Photographing the pier is one of the best things to do in Hanalei, Kauai!

29 Best Things to Do in Hanalei and the North Shore of Kauai in 2024!

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The charming town of Hanalei is one of the must-visit places in Kauai. There are so many fun things to do in Hanalei, and nearby Princeville, from shopping and dining to beaches and views, that you’ll be spoiled for choice.

Hanalei is located on the scenic Hanalei Bay, right in the middle of Kauai’s north shore, and offers easy access to the many beaches and other sights in the island’s north.

A filming location for movies like South Pacific and The Descendants, Hanalei exudes charm at every step.

Sunset at Hanalei Bay in Kauai, HI
Sunset at Hanalei Bay

While you’ll want to spend a lot of your time in Hanalei outdoors, soaking in the natural beauty, we also like to browse the shops and galleries in town, many of which feature works by local artists, and peek into the past at the little green church and the Mission House, now a museum.

And definitely bring your appetite: from fine dining places to casual eateries and food trucks, you’ll find great food and drink in Hanalei.

We like to spend at least a part of every Kauai trip enjoying the astounding beauty of Kauai’s north shore, and soaking in the rustic ambience, from waking up to the crowing of roosters to strolling a beautiful beach at sunrise or sunset.

As you cross the picturesque one-lane Hanalei Bridge over the Hanalei River that sits at the entrance to town, you should prepare to slow down, both literally and figuratively, and let the charm of the valley wash over you!

And if you plan to visit Kauai’s south shore, also be sure to read our guide to the best things to do in Poipu and nearby!

Ready to learn more about Kauai’s north shore? Let’s get started discovering the best things to do in Hanalei (and nearby)!

Visiting Kauai? The only way to get a real feel for the rugged beauty of this incredible island is through a helicopter tour!

An aerial view of Hanalei on the north shore of Kauai, HI
An aerial view of Hanalei

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The Best Things to Do in Hanalei (and Hanalei Bay)

1. Walk the long stretch of sand at Hanalei Bay on Kauai’s North Shore

The largest bay on Kauai’s north shore, crescent-shaped Hanalei Bay is simply gorgeous.

Walking the beach at Hanalei Bay is one of the best things to do in Hanalei!

Set against the backdrop of the north shore mountains, the golden sand beach and the lush green tropical vegetation along the coastline contrast beautifully with the aqua waters to create the perfect picture postcard.

A view of Hanalei Bay in Kauai, HI
A view of Hanalei Bay

On nice weather days, the two-mile stretch of sandy beach is perfect for a nice long walk. Enjoy the scenery and the fresh ocean breezes as you stroll!

The views of Mount Makana in the distance are particularly beautiful, and on some days you may even spy waterfalls flowing down the mountainsides.

You can start at Black Pot Beach by the Hanalei River, and walk all the way up to the Waioli Stream before retracing your steps. Along the way you’ll pass the iconic Hanalei Pier.

Of course, you can also walk a shorter distance along the beach: the views are stunning all along its length.

On our first visit to Kauai we spent a few nights near the bay and started each day with a walk along the beach at Hanalei Bay.

With very few people early in the day, the serene ambience and the beautiful views made for the perfect start to our days on the north shore.

Beautiful Hanalei Bay in Kauai, Hawaii
Walking along the beach at Hanalei Bay is marvelously relaxing!

Sunset is another great time to walk the stretch of sand at Hanalei Bay, although in season, the beaches will be more crowded then. There’s still plenty of room to walk though, to enjoy colorful Kauai sunsets!

>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!

2. Snap photos of Hanalei Pier at sunrise

One of the most photographed spots in Kauai, the Hanalei Pier has a very picturesque setting.

Taking in the beauty of the pier at sunrise is one the best things to do in Hanalei!

Hanalei Pier in Kauai, HI
The Hanalei pier at sunset

The pier is also a lovely spot at sunset, and after dark, when you can stargaze.

Hanalei Pier was originally built from wood, but in the early 20th century it was replaced by the concrete deck you see today. Later, a roof was added to the outermost section of the pier.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Hanalei Pier features in the movie South Pacific.

Walk out to the roofed section at the end of the pier for spectacular views all around, especially looking back at the lush coastline. At low tide, you can also explore under the pier and snap photos.

The Hanalei pier at sunrise. Kauai, Hawaii
Under the Hanalei Pier at sunrise

Look for sea turtles and other marine life in the waters below, and if you brought your bathing suit, you can even get into the water if it’s summer and the water is calm. Be careful jumping in though, as the water may be shallow.

You’ll see locals fishing from the pier, and surfers riding the waves. If you visit during the day, you can bring a picnic to enjoy at one of the tables.

There’s free parking if you plan to drive to the pier.

3. Enjoy the Hanalei Bay beaches

Hanalei Bay is so long that there are three beach parks along its length! What’s more, these beaches are some of the most beautiful north shore beaches in Kauai.

