Dramatic cliffs along the coastline. Beautiful, white, finely powdered, sandy beaches along deep blue Pacific Ocean waters. Breathtaking waterfalls. Lush dense rainforest jungles.
Kauai’s North Shore has them all. If you’re visiting Kauai, the North Shore must be part of your itinerary!
With family and kids? You’re in luck! If you are searching for kid-friendly hikes or hikes for seniors or pregnant women, we have many easy Kauai North Shore hikes that require little climbing.
Adventure tourist seeking a thrill? Some of the most challenging hikes are on the North Shore of Kauai, with different trails for hikers of varying abilities.
Join us for a virtual tour of the best Kauai North Shore hikes, from easy family hikes for kids, beginners, seniors and pregnant women, to challenging hikes for the experienced and fit hikers! Select the ones that are most suited for you and your group.
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!
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Best Easy Kauai North Shore Hikes
1. Wai Koa Loop Trail Hike
A pleasant hike of roughly 1 1/2 hours, the Wai Koa Loop Trail takes you through one of the largest mahogany plantations in America, a tropical forest with eucalyptus, bamboo and pine, serene lagoons, small farms, orchards and the Old Stone Dam in the midst of pretty gardens.
My parents loved the Wai Koa Loop trail, and there are many benches along the way where they could rest and relax, with beautiful nature views.
The Wai Koa Loop trail can be accessed from the North Shore Dog Park (use the Kauai North Shore hikes map below for directions), and is open from 8:00 am to dusk.
2. Queen’s Bath Trail Hike
One of the best easy hikes near Princeville, the Queen’s Bath Trail is a short, 0.8 mile roundtrip distance, from a trail parking lot at the end of Kapiolani (see the Kauai North Shore hikes map below for directions).
The Queen’s Bath Trail is a dirt trail downhill to the rocky cliffs of Queen’s Bath, a sinkhole that is now a tidal pool along the coast.
Queen’s Bath is popular local swimming haunt during low surf and calmer waters, and sunsets here are very pretty and colorful.
In winter and during high surf, the waves come crashing over the rocky barrier, and make Queen’s Bath an extremely dangerous area, so stay away. If the gate to the trail is locked, do not hike this trail, naïve tourists have been swept away.
Note: This trail is closed through March 2024 due to safety concerns.
>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!
3. Okolehao Trail Hike to First Two Viewpoints
The first viewpoint comes about a half-mile into the trail, but does involve significant climbing. You get commanding views of the coastline, Hanalei and Hanalei Bay.
The second viewpoint is roughly 1.3 miles into the trail, a second flat overlook with significantly better, panoramic views of the North Shore of Kauai including Hanalei Bay and the coast, the towns of Hanalei and Princeville, and much of the surrounding landscape.
While the Okolehao Trail continues further up, the hike becomes difficult with rope sections and technical climbing sections, meant only for experienced hikers.
Hiking the Okolehao Trail is one of the best things to do in Hanalei!
4. Na Pali Coast Viewpoint on Kalalau Trail (0.5 miles)
While the entire hike is hard and meant only for the experienced and physically fit hiker, the initial section of the Kalalau Trail to the Na Pali Coast viewpoint is something hikers of most abilities can manage.
This initial section is a short hike of 1 mile round trip distance and an elevation gain of about 500 feet, but the payoff is stunning views of the Na Pali Coast and Ke’e Beach along the way.
To plan this hike, check our detailed guide to visiting Haena State Park!
Best Kauai North Shore Hikes of Moderate Difficulty
5. Hanakapi’ai Beach via Kalalau Trail First 2 Miles
About the end of the first 2 miles on the Kalalau Trail you come to Hanakapi’ai Beach, a picturesque beach, just past the Hanakapi’ai Stream.
This part of the Kalalau Trail is highly popular and kid-friendly, and I’ve seen many families with kids on the trail. But note that the hike is rated moderate to hard, with the trail going up and down the Na Pali coastline, with significant climbing.
You should be carefully crossing the Hanakapi’ai stream since it floods quickly after rain storms, and swimming on the Hanakapi’ai Beach is strongly discouraged due to rogue waves and currents, especially under high surf conditions.
Use our detailed guides to plan your Hanakapiai Beach via the Kalalau Trail hike and your visit to Haena State Park.
>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!
Best Hard Kauai North Shore Hikes
6. Hanakapi’ai Falls Trail Hike (via Kalalau Trail)
A side trail from the Hanakapi’ai Beach, the Hanakapi’ai Falls Trail, is a hard, 4-mile round trip, hike to beautiful Hanakapi’ai Falls.
