15 Best Things to do in Kauai, Hawaii

If you have not yet been to Kauai Island Hawaii, you must.

Kauai is the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands and is also known as the “garden isle” and quite different from Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island.

In this post I’ve created a list of the top things to do on the island of Kauai.

1. Visit the Napali Coast

Visiting the Napali Coast in Kauai with a boat tour is a must to see the magnificent Na Pali coastline.

The Napali Coast. One of the best things to do in Kauai, Hawaii

There are various types of boat tours including a more relaxed dinner and/or sunset cruise, a catamaran that affords a smaller group, or even smaller raft for an adventure.

Besides seeing the Napali Coast with one of the Kauai boat tours, you can usually spot sea turtles as well as spinner dolphins!

I went on a sunset cruise tour and it was relaxing with cocktails, beer, or wine.

The catamaran tour is the best because it allowed us to go through the smaller sea caves.

I didn’t do the raft option since I didn’t want to risk getting seasick, but it might be exhilarating for the more adventurous family!

Sunset Cruise in Kauai
Sunset Cruise in Kauai

2. Hang out in Kapa’a

Visit Kapa’a if you’re not staying in the area. It’s a little small hippie town with fun little shops and restaurants.

While there visit Lava Lava Beach Club. This beachfront restaurant serves up breakfast, lunch, and dinner with amazing views and often has live music in the evenings.

The bar and interior of the restaurant are covered with tables, couches, and fire pits spreading out onto the beach.

3. Ride Horses

riding horses at silverfalls ranch in kauai

Take a horseback riding tour at Silverfalls Ranch on North Shore Kauai.

We had two horse guide tours and they were hilarious as well as informative and kept the group together.

There are stops at small baby waterfalls and lunch is included. The teriyaki chicken and rice were delicious and if you’re vegetarian, the taro burger is also a winner.

The horses are sweet, well-trained, and seemed to be treated very well.

Be sure to arrive on time since the group will have to start riding without you.

Since it is located in Princeville, it often rains so be prepared for the possibility of muddy trails and keep a poncho or light raincoat if it seems like it may rain.

4. Visit St. Regis hotel for happy hour and watch the sunset

Head up to the luxurious St. Regis hotel in Princeville, one of the best hotels in Kauai, for happy hour and enjoy a drink (or mocktail) outside on their lanai that overlooks the ocean with a glorious sunset.

The best time to go is 30-45 minutes before so you can snag the best seats.

Every night they do a little ceremony, pop a bottle of bubbly, and everybody gets a glass.

Valet is complimentary but be sure to tip them! It’s a fun and inexpensive way to experience a fancy hotel.

5. Hike the Sleeping Giant

hiking the sleeping giant in kauai
Hiking the sleeping giant in Kauai

For sweeping views, hike the entirely of Sleeping Giant.

It’s an easy-moderate hike and I recommend hiking in the morning since it’s an exposed hike and it’ll get hotter throughout the day.

Bring a hat, sunscreen, and plenty of water.

6. Visit and Hike Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon in Kauai. One of the best things to do in Kauai, Hawaii
The views at Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon is the (mini) “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” and one of the top things to do in Kauai.

It’s vast and a must-visit even if you only visit the lookout point.

There are various trails for hiking at every level if you feel so inclined. As with all hiking, be sure to bring a hat, sunscreen, plenty of water, and snacks.

You can take a full day tour into the canyon here. 

7. Kayak and hike to Secret Falls – aka Uluwehi Waterfalls

Kayak in a single, double, or triple on the Wailua river upstream with Kayak Wailua. After two or so miles, dock, and hike up to Uluwehi Waterfalls.

Wear your swimsuits under your t-shirt, tank top, or shorts. I recommend wearing old sneakers that you don’t mind getting wet or proper water shoes.

Wear a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses. Bring bug spray for the hike portion as well as water and a small towel.

Pack light since you’ll be carrying everything with you on the hike.

8. Ride an open-door helicopter

What to do in Kauai

My favorite activity and one of the best things to do in Kauai.

Ride an open-door helicopter and witness all the waterfalls that are not accessible via hiking or kayaking.

It is very safe and if you bring your camera, make sure it has a neck strap. For cell phones, they have wrist straps to attach to your phone case.

Book your helicopter tour here. 

Stunning scenery in Kauai, Hawaii
Waterfall in Kauai, Hawaii

9. Steelgrass Chocolate Farm Tour

This is an awesome family-friendly activity where people can enjoy their “branch to bar” educational guided tour of everything there is to know about chocolate, including growing cacao trees, harvesting and post-harvest processing of cacao beans.

And then finish with a delicious tasting of chocolate, chocolate tea, and Miel de Cacao sorbet.

10. Go on a Kauai Food Tour

If you are a foodie, going on a Kauai Food Tour is the way to taste and sample all the best food in Kauai has to offer.

There are tours that focus on north shore Kauai, the south shore, and the east side. There will be tastings from local cuisine, fine dining, and specialty shops.

11. Mountain tube down backcountry

Another family adventure!

“Float da ditch” with Kauai Backcountry Adventures. They have exclusive access to the historic irrigation system of the former Lihue Plantation.

This ditch and tunnel system that once irrigated vast sugar crops had been unused since sugar was taken out of production in 2000.

The tubing adventures have spectacular views of the mountains and Waialeale Crater. Recommended for kids 5 and above.