Spending time at the beaches here is one of the most fun things to do in Hanalei on nice weather days.

Black Pot Beach Park stretches from the Hanalei River up to the Hanalei Pier. It gets its name from a large black pot that was reportedly used to cook fish for celebrations here.

Black Pot Beach Park Hanalei Bay Kauai at sunset
Black Pot Beach at sunset

Behind the sandy beach, there’s a grassy area with shade and picnic tables, and behind the grassy area are rental places for surfboards, paddleboards and the like.

The Hanalei River flows into the ocean here, so the water may be murky after rains and not suitable for swimming.

You can swim here in the summer if the waters are clear and calm. The area by the pier tends to have gentler waves.

Enjoying Black Pot Beach is one of the best things to do in Hanalei, Kauai
Black Pot Beach in the summer

Sunbathe, stroll, surf, go stand-up paddleboarding or boogie boarding, or watch the sunset!

Restrooms and showers are available, but there isn’t a lifeguard station here.

Black Pot Beach can be crowded on summer weekends, so arrive early. You can drive up to the beach and park, so access is easy.

Hanalei Pavilion Beach Park occupies the area in the middle of the bay. It’s a hugely popular beach!

Hanalei Pavilion Beach Park in Kauai Hawaii
Hanalei Pavilion Beach Park

Go boogie boarding, paddleboarding, swim, or kayak when the waters are calm. Stroll the beach, or sunbathe. Spread out a blanket and enjoy a picnic.

You’ll find lifeguards on duty here, and in the summer, the beach is one of Kauai’s best swimming beaches. There is a small parking lot, plus street parking. Restrooms and outdoor showers are available.

At the western end of Hanalei Bay is Pine Trees or Waioli Beach Park.

In the summer, Waioli Beach Park offers swimming (when the waters are calm) and bodyboarding. You can also stroll the beach here.

Aerial view of Waioli Beach Park, Hanalei Bay, Kauai
An aerial view of Waioli Beach Park

There are volleyball courts, a grassy area behind the sand, and picnic tables, if you want to bring a meal to enjoy here.

In the winter, it’s a great place to watch surfers ride the waves.

There is a lifeguard station here, and restrooms and outdoor showers are available. You can park in a lot on Anae Road or Hee Road.

>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!

4. Take a Hanalei food tour!

Eating is one of the top Hanalei activities, at least in our book!

Hanalei boasts several great restaurants (we cover some of them later in this article!) and one of the fun ways to get introduced to local foods and quality eateries is to join a food tour.

You’ll not only get to sample eats at several different places, but your guide will often provide recommendations for where to eat for the rest of your stay.

Poke in Hawaii
You may sample poke on a Hanalei food tour!

This highly-rated walking food tour of Hanalei offers insight on Hanalei’s history and food culture as your guide steers you to the restaurants chosen for the sampling.

It’s an afternoon food tour that last two hours, and includes bites and entrees, so it can take the place of lunch.

Your tour includes sweet treats as well, from coconut (or macadamia) pie to handcrafted chocolate truffles from a local chocolatier.

>> Check pricing and availability on this Hanalei walking food tour now!

5. Kayak the Hanalei River and Bay!

The Hanalei River flows into the Pacific Ocean at scenic Hanalei Bay, and kayaking is the perfect way to experience both the river and the bay!

A kayaking (and optional snorkeling) tour is one of the top Hanalei activities to add to your itinerary for Kauai’s north shore.

Hawaiian canoe by Hanalei Pier in Kauai, HI
A Hawaiian canoe resting by the Hanalei Pier

On this guided tour, you’ll paddle down the Hanelei River, enjoying the lush tropical forests on its banks, until you hit Hanalei Bay.

Your knowledgeable local guide provides commentary as you paddle.

Then you’ll kayak in the open waters of Hanalei Bay to take in the beauty of the coastline. Look for sea turtles in the bay!

You’ll see the lush green coastal cliffs rising up above the waters, creating a beautiful backdrop for your bay paddle.

Next, you’ll have the opportunity to snorkel from a beach in the clear waters of the bay to admire the colorful tropical fish. You may see other marine life as well: octopus, eels, turtles, and even a shark or two.

Hawaiian turtles in the ocean
Look for turtles in the water!

Finally you’ll relax on the beach and enjoy a picnic lunch. Your guide may even provide some music as you eat!

The very popular half-day morning tour starts at 8 a.m. The tour price includes necessary gear and training, and lunch. All you have to do is show up for an active half-day of exploring!

There is also an afternoon tour option, which starts at 2 p.m. and includes snacks instead of lunch.

>> Check pricing and availability for the Hanalei River + Bay kayak and snorkel tour now!

