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The 15 Best Hikes in Kauai in 2022

The 15 Best Hikes in Kauai in 2022

If you recently moved to Kauai or plan to take a trip there soon, you might wonder whether there’s good hiking on the island and the best hikes. Fortunately for you, we’re the travel experts, and we’ve come up with this list of the 15 best hikes on the island of Kauai.

15 of the Best Hikes in Kauai

Kauai has some of the most incredible natural views in the world, and by taking these hikes, you’ll get the chance to see epic canyons, dense tropical forests, and sprawling ocean views. 

If you’re visiting Kauai for the first time (or the second or the third), check out one of these hiking trails to create memories that will last a lifetime. 

1. Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail

Water on the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail, one of the best hikes in Kauai

Gary Riegel/Shutterstock

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Length: 3.7 miles
  • Elevation: 318 feet

The Maha’Ulepu Heritage Trail is a heavily trafficked out and back trail with incredible ocean views. This is the perfect hike to take if you forget your gear at home because it’s short and easy, without any super rough terrain.

Popular amongst locals and tourists, if you’re nervous about taking a hike in Kauai, you can rest easy knowing that there’s an extremely high likelihood you’ll run into people along your route.

The hike starts at the Shipwreck Beach trailhead and ends at Punahoa Point. It’s open year-round and includes beach and cliff views.

2. Kalalau Trail (aka Na Pali Coast Trail)

View from one of the best hikes in Kauai, the Kalalau Trail

IndustryAndTravel/Shutterstock

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Length: 22 miles
  • Elevation: 6,177 feet

The Kalalau Trail is incredibly popular amongst both hikers and backpackers. The full out and back trail is 22 miles, but a much easier day hike is to hike only the first two miles to Hanakapiai Beach and back.

The entirety of the trail features breathtaking views and changing scenery, but be aware that this is a strenuous hike, so make sure to pack enough water and snacks and wear appropriate hiking gear. Advanced reservations are required.

3. Nu’alolo Trail

Woman sitting on the edge of one of the best hikes in Kauai, the Nu’alolo Trail

Clau De/Shutterstock

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Length: 7.5 miles
  • Elevation: 2,578 feet

The Nu’alolo Trail is a grueling hike along the Na Pali Coast ridge, but the trek is more than worth it because it features some of the most stunning views on the island of Kauai. 

The ridgeline lets you enjoy Kauai’s rugged terrain while staring at the pure blue ocean and white sandy beaches.

Best of all? Because of the hike’s difficulty, there are typically significantly fewer hikers than on more popular trails, which means you can enjoy the solitude and quiet.

4. Hanakapi’ai Falls Trail

Man enjoying the Hanakapi’ai Falls Trail, one of Kauai's best hikes

Fominayaphoto/Shutterstock

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Length: 9.1 miles
  • Elevation: 2,664 feet

The Hanakapi’ai Falls Trail has it all; gorgeous beaches, jaw-dropping waterfalls, and lush Hawaiian jungle; you don’t want to miss this challenging trek when you’re in Kauai.

Enjoy the beach for the first portion of your hike before the steep climb to the falls. Despite the hike’s popularity, you’ll love the jungle’s lush seclusion once you reach the falls and pool. Tourists are required to make reservations in advance.

5. Okolehao Trail

Gorgeous view from one of the best hikes in Kauai, the Okolehao Trail

Steve Heap/Shutterstock

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Length: 2.6 miles
  • Elevation: 853 feet

On Kauai’s North Shore, you can enjoy the Okoleaho Trail, which is a steep but short hike up to the Okoleahao viewpoint. 

The Okoleahao viewpoint offers expansive views of the island and beyond, and you can experience some of Kauai’s dense forests on your way up. Despite being rated as a moderately strenuous hike, this trail is quite popular and is open year-round.

6. Kukui Trail

Lookout from the Kukui Trail, one of our top picks for the best Kauai hikes

Marisa Estivill/Shutterstock

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Length: 5 miles
  • Elevation: 2,162 feet

Located further inland than many of the other hikes on this list, the Kukui Trail is a five-mile out and back hike in Waimea Canyon, where you’ll pass gorgeous streams, tropical flowers, and expansive canyon views.

Much of the hike is exposed, so make sure to bring plenty of water to stay hydrated. In addition, the loose dirt and steep grade can make the trail quite slick, so wear good hiking shoes. Kukui trail is a popular camping destination, but reservations are required in advance.

