It’s hard to get tired of Kauai’s lush vegetation, golden sand, and clear blue waters. There are many things to do.
You you’ll find yourself exploring the jungle, ziplining, kicking back, relaxing on the beach, or exploring the island by boat. No matter what age, there’s something for everyone on the beautiful island of Kauai.
The 15 Best Things to Do in Kauai in 2022
One aspect that tourists appreciate the most when they visit Kauai is that your options are versatile. Whether you’re seeking a thrill or a calm island vibe, you won’t be disappointed with the adventures that await.
Some people enjoy sightseeing and being hands-on with as much as they can while Kauai. Others prefer to lounge around and soak in paradise day after day while enjoying the stunning sunset on the horizon.
While it isn’t the largest island in Hawaii, you can get around the whole place in just a few hours.
Plan your trip accordingly regarding transportation to save where you’re willing to be lenient and splurge on things that you believe will make your trip memorable, like a variety of attractions.
1. Kalalau Trail
There are numerous choices to get into when you visit Kauai, but make sure that you don’t forget to hike the Kalalau Trail. It takes around half the day, but it is so worth it with all the gorgeous scenery you’ll pass along the way.
It’s a steep climb for about an hour onto the 11-mile trail. The terrain is mostly rocky and muddy along the NaPali Coast, found on the North Shore. If hiking is your thing and you’re serious about being able to get up the entire trail, make your reservation a few months ahead of time.
You can camp overnight on a nearby beach and then start back up in the morning. On the other hand, if you hike just a portion of the trail, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with how much you see as you go up.
There are vibrant red hibiscus flowers, lush shrubs, and more. Don’t forget that trekking poles are your friend, and so are those bottles of water.
2. Go Snorkeling
One of the best activities to do with your friends and families, especially children that are comfortable in the water, is snorkeling. When there’s high visibility in the water, you can see schools of colorful fish, mudflat communities, mangroves, sea urchins, and more.
A few beaches in the area are suitable for snorkeling, but you have to consider whether the currents are too strong. Most people say that the best snorkeling places are on the NaPali Coast snorkeling.
However, you can’t get there by car. You’d have an easier time with a snorkeling tour. Numerous local companies offer tours from four to six hours long, and they make several stops for you to get off and enjoy the water.
Many of them also provide refreshments in addition to the equipment. You might see dolphins, sea turtles, and more along the way.
Read Next: The Best Snorkeling Spots in Hawaii in 2022
3. Visit Waimea Canyon
Known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, the Waimea Canyon State Park is a must if you’re visiting Kauai. As of 2021, Hawaii mandates that any person that enters the canyon has to pay individual fees to enter and parking fees.
This site isn’t that far from the Kalalau Trail, but you can’t access the canyon from that part of the island without driving around counterclockwise and going out of your way. Therefore, this is an excellent day trip if you’ll be on Poipu Beach.
Coming from the North Shore, it’s a two-hour drive both ways. You might even want to check out the Kalepa Ridge trail because of the stunning scenery. When you reach Waimea Canyon, look for mile marker 10 for a breathtaking view.
4. Jack Harter Helicopter Tours
A helicopter is one of the best ways to experience Kauai. They even have a tour with no doors on the aircraft. You get a clear view of Kauai from above, and you feel the breeze as you pass over canyons, waterfalls, beaches, sea cliffs, and more.
Don’t forget your camera for this beautiful experience. You can even upgrade and make this a more luxurious event.
You get noise-canceling headphones, a spacious aircraft, plush seats, large windows, and air conditioning. The helicopter tour lasts from 60-90 minutes, depending on which package you select.
5. Go Tubing
Get your helmet with the built-in headlamp, and get ready to hop into an inflatable tube. Some companies like KAB offer access to the canals and ditches that are an integral part of the island’s history.
They were previously used for irrigation purposes for the sugarcane fields. You’ll calmly float about the land in your tube as you explore the former plantation.
It’s similar to an amusement park ride, as the tube is spinning around, bumping in the lava rock walls, and going through several entirely dark tunnels, hence the need for headlamps.
