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Plan Your Kauai Holiday: Best of Kauai

About Kauai
Even Kauai’s nickname—The Garden Isle—doesn’t fully convey the sensory wallop of this Hawaiian island’s lush vegetation, high-drama cliffs, and aquamarine waters. Waterfalls, scenic drives, and more than 60 beaches dot the landscape. Water sports are a main draw, from snorkelling for pros to shallow tidal pools for the whole family. The best way to see the island’s natural beauty is on foot: start by hiking the Kalalau Trail along the Na Pali coastline, then take a day trip to Waimea Canyon, or visit the historic 100-acre sugar plantation at Grove Farm Homestead Museum.

Travel Advice

Essential Kauai

How to do Kauai in 5 days

Waterfalls, helicopter tours, and popular spots for seafood
Read on

Traveller Guides

10 best outdoor adventures in Kauai

There’s a reason Kauai is called the Garden Island. Its natural beauty is so surreal it almost looks like a screensaver. Think: dramatic landscapes saturated with colour, roaring cascades, tropical flowers, wild beaches, and epic mountain peaks. After a decade of living in and travelling throughout the Pacific Islands, Kauai has become one of my favourites. These are the outdoor activities you can’t miss.
Chantae R, Suva, Fiji
  • Waimea Canyon State Park
    8,617
    Gazing into Waimea Canyon is like staring back in time. Etched over millions of years, this 10-mile canyon is rife with waterfalls, greenery, and amber-coloured cliffs. Pack a picnic and drive along Waimea Canyon Road, stopping at Pu’u Hinahina Lookout, the starting point for the easy half-mile Cliff Trail. If you want to spend more time on foot, hike the 11-mile Waimea Canyon River Trail.
  • Poipu Beach Park
    4,961
    This crescent-shaped shoreline is a build-your-own ocean adventure. Spend a day snorkelling with reef fish and sea turtles, surfing or bodyboarding when the swell is up, and wading in protected waters. It’s also a top spot for Hawaiian monk seals who’ve taken a liking to sunbathing on its shore. Restrooms, showers, picnic tables, and shade provided by palm fronds add to its allure.
  • Wailua River State Park
    99
    Grab a paddle and kayak along the Wailua River, best navigated with a guide who will reveal local legends, point out sacred sites (heiau), and lead you to Uluwehi Falls. There, you’ll enjoy a well-deserved swim under the 80-foot-tall cascade. Look carefully at the ridgeline and see why Mount Nounou is known as the Sleeping Giant. Shops rent kayaks and stand-up paddle boards by the hour if you prefer to make your own wake.
  • Nā Pali Coast State Park
    1,981
    The Nā Pali Coast is dramatic and raw, with cliffs plunging directly into the sea. It transports you to the Jurassic era, where nature exists without the mark of humankind. (Funny enough, it’s also the filming location for Jurassic Park.) For experienced hikers, the Kalalau Trail is worth the sweat for the views. Prefer an up-close POV? Explore the bluffs on a boat tour. Dolphins often make a special appearance.
  • National Tropical Botanical Garden
    822
    The Allerton and McBryde Gardens, on the South Shore, are home to the most extensive collection of native Hawaiian flora. Listen to the rustle of palm trees, breathe in fragrant plumeria blossoms, and admire the beauty of tropical heliconias. There’s something majestic about the gigantic ribbonlike roots of a Moreton Bay fig tree. I prefer taking a tour as guides often point out flora I would’ve missed on my own.
  • Wailua Falls
    3,585
    Thanks to its debut on Fantasy Island, Wailua Falls is the de facto poster child for Kauai outdoor attractions. Twin waterfalls flow over a cliff adorned with dense jungle foliage. If there’s rain in your forecast, the morning after is your best shot at seeing the falls at their peak (parking is easier to find early, too). Part of its appeal is undoubtedly its accessibility—you can soak in the scenery from the lookout point, no hiking needed.
  • Hanalei Beach
    1,878
    Jade mountain peaks mark the backdrop of Hanalei Beach on Kauai’s North Shore. Even in the high season, there’s always room to throw a towel on the cookie-crumb sand. The right-hand surf break along the reef is downright dreamy for regular footers like me, and beginners can catch their first wave at the break closer to the sandy shore. When hunger strikes, I love Hanalei Bread, a short walk away.
  • Koke'e State Park
    296
    Koke’e State Park provides some of the best views of the striking Nā Pali Coast and can easily be combined with a trip to Waimea State Park. There are over 45 miles of trails within reach, and a quick way to be first afoot is to sleep under the stars at Koke’e State Park Campsite. Facilities are basic, but the nearby lodge and restaurant ensure you never go long without creature comforts.
  • Tunnels Beach
    954
    If it’s marine animals you seek, you’ll find them taking refuge among the underwater volcanic crags of Tunnel Beach. Sea turtles, eels, octopi, rays, (docile) sharks, and a variety of fish call the reefs home. To see larger pelagic fish, dive into deeper water where the reef tapers off. Come just after sunrise to swim with fish when they’re most active—early birds tend to find the best parking, too.
  • Koloa Zipline in Kauai
    4,252
    Feel the thrill of zooming above tropical forests on Kauai’s zipline course. You’ll soar over the Waita Reservoir, which once watered a sugarcane plantation but is now a haven for wildlife. Even if you’ve ziplined before, you’ll scratch that novelty itch by flying upside down, superhero style, or backward. It’s a great adrenaline activity for families as children are welcome from ages seven and up.