6. Browse the art galleries in Hanalei Town

If you are looking for souvenirs to bring back home from Kauai, spend some time browsing the many art galleries in the charming town of Hanalei.

Some art galleries here showcase the work of local artists, from paintings and photographs featuring Kauai landscapes and local flora to wood carvings and locally made jewelry.

Other galleries feature art and crafts from the broader Pacific islands.

An art gallery in Hanalei town on the north shore of Kauai, Hawaii
Havaiki Ocean and Tribal Art in Hanalei Town

We love the vivid colors in the art of Michal Abramovitz. At Michal, her art studio and boutique in Hanalei, you can purchase swimwear, beach wraps, totes, and beach towels that feature her colorful art.

Havaiki Oceanic and Tribal Art has lots of lovely carved wood pieces from Hawaii as well as the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and more.

Infinite Arts offers paintings, lightboxes, and woodwork. We love the Kauai landscapes here, and we’ve bought one on each of our Kauai visits so far!

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Kauai tours now!

7. Visit the Waiʻoli Huiʻia Church

Hanalei’s “little green church” is both historic and picturesque. Set in a green lawn against the backdrop of the Kauai mountains, it makes for the perfect photo!

The Waiʻoli Huiʻia Church in Hanalei, Kauai
Visit the Waiʻoli Huiʻia Church in Hanalei! | Things to Do in Hanalei

The church started out as the Wai`oli Mission, a thatched structure that was built in anticipation of the arrival of the first Christian missionaries to the island.

A more permanent mission building, the oldest church in Kauai, was completed in 1841. This building, known as the Waiʻoli Mission Hall, and the belfry, still stand behind the new church.

The current church, built in the American Gothic style, dates back to 1912, and features the signature green shingles and lovely stained glass windows.

Stained glass windows Hanalei Church Kauai HI
The church features lovely stained glass windows!

The bell tower of the church houses the Mission Bell, which dates back to 1843.

The Waiʻoli Huiʻia Church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

You’ll find the picturesque church along the Kuhio Highway in Hanalei. It is free to enter.

8. Stroll through the historic Mission House

The historic Mission House in Hanalei dates back to 1837!

If you are a history buff, you won’t want to miss touring this gem, which offers a fascinating peek into the past.

The Waioli Mission House in Hanalei, Kauai
The Waioli Mission House
Plaque describing the Waioli Mission House in Hanalei, Kauai
Plaque at the Waioli Mission House

Built to house the first Christian missionaries that arrived in Kauai, Abner and Lucy Wilcox, the house was restored in the early 1900s and is now a museum.

The two-story house, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is located in the same complex as the Waiʻoli Huiʻia Church, in the grove in the back.

Lucy Wilcox reportedly gave birth to eight sons in the main bedroom of the house.

Admire unique features like the distinctive chimney made of lava rock, and, inside, the koa wood furniture. The wall clock is from 1866. Many of the furnishings are from the time of the original occupants.

Guided tours of the house are offered Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

9. Go shopping in Hanalei

If you’re up for a little retail therapy during your stay in Kauai, Hanalei Town offers many little shops to browse.

Aside from the art galleries, you’ll find souvenir shops and shops selling tropical-themed apparel and jewelry, and home decor.

The small store buildings, with their colored facades, look charming!

Look for hip beach totes, trendy apparel, pearl jewelry, lovely straw papales (hats without crowns), and jewelry and ornaments made from lauhala (the leaves of the hala tree) at Ohana.

Ohana Hanalei in Kauai, HI
You’ll find fun things to buy at Ohana in Hanalei! PC: Ohana

Aloha Hanalei in the Ching Young Village has a fun vibe, with thatch and surfboards on the walls. Look for aloha shirts, locally made soaps, salt and spices, tiki figurines, and jewelry.

For handcrafted ukuleles, head to Hanalei Strings! You can also take a ukulele lesson here.

Yellowfish Trading Company, in the Hanalei Center, is a well-curated antique store we love browsing when we visit the island. The selection isn’t large, but it’s fascinating!

Hanalei Shopping Center in Hanalei, Kauai, HI
You’ll find many stores in the Hanalei Shopping Center

10. Go surfing (or take a surfing lesson!)

Hanalei Bay is considered one of the top surfing destinations in Kauai. Surfing on the north shore of Kauai is best from late fall through early spring, when swells are consistent.

The 2-mile-long bay has several surfing zones and surfers of all ability levels can find a spot to surf here.

Surfer in Hanalei Bay, Kauai, HI
A surfer at Hanalei Bay

Expert surfers will want to head to the Point on the east side of Hanalei Bay, where connecting swells offer one of the longest rides in Hawaii.

Pinetrees, in the middle of the bay, is good for intermediate surfers, and the south side of Hanalei Pier is considered good for novices. Waikokos is for intermediate level surfers.

Regardless of zones, waves on the north shore can be big and dangerous, so be careful: if in doubt, don’t head out.