It’s one of the unique activities to engage in while visiting Kauai, and it lasts for three hours with all equipment included.
6. The Botanical Gardens
These tropical oases are on the South Shore. They span over 350 acres, and they’re mesmerizing even for those who don’t have an affinity for gardening.
Take a guided tour through rippling pools, fountains, bamboo forests, and Moreton Bay fig trees that have those notable gigantic roots features on Jurassic Park, the movie, part of which was filmed on Kauai.
Specifically for the kiddos, check out the Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens. It’s in Kilauea and is the most family-friendly garden of the three. There are numerous exotic flowers and plants in various sizes, shapes, and colors.
Plus, you’ll see some cool bronze sculptures as you walk through. There’s even a special children’s garden featuring a “beanstalk” fountain that kids love!
7. Kilauea Lighthouse
It costs around ten bucks per person to tour the Kilauea Lighthouse. You’ll also have to pay an extra dollar to reserve your place. This structure has been around since 1913, and it’s a section in the Refuge.
It’s also on the North Shore and stands 52 feet tall. It’s also 180 feet higher than the Pacific Ocean on a rocky peninsula. The views are spectacular on all sides, and many migratory seabirds use this site as a nesting place.
You might catch a glimpse of albatross, shearwaters, and other species. Sometimes you see humpback whales and dolphins from afar during the winter.
8. Polihale Park Camping
Camping is always a fun experience, no matter where you are, especially in Kauai on the beach. Polihale State Park allows locals and tourists to camp out the whole weekend, with access to ATVs, lovely sunsets, campfires, and alcohol is also permissible (bonus!)
Be mindful of the strong current, which is a hazard to those looking to go swimming near the beach.
You can get in some quality snorkeling and swimming if you head to the southwestern side because there’s a cove with more favorable conditions. However, you’ll have to travel along a five-mile road made for 4x4s.
9. Go Cliff Jumping
Near Shipwreck Beach, you can get the classic movie experience of jumping from a cliff into the sparkling waters below. The cliff is around 40 feet tall, and it’s not suitable for beginners.
The waves below can be pretty intense, and it’s a long swim back to the shore. Therefore, exercise extreme caution should you decide to take the plunge.
10. Alekoko Pond
For years, the Alekoko Pond has been the subject of ghostly accounts and compelling stories. For this reason, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to visit this mythological landmark.
Legend has it that the Menehune (sneaky little people) inhabit the island. The Menehune, mythical by nature, supposedly built the fishpond by lining up over 25 miles and passing lava stones to one another by hand.
Whether the story is true or not, the manufactured pond has been used by anglers for a millennium, and it serves as evidence of Hawaiian aquaculture and ingenuity.
You can observe the fishpond from a designated viewing platform located very close to the road to Huleia National Wildlife Refuge, where there are many endangered bird species.
11. Train Ride
The Kauai Railway is an attraction that the entire family can enjoy. The train ride lasts for around 40 minutes, and it goes across an old sugarcane plantation that’s obsolete.
Everyone on board will have a memorable time relaxing in the passenger cars as they take in the stunning views while simultaneously learning about the history. While you’re traveling, passengers will have the opportunity to feed goats, donkeys, and pigs native to the land.
Once you’ve reached the end of the trip, you will be free to wander the spectacular grounds or get a bite from the restaurant, which is conveniently on-site.
12. Sail the NaPali Coast
Sailing across the waters is amongst the most exciting activities in Kauai, you’ll get to travel along the renowned NaPali Coast. There are multiple companies that offer several sailing options to choose from for different budgets.
If you have younger children among you, the Catamaran comes highly recommended. During the booking process, keep age requirements in mind.
For example, children younger than three cannot get aboard the sunset cruise. No matter which option you pick, there will be the chance to enjoy great views of majestic scenery, great food, and snorkeling as you and the family sail the NaPali Coast.
13. Horseback Riding
The horseback tour at Silver Falls Ranch is absolutely a must-do when you’re visiting Kauai with your family. This ranch offers visitors multiple horseback tours to choose from, and many of them are kid-friendly.
