Considering a vacation in Poipu and wondering about the best things to do in Poipu and nearby?
Arguably the most popular destination in Kauai, pretty Poipu has a spectacular setting along the sunny south shore of the island.
Poipu Beach is routinely listed among the best beaches on the planet. Kauai’s scenic south shore features many other beautiful beaches as well, making it a great place to go for all kinds of water activities, from swimming and snorkeling to surfing and sea kayaking.
Poipu, and the nearby historic town of Koloa, also offer lots of choices for dining and shopping. There are historical sites and gardens to visit, and family-friendly hikes to try.
Best of all, the weather in Poipu is the driest you’ll find anywhere on lush and rainy Kauai. So if you are planning a winter trip to the island, Poipu is where you will want to go!
In this article, we’ve rounded up all the most exciting things to do in Poipu, Koloa, and nearby.
Hey, by the way! Visiting Kauai? The only way to get a real feel for the rugged beauty of this incredible island is through a helicopter tour! Check out the five highest rated Kauai Helicopter tours for 2023!
And now, let’s dive into the best things to do in Poipu!
Some links on this page may be affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. For more details, refer to our disclosure.
The Best Things to Do in Poipu and on Kauai’s South Shore
1. Relax at Poipu Beach Park
Poipu Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Kauai.
With crescents of golden sand, swaying palms, and crystal clear turquoise waters, Poipu Beach is one of the top places to visit in Kauai.
Poipu Beach is also known as a marine wildlife viewing area. Hawaiian green sea turtles can routinely be spotted coming ashore at sunset here, and you may see a Hawaiian monk seal resting on the sand.
Both honu, the green sea turtles, and the Hawaiian monk seals, are endangered creatures. Please observe them from a respectful distance.
Poipu Beach Park offers amenities if you want to spend a few hours here, swimming, bodyboarding, snorkeling, surfing, or sunbathing. The beach is lifeguarded.
2. Admire the Spouting Horn Blowhole
Considered one of the top blowholes in Hawaii, the Spouting Horn Blowhole is just a short drive west from Poipu.
Spouting Horn Park offers ample parking and a viewpoint from which to admire the blowhole as it erupts, sending water up to 50 feet in the air.
Formed by a natural lava tube, Spouting Horn is an impressive sight when it erupts with a loud hissing noise. It is one of the most popular photo spots on the island of Kauai.
Sunset is a particularly picturesque time to visit.
In the winter, be sure to scan the water for humpback whales!
3. Stroll Old Koloa Town
Koloa is a historic town on Kauai’s south shore and the site of Hawaii’s first prosperous sugar mill.
Today Old Koloa Town features restored plantation-era buildings that now house shops, art galleries, and eateries.
The buildings here are part of the Koloa Heritage Trail.
From surfing gear and beach apparel to souvenirs and art, you’ll find plenty to browse here.
Old Koloa Town also hosts a number of fun events through the year. Koloa Plantation Days is a popular event held annually in July.
4. Hike the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail
Looking for a family-friendly hike along Kauai’s scenic south shore?
The Mahaulepu Heritage Trail is one of the best easy hikes in Kauai.
It offers gorgeous ocean views, the chance to spot marine life (including humpback whales in the winter), and the opportunity to experience an undeveloped section of the beautiful coast.
The Mahaulepu Heritage Trail stretches about 2 miles each way, but you can hike as much or as little of it as you like. We hike parts of the trail each morning when we visit Poipu!
Linking popular Shipwreck Beach with the remote Mahaulepu Beach, the trail passes cliffs and sand dunes, rock formations, and local flora. Little inlets and coves play host to marine life.
Sunrise is a particularly enjoyable time to hike the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail. You’ll encounter fewer other hikers (the trail is popular!), and the colorful skies offer an added dimension of beauty.
5. Visit Poipu Shopping Village
Another fun shopping area on Kauai’s south shore, the Poipu Shopping Village is small but worth browsing.
If you are looking to buy pearl jewelry while in Hawaii, you’ll find the famous Hawaiian jeweler Na Hoku here.
There are many eateries as well, including the very popular Keoki’s Paradise.
If you happen to visit on the first or third Tuesday of the month, check out the evening Village Market, a lively farmers’ market with lei-making and live music!
On select evenings, the Poipu Shopping Village also hosts live entertainment: it’s free. Watch graceful hula dancers sway to the accompaniment of live music and story-telling!
6. Discover the Koloa Heritage Trail
History and culture buffs will definitely want to check out the Koloa Heritage Trail on the south shore of Kauai.
A 10-mile trail in the south of the island that you can walk, bike, or drive, the Koloa Heritage Trail showcases some of the historical sites on Kauai. It’s a great way to learn about the natural and human history and culture of Kauai.
There are 14 sites you can visit along the trail.