Waioli Beach Park Hanalei Bay Kauai HI
A surfer at Waioli Beach Park

If you are new to surfing but want to learn, you can take a surfing lesson in Hanalei.

This highly rated 2-hour lesson offers instruction on the basics for groups of 2, 3, or 4 people, which allows for a personalized experience. Equipment is included.

>> Check pricing and availability on this 2-hour surfing lesson in Hanalei now!

11. Tour the Limahuli Garden and Preserve

One of the top gardens you can visit in Kauai, the Limahuli Garden and Preserve features a botanical garden that is spread over 17 lush acres on the north shore.

Plant collections at Limahuli focus on Hawaiian plants or plants that are of cultural significance to Hawaiians, both “canoe plants” brought here by ancient Polynesians, and plantation-era plants.

A view from the Limahuli Garden and Preserve on Kauai's north shore
A view at the Limahuli Garden | Things to do on the North Shore of Kauai

The loop trail through the garden is 0.75 mile long and gets you up close to the splendid specimens of flora, some of which are rare and endangered.

And if you enjoy birding, you’ll be excited to know that the garden is home to many Hawaiian bird species that are only found here and nowhere else on earth.

The trail does involve steps, so wear comfortable walking shoes. And bring bug repellent, sun protection, and rain gear as well.

A cascade at the Limahuli garden and Preserve in Kauai, HI
A waterfall in the Limahuli Garden

Located just over a 20-minute drive from Hanalei Town, the botanical garden can also be accessed using the North Shore Shuttle.

You can visit the Limahuli Garden and Preserve on a self-guided tour or guided tour. If you plan to drive to the garden, or take a guided tour, make tour reservations online in advance.

And if you enjoy gardens, check out our detailed guide to the best botanical gardens in Kauai!

12. Step inside the Maniniholo Dry Cave

Located along the highway on the north shore of Kauai, the Maniniholo Dry Cave is a cool place to stop briefly to explore, especially if you are traveling with young kids.

Maniniholo Dry Cave, Kauai, Hawaii
The Maniniholo Dry Cave is a quick explore on the north shore of Kauai

It is located at mile marker 9, right across the street from Ha’ena Beach Park, and you can park along the road or in the beach parking lot.

The cave is quite large and goes back a good couple of hundred feet. It’s tall enough at the entrance that you can stand inside comfortably, but the ceiling gets progressively lower as you head deeper into the cave.

The only light is from the entrance. We used the light on our phones as it got darker deep inside the cave, but if you have a flashlight, bring it with you!

You’ll hear the drip-drip-drip of water dripping from the ceiling of the cave, and you may even feel the drops fall on you!

The floor is sandy, but here and there rocks poke up from the ground, so watch your step as you explore.

13. And visit the wet caves on the North Shore of Kauai!

If you enjoy caving, there are a couple of wet caves you can explore a little further up the road, just before mile marker 10.

Short hikes are required to get to the Waikanaloa and Waikapalae Wet Caves, which are fed by underground springs that flow into the ocean.

Waikapalae Wet Cave in Kauai, HI
The Waikapalae wet cave in Kauai

The water level in the caves is based on the tide, and swimming is not allowed in the caves.

Note that the caves may be closed off when conditions are not safe.

14. Take in the views from the Hanalei Valley Lookout

Less than 3 miles from Hanalei Town you’ll find one of the most scenic viewpoints in Kauai, and maybe even all of Hawaii.

The Hanalei Valley Lookout offers spectacular views over the valley and the river and across to the mountains in the distance.

Photographing the view at the Hanalei Valley Lookout is one of the best things to do in Hanalei!
The view from the Hanalei Valley Lookout is stunning!

You’ll see large expanses of taro fields, surrounded by lush tropical vegetation. On clear days, you may even see a waterfall flowing down the Namolokama mountain.

And the lookout is one of the best places in Kauai to see rainbows.

A roadside stop along the Kuhio Highway between Princeville and Hanalei Bay, the Hanalei Valley Lookout offers limited parking, so if you are driving by and see an empty parking spot, slide in and take in the gorgeous view!

Hanalei Valley Lookout, Hanalei, HI
The view from the lookout changes based on weather and the time of day

Depending on the weather, the light, and the time of day, the view changes, so if you are based on the north shore and you enjoy landscape photography or pretty views, you’ll want to stop more than once.

15. Do a raft tour of the Na Pali Coast

Visiting the Na Pali coast is one of the very best things to do in Kauai.

The dramatic (and colorful!) coastal cliffs, pristine coves, waterfalls and sea caves, and abundance of marine life makes the Na Pali Coast one of the most coveted sights in Hawaii.

The Na Pali Coast of Kauai from a boat
A view of the Na Pali Coast, from a boat

Most boat tours of the Na Pali Coast leave from Port Allen, in the southwestern part of Kauai. If you want the largest, most stable catamarans, then you’ll have to leave from the south shore.