7. Kalepa Ridge Trail

Kalepa Ridge Trail, considered one of the best hikes in Kauai

Klara_Steffkova/Shutterstock

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Length: 1.9 miles
  • Elevation: 610 feet

The Kalepa Ridge Trail, while short, can be a fairly grueling hike. The trail ascends straight up, and the terrain is slightly more rough and remote than many of the trails on this list.

Make sure to wear appropriate hiking shoes and despite the length, know that this is not a beginner hike. Once you reach the top, you will be rewarded with some of the most incredible views of the Kalalau Valley and the Pacific Ocean.

8. Waimea Canyon Trail to Waipo‘o Falls

Woman taking in the Waimea Canyon Trail falls

Maridav/Shutterstock

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Length: 3.0 miles
  • Elevation: 1,066 feet

The Canyon Trail is a popular hike in Kauai, and for a good reason. While you get some waterfall views along the way, the hike ends at the very top of Waipo’o Falls, with a spectacular view of Waimea Canyon. 

Although the trail can get particularly slick when it rains, this hike isn’t overly demanding, and you are likely to pass other hikers along the way. 

9. Ho’opi’i Falls Trail

What you'll see on one of the best hikes in Kauai, the gorgeous Ho'opi'i Falls

Abbie Warnock-Matthews/Shutterstock

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Length: 2.4 miles
  • Elevation: 196 feet

Ho’Opi’i Falls Trail allows hikers to see not one but two incredible Kauaian waterfalls, the second of which was a filming site for Jurassic Park. 

The hike itself winds through dense jungle, but it makes it all worth it once you reach the falls.The second waterfall has a perfect swimming hole at the bottom, so feel free to take a dip, but watch your step on the slick rocks and embankment. 

Note: The trailhead is unmarked, so it can be challenging to find. Make sure you have detailed directions before heading out.

10. Sleeping Giant East Trail (aka Nounou Trail)

Sleeping giant pine trail, one of Kauai's best hikes

Jason Busa/Shutterstock

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Length: 3.4 miles
  • Elevation: 961 feet

The Sleeping Giant Trail is one of Kauai’s most treasured hikes, and with good reason. The trail, although steep, offers the most spectacular views of the east side of the island. 

If you’re looking for a photo-worthy viewpoint, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better one than the top of this hike. You can also try the Sleeping Giant West Trail for a shorter hike.

11. Wai Koa Loop Trail (aka Stone Dam)

Stone Dam Trail in Kauai, one of the best hikes there

Joel Groomes Jr/Shutterstock

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Length: 3.7 miles
  • Elevation: 813 feet

The Wai Koa Loop Trail is the perfect option if your party wants a gentle hike without sacrificing natural beauty. The well-maintained trail winds through the gorgeous mahogany forest and eventually opens up on the picturesque Stone Dam.

Enjoy a stroll or a dip as you take in this beautiful hike. The trail is open to the public but on private property, so you must sign a waiver at the Anaina Hou Welcome Center before starting your trek.

12. Makawehi Lithified Cliffs Trail

Makawehi Lithified rock formations on one of the best hikes in Kauai

Nina B/Shutterstock

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Length: however long you choose
  • Elevation: 318 feet

The Makawehi Lithified Cliffs Trail lets hikers stroll along limestone sea cliffs, appreciating the beauty that has formed over thousands of years. 

This hike is really more of a walk and can be accessed from Shipwreck Beach. Simply stroll along the lithified cliffs for as long as your heart desires, and then head back to the beach to take in the sunset.

13. Kuilau Ridge Trail

Lush greenery from one of the best hikes in Kauai, the Kuilau Ridge Trail

Lubica Jelenova/Shutterstock

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Length: 3.6 miles
  • Elevation: 667 feet

The Kuilau Ridge Trail is spectacular from start to finish and offers the rewarding views of a much more strenuous hike.

You’ll appreciate the lush jungle, tropical flowers, and expansive views on the ridge trail. However, make sure to wear appropriate footwear because the trail can get slick after it rains.