Spouting Horn Park, featuring the namesake blowhole, is part of the trail, as is popular Poipu Beach Park, and the Sugar Monument, which memorializes the site of Hawaii’s first successful sugar mill.
If you love birdwatching, see if you can spot some Hawaiian birds at the Makawehi and Pa’a Dunes. If you enjoy plants, stop by the Moir Gardens, which contain rare cactus and succulents, as well as orchids.
Many stops along the trail feature stunning ocean views.
We drove the Koloa Heritage Trail on our most recent visit, and it was one of the best things we did in Kauai!
7. Snap Photos of the Tree Tunnel
One of the most popular photo spots in Kauai is the famous “tree tunnel” on the route between Lihue and Poipu, at the start of the Koloa Heritage Trail as you head south.
The tree tunnel got its start more than 100 years ago.
Sugar baron Walter McBryde gifted 500 Australian eucalyptus trees to the community and they were planted along this road in 1911.
The trees not only survived, despite hurricanes, they thrived to create the magical canopy you see today.
You’ll find the tree tunnel along Maluhia Road.
If you park to take photos, find a safe place off the road, and be mindful of the traffic coming from both directions.
8. Take a boat tour to the Na Pali Coast
The Na Pali Coast of Kauai is one of the most beautiful places in Hawaii.
With its jagged cliffs, lush narrow valleys, cascading waterfalls, and pristine coves, the Na Pali Coast is an irresistible draw, but there’s no road access.
You can only admire the beauty of this legendary coast from the air (on a Kauai helicopter tour), from the water (on a boat tour), or by hiking the arduous Kalalau Trail, which begins in Haena State Park on the north shore of Kauai.
Boat tours to the Na Pali Coast run year round from Port Allen on Kauai’s south shore, weather permitting.
If you prefer a more stable ride, opt for a morning catamaran cruise + snorkeling tour. The waters are usually much calmer early in the day.
If you like the idea of a larger boat for more stability, but want the best light for your photos, choose the sunset catamaran cruise. Sunlight falls on the cliffs in the afternoon, making for great photos on a nice weather day.
We did the afternoon catamaran tour on our most recent visit to Kauai and loved it. Clouds only rolled in toward the very end of the cruise, creating a rainbow to cap off the spectacular excursion.
If you relish the thought of zipping in and out of the Na Pali caves and getting drenched by its waterfalls, consider a raft tour. It’s a rough ride for sure, but also the closest you’ll get to the coast from the water.
9. Visit the McBryde Garden
One of the top botanical gardens on Kauai, the McBryde Garden offers both self-guided and guided tours.
For garden lovers, visiting the McBryde Garden (and neighboring Allerton Garden) is without question one of the best things to do in Poipu and indeed in Kauai.
McBryde Garden is located in the lush Lawa’i Valley and renowned as the home of the largest collection of native Hawaiian plants. Many of the specimens you’ll see here are endangered and even extinct in the wild.
Look for many species of palms, gardenias, noni, heliconias, orchids, and coral trees, among the many varieties you’ll see here.
To get to the garden, you have to ride a shuttle bus from the parking area. Guided tours of the garden have to be reserved in advance, and reservations are highly recommended for self-guided tours as well.
Allow a minimum of 2.5 hours.
10. Tour the Allerton Garden
Located right next to the McBryde Garden, Allerton Garden is another top botanical garden in Kauai to visit.
You can only visit Allerton on a guided tour, and a variety of tours are available, including combined tours of Allerton and McBryde.
Started by Queen Emma, a Hawaiian queen that oversaw the first plantings amidst the cliffs here, Allerton Garden was expanded by the McBryde family and took much of its form under Robert Allerton (an art collector) and John Gregg (an architect).
Among its collections, the Moreton Bay fig trees, with their sculpture-like roots, are very famous.
Also look for cassia, plumeria, bougainvillea, taro, palms, gingers and heliconia, and the large anthuriums on either side of the waterfall.
11. Browse the Shops at Kukui’ula
If you enjoy retail therapy, you have lots of options on the south shore of Kauai!
One of the nicest places to go shopping in Poipu, The Shops at Kukui’ula is an upscale shopping center that features many unique boutiques and art galleries.
Look for beach and resort wear, surf gear, fine art, gems and jewelry, and souvenirs and gifts.
We love Salt + Sea for their beach wear collection, SoHa Keiki for toys and gifts for kids, Reyn Spooner for Aloha shirts, and Malie Organics for their spa and beauty products.
Even if you aren’t actively planning to purchase, The Shops at Kukui’ula make for a lovely browse.
You’ll also find lots of eateries here, and Lappert’s for a scoop of decadent ice cream.
12. Snorkel at Lawai Beach
Snorkeling Lawai Beach is one of the most fun things to do on the south shore of Kauai.
