Welcome to Kauai, Hawaii’s oldest and northernmost island. Often referred to as the “Garden Island,” Kauai’s lush greenery provides plenty to take in during your stay. From the jagged mountains and majestic waterfalls to the colorful tropical landscape and the pristine coastline, the island’s environmental resources provide plenty to keep visitors busy during their stay. Check out a few of our favorite things to do around Kauai.
- Luau Dinner & Show
It wouldn’t be a trip to Hawaii without participating in one of the region’s most traditional cultural experiences – a luau. These lively celebrations of Polynesian culture usually take place at sunset and include scrumptious traditional cuisine, energetic dancing and fire demonstrations, colorful cultural costumes, and live music. Luaus are great for groups and families and are the perfect way to take in the gorgeous scenery and Hawaiian history.
- Kilohana Plantation Estate
Built in the early 1900’s, the Kilohana Plantation Estate was owned by booming sugar baron Gaylord Wilcox. The estate house was known for hosting lavish parties and extravagant events and is still considered one of Kauai’s most historic treasures. The plantation was opened to the public in 1986 and is the perfect place for guests to explore the historic architecture, tour the scenic plantation, nosh on local food and spirits at Gaylord’s Restaurant, and even enjoy a relaxing massage at the spa. Kilohana is also home to the Koloa Rum Company, which produces a variety of tasty Hawaiian spirits.
- Lawai International Center
Created by Japanese immigrants in 1904, the Lawai International Center is a non-profit community project and healing sanctuary. Originally the home of Taoist and Shinto temples, as well as 88 miniature Shingon shrines, it fell into disrepair by the 1960s but has more recently been restored. The center’s gardens provide the setting for several events throughout the year, like the annual Pilgrimage of Compassion.
- Kamokila Hawaiian Village
Explore old Hawaii at the Kamokila Village, a reconstructed 4-acre village situated near Opaeka’a Falls. The village is comprised of 14 traditional thatched-roof structures filled with Hawaiian artifacts and educational storyboards. Visitors can enjoy a scenic self-guided tour or take a three-hour canoe trip along the Wailua River with a short hike to the picturesque nearby waterfall. The Village also hosts exciting cultural events throughout the year, like luaus and native art demonstrations.
- Cave Exploration
The island of Kauai is dotted with several natural caves, which offer a striking alternative to the sunny skies and sandy beaches often associated with Hawaii. The north shore in particular offers many easily-accessible landmarks for exploration. The caves are historic in nature as natives often created stories to explain their creation. Savvy tour guides are happy to share the folklore and tales behind caves like the Waikapalae and Waikanaloa wet caves and the Maniniholo dry cave.
- Beach Hopping
Kauai is the ideal island for beachgoers who prefer a relaxing and secluded beach experience. Unlike the hustle and bustle of other beach destinations, Kauai beaches are more remote and feature white, sandy shores and warm, crystal waters, making them some of the most sought-after beaches in the world. Popular Kauai beaches include Fuji Beach, Anahola Beach, Haena Beach, Waimea Beach, and Polihale Beach – to name a few. Kauai beaches are ideal for surfing, snorkeling, and watersports.
- Kalalau Trail
Outdoor enthusiasts are sure to appreciate the stunning scenery offered along the popular Kalalau Trail. Spanning 11 miles in length, the trail leads explorers from Ke’e Beach to Kalalau Beach along the scenic Na Pali Coast. Trail visitors can traverse five valleys and towering sea cliffs during the journey. Though the Kalalau Trail is ideal for nature lovers, the ruggedness of the trek does make it better suited for advanced hikers.
- State Parks & Gardens
Visitors would be remiss in visiting Hawaii without taking time to truly explore and appreciate the island’s stunning natural resources. Kauai’s many state parks and gardens provide a serene and affordable way to take in the native wildlife and the tropical greenery. Parks vary from lush rainforest destinations to magnificent coastal landmarks, which can make it hard to pick the perfect spot! Popular Kauai state parks and gardens include Na Pali Coast State Park, Waimea Canyon State Park, Koke’e State Park, and Limahuli Garden and Preserve, to name a few.
- Grove Farm Sugar Plantation
History buffs and cultural adventurers will appreciate the reconstructed experience offered at the Grove Farm Sugar Plantation, which was one of Kauai’s largest and longest functioning sugar plantations. Today, the plantation is home to one of the area’s most popular museums, which serves to educate visitors about this history and importance of the sugar industry. The expansive property includes several restored plantation building and homes in additional to several lush gardens, all of which are open to the public for tours.
- Seductions of Kauai Gallery
Photo fanatics and art appreciators alike will enjoy the stunning local photography showcased at the Seductions of Kauai Gallery. Created and managed by Denis Orme, a local Kauai photographer, the gallery features works that capture Hawaii’s natural beauty and include shots of area beaches, waterfalls, historical landmarks, and more. Curious visitors can also book a private photo safari tour, which includes a hands-on Hawaii photography lesson and personalized shots.
- Steelgrass Chocolate Farm
Chocoholics and visitors with a sweet tooth are sure to enjoy the succulent treats available at Kauai’s largest chocolate farm! Not many people know that the Hawaiian Islands are the only state in the US to grow the raw form of chocolate. Steelgrass Farm guests are invited to take the popular botanical garden tour and hour-long guided chocolate tasting. Be sure to snag a one-of-a-kind Hawaii souvenir at the gift shop!
- Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge
Calling all nature lovers! Are you seeking a scenic spot on Kauai to view the island’s native wildlife and colorful natural resources? If so, look no further than Kilauea Point. This protected plot of land consists of three wildlife refuges that are home to a wide array of species, including Hawaiian monk seals, spinner dolphins, and some of the largest groups of nesting seabirds found in Hawaii. Visitors are invited to enjoy the scenic trails, view wildlife, and visit the Kilauea Point Lighthouse.