But if you are up for an adventure on a smaller boat, look for a raft tour that leaves out of Hanalei (raft adventures also leave from Port Allen).

First, a smaller and more agile boat is able to get in and out of hidden coves and the sea caves along the Na Pali Coast, making for a much more thorough, and enjoyable, exploration of the stupendously scenic coast.

Second, the Na Pali Coast is located in northwestern Kauai, so it’s a much quicker journey from Hanalei than it is from Port Allen, giving you more sightseeing time along the actual coast.

In fact, the famous coastline comes into view just minutes after you leave Hanalei Bay!

The Na Pali Coast of Kauai, Hawaii
A view of the eroded cliffs along the Na Pali Coast

The rafts are usually 40-foot rigid-hull inflatables that accommodate about 25 passengers.

The tours usually include snorkeling off the Na Pali Coast, and you’ll likely see Hawaiian green sea turtles and spinner dolphins.

Note that raft tours of the Na Pali Coast only depart from Hanalei in the summer (usually between April or May and October).

16. Visit Lumahai Beach

Famous as a filming location for the 1958 movie South Pacific, Lumahai Beach is located just 3 miles from Hanalei Town.

Definitely not a swimming beach, Lumahai Beach is worth visiting for the spectacular scenery.

The rocks, the backdrop of lush vegetation, the stretch of white sand, and the turquoise waters create a picture postcard scene on a nice weather day.

Lumahai Beach near Hanalei, Kauai
Lumahai Beach is a photographer’s dream!

You can also take photos from the lookout by the road above the beach.

If you enjoy landscape photography, this is a beach to add to your itinerary!

Stroll along the beach, well away from the water line, or bring a lightweight beach chair and just relax on the sand, soaking in the peaceful ambience.

Sunset is a particularly scenic time at Lumahai Beach, although we love it during the morning as well.

Watching the waves crash over the rocks on the shore is mesmerizing!

Waves at Lumahai Beach in Kauai
Waves crashing over the rocks at Lumahai Beach

The currents here are very strong, and Lumahai Beach is considered one of the most dangerous beaches on the island for swimming or other water activities. There is no lifeguard.

To get to Lumahai Beach, you can park at the lookout on the main road (mile marker 5) and descend a short trail into the eastern part of the beach.

Or you can drive to the larger parking lot by the Lumahai River, where you can walk through the grove of ironwood trees to the western part of the beach.

If you want to spend lots of time at the beach on Kauai’s north shore, be sure to also read our guide to the top Kauai north shore beaches.

17. Visit Haena State Park

Literally at the end of the road from Hanalei, but a scant 7 miles from town is Haena State Park, one of the must-visit state parks in Kauai.

This park is home to beautiful Ke’e Beach (one of the best swimming beaches in Kauai), but also to the trailhead for the epic Kalalau Trail.

Ke'e Beach in Haena State Park in Kauai
Ke’e Beach!

Even if you do not want to do the full 22-mile round trip hike, you can day hike to the lovely Hanakapiai Beach or to Hanakapiai Falls, one of the prettiest Kauai waterfalls.

Or even hike up just 0.5 mile for fabulous views over the coast at Ke’e Beach.

The park also features restored taro fields and is home to sacred Hawaiian sites related to hula.

Ke’e Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Kauai, and offers great views of the cliffs of the Na Pali Coast.

Visiting Haena State Park requires reservations if you are not a Hawaii resident. We have a complete guide to Haena State Park!

18. Visit the Kilauea Lighthouse

The Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge is a must-visit for nature lovers and birding enthusiasts.

The refuge is located at the eastern end of Kauai’s scenic north shore, about a 9.5-mile drive from Hanalei town.

Picturesque Kilauea Lighthouse is located within the refuge. It was built in 1913, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Kilauea Lighthouse in Kauai, Hawaii
A view of Kilauea Lighthouse from the scenic overlook on Kilauea Road

You can take a guided tour on specific days of the week, or browse the exhibits in the visitor center.

If you enjoy birding, be sure to bring a zoom lens or a pair of binoculars so you can try to spot the many varieties of Hawaiian sea birds that nest in the cliffs here! You may also see the Hawaiian goose (nene) on land.

The refuge requires advance reservations and there is a fee to visit.

Short on time? Drive to the overlook at the end of Kilauea Road for spectacular views of the coastline and the lighthouse! It’s free and a quick but very scenic stop.

19. Enjoy shave ice!

If you’re like us, you want to enjoy shave ice, the quintessential Hawaiian sweet treat, at least once during your Kauai vacation.

