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Best Things to do in Kauai: Your Guide to 7 Days in Hawaii

The island of Kauai is a dream destination with a natural sweetness and, in my opinion, is the best island in Hawaii to travel to! With more adventures on the island of Kauai than you could possibly do on a vacation, you’ll have plenty to choose from. Here’s my ultimate guide to Kauai: 7 days of the best things to do in Kauai, Hawaii.

My husband and I spent a week in Kauai celebrating our ten year anniversary and I’m just going to say it’s my absolute favorite place on earth! Our week was full of adventure as we absorbed all that Kauai had to offer. Here are the highlights, keep reading for details!

  • Best beaches in Kauai – enjoy a beach day (or two) discovering your favorites!
  • Hiking in Kauai – Waimea Canyon was my favorite!
  • Whale watching in Kauai
  • Snorkeling in Kauai
  • Hiking in Kauai – Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail gives amazing views of the coast!
  • Helicopter tour of Kauai
  • Mountain tubing in Kauai

Day 1: Beach day

Pick from the Best Beaches in Kauai

After the long flight over the Pacific to get to Hawaii, you need a day to sit and soak in the sun. I’d recommend hitting a local beach to relax for the day. Our favorite beaches in Kauai were Anini Beach, Poipu Beach, Hanalei beach and Salt Pond beach. Remember to grab your water shoes as some beaches may be rocky!

Photo credit: Nikki’s travels. Salt Pond Beach, Kauai Hawaii

Salt Pond beach is highly rated and a great spot to grab lunch for a picnic. We witnessed the most sea life on this beach. A seal was sunning himself on the beach, crabs crawling on the rocks and even jellyfish washing up on shore. This was one of the only public beaches we went to that had a lifeguard on duty, which would be great if you’re traveling with kids.

We saw the most surfers at Hanalei beach, but it could have been because it was quite windy and a bit stormy when we got to this beach. The waves looked fun to ride for experienced surfers. Hanalei beach is also where you’ll find the iconic boardwalk in a picturesque Hawaiian beach setting.

We loved Anini Beach because it was a large stretch of sand with few visitors. If you go all the way to the end of Anini Road, which that leads you to the beach, you’ll find a really large coral shelf which stops the big waves from hitting the sand. The shelf in the ocean floor creates a large, lake-like effect in the ocean with very light waves making it all the way to the shoreline. It’s a nice break from the waves and a great spot to enjoy if you’re traveling with kids.

Poipu Beach is a white sand beach with beautiful teal water. It’s a popular destination since the south side of the island typically gets the most sun. Poipu Beach attracts locals and tourists alike. In the evenings you are likely to catch Hawaiian Monk Seals, which are critically endangered. They love to sleep on Poipu beach.

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Photo credit: Nikki’s travels. Hawaiian Monk Seal on Poipu Beach, Hawaii

Things to take to the beach in Hawaii with you:

Related reads:
10 Tips for Your Best Vacation Ever
Why Taking Vacations Makes You Happier

Day 2: Hiking Kauai: Waimea Canyon

You could actually spend an entire week (or more) hiking Waimea Canyon, experiencing a new part of the canyon each day. But for a shorter stay on Kauai, make sure to pick a day when it’s not raining and head over to the canyon for unforgettable views and a hike you’ll remember forever.

Before you hike, drive up route 550 and stop at lookouts all along Waimea Canyon. Take a deep breath and take in the sight of the vast canyon. It’s truly incredible! You can grab some fresh island fruits and banana bread or other treats at various stops, too.

The Na Pali Coast is just on the other side of Waimea Canyon in Kauai, so I’d recommend driving the entire way up to Kalalau Lookout in Koke’e State Park, to overlook the Na Pali Coast. As you stand above the clouds and see the deep ocean blues, the red, green, purple and orange of the cliffs, you’ll seriously wonder if this is the most beautiful sight you’ve ever seen.

Grab a hiking trail map at Koke’e state park, and ask the guides which trails are safe to hike, as it varies based on the season and weather. We went during an especially rainy season so every hiking trail in Waimea Canyon and Na Pali Coast was muddy – so be prepared!

The map will tell you the duration and intensity of each hike so you can pick your trail accordingly. Some of the hikes can be extremely treacherous so trust the guides and map and don’t get in over your head.