This beach isn’t as well-known as Poipu Beach so it’s worth visiting if you are looking to snorkel away from the crowds.
The coral is beautiful, and you’ll see lots of colorful Hawaiian reef fish, including surgeonfish, parrotfish, needlefish, and triggerfish. Also look for turtles and moray eels. And stay for sunset!
The beach here is protected by a reef, but note that there is no lifeguard, and there are rip currents, especially towards the right, so stay in the area between the Beach House Restaurant and the center of the bay.
And of course, if you see that the surf is up and waves are crashing over the reef, stay out of the water.
Rocks make it tricky to enter and exit so visit at low tide, and look for the sandy patch in front of the surf shop.
There’s a public parking lot right across from the beach, but arrive early to find a spot.
13. Catch sunset at Salt Pond Park
One of the nicest non-crowded places to watch sunset in Kauai is the tranquil Salt Pond Park, on the southwest shore of the island.
You’ll find a “baby pond” here, if you want to bring kids for snorkeling. There are tidepools to explore as well!
A reef helps keep the waters in the main bay relatively calm, and the visibility is good. The airport side of the beach park is considered the best area for snorkeling for adults.
The golden sand beach is non-crowded and an excellent spot to relax.
Sunset here is spectacular most evenings. In the winter, look for humpback whales in the water.
The beach gets its name from the natural pools that form here. Next to the park are the salt beds where Hawaiians produce salt for cooking and therapeutic use.
Salt Pond Beach Park is lifeguarded and offers amenities like restrooms and showers. It’s perfect for a family beach day!
14. Visit the Makauwahi Cave Reserve
Visiting the 17-acre Makauwahi Cave Reserve is one of the best things to do in Poipu, especially if you enjoy natural and human history.
Makauwahi Cave is the largest limestone cave in Hawaii. It is rich in fossils, and also an archaeological site.
The lands around the cave, consisting of old farms and quarries, has been carefully restored, and now the wetlands, dunes, and forests are home to lots of native flora and fauna, including some endangered species.
At the time of writing, the reserve is open between 10 a.m. and 3.45 p.m., and free 15-minute guided tours are offered.
You can also get a brochure and walk the Makauwahi Cave Trail for great views.
15. Enjoy the Views from the Hanapepe Valley Lookout
If the Hanalei Valley Lookout is a must-stop in the north of the island, the Hanapepe Valley Lookout is equally spectacular, on the south side of the island.
The Hanapepe Valley Lookout is a roadside viewing area that offers expansive views over the lush valley and the mountains behind.
It is located along Highway 50, just past mile marker 14, and makes for a convenient and quick photo stop en route to the Waimea Canyon or the port from Poipu.
If you prefer your vistas cloud-free, visit in the morning, as clouds tend to roll in by noon.
And make sure to stay behind the guardrail. The drop is steep.
There is room for a few cars to park, so you can get out of your car to enjoy the views and snap photos.
16. Drive up to Waimea Canyon
The awe-inspiring Waimea Canyon is a must-see in Kauai!
Known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” Waimea Canyon was created by the namesake Waimea River and a large collapsed volcano.
Waipo’o Falls, one of the best waterfalls in Kauai, cascades down the far wall of the canyon.
Also allow for time to visit the lookouts in adjoining Koke’e State Park, which afford breathtaking views of the Kalalau Valley.
Both parks are located along the west side of Kauai, and Poipu and Koloa are great bases from which to visit the parks by road.
17. Boogie board at Brennecke’s Beach
Located right next to Poipu Beach Park, Brennecke’s Beach is the place to go bodysurfing or boogie boarding on Kauai’s south shore.
The strip of sandy beach here is tiny, and the surf is often congested, but the four- to six-foot waves are consistent.
There are rocks under the water near the beach, so you have to be reasonably skilled. Rip currents are also present.
You may encounter sea turtles in the water here!
While this isn’t a swimming beach, and there is no lifeguard, you can visit just to watch the waves (and the riders!) if you don’t want to go boogie boarding.
There isn’t a lot of parking, so arrive early to snag a spot.
18. Surf at Shipwreck Beach
Shipwreck Beach is a stunning Kauai south shore beach. It is located in the southeast of the island, at pretty much the southernmost tip of Kauai.
Named after a fishing boat wreck that was discovered here a few decades ago, Shipwreck Beach has a wild aura about it. The wreck isn’t there any more, but the name survives!
Shipwreck Beach is a popular surfing spot. The surf here is usually too high for swimming or boogie boarding.
Stroll the beach and marvel at the scenery. Enjoy beachcombing. Look for humpback whales in the winter. Watch the sunset.
Adventurous visitors and locals jump off the 40-foot cliff at Shipwreck Beach. The cliff is located to the left as you look out at the ocean.
Shipwreck Beach is also the start of the popular Mahaulepu Heritage Trail.