14. Black Pipe Canyon Loop

Stunning view from the black pipe loop in Waimea Canyon, one of Kauai's best hikes

MNStudio/Shutterstock

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Length: 3.7 miles
  • Elevation: 1,305 feet

One of the few loop trails on this list, the Black Pipe Canyon Loop gives both sweeping views of Waimea Canyon and scenic water features. If you’re looking for a kid-friendly hike that more advanced hikers can still enjoy, this hike is for you!

15. Queen’s Bath Trail

Gorgeous view of Queen’s Bath Trail, one of the best Kauai hikes

Abbie Warnock-Matthews/Shutterstock

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Length: 0.8 miles
  • Elevation: 98 feet

If you’ve been planning a trip to Kauai, you’ve probably seen images of people floating in natural lava pools filled with turquoise water alongside the ocean; that’s Queen’s Bath Trail. 

The trail is rough terrain and can be slick after rain; the first portion of the trail is through the jungle but eventually opens up on a waterfall and ocean views. Enjoy the hike and the beauty of the ocean lava fields, even if you don’t take a dip in the bath.

It’s essential to take extreme safety precautions when hiking this trail. There is always a risk associated when entering the tide pools, but you should never enter the water unless it’s low tide.

The gates to this area will be closed when the area is deemed unsafe; do not attempt to bypass the gates under any circumstances.

Things to Consider

It’s essential to consider basic safety needs whenever you go hiking. This is especially true when hiking in an area that you’re unfamiliar with or may not have all of your usual gear with you. 

While your needs may change depending on which hike you choose, below are some things to consider before heading out on a hike in Kauai. 

  • Proper footwear is essential. Make sure to pack hiking boots or athletic shoes if you’re planning on doing more strenuous hikes and hiking sandals for beach or waterfall hikes. 
  • Bring water with you. If you’re flying into Kauai and plan to do some hiking, don’t forget to pack your water bottles or water reservoirs. The weather is likely to be warm, so make sure you bring enough water to stay hydrated.
  • Do research on your hike before heading out. In addition to selecting a hike, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with current trail conditions and permitting needs. If applicable, check out Kauai’s parks and recreation site and read comments on AllTrails from other hikers. 
  • Be prepared for weather events. Specific hikes may be prone to flash floods, high tides, or slippery trail conditions in the rain. Try to do your hike at the appropriate time (e.g., during low tide) and prioritize personal safety. 
  • Bring a buddy. It’s safer to hike with somebody else on hikes you’re unfamiliar with; the buddy system is essential if you get lost or injured.

Frequently Asked Questions

Woman on one of the best hikes in Kauai

Heather Goodman/Shutterstock

Here are some of the frequently asked questions pertaining to hikes in Kauai.

Is hiking in Kauai safe?

Hiking in Kauai is generally safe, so long as you’re aware of your surroundings and take appropriate safety precautions. There are, however, certain dangers specific to the area that you may need to be aware of, such as flash flooding and tsunamis. Research your hike ahead of time to know what safety precautions are required. 

Is hiking in Kauai free?

Many of the hikes In Kauai are entirely free, although you may have to pay for parking. Other hikes may also require permits which you will have to pay for, but these are inexpensive. Check the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources for information on permitting

Do you need permits to hike in Kauai?

Most hikes in Kauai do not require permits, and some trailheads or portions of the hiking trail even fall on private property. However, some trails like the Kalalau Trail require permits and advance registration. Research your specific hike ahead of time to determine whether or not permits are required. 

What are the dangers of hiking in Kauai?

Specific hikes in Kauai present particular safety concerns that you should familiarize yourself with ahead of time. Dangers like rockslides, tsunamis, and flash floods are all potential concerns. Do your best to avoid walking at the base of steep cliffs, check for tsunami warnings, and avoid crossing fast-flowing creeks and streams.

What is the most challenging hike in Kauai?

The Kalalau trail, also known as the Na Pali Coast trail, is widely considered the most challenging hike on the island of Kauai. The hike is 22 miles long, with over 6,000 feet of elevation gain.

So, What Are the Best Hikes in Kauai?

Hiking the amazing trails in Kauai is a gratifying activity that rewards hikers with beautiful foliage and incredible views. The unique Kauai scenery draws seasoned hikers from around the world each year to enjoy the island’s first-class hiking trails.

While any of the above hikes will create lasting memories, hikes like the Kalalau trail, Waimea Canyon, and the Nounou trail all offer hikers views of Kauai that showcase its uniquely beautiful landscape.