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Photo credit: Nikki’s travels. Waimea Canyon in Kauai, Hawaii

We hiked the Canyon Trail down to the top of dual waterfalls, which was a very intense and difficult hike. It took us about three and a half hours total, and was a steep, muddy trail. It’s the kind of hike that challenges your leg muscles and reminds you what you’re there for. Once we came to the clearing and saw the Waimea Canyon and it’s vivid colors, it was all worth it. The dual waterfalls were just a bonus to the incredible view!

Things to take with you:

  • Hiking shoes
  • Bottled water (you’ll need more than you think – it gets hot in the canyon)
  • Bug spray
  • Sunblock
  • Lunch
  • Camera
  • Layers of clothing for changes in weather
  • Backpack

Day 3: Whale watching in Kauai (during season)

I’d highly recommend traveling to Hawaii during whale season! I’ve been to Hawaii three times and my most recent trip I traveled during whale season. The large, majestic creatures breed and play in the warm Hawaiian waters between December – April with the peak months being January and February.

If you’re lucky you’ll catch views of humpback whales in Kauai from the shoreline. There were several days and nights when we saw them out in the deep blue ocean from the beach. But to catch the best view, book a whale watching tour where you’ll go out in the deep waters to see the large beautiful whales closer up. Hawaii state law requires boats and tourists to get no closer than 100 yards from the whales to give them their space. We saw whales breaching out of the water and slapping the water with their pectoral fins.

Our whale watching tour also spotted two pods of dolphins, which played and swam alongside the boat. That was a bonus for our whale watching tour!

Things to take with you:

  • Dry bag
  • Camera and waterproof camera case
  • Extra change of clothes & beach towel
  • Reef-safe sunblock

Hawaiian Island Quiz: Discover Which Island is Best for You

Hawaii is more than just beautiful beaches, big waves and world-famous sunsets. You’ll get a different experience on each island, and your vacation can even change based on the part of the island you’re traveling to, and the activities you’re participating in. Take the quiz to find out which island to go to!

Day 3 alternative: Snorkeling in Kauai

If you’re not traveling to Kauai during whale season, an alternative is to snorkel until your heart is content. Hawaii is a prime snorkeling destination, including Kauai. Tunnels beach on the north side of the island is perfect for snorkeling in the summer and fall. The winter and rainy season may create waves too large for snorkeling here. Sea turtle sightings are common while snorkeling at Tunnels beach.

Lawai Beach on the south side of the island is one of the most popular snorkeling destinations in Kauai. It can be crowded, but there’s ample parking. The beautiful coral reef hosts colorful fish, just be sure to stay within the reef.

Things to take with you:

Day 4: Hiking Kauai: Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail

This was one of my favorite days on Kauai. It’s an easy hike in Kauai that you could do it in flip flops, but would probably be more comfortable in shoes or water shoes. The trail is about two miles long, but you definitely get great views without going the whole way.

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Photo credit: Nikki’s travels. Hiking Maha’ulepu Hertiage Trail

Park at Shipwreck Beach, and look for the opening in the trees, near the cliff. There’s the start! The trail goes up the cliff and along the coast. The path doesn’t really have signage or guardrails, so use caution.

I loved hiking Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail because every turn there was a new, different view of the coast of Kauai. The waters are deep blue and you can see for miles up the coast or out to the ocean. Enjoy your time by climbing down the rocks to get to the water, soaking our feet in the cool ocean, watching sea turtles and enjoying the view.

We spent just under two hours hiking to the end of the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail. Our hike back was quicker and it only took us about thirty minutes when we just focused on hiking without all the photo taking. This hike is easy enough to do with kids or inexperienced hikers, too. Kauai is a hiking lover’s dream, and with so many options I liked the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail because it can be done in a half day or less.

Hiking the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail in Kauai is perfect for soaking up all that Hawaii has to offer, as you admire the beautiful coast on the south side of Kauai. After your hike you can also enjoy some swimming at Shipwreck Beach. The sand is soft and the water is bright blue!

Things to take with you:

Day 5: Helicopter Tour of Kauai

Best Way to See Kauai!

