection of old and new books.
- The Kukuiula shopping centre is Kauai’s newest premier shopping, dining, and fine art destination. Visit the Farmers Market for delicious local foods and enjoy the music performances.
- Old Koloa town is also an excellent shopping destination. The quaint little shops, galleries, and eateries—some of which still operate in the old buildings from the plantation days—are a highlight and offer a unique shopping experience.
If you don’t want to spend any money, there are several great free Kauai activities, too, which you can learn about here.
Looking for more things to do in Kauai?
Be sure to book your visit to Makana Charters to see the Na’Pali Coast of Kauai from the most beautiful vantage point possible—the ocean! Right now you can get 10% off your cruise.
We can’t wait to see you on your visit to Kauai!