Wishing Well Shave Ice in Hanalei, Kauai
The Wishing Well Shave Ice Shop in Hanalei PC: Wishing Well

Shave ice dates back to a time when Japanese immigrant laborers used their tools to shave bits of ice off big blocks and coated it with juice or sugar, making a treat to enjoy on hot Hawaiian days.

Wishing Well Shave Ice has been serving shave ice in Hanalei since 1983. Their organic housemade shave ice comes in many flavors, and you can have them add a scoop of vanilla or macadamia nut ice cream under the ice.

For an even more decadent shave ice, top it with a snow cap and add fresh fruit or coconut flakes.

Shave Ice from Wishing Well in Hanalei, Kauai, HI
Shave ice with a snow cap! PC: Wishing Well Shave Ice

JoJo’s Shave Ice also serves traditional shave ice made with housemade syrups and toppings.

They serve combinations, or you can mix and match up to four syrup flavors. You can add a scoop of ice cream at the bottom, and either coconut or vanilla cream on top.

And if you want to enjoy ice cream in tropical flavors, stop by Pink’s Creamery. We love their coconut ice cream, and their shakes are decadent.

20. Eat!

Hanalei is home to several exceptional restaurants, where you can sample local cuisine or enjoy international dishes, sometimes with a local twist.

Be sure to make advance reservations for dinner if bookings are permitted: many popular restaurants have long wait times, especially on weekend nights in season.

Drink at Tahiti Nui in Hanalei, Kauai
Tahiti Nui is famous for its drinks! PC: Tahiti Nui Hanalei

Bar Acuda is a famed tapas restaurant on Kauai’s north shore and one of the best places to eat in Hanalei.

The menu changes often, because offerings focus on locally sourced, fresh seasonal ingredients. The wine list is extensive.

Many of the tables at Bar Acuda are outside, on the covered lanai. The restaurant is only open for dinner, Tuesdays through Saturdays.

AMA Restaurant, the sister restaurant located right next door, is another must visit when you are in Hanalei.

At AMA, you’ll find authentic (and very flavorful!) noodle and ramen dishes.

AMA is also open for dinner only, Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Tahiti Nui is a long-operating family-owned restaurant located in the heart of Hanalei. It served as a filming location for The Descendants, starring George Clooney.

Pizza at Tahiti Nui in hanalei, Kauai, HI
Pizza! PC: Tahiti Nui

They offer Hawaiian and Tahitian dishes and some of the best Mai Tais on the island.

Reservations are not accepted, and Tahiti Nui is very popular, so arrive early, and if there’s a wait, head to the bar for a Mai Tai!

Tahiti Nui is closed Saturdays, and they have varying hours depending on day of week.

Kalypso Island Bar & Grill is also located in Hanalei Town. It’s a casual eatery, perfect for families. They also have happy hour!

From coconut shrimp and fajitas to a taro burger and huli huli chicken, the menu has many locally-inspired fun dishes.

Kalypso Island Bar & Grill is closed Tuesdays and has varying hours on the days it’s open.

21. Check out the Food Trucks

You’ll find several food trucks on Kauai’s north shore, including some in Hanalei Town (in a parking lot off the highway), and we always have a meal or two at a food truck when we visit Hanalei.

We’ve listed some of our faves below, but there are several more you can try!

Fresh Bite: True to its name, Fresh Bite offers “farm-to-beach” fare using fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.

Bowl from Fresh Bite in Kauai, Hawaii
The bowls are perfect for lunch! PC: Fresh Bite Kauai

Their bowls are flavorful and satisfying, and they also offer sandwiches and poi. There are lots of choices for vegetarians and vegans.

It’s a family owned and operated business, open Tuesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Cafe Turmeric: For authentic Indian food with lots of flavor, head to Cafe Turmeric! Try the fish curry, or the coconut shrimp curry, accompanied by hot naan. Yum!

Bring cash, as they do not accept credit cards. They are usually open Sundays 1 p.m. to 7.30 p.m. and Thursdays through Saturdays 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.

22. Try the Donuts at Holey Grail!

Sampling the renowned taro donuts at Holey Grail is one of the top things to do in Hanalei!

Holey Grail started by serving the freshly made donuts out of a small red trailer only on Sunday mornings. Their popularity grew rapidly and today the small red trailer is a Kauai North Shore destination!

Holey Grail Donuts in Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii
Try a decadent taro donut at Holey Grail!

They serve just taro donuts and coffee, and you’ll almost always see a line here. Folks start lining up as early as 6 a.m.

The donuts are fried in organic coconut oil and flavors are based on the season. You can opt for a four-pack tasting box, or pick your flavors.

Holey Grail Donuts is open Thursdays and Fridays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m.

23. Attend a Luau

If you are based on the north shore of Kauai and in the mood for a luau, check out the intimate luau at Tahiti Nui!

Tahiti Nui Luau on North Shore of Kauai, Hawaii
Traditional entertainment at the luau PC: Tahiti Nui

Named in honor of the restaurant founder’s spouse Aunty Louise, this luau will take you back to the days of Old Hawaii.