Eighty percent of Kauai is inaccessible by car, so a helicopter tour is the best way to see the island. There are several options for tour companies offering helicopter rides to see the island by air. They book up so you’ll want to reserve a time a few days in advance. Note that the helicopters are small so you’ll likely get a four or six passenger helicopter, allowing everyone to experience a great view of the island. However keep that in mind when scheduling large groups.

Our helicopter tour went over a majority of the island, including inside the Waimea Canyon and the cliffs of the Na Pali Coast. The landscape is so lush and green – now I know why they call it the ‘garden isle’ with all it’s beauty! I couldn’t even count how many waterfalls we went over, I saw so many. The tour also includes a sighting of the famous waterfall from Jurassic Park, Manawaiopuna Falls.

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Photo credit: Nikki’s travels. Helicopter view of Na Pali Coast

Kauai gets a lot of rain and it was rainy on part of the helicopter tour, but from the air that just meant it we saw a ton of rainbows. And they’re so bright when you’re flying right through them!

The helicopter also dropped into the Mt Waialeale crater, the rainiest place on earth, getting over 400 inches of rain per year. I was shocked that the rainiest place on earth is in Hawaii!

A couple people in my group got sick on the helicopter, so if you’re prone to motion sickness this is probably not the activity for you. However if you can work through it you will get the view of your lifetime!

A helicopter tour can be expensive at over $200 per person, so be sure to add this to your travel budget as you prepare to go on your trip! The helicopter tour on Kauai was one of the most incredible experiences of my entire life.

Things to take with you:

  • Camera/video camera
  • Motion sickness remedy
  • Dark clothing (light clothing and skin reflects on the windows and shows up more in photos)

Day 6: Tubing in the Mountains of Kauai, then Wailea Falls

The tunnels and irrigation tubes of an old sugar plantation makes quite a memorable adventure as you tube down them. Friends, the scenery is straight out of Jurrasic Park (quite literally – part of the first movie was filmed here!)

A mountain tubing tour is about 3 hours long, including a short tour of the property and a picnic lunch. The tubing adventure is a great experience if you’re looking for things to do in Kauai on a rainy day! It’s also a great activity for larger groups, as our tour had over a dozen people in it.

Things to take with you:

  • Water camera
  • Bug spray
  • Swimsuit with rash guard (to protect your skin from the tube)
  • Sunblock (optional – most of your time is spent in the tunnels)
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Photo credit: Nikki’s travels. Wailea Falls, Kauai

After you go mountain tubing in Kauai, head up the road to check out Wailea Falls. It’s a short drive from the old sugar cane plantation, and an easy trip up to see the waterfall. The waterfall isn’t accessible by foot, but there’s a large overlook to check out the falls. My favorite part was the constant rainbow coming from the mist off the falls.

Day 7: Pick one more of these things to do in Kauai!

Kilauea Lighthouse

Tour the century-old lighthouse, while taking in panoramic views of Kauai. The Kileuea Lighthouse is on the northern part of the island, so you could pair it with a trip to Hanalei Bay or Tunnels Beach.

Kayak and Hike to Secret Falls

This one you can do on your own or with a tour guide. You’ll rent a kayak and head over to the Wailua River. You’ll park the kayaks on the shore and hike up to Secret Falls (also known as Uluwehi Falls). We unfortunately didn’t get to experience the Secret Falls (planning it for the next trip to Kauai though!) My friend and fellow travel blogger, Leah of An Adventure is Calling got to experience this adventure on her last trip to Kauai. Here’s her story.

Kayaking Tour of Na Pali Coast

The Na Pali Coast is on the north western part of Kauai so the waters can be too dangerous for kayaks or catamarans during high winds. When the water is calm you’ll get an absolutely gorgeous view of some of the most famous cliffs in all of the world, with a front-row seat! Take a kayaking tour or book a catamaran ride out to the iconic cliffs of the Na Pali Coast.

Kauai is a dreamy island with natural landscapes and is full of adventure. The island’s beauty has been captured by Hollywood countless times, yet it’s small-town vibes are laid back and genuinely humble. Kauai is not the Hawaiian island to go to if you’re looking for high-end shopping. But if you’re looking for adventures at every turn, you’ve found the right place!

I hope you found this list of things to do in Kauai inspirational for your next trip. Whether this is your first trip to Hawaii or you’re coming back for more, the Hawaiian islands never disappoint!