Browse collections

Drinks with a view

Grab a cocktail at a beachside bar

Chasing waterfalls

Tours and hikes that take you to all the best

Eat like a local

Real-deal spots to grab a bite

Get your adrenaline pumping

Action-packed activities that push the limits

Experience Polynesian culture

Shows, events, and more

Kauai Travel Guide

Travelers' pro tips or experiencing Kauai

koloagirl

The Waipa Foundation on the North Shore has a "Poi Day" every Thursday - where you can actually get down and dirty and go into the lo'i, pick the taro and turn it into poi.......absolutely unique and will give you a up close and personal experience with a ancient Hawaiian tradition.

pzp

You probably won't need long pants, but if you wear them on the plane - and your sweatshirt or sweater - you'll have them. Nice shorts/top are acceptable for all restaurants, but you might want to dress up a bit for the top-end ones. You can buy nice sundresses at many places here.

PensFan71

Even if it rains a day or two in Kauai...you are still in Kauai. You will make the most of your trip. Pack an umbrella and you probably won't even use it.

spudcatCentralCove

One of the best books on Kauai history, and an easy read is " Kauai -The Separate Kingdom" by Edward Joesting. This along with a good guide book like "Kauai Trailblazer" will make your visit much more interesting.

eheyman

It is an incomparably gorgeous garden spot, wide open for exploring. It is quieter, less developed and more pristine than some of the other islands. If you are adventurous, there's much to do and see, much of it free; and the things that cost are well worth the investment.

gopherhiker

Kauai is our favorite Hawaiian Island. The scenery and hiking is spectacular. The north coast, the Na Pali coast, the Kalalau trail, Waimea Canyon, and the Kalalau lookout are some of the highlights.

Chris O

Even among those lucky enough to live in Hawaii or visit often, Kauai holds a special place in their hearts for its stunning scenic beauty and vast expanses of unspoiled nature

Davemchine

Kauai is the garden island and it earns that title. Everywhere it is green and beautiful. It is a paradise for those seeking peace and quiet.

What is the best way to get there?

flying

Lihue Airport is Kauai's main airport and served by inter-island flights as well as those from the west coast of North America.

Do I need a visa?

If you’re visiting Kauai from overseas, use the State Department’s Visa Wizard to see if you need a visa.

When is the best time to visit?

The best time to visit Oahu is during a shoulder season: from mid-April to early June or between September and November. Attractions are less crowded and rates are lower. Temperatures in both seasons are typically between the mid-70s and low-80s F (20s-30s C).

Get around

rental car

Driving is the best way to see the island and the only way to get to its more remote sites. Most major rental car companies have offices at the Lihue airport or nearby by shuttle bus.

bus

The Kauai Bus is the island’s public bus service. You can purchase a single one-way ticket or monthly pass. It goes from Kekaha to Hanalei with stops along the main highway and can take you to many, but not all, of the island's major sites. Large luggage is not permitted on board.

For more information about the network and fares, see here.

taxis

When planning a trip by taxi, pay attention to the company’s location and operating area. Most operate out of Lihue.

ridesharing

Uber and Lyft are available on Kauai on your smartphone.

On the ground

What is the timezone?

Hawaiian-Aleutian Time Zone

What are the voltage/plug types?

The standard voltage in the United States is 120 V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz. The plug has two flat parallel pins.

What is the currency?

The U.S. Dollar.

Are ATMs readily accessible?

Yes.

Are credit cards widely accepted?

Yes.

How much do I tip?

Bartender

$1 a drink or $2 for a more labor-intensive cocktail

Restaurant

15-20%

Bellhop

$1 to 3 per bag

Housekeeper

$2-$3 per night

Taxis/rideshare

15-20%

Shuttle driver

$1-$2 per person

Tour guide

10-20%

Are there local customs I should know?

Drinking

The federal legal age for buying and drinking alcohol is 21 years old.

Take your shoes off

In Hawaii it's customary to take your shoes off before entering a home.

Don’t trespass

Respect warning signs requesting visitors to not enter private property.

Respect wildlife

On beaches, keep your distance from turtles, seals and other wildlife.

Stay on marked trails

For your own safety and out of respect for nature, don’t not go off trail when hiking.

Say “Aloha”

It’s considered rude to ignore others. Smile and say hello, or “aloha” to passersby.

Wait your turn

On a one-lane bridge, local etiquette is to let five to seven cars cross at a time. If someone let’s you pass, give them a wave in thanks.

Slow down

You’re on Hawaiian time and it is considered improper to show impatience in line or to honk your horn.