19. Visit the Kauai Coffee Company Estate
Coffee lovers will want to visit the estate of the Kauai Coffee Company, located along the ocean on the island’s south shore.
Their coffee is considered among the best in Hawaii!
At the estate, you can stroll the orchard and snap photos of the coffee trees, and enjoy tastings.
There’s also a store with different coffees and coffee-related items you can browse.
If a guided tour is being offered when you visit, go! You will learn about the coffee production process and how different brewing methods impact the taste of the coffee.
The estate is usually open daily for visits, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
20. Pop into the Kauai Culinary Market
If you plan to be in Poipu on a Wednesday, be sure to visit the Kauai Culinary Market, hosted at The Shops at Kukui’ula from 3.30 p.m. until 6 p.m.
Local farmers and small businesses offer fresh fruit and produce, coffee, spices, jams and jellies, pies, and other goodies.
Browse the stalls, sample the wares, and enjoy live music. At 5 p.m., you can enjoy a demonstration by a local chef. There’s also a wine and beer garden if you want to sit and sip!
The market is fun and lively, and a great way to support the local economy.
21. Check out the shops and art galleries in Hanapepe
The little town of Hanapepe, on Kauai’s south shore, is just a short drive from Poipu and definitely worth a visit.
The town served as the inspiration for Disney’s 2002 movie Lilo and Stitch.
Home to close to a dozen art galleries, Hanapepe hosts a Friday art night each week. Artists, musicians, and vendors line the main street for a lively evening event.
Also be sure to snap a photo of the Talk Story Bookstore, which bills itself as the westernmost book shop in the USA!
Browse the small boutiques and dine at one of many quality eateries in town. Kauai Kookie Company offers delicious baked treats and there’s a Lappert’s in town as well.
Hanapepe is also known for its swinging bridge. It’s a pedestrian suspension bridge over the Hanapepe River. The bridge sways and bounces as you walk on it, making for an exciting experience.
22. Discover Warehouse 3540
An old warehouse that used to be a pineapple canning facility and is now home to creatives and small entrepreneurs, Warehouse 3540 is a cool place to browse for unique gifts and souvenirs.
Shops are open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Look for art, home decor, apparel, kids’ toys and books, pearls and jewelry, and gifts. Sugar Skull offers sweet baked treats, and there’s a coffee truck as well.
We bought some fragrant handcrafted soaps, a pair of pearl earrings, and a toy shave ice kit beautifully crafted from wood.
You’ll find Warehouse 3540 along Koloa Road, a short drive from Poipu.
23. Take a photo of the Saint Raphael Church
Located just outside of Koloa, Saint Raphael Church is the oldest Catholic church in Kauai.
The original church was founded all the way back in 1841, and the building completed in 1854. The cemetery here also dates back to 1841.
While you will appreciate the history, the church also makes a great photo subject.
Walk the beautiful grounds — when we visited, flowering trees offered color amidst all the green.
Admire the simple church building and enjoy the sense of tranquility. When we visited, someone was playing the piano, and we sat for a while in the cool interior, letting the music wash over us.
You’ll be spolied for choice when it comes to dining in Poipu!
Eating House 1849 by Roy Yamaguchi is a splurge but well worth it. We enjoyed our dinner here so much that we went back the following night!
We had the crispy frioed brussels sprouts and cauliflower and the chef prepared a special vegetarian dish with tofu for us. The desserts were superb!
Beach House Restaurant is set right by the ocean, and offers an eclectic menu that includes seafood and steak. The drinks here were wonderful as well.
Breakfast at Ilima Terrace and aloha hour at Duke’s Kauai are other must-not-miss Poipu dining experiences!
25. Go ziplining!
Koloa Zipline offers three of the longest lines in Kauai. One of them is 0.5 mile long!
The Koloa zipline course is made up of 8 lines, and the experience lasts about 3.5 thrilling hours. Adventure-loving visitors to Poipu will definitely want to check it out!
The course allows for tandem ziplining, aerobatics, handlebar pulleys and more. A Flyin’ Kauai’an Harness allows you to do zip aerobatics and fly hands free.
As you go through the course, you’ll be treated to the beautiful scenery of the south shore of Kauai, including lush forests and the Waita Reservoir.
26. Get Shave Ice!
Enjoying shave ice is one of the most fun things to do in Poipu.
There are several places on the south shore where you can enjoy the refreshing Hawaiian treat.
The Fresh Shave in Koloa offers all-natural and organic shave ice. Each flavor is named after a mustache for a fun experience!
Waikomo Shave Ice in Poipu also offers natural fruit syrups sweetened with cane sugar or local honey. The menu is small, but both flavor combinations we tried were delicious!
Jojo’s Shave Ice in Waimea makes for a great pit stop on the way back from visiting the Waimea Canyon!
Did you find this article informative? Pin it on Pinterest for later!