12. Visit Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens

Easy Hikes in Kauai

For a more peaceful and chill activity, visit the Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens.

To see the gardens, you must book a guided tour. There are no self-tours in the garden. There is a children’s garden as well! Mondays are closed by the way.

13. Visit Queen’s Bath

Queen’s Bath is a tide pool located in a neighborhood in Princeville.

It’s actually a sinkhole and boasts incredible ocean views. There is very limited parking so I suggest going first thing in the early morning or late afternoon.

The neighborhood will issue parking tickets if you’re parking anywhere you’re not allowed. Be careful of the warnings.

Plenty of people have died or gotten seriously injured at Queen’s Bath. Wear proper shoes or take off your slippers and go barefoot because it gets slippery!

14. Ride ATVs on Kauai

I recommend the waterfall tour where the family can explore for 23 miles. The trip begins near the old Koloa Sugar Mill and ventures to the benches of

Kahili Ridge where there is a waterfall and historic WWII bunkers to explore.

15. Visit the Kīlauea Lighthouse

Kīlauea Lighthouse, one of the best things to see on the island of Kauai, Hawaii

Kīlauea Lighthouse is located on Kīlauea Point on the island of Kauaʻi, Hawaiʻi in the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.

The ocean cliffs and tall grassy slopes of a dormant volcano provide a protective breeding ground for many Hawaiian seabirds.

It is an easy walk and pit stop for spectacular photographs. This is another fun-family activity especially if you have small children or babies.

It’s open Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, closed on Sunday and Monday and all federal holidays.

Admission is $5.00 per person. Children 15 and under are free.

Recommended tours in Kauai

We recommend the following tours from our partner, Get Your Guide.


Need More Tips for Hawaii?

Start here:

Booking a Trip to Kauai

Accommodation: Book hotels and apartments in Kauai directly on Booking.com, or read hotel reviews for Italy on TripAdvisor.

Flights: Skyscanner and Momondo are time saving flight search engines and help you find your cheapest flight.

Rental Cars:  Click here for prices. Book your car rental in Kauai with our partner, Rentalcars.com.

Kauai camper rentals: Find the magic of an adventure around Kauai in a camper. Check Outdoorsy for a unique and easy Kauai camper rental experience. It includes insurance.

Travel Insurance: Don’t leave home without it. It covers unexpected medical emergencies, trip cancellations, lost or damaged luggage by an airline etc. Get a quote from Allianz Travel.

Travel Gear: Columbia has been making quality and affordable travel clothes and gear for over 70 years.

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10 thoughts on “15 Best Things to do in Kauai, Hawaii”

  1. I love Hawaii so much I’ve been 3x and I can not get enough. I love to do the Walking of the Sleeping Giant and the helicopter ride is incredible, it’s really worth it! Great tips Amy!

    1. Hi Morata,
      Thank you and I’m so glad you liked my article!
      YES – both the sleeping giant hike and the helicopter rides are soooo epic! Have you been to the other islands? If so, which and do you have a particular favorite? I am on Oahu but I always find myself going back to Kauai and the Big Island a lot!

      1. Hello, I’m looking for a more relaxing trip with beautiful beaches and sunsets. Any suggestions, I want to be wowed and speechless. We will do some exploring and hikes but mainly a beautiful resort or townhouse on the beach (facing the ocean. Any suggests?

  2. My goodness! The views and scenery are just gorgeous!! I was in Hawaii for a wedding almost a decade ago, but my husband and daughter have never been. Of course, it’s on the bucket list and this helps confirm it. Love the tip about going to a fancy hotel for happy hour. I will have to look into that option more often as we are a traveling family that slow travels and stays longer in each location. Our budget does allow for many fancy hotel stays. 😉

    What age do you think would be the best for kiddos to make the trip to Hawaii? My daughter would love the horseback riding, but she is only 5 so I think it might be best to go in a couple of years. Thanks!

    1. Hi Deanna,
      Mahalo for reading! Lol – I hear you about how most budgets won’t allow for fancy hotel stays and the happy hour option is a great alternative! I think for horseback riding, we had one little girl on the ride and she looked to be about 10. The horses were calm and well-behaved and if they have any little ones, I think they give them the SUPER gentle horses! Slow travel is the best travel – I definitely agree with you on that! Let me know if you and the family are ever on Oahu!

  3. Thank’s for your information about hawaii… I am very interested about that. In your article, we can riding horse, hiking rockmountain, visiting any island. Wow, its very nice. I am very interested to come.

  4. Hey Amy, I love your blogs. Hawaii has been on my bucket list for quite a long time now. I would love to go for horse riding, hiking and the chocolate farm trip. Thank you for sharing everything in such great details.

  5. Hi, I’m planning a summer vacation to Hawaii. We will be there for 2 weeks and I would like to take my 4 teenagers ages 13 – 19 to a couple of different islands while there. I have been to Maui, Kauai, and Oahu. I have never been to the Big Island, however. I have heard good reports and bad reports about this island. What is your opinion? I am taking them to Maui for sure and a few days on Oahu. Would you try to fit in Kauai or The Big Island? Thank you for your advice. Last time I went to Kauai was 23 years ago on my honeymoon and while it was beautiful, there wasn’t a lot to see and do there. I don’t know if my teenagers would enjoy the big island better if there is more to do there. I heard the snorkeling on the Big Island is amazing, how do you feel about it? In your post, you said the beaches are better in Maui and Oahu. Thank you!

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