Top 10 Things to do in Kauai

I have a special place in my heart for Kauai – my husband and I went there on our honeymoon, and we just recently returned from an anniversary trip to the island. We’ve been to other islands in Hawaii, but Kauai is by far our favorite. It definitely has its tourist attractions, but it’s a lot more laid back and a LOT less crowded than Oahu. Here’s our list of the top 10 things you need to see or do in Kauai.

10. EAT.
You KNEW there was going to be a list of our food spots, right?! Our top picks:
Bubba’s burgers – a hot spot for frequent visitors to the island (including many well-known celebrities. Yes, I’m not above stalking). 😉
Super Duper 2 – For the ice cream fan, the shakes at Super Duper 2 are incredible. Like visit-this-place-3-times-while-you’re-there incredible.
Shrimp Station – For the world’s best coconut shrimp (look out, Red Lobster!). Don’t be alarmed by the outside appearance – it. is. GOOD.
Hula Pie from Duke’s – this pie is all a part of the Hawaiian experience. With macadamia nut ice cream and a chocolate crust, it’s the perfect cool treat for the warmer weather.
Pink’s Creamery in Princeville – also a great place for ice cream lover’s (and their grilled cheese is amazing).

Hula Pie from Duke's

9. Snorkeling. 
There are plenty of beautiful places to snorkel in Kauai. We knew we were going to snorkel a LOT (we went about 4 times while we were there), so we bought some snorkel gear in advance (you can buy it here) and brought it with us. They were a lot better quality than the ones you can rent on the island, and I felt better knowing it was only my mouth that had been on it. 😉 Our two favorite spots to snorkel were Ke’e Beach and Tunnels Beach. We saw tons of different kinds of fish, and even a turtle or two!


8. Smith’s Luau.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Hawaii without a LUAU! Our favorite one on the island (by far) is the Smith’s Family Luau. They have gorgeous gardens that you can walk through before the luau starts, and they even have an un-covering ceremony with the pig! Also, that pork they serve: amazing.


7. Kayak the Wailua River (plus a hike to a hidden waterfall!).
If you’re looking for a unique adventure, one of our favorites (every time we go!) is kayaking up the Wailua river. There are beautiful, scenic views – including a few spots you may recognize from your favorite movies – and it’s a really easy ride. Once you kayak about a mile, there’s a short hike to a beautiful waterfall that’s only accessible if you kayak in! This activity is not strenuous at all, and any age can participate. We had children, pregnant women, and a few much older guests and had no problem at all making it to the waterfall. **Note: you’ll want sunscreen AND bug repellant.


6. Waimea Canyon.
Lovingly called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”, Waimea canyon offers gorgeous views that can’t disappoint. With lookouts and guided tours and hikes, you can explore it up close and personal.

Waimea Canyon

5. Polihale State Park.
A remote, wild beach on the western side of Kauai. It is a bit of a drive (and you probably want to avoid it if you’re driving a sedan – it can get a little rough), but the views are well worth it. The serene beach is rarely crowded, and has a beautiful backdrop of the Napoli cliffs.

Polihale beach

4. Helicopter Tour.
The beautiful Na Pali coast can only be accessed two ways: by sea (we’ll talk about that one in a minute), and by air. There is no road access, so the only way you can see it is from the ocean, or from the sky. While helicopter tours can get a little pricey, the views are WORTH IT. Kauai is known as the “Garden Isle” for good reason.

Na Pali Coast

3. Hike to Hanakapi’ai beach.
We lovingly call this beach “secret beach”. It’s a two mile hike on the North shore from Ke’e beach (it definitely is a moderate hike with big inclines and declines), but once again, the views are breathtaking. I think the views on the hike alone are worth it, but the beach is a great place to relax and just enjoy the views. **You’ll want tennis shoes, water, snacks, and sunscreen for the hike.

Hanakapiai Beach Hike

2. Hike a little further to Hanakapi’ai Falls.
This hike is definitely not for everyone. It can definitely be challenging, however, the waterfall at the end is one of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen. You’ll definitely want good shoes, sunscreen, bug spray, and food (it’s an 8-mile round trip from Ke’e beach to the end). It can get a little muddy, so you probably don’t want to bring your favorite pair of sneakers.

Hanakapi'ai Falls

1. Catamaran to see the Na Pali Coast.
Every time we’ve been to Kauai, this has been our most favorite thing to do. We recommend this as the #1 activity to all of our friends, too! You get to see the beautiful Na Pali coast, learn about the history of the island of Kauai, see dolphins (they follow along with your Catamaran!), snorkel, enjoy the beautiful ocean, and maybe see a sea turtle or two. It is really a combination of all of our favorite things to do in Kauai – snorkel, sail, take in the beautiful scenery, and eat. 😉 **note: you will probably want to take some seasickness medication if you get queasy (sometimes the water can get a little choppy).


Have you been to Kauai? What activities would you recommend? We’d love to hear below!

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19 Responses to “Top 10 Things to do in Kauai”

  1. Ardis W
    I'm from Kaua'i (the westernmost town of Kekaha to be exact) ~ did you ever try a Puka dog on any of your trips to the island? I guess I don't eat out as much whenever I fly home , because I've only heard of two of those places you mentioned (bubba's and Dukes). Just reading your post makes me homesick ~ Glad you love the Garden Isle as much as I do!
  2. Camille
    We are heading here in just 6 weeks and are so excited. I was just looking into the kayak rental company you recommended and it says no pregnant women or kids under 5! Is this a new restriction or did they just leave it up to your own discretion?

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