5 Best Things to Do in Kauai - Hawaii Islands

Published on September 24, 2020
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Many daydreamers are wondering - like I used to; what's Kauai like?

Close your eyes and imagine paradise. Dramatic green hills sweeping down to a white sand beach.

The waves washing slowly over the sand and slinking back to the blue, green ocean, that stretches to meet the horizon. This is Kauai. Kauai is one of six Hawaiian Islands and is aptly named the ‘garden isle’. It is one of the smallest Hawaiian island and the Northernmost, rising from the waters of the North Pacific Ocean, it is covered in tropical rainforests, waterfalls and quaint local towns.

Things to do in Kauai

Whether it is a relaxing vacation or an activity packed stay, Kauai has a host of options for a variety
of holiday goers. Things to do in Kauai are endless; offering many beaches, breath-taking hikes, snorkelling, surfing, sailing, fishing,
horseback riding, zip lining or shopping.

Queens Bath, Princeville

This popular swimming spot used to a royal bathing place, so you’re in good company. Located on the north shore of Kauai near Princeville. Princeville is a 9,000-acre residential area with a resort, once the home of sugar plantations and cattle ranches. Queens Bath is a unique tidal pool which is actually a sinkhole.

To reach this destination there is a 1.3-kilometer trek, at times slippery and muddy, through a stream and past a waterfall. This unique pool is surrounded by lava rock and looks out into the North Pacific until the sea meets the horizon.

The dark grey rocks, act like stepping-stones to the water’s edge where you can enter the bright blue waters. Swim or relax while overlooking the luscious green mountain ranges across the bay. The sounds of the waterfall nearby as it gushes over the lava rocks into the pool.

While bathing you may catch sight of numerous types of sea life. Sea urchins and Angelfish as well as ‘Ghost Fish’, named as such by the locals because of its translucent like body.

Make sure to check before you go as this can be a dangerous spot and if the gates are closed it means the surf is high and it is too dangerous to enter.

Best beaches for snorkelling

One of the best activities to take part in while on Kauai is snorkeling. The variety of sea life and scenery could entertain for your whole trip.

There are many snorkeling spots to choose from. There are different facilities at each, and some are better for families so be aware of this before choosing. If you are hoping to catch sight of a particular species, such as a turtle, there are certain places more likely to see these than others.

The tides can be strong during certain months so when you are deciding on a season to visit, remember some snorkeling spots may not be suitable in some seasons.

Ke’e beach

Like a picture from paradise, Ke’e beach sits on the north shore close to the Nap Ali coast. To your left are hills sweeping down the sea, one behind the other, reaching far into the distance. The trees rise high behind the sand as the beach slopes down to the waves.

A host of sea life swims beneath the waves, such as Unicorn fish, Goatfish, Needlefish and perhaps you might be lucky enough to see a turtle.

During the summer, the waters are calm but otherwise there can be strong ocean currents here.

As well as offering a great snorkeling spot, the beach is close to Haena State Park. The Limahuli Garden and Preserve (a national tropical botanical garden) is also nearby.

The Wet Cave or Blue Room are near to this beach, but swimming is prohibited due to a bacterium in the fresh water. It is still an interesting place to visit, just off the side of the road, with plants tumbling over the entrance. Sand paves the entrance before the cave stretches into darkness.

Ha’ena beach

Overlooked by sloping hills covered in green, this beach lies on the north shore. It is a good place to see a turtle and, also an assortment of colorful fish, including Bluefin Trevally fish, Yellow Tang or Omilu. These fish flash like neon when the sunlight touches their scaly body.

The Maniniholo dry cave is in the mountains, just back from the beach. Like a huge gape in the rock, it’s a good spot to explore.

Anini beach

Near Princeville, this beach is another good snorkeling spot. Trees border the sand and the water is calm here all year. There is the possibility of glimpsing a manta ray or seahorse. However, it is a small beach, just steps from the road, with houses overlooking it.

Lydgate beach park

On the east side of the island. This beach is shallow and protected from the open sea by a rock wall.

It is a natural saltwater pool. Nearby is a playground and Hikinaakala Heiau. A sacred temple previously used to worship the sun. Large boulders surround it as a barrier. The views are not as impressive as some of the other beaches but there is still a chance to see a host of sea life.

Tunnels

Tunnels is a popular spot for snorkeling. It is located on the north of the island and is a crescent shaped bay surrounded by lush greenery and mountains.

Tunnels Beach Kauai

The lava tubes from the underwater caverns is the reason for its name. There are shallow areas protected by a coral quarry and reefs. You are likely to see triggerfish, parrotfish and shoals of Tang among a vast array of other species.

The Hawaii state fish, humuhumunukunukuapua’a can be seen here. Try saying that after a few cocktails on the beach. It is a species of triggerfish with a yellow, black, white and blue body with steaks of gold and electric blue.

Turtles and seals are common but make sure to give them a wide berth and admire from a distance. Popular with watersports as well as snorkeling and spectacular sunsets, it is no wonder this is a popular spot.

Things to do in Kauai

Honestly, where do I even start? Kauai is a fantastic fairy tale kinda island and even though it's small the things you can do are endless. Plan your time efficiently because it's truly paradise and you won't want to miss a single moment of your time there.