With a buffet that features traditional favorites (fish, pork, chicken and more!) and entertainment that includes live Hawaiian music and dance, you will enjoy this family luau in Kauai.

The luau is open Tuesday and Wednesday night at the time of writing and you can reserve your spot online.

24. Do a Kauai North Shore Self-Guided (or Guided) Drive Tour

You’ll find some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet along Kauai’s north shore. The lush vegetation on either side of the highway wowed us!

Driving Kauai's scenic north shore in Hawaii
Kauai’s north shore is a super scenic drive!

From expansive ocean views and endless golden beaches to lush tropical greenery and mist-covered mountains, the beauty of Kauai’s north shore begs to be appreciated on a driving tour, especially if it’s your first time here.

Kilauea Lighthouse on Kauai's north shore
Kilauea Lighthouse on Kauai’s north shore

If you like exploring on your own, check out this audio driving tour, a 2-day itinerary that guides you to all the best spots, accompanied by informative commentary and Hawaiian music.

>> Get the Kauai North Shore drive tour guide now!

If you’d rather not drive, and have only a day to spare for the north shore of Kauai, check out this highly-rated private guided tour!

You’ll visit some of the major sights along the east and north shore of Kauai, while enjoying the stunning scenery en route.

>> Check pricing and availability for a private guided tour of Kauai’s north shore now!

25. Play a round of golf!

Golf enthusiasts visiting Hanalei or Princeville will definitely want to plan on some tee time!

The Makai Golf Club in Princeville is an extremely popular golf course, with 18 championship holes. It was renovated in 2009 by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and winds its way through tranquil wooded areas and small lakes.

Princeville Makai Golf Club couse in Kauai, Hawaii
The serene course at the Princeville Makai Golf Club

There are several oceanfront holes and you can enjoy spectacular views of the ocean and the mountains as you play.

You can also enjoy a 9-hole Woods experience at the Princeville Makai Golf Club.

They also offer a sunset golf course tour you won’t want to miss! The guided golf cart tour of the course is educational and you can observe local flora and fauna plus enjoy an epic north shore sunset.

Book tee times here!

26. Snap a photo of the Hanalei Bridge!

The picturesque one lane bridge at the entrance to Hanalei (as you drive up from Lihue or Poipu) is a very popular photo spot.

Sadly, the bridge was being renovated when we visited in September 2023, but we found a pretty piece of art in Hanalei town depicting the bridge at the Slow Yourself Down store.

Hanalei Bridge Art at Slow Yourself Down in Hanalei, Kauai
Doesn’t Hanalei Bridge look stunning?

The bridge over the Hanalei River was originally built in 1912 and is one of the most recognizable and beloved man-made landmarks in Kauai.

Today’s bridge is an exact replica of the original.

Historic one-lane bridge in Hanalei, Kauai
The one-lane bridge in Hanalei

There are other one-lane bridge along the north shore of Kauai, even a double one, and the bridges are a key component of the scenic draw of this laid-back part of the island.

When driving through these bridges, be sure to follow local etiquette, which means that traffic on one side waits for traffic on the other to go through, usually 5 to 7 cars.

27. Hike the Okolehao Trail for epic views over Hanalei!

While the Kalalau Trail is the most renowned hiking trail on Kauai’s north shore, the Okolehao Trail is a nice shorter option.

The Okolehao Trail, near Hanalei, offers outstanding views over the Hanalei Valley and the ocean, and is one of the best hikes on the North Shore of Kauai.

A view from the Okolehao Trail near Hanalei, Kauai
A view of the ocean from the Okolohao Trail

Just 2.6 miles round trip, out and back, the Okolehao Trail is classed as moderately challenging.

You can climb 0.5 mile to the first viewpoint and call it a day (the views are good!) or go further to the second flat plateau that affords expansive views over Hanalei Bay and Pier, Bali Hai, the Kilauea Lighthouse, the taro fields, and Princeville.

For most visitors, this second viewpoint is the endpoint of the hike, and you can retrace your steps to the starting point.

After about 1.5 miles, the trail turns super strenuous. It becomes a rope-assisted climb of Hihimanu Ridge. This section can be dangerous and often very muddy, and is only for experienced and fit hikers.

28. Take in the view from the Hanalei Bay viewpoint

Although the Hanalei Valley viewpoint is the more well known photo spot near Hanalei town, you can also stop at a pullout for a view over Hanalei Bay!

Hanalei Bay from a lookout near the town of Hanalei in Kauai, HI
View over Hanalei Bay from roadside pullout near Hanalei

There is just enough room for two or three cars at the pullout, so you’ll hopefully be able to snag a spot as you are driving by.