The total hike to Hanakapi’ai Falls, starting from the Kalalau trailhead in the Ke’e Beach parking lot of Haena State Park is a roundtrip distance of 8 miles, a strenuous hike meant for experienced and fit hikers, but one of the best Kauai waterfall hikes!
If you do choose this hike, make sure you plan your Hanakapiai Falls via the Kalalau Trail hike and the visit to Haena State Park well in advance!
>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Kauai tours now!
Map of the Best Kauai North Shore Hikes
The below map of the best Kauai North Shore hikes shows the locations of the trails, trailheads and nearby attractions.
The Best Kauai Tours
Have you booked these top Kauai guided adventures yet?
Sunset catamaran tour of the Na Pali Coast (relatively more stable ride, insane views on good weather days!)
Doors-off helicopter tour of Kauai (unobstructed views, chance to see more of the island than you can by land, no middle seats!)
Kayak on the Wailua River plus hike to a waterfall (a super fun activity for active travelers, albeit a little muddy sometimes!)
Raft trip to the Na Pali Coast plus snorkeling (prepare to get wet on this exhilarating adventure!)
Eurocopter ECO-Star helicopter tour over Kauai (the most booked Kauai helicopter tour on Viator with close to 2K reviews and a 5-star rating!)
Renting a Car in Kauai
The best things to do in Kauai are scattered all over the island.
Public transport options on Kauai aren’t great, so if you want to explore the island beyond your base, you’ll want to book a rental car for your Kauai trip.
We always use Discover Cars to book Kauai car rentals. They search across a variety of rental car companies, both budget and brand, to offer you the best deals, AND they offer free cancellations. Plus, there are no hidden fees.
Lihue Airport-Hotel Shuttle
Not planning to pick up a rental car at Lihue airport? Pre-arrange round trip transfer from the airport to your hotel and back!
This shared shuttle serves hotels or vacation rentals in Princeville, Kahala, Poipu, Kapaa, or Lihue, and then back again. It’s convenient and inexpensive, and saves time and hassle!
Where to Stay in Kauai
Depending on whether you want a vacation rental with more room and the option to cook some of your meals, or you want a resort or hotel experience, and depending on which part of Kauai you want to choose as your base, you have a variety of options.
Since you’ll likely want to base in a couple places on your trip to Kauai, we suggest starting your search for Kauai accommodations by browsing vacation rentals on VRBO.
We have stayed in VRBO rentals in both Poipu and Princeville and find that the choice and quality are generally great.
Want detailed recommendations for accommodations in Kauai? Check out our comprehensive guide to the best places to stay in Kauai!
More Kauai Travel Inspiration
Considering a trip to the Garden Isle in Hawaii? You’ll definitely want to check out some of our other comprehensive Kauai travel and attraction guides!
If you are a first-time visitor to Kauai, start by discovering the best things to do in Kauai! From beaches and botanical gardens to cliffs, canyons, and waterfalls, Kauai has it all, and our round-up lists all of Kauai’s must-experience activities and attractions.
Read our in-depth guide to visiting the Na Pali Coast of Kauai. We give you the full scoop on the best ways to visit this stunning coast in the remote northwest of the island.
Discover our round-up of the nine spectacular state parks in Kauai, which house some of Kauai’s most treasured natural wonders.
Check out our round-up of the most beautiful waterfalls in Kauai, from waterfalls you can view from the road to falls that require hiking and falls that are best seen from a helicopter or sightseeing flight.
Read our guide to Wailua River State Park to discover two easy-to-access Kauai waterfalls, and our trail guide for the easy hike to Ho’opi’i Falls. We also have an article on the best Kauai waterfall hikes.
And if a helicopter tour is part of your plans for Kauai, read our article on the top-rated helicopter tours in Kauai!
We also have a trail guide for the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail on Kauai’s scenic south shore, an article on how to hike the Sleeping Giant Trail, and a guide to the Kuilau Ridge Trail, one of the easy hikes on Kauai.
Get the scoop on the best botanical gardens in Kauai, from Limahuli Garden on the north shore to McBryde and Allerton Gardens on the south shore.
Learn about the best things to do in Hanalei, the charming town that sits in the middle of Kauai’s scenic north shore.
Read our guide to the best swimming beaches on Kauai, from Hanalei Bay on the north shore to Poipu Beach on the south shore! We also have a guide to the best snorkeling beaches on Kauai, and a round-up of the best Kauai north shore beaches.
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