Hiking Trails

If you prefer to see the scenery on land rather than underwater, the island has many trails to immerse you in its natural beauty. As there are so many to choose from, the best way to decide is to pick one close to whatever part of the island you are staying and what level of difficulty you can handle. There are around 10 to15 trails that are the most popular so there is a lot of choice.

In the western region, the hikes will enable you to view the Na Pali coast. There is the Awaawapuhi Trail, Honopu Ridge Trail and Nualolo Ridge Trail to name a few.

The Awaaapuhi Trail is in the Koke’e State Park and offers probably the best views of the Na Pali coast. While a little dangerous and steep, the views at the top with drop-offs on both sides of the Awaawapuhi Ridge would well make up for it.

In the northern region, the most popular trek is the Kalalau Trail. You will need a permit for this which needs to be booked months in advance. It is eleven miles around the Na Pali coast. Hiking past the Hanakapiai Falls and ending at the secluded Kalalau beach below the Kalalau Valley. While a popular spot, this is for experienced hikers only.

Hanalei

For a break from the activities, have a relaxing stroll through Hanalei. Hanalei is a small town on the north shore of the island, sitting in a bay to the west of Princeville. The town sits at the bottom of luscious green mountains which fade into the misty background.

Cocktail bar in Hanalei

History and modernity meet here with the quaint buildings housing boutique shops and art galleries. The laid-back atmosphere of the town invites visitors but avoids becoming touristy. The shops are boutique, offering unique clothes, furniture and art.

The town is surrounded by fields of Taro or “Kalo” in Hawaiian. These heart shaped plants are a root vegetable, considered sacred by Hawaiians.

Hanalei has a historic pier, built in 1892, which has featured in Hollywood movies. From the pier you can fish, swim and listen to music.

The town is home to a lot of great food spots. There are lots of food trucks and a farmer’s market. At the farmers market you can sample the local produce which uses Rambutan, a fruit similar to Lychee.

Shopping and food are not the only attraction in Hanalei. There are three beach parks where you can surf here, there are sea caves to explore and waterfalls.

The Hanalei valley lookout is a popular spot near to town. It overlooks the mountains, rising into the mist.

Na Pali coast

In the northwest of Kauai is the Na Pali coast. Only accessible by sea or air, this coast is 17 miles long. Untouched through the centuries, the coast features towering pali or sea cliffs, valleys, streams and waterfalls. Hawaiian settlements used to be scattered through the area, now taken over by nature.

Napali coast catamaran trip

There are advantages to seeing this area either by sea or air. The guided kayak and catamaran tours bring you close to the Cathedral Cliffs and the raft tours bring you close to hidden sea caves and remote beaches.

However, some areas can only be seen by air, such as the Manawaiopuna Falls, made famous by Jurassic Park. Sitting amongst a mass of forest, the white of the water can be seen snaking amongst the green until it cascades over the mountain into the turquoise waters, 122 meters below.

Whale Watching

Whale watching was one of the best adventure we went on Kauai. We were not only able to see them but also could hear them through a special microphone dropped in the water by the crew who took us out to the sea.

humpback whale

During the winter months between November and March, there is a big chance to see Hawaii’s humpback whales. It is the only place in the United States where these whales nurse their young so there is a chance to see a newly born calf.

A grown whale can measure 40 to 50 feet long, yet they are still graceful as they surface from the water and plunge back into the depths below.

Thrill Seekers

If the water sports do not fulfil your need for adrenaline, there is always zip lining in Princeville, which includes a suspension bridge over a waterfall. Or how about clay shooting or an off-road ranch tour. If that doesn’t satisfy your adrenaline craving, you have issues and need to talk to someone.

Your Kauai essentials and must-do's

Just a quick list of the things I found very useful to have while in Kauai:

  • A pair of waterproof hiking shoes
  • An action camera - you know the limit's the sky from Vivitar to GoPro anything goes but get one that's waterproof. Especially if you're crazy about snorkeling 😉
  • Snorkel gear. No fins though, let's preserve those beautiful corals. Oh, and don't forget the anti-fog spray. (If you do, just dry some soapy water inside your mask screen.)
  • Lots of money to spend. It's not a joke guys, Kauai is expensive, but good news is you get the best, most beautiful experiences ever.

Experiences you definitely need to go for:

  • Visit the Na Pali coast by helicopter
  • Get to the Na Pali coast by catamaran
  • Play golf in Princeville
  • Luau Show at Kilohana (ticket not only includes the 3.5 hrs show with all inclusive food and drinks but you also got to go around the plantation with train.) BONUS: Don't forget to take part in the FREE rum tasting too at the Koloa Rum Company - just amazing!

Being an island floating in the North Pacific, Kauai offers so much that you’ll find it hard to choose how to spend your time. Whatever you do, you’ll be doing it surrounded by most breath-taking views and unbelievably friendly people who respect nature in a way I've never seen it before.

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About the Author
TheLandLoper
I’m a blogger, Londoner, self-confessed travel junkie, and lover of all good things. I help you to travel like a local so you can live the real experience and learn something new and unique everywhere around the globe.

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