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Plan Your Trip to Kauai: Best of Kauai Tourism

A sensory wallop of lush vegetation, high-drama cliffs, and aquamarine waters
With comparatively few commercial developments, "The Garden Isle" has preserved its pristine beauty and laid-back Hawaiian spirit. Waterfalls, scenic drives, and more than 60 beaches dot the landscape offering snorkelling, water sports, and shallow tidal pools that children enjoy. Explore the island's natural beauty with a hike on the the Kalalau Trail along the Na Pali coastline, take a day trip to Waimea Canyon, or experience life on a sugar plantation at Grove Farm Homestead Museum.

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Essential Kauai

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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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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.

Kauai Is Great For

Refreshing shaved ice

Wonderful wildlife and nature

Sunset cocktails by the beach