Traveling along the tropical landscape is a wonderful option to explore the area, as you get a chance to ride a calm horse while seeing Kauai’s vibrant and beautiful flora. You can take the opportunity to relax in the water at Silver Falls or enjoy a picnic with the family.
Kola Ziplines is the place to go when you’re looking for thrilling adventures; it features the longest zipline course on the entire island. The family won’t be able to stop talking about this exciting and adrenaline-filled adventure for years to come.
Kola Ziplines is on the south side of Kauai and is full of breathtaking views, sure to delight you as you take them in and soar through the skies on the zipline.
Waita Reservoir is a beautiful forest that you can expect to pass over during your zipline adventure. The tours consist of a zipline tour and the sunset tour.
What’s more, there’s the zip aerobatics, designed for members of the family that are ultimate thrill-seekers. You can’t go wrong with whichever you choose—you will have loads of fun no matter what.
15. ATV Riding
Riding an ATV is a thrilling adventure that allows you to experience the terrain in a unique way. Throughout Kauai, several companies offer ATV tours.
Most tours last around three to four hours, and some of the tours will include viewing lava tunnels, exploring the jungle, viewing craters, and more.
At the end of the tours provided by local companies, you usually get to take a break near the waterfalls and get a swim in if you have the time. Additionally, all equipment is free with the tour.
Things to Consider
When you decide on accommodations in Kauai, there are four shores to consider. There’s the most popular shore, which is known for its massive collection of restaurants and resorts.
In addition to this, it is home to some of the best and most popular beaches. The Koloa Landing Resort deserves mentioning because it is notably beautiful and near everything. The west shore is very close to the major national parks.
If you’re looking for a rural experience with convenient access to backpacking and hiking, this is the shore for you. While the scene is picturesque, everyone envisions swimming when they travel to a Hawaiian island.
Many of the beaches in Kauai aren’t suitable for swimming. Some of the other bigger islands, like Oahu or Maui, are better for swimmers of all levels, whereas Kauai has strong rip tides, currents, and boisterous eaves almost year-round.
It’s better in the summer, but for the most part, it is dangerous to go swimming at many of the beaches on Garden Island. Kauai isn’t a massive island, but it isn’t as easy to travel around as you might think.
The island only has one primary road and it gets cramped easily during rush hour. Avoid traveling during the morning as well as the evening. Try to explore Kauai by air or boat if possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding entertainment in Kauai:
How many days should I spend in Kauai?
If you’re only visiting Kauai, the optimal vacation time is seven to ten days. That gives you plenty of time to explore the island’s different areas, do a few tours and excursions, participate in day trips, lounge around on the beach, and sample some great food.
Is Kauai safe for tourists?
Kauai is known as a safe place with low crime rates. However, there are still standard precautions that you should take, such as not traveling at night along dark roads or venturing alone to unknown places without reliable communication. Additionally, always go swimming and snorkeling with someone else, and follow the warning signs on the island regarding dangerous areas.
Do I need a car in Kauai?
You don’t necessarily need a car to travel around Kauai, as they have shuttles, taxis, and buses available. However, the public transportation system isn’t the most reliable, and a car could help you maximize your time on the island.
What is the best area of Kauai to stay in?
Consider the East Shore, the North Shore, and the South Shore when booking your accommodations for Kauai. Poipu (South Shore) is the most popular area because of the plentiful resort choices, and the weather is consistently dry and sunny.
Is Kauai expensive?
It costs a little more than $150 each day to vacation on Kauai. This figure is about how much you can expect to spend on typical expenses such as food and activities. Hotels for two people are around $180 on average.
So, What’s the Best Thing to Do in Kauai?
The best thing to do in Kauai depends on whether you’re with an older or younger crowd and if you’re looking for thrills or relaxation. Since going to the beach can be a relatively common experience, we recommend going for thrills and indulging in the helicopter tour.
That way, you can see the entire city and the lush landscape from a stunning vantage point. You can’t go wrong with any of the activities, however!