- Hanapepe Swinging Bridge & Friday Art Night
Tucked away along the southwestern portion of the island, Hanapepe is a historic and charming local town that is home to one of Kauai’s hidden attractions – the swinging bridge. Though the old bridge might look intimidating, visitors are invited to conquer their fears and cross the rickety path. While you’re in town, spend some time perusing the local shops and enjoy the weekly Friday Art Night.
- Dinner & Cocktail Cruises
Kick back, relax, and take in the gorgeous Kauai sunset aboard a dinner and cocktail cruise. A popular option for couples and groups (though family-friendly cruises are available as well), these cruises are the perfect way for visitors to spend an evening out. Some cruises simply offer light hors d’oeuvres and drinks, while others provide a full dinner spread. Guests can sip on refreshing tropical beverages, enjoy local cuisine, dance to live music, and take in the sunset in style.
- Aerial Tours
Seeking a unique Kauai adventure? If so, consider getting an aerial view of the island. Guests can enjoy everything from a zipline tour through the tropical rainforests or along the scenic coastline, to the once-in-a-lifetime experience of a helicopter tour. Each option involves professional tour guides who will share island history and information about some of Kauai’s most prized locations.
- Explore Local Waterfalls
The island of Kauai provides a lush backdrop for explorers and trailblazers of any experience level. Local waterfalls are a popular draw for visitors and are an absolute must-see during your Hawaiian adventure. Many of the area’s most popular waterfalls are accessible via a quick hike or a car trip and can be easily visited in a single morning or afternoon. Popular Kauai waterfalls include Waipoo Falls, Hanakapiai Falls, Wailua Falls, Secret Falls, and Opaekaa Falls.
The island of Kauai is home to some of the world’s most beautiful scenery, which is best viewed by hiking the lush, tropical trails located throughout the island. Hiking opportunities are abundant and are available for travelers of any experience level. Trails vary from interior paths, which offer exciting elevation changes and stunning native foliage, to stunning coastal trails. A few popular hiking trails include the Sleeping Giant Trail, the Nualolo/Awaawapuhi Trail, and the Waimea Canyon Trail.
Craving a little excitement during your Kauai getaway? Watersports are the perfect way to get the adrenaline pumping and to enjoy the crystal blue island waters. Take things slow with a kayak tour or by renting a stand-up paddleboard. Or, kick things into high gear with a banana boat ride, jet ski rentals, or a parasailing adventure. Rentals can easily be found along beaches throughout the island and options are available for any price point or group size.
Hawaii is a true golfer’s paradise and the island of Kauai is no exception. The gorgeous tropical backdrop provides spectacular views for a rousing round of golf. Options range from opulent and extravagant resort courses to more quaint, independently-owned courses. Popular Kauai golf courses include Wailua Golf Course, Poipu Bay Golf Course, Kauai Lagoons Golf Club, Princeville Makai Golf Club, and Puakea Golf Course.
- Hanalei Pier
Located where the Hanalei River meets the Pacific, the Hanalei Pier is a true historic landmark. The pier was once a bustling part of the local sugar industry and is now a popular destination for visitors to enjoy fishing, scenic walks, and beach picnics. The calm waters near the pier appeal to families with children, and locals frequent the boat ramp.
- Queen’s Bath
Nestled along the northern coastline in the Princeville area of Kauai, the Queen’s Bath is a large tide pool carved out of the coastline’s lava rock. The area is easily accessible via a short tropical trek, though travelers should appreciate the potential dangers that the area presents. The winter and spring months are known for rough surf, so visitors are encouraged to save expeditions for the summer and fall.
- Fern Grotto
Hidden along the scenic east side of Kauai, Fern Grotto is one of the area’s signature attractions. The grotto is only accessible via a quick boat trip along the picturesque Wailua River, which exposes visitors to exotic tropical greenery and pictorial waterfalls. The grotto itself is a true natural wonder and, as the name suggests, is completely covered with native ferns. The full-guided grotto tour takes about an hour and a half, making it an easy and affordable way to take in Hawaii’s natural beauty.
- Albert Spencer Wilcox Building
The historic Albert Spencer Wilcox Building was initially established as the island’s first library, in the early 1900s. Today, the building is also referred to as the Kauai Museum, housing a stunning array of island artifacts and local artwork. A true educational institution, the Wilcox Building is a popular stop for guests looking to absorb some native culture during their trip to Kauai. The museum also hosts various educational events throughout the year, including arts and crafts demonstrations, live music and dancing shows, hula classes, and more.
- Old Koloa Town
Kauai visitors seeking a unique shopping experience will definitely want to pencil in a trip to historic Old Koloa Town. Located along Kauai’s south shore near Poipu, Koloa is a scenic old sugar plantation that has been beautifully restored and is now home to a variety of charming local shops and restaurants. Be sure to stop by Lappert’s Ice Cream Shop, a Kauai staple that serves up locally-created sweet treats throughout the year. The area is also home to the Koloa Heritage Trail, which includes 14 historical and cultural sites that can be accessed from Old Koloa Town.
- Spa Services
Relax, rejuvenate, and reconnect during your trip to Kauai by indulging in some of the island’s spa services. Whether you’re seeking a quick massage to unwind after your long trip to the island or pursuing a daylong retreat, Kauai offers several well-appointed spas for budgets and groups of any size. Visitors can splurge on everything from body wraps and body scrubs, to facials, to manicures and pedicures. A spa treatment is the ultimate way to unwind and switch over to island time.