Tour vans stop here, so if you are on a tour of the north shore, you’ll likely stop here for photos before driving on to the bay itself.

On a clear day, the view over the bay is gorgeous! The viewpoint also offers views over the valley and across to the mountains.

A view over Hanalei Valley in Kauai, Hawaii
A view over Hanalei Valley from the Hanalei Bay viewpoint

29. Experience the Hanalei Farmers Market

If you plan to spend a Saturday morning in Hanalei, be sure to visit the Hanalei Farmers Market to browse a wealth of local produce and more!

The papaya we picked up at the Hanalei Farmers Market was some of the sweetest we’ve had in Hawaii, and we’ve had lots of excellent papaya on our visits.

Fresh fruit at the Hanalei Farmers Market on the north shore of Kauai, Hawaii
Pick up fresh fruit at the Hanalei Farmers Market | Best Things to Do on Kauai’s North Shore

The Saturday market is held in a grassy field off Mahalo Road, surrounded by the mountains. The air is festive, with Hawaiian music.

The market is ususally split intp two sides, with produce on one and prepared foods and crafts on the other. If you are looking to pick up a souvenir or two, you’ll find things like handwoven baskets, jewelry, and tiki carvings.

Smaller markets are held on Mondays at the Westin Princeville and Tuesdays on the Waipa Ahupuaa Field.

Map of the Best Things to Do on Kauai’s North Shore

Where to Stay in Hanalei (or the North Shore of Kauai)

Hotels in Princeville (near Hanalei)

1 Hotel Hanalei Bay is located in Princeville, very near Hanalei Town. The luxury 5-star hotel offers beach access. There is an onsite spa, an outdoor swimming pool, golf courses, and onsite dining.

Rooms have mountain views or ocean views and are beautifully furnished.

>> Check price and availability for 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay now!

The Westin Princeville is located on a cliff and offers spacious villas in a resort setting. Villas come with whirlpool tubs and full kitchens.

There are three swimming pools in the resort, as well as onsite dining. A free shuttle to nearby locations is offered.

>> Check price and availability for The Westin Princeville now!

Vacation Rentals in Hanalei and Princeville

This spacious Hanalei home makes the perfect base if you are visiting Kauai’s north shore as a family. It offers 3 bedrooms and 2 baths and is steps from Hanalei Beach. It’s also walking distance from Hanalei town.

>> Check price and availability for this Hanalei VRBO home now!

This lovely oceanfront condo is the perfect couples retreat in Princeville. The one bedroom property is surrounded by lush tropical landscaping. It’s great for spotting dolphins and Humpback whales (in winter).

>> Check price and availability for this cozy Princeville condo now!

Want detailed recommendations for accommodations in Kauai? Check out our comprehensive guide to the best places to stay in Kauai!

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!)

Entire Kauai Island Air Tour (super popular, less expensive than a heli tour, large bubble windows for flightseeing!)

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.

>> Check availability and prices on Kauai car rentals now!

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!

>> Check prices and availability for shared round-trip airport transfer in Kauai now!

Hanalei bay and Na Pali range from Okolehao Trail, one of the best easy Kauai hikes near Princeville and Hanalei
Hanalei bay and Na Pali range from Okolehao Trail, one of the best easy Kauai hikes near Princeville and Hanalei

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.

Planning to split a week between Kauai and another island? We have a 3 days in Kauai itinerary article you must read to help flesh out what you would like to see and do!

Learn about the best things to do in Hanalei and Kauai’s scenic north shore, the best things to do in Poipu and Kauai’s south shore, and the most exciting things to do on Kauai’s Coconut Side or east side.

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.

We also have visitor’s guides to popular parks like Waimea Canyon State Park, which protects the namesake canyon, nearby Kokee State Park, and the remote but beautiful Polihale State Park.

Also check out the ultimate guide to visiting Haena State Park on Kauai’s north shore, and a full guide to hiking the epic Kalalau Trail.

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. We also have an article on everything you need to know to visit Secret Falls Kauai on an exciting kayaking and hiking tour.

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!

Hiking enthusiasts will want to read our article on the best hikes in Koke’e State Park: the trails here are some of the best hikes in Kauai!

We have detailed trail guides for the most popular Koke’e hikes, from the scenic Canyon Trail to the top of Waipo’o Falls, to the epic Awa’awapuhi Trail, challenging but very rewarding!

Also discover the best hikes in Waimea Canyon State Park, and the best hikes on Kauai’s north shore.

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. The botanical gardens are great spots to look for the birds of Kauai, as is Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.

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, a round-up of the best Kauai north shore beaches, and an article on the best Kauai south shore beaches!

And if you love watching the sun go down in a burst of color, be sure to read our article on where to go for the best sunsets on Kauai!

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Discover the best things to do in and around Hanalei Town on the north shore of Kauai, Hawaii, from sightseeing o beaches and great food and drink!


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