Comment below with what you would look forward to the most on a trip to Kauai! 🙂

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34 Responses

  1. It sounds like you had an incredible time in Kauai! I agree- it is one of the best places in the world. It is breathtaking!

    1. Yes! My bucket list is a mile long, but I definitely need to get back to Kauai someday!

  2. Wow, Kauai looks beautiful! Thanks for this list of things to do there. It’s definitely being added to my bucket list!

  3. Gorgeous pictures and awesome post! Hawaii has been on my bucket list and now Kauai would be a must. Would follow your itinerary as is! 😄 thanks for sharing… its pinned!
    – Divya,
    TheSavingsAddict.com

    1. Thanks Divya! It a place you absolutely must go visit, for sure. Thanks for pinning, too! 🙂

  4. What an amazing way to celebrate your 10 year wedding anniversary!!
    Congratulations guys! 🥂

    1. Thanks so much Karlene! It was an incredible adventure, that’s for sure. Thanks for stopping by the blog today. 🙂

  5. Love all the tips and ideas you have here! Looks like a breath-taking place!

    1. Thanks Jaimi! It’s truly hard to believe a place as beautiful as Kauai exists on earth. It’s a must-see destination for sure. Thanks for stopping by the blog today. 🙂

    1. Kandice you will absolutely love Hawaii! It’s a dream destination for sure. I hope you get there soon!

  6. I don’t know if I will ever be able to afford to travel to Hawaii, but if I did I’d love to do the whale watching and some of the hikes. The scenery is amazing!

    1. Oh Alizon it’s incredible. The whales are majestic and beautiful, moving through the waters with such ease. And it’s definitely a hiker’s dream! I truly hope you get there some day. 🙂

  7. I agree- Kauai is the most beautiful place on Earth! We went there 4 years ago and did many of the things you suggested and had an amazing time! We also paddle boarded along the irrigation waterways- which was fun and challenging! It is on my list to get back there!

    1. Jenn I hadn’t heard of paddling along the irrigation waterways, that DOES sound fun! We ran out of time to do everything we wanted…so we’re also making a list to go back!

  8. Squeee, I am not normally a fan of spending too much time on beaches, but I would LOVE to meet Hawaiian Monk Seals! What a total cutie!!

    I like the look of all of these, but especially all those hikes. It sounds like a soggy hikers paradise.

    1. Josy A the monk seals were so much fun to watch! They mostly looked sleepy and you couldn’t get too close to them but they were full of personality. 🙂 And you’re right the hikes are paradise for outdoor enthusiasts!

  9. Congratulations on your 10 year anniversary. We make 10 this year. You had a full schedule when going to Kauai and make it very appealing for others to vacation here in the Hawaiian islands. Mahalo!

    1. Thanks Jenna! It was a very full trip but we wanted to explore the island as much as we could. Hawaii will always have a special place in my heart! Thanks for stopping by the blog today. 🙂

  10. Great commentary on your travels. I absolutely love Kauai, and have been four times. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think about it and talk about its beauty. I am looking forward to my next trip January 2020! 🏝️✈️🍍🌺

    1. Thanks Kathy! I love that you’ve been there so many times and have another trip planned. It’s an incredible place to visit, that’s for sure!

  11. Sounds like an amazing vacation. I have always wanted to go to Hawaii and now will be sure to visit Kauai. Beautiful pictures!

    1. Stephanie it’s magical! I’ve been to three islands and Kauai is my favorite! There’s something for everyone. 🙂

  12. This are great tips that I will definitely use the next time that I cruise around the Hawaiian Islands. Did you get a shuttle from the top of the hike that you did – or was it an out-and-back hike?

    1. Awesome! All three of our hikes were there and back. We rented a car and were on our own time. I know there are services and tours that will transport you though. Kauai doesn’t have as many as Maui, but they’re still available. Enjoy your trip to the islands!

    1. It was truly a great time, Jacomijn! Kauai is full of adventure and I love it!

  13. Kauai is in my bucketlist, thanks for sharing this useful itenerary.saving for future.

    1. You’re so welcome, Madhu. It’s a beautiful island with a lot to discover. 🙂 Hope you get there soon!

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