Map of Kauai. Hawaii

10 Adventures in Kauai, Hawaii, You Do Not Want to Miss!

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Kauai in Hawaii is the perfect tropical vacation paradise!

Famous for its natural beauty, Kauai is a place where you can have adrenaline-pumping adventures AND ultimate relaxation, all in the same vacation.

Golden sand beaches that wrap around the island. The towering cliffs of the Na Pali Coast. Colorful Waimea Canyon, labeled “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Iconic Jurassic Falls. Tunnels Beach, an idyllic summer snorkeling spot.

The Na Pali Cliffs in Kauai, Hawaii
The Na Pali cliffs and valleys on Kauai

With lots of choice on things to do on Kauai, you’ll want to spend time carefully planning out your itinerary and deciding where to spend your vacation dollars.

To make your planning a little easier, we’ve rounded up the must-have experiences in Kauai and the top tours and excursions that every visitor to Kauai will want to consider.

One of the best ways to get a real feel for the rugged beauty of the incredible island of Kauai is through a helicopter tour!

Aerial view of Kauai, Hawaii

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1. Take a helicopter tour over Kauai!

Is a helicopter tour over Kauai on your bucket list?

If so, be prepared to have your jaw dropped as you cruise over the island’s most breathtaking sights. A Kauai helicopter tour is truly a bucket list experience.

And what’s more, a helicopter tour or sightseeing flight is the only way to see some parts of the island’s interior.

Flying over Kauai on a helicopter tour
Soaring over Kauai in a helicopter!

On a typical helicopter tour, you will soar over the rugged cliffs of the Na Pali Coast, hovering over its jewel-green narrow valleys and small waterfalls.

You will also fly over the Waimea Canyon, with its shades of red and green. And if you visit when Waipo’o Falls is flowing, you will be treated to an up close view of the 800-foot waterfall.

Being able to view some of Kauai’s hard-to-visit waterfalls is another reason to splurge on a Kauai helicopter tour.

You will fly close to Manawaiopuna Falls, also known as Jurassic Park Falls because it featured in the movie. The Weeping Wall of Waiʻaleʻale is another must-not-miss sight.

Jurassic Park Falls in Kauai, Hawaii
Jurassic Park Falls, seen from a helicopter

Book your helicopter flight for early in your stay, so if it gets canceled for any reason, you have the chance to schedule for another day!

Looking for a conventional doors-on tour? This highly-rated tour in a Eurocopter Eco-Star offers luxurious seats and expansive viewing windows.

The very popular tour has a 5-star rating on Viator with close to 2K reviews.

Check pricing and availability on the Eco-Star doors-on helicopter flight over Kauai now!

Want a doors-off flight with nothing but air between you and the views? Check out this highly-rated tour with no “middle” seats.

This tour also has a 5-star rating on Viator with close to 1K reviews.

Check pricing and availability on this Kauai doors-off helicopter tour now!

2. Enjoy a snorkeling tour of the Na Pali Coast

Did you know that there is no road access to Kauai’s famous Na Pali Coast?

Other than seeing the coast from above on an aerial tour, you can hike in, but you can also visit by sea, on a boat or raft tour. It’s a totally different experience, and one you must put on your itinerary for the island!

Viewing the Na Pali Coast on a boat tour in Kauai, Hawaii
Admiring the Na Pali Coast from a boat!

A boat tour is a more leisurely way to take in the beauty of the majestic cliffs of the Na Pali Coast, with views of the narrow valleys in between, the lovely golden sand coves, and the sea arches, caves, and little waterfalls that tumble over the cliff face into the Pacific Ocean.

Catamaran tours of the Na Pali Coast leave all year long from Port Allen on the south shore of the island. In the summer, you may be also able to depart from Hanalei, on the north shore.

Na Pali Coast waterfall from boat in Kauai, Hawaii
Getting close to a Na Pali Coast waterfall on a boat tour

A morning sea tour of the Na Pali Coast combines sightseeing with snorkeling, and en route, you may see dolphins (and whales in the winter).

This top-rated morning snorkel tour offers gorgeous views from every seat and room to move around.

Check pricing and availability for this morning snorkel tour of the Na Pali Coast!

For a more adventurous way to visit the Na Pali Coast by sea, consider this half-day raft snorkeling tour! A raft tour allows you to zip in and out of sea caves and under waterfalls.

Check pricing and availability for a Na Pali Coast raft tour now!

3. Or opt for a sunset cruise of the Na Pali Coast

Want to get the best photos of the cliffs of the Na Pali Coast?

An afternoon boat tour on a clear sunny day allows you to view the cliffs when the sunlight is on them, making the colors in the cliffs pop.

The Na Pali Coast of Kauai, Hawaii, from a boat
The Na Pali Coast on a clear bright day

Catamaran sunset cruises of the Na Pali Coast leave from Port Allen all year long, and in the summer you may find tours that leave from Hanalei.

If you start from Port Allen, after you cruise all the way to the north end of the Na Pali Coast, you will have the opportunity to witness a beautiful sunset over the ocean on your return trip to Eleele.

Ocean sunset on a Na Pali Coast Sunset Cruise in Kauai, Hawaii

And you may see dolphins playing in the wake of your boat!

Waters can be choppier in the afternoon, so be sure to take your motion sickness medication ahead of time if rougher ocean action tends to cause queasiness.

This popular afternoon cruise of the Na Pali Coast on a catamaran allows for lots of room to move around and take photos.

Check pricing and availability for this Na Pali Coast sunset cruise now!

4. Zipline over lush Kauai landscapes!

Adventure-loving travelers to Kauai have a variety of activities from which to choose and ziplining is one of the coolest things you can do on the island.

When our kids were teens, every trip to Kauai had a ziplining adventure as part of the itinerary! They still talk about how much fun the experience was.

Soaring through forests on a Kauai zipline

This very popular Kauai zipline adventure takes you through lush forests and over the Waita Reservoir on the island’s longest ziplines.

The eight-track course near Koloa is convenient to access and offers extra thrills like riding superhero-style or upside down with a hands-free harness.

The excursion has a 5-star rating on Viator with over 4,400 reviews!

Check pricing and availability for this Kauai zipline excursion now!

5. Eat (and be entertained) at a Kauai luau

A luau is a fun way to spend an evening on Kauai, and a relaxed way to get a peek into local cuisine and culture.

A typical luau experience begins with a greeting, sometimes with a lei, and an imu ceremony, where a whole pig that has been roasting in a traditional underground oven (the imu) is brought up to be carved and served.

Fire dancer at a luau on Kauai, Hawaii
A luau show typically includes fire dancing!

A Hawaiian feast follows, with local dishes like kalua pig, huli huli chicken, salads, and poi, and sometimes, international options as well.

Most buffets set out buffet tables with the food, so expect to wait in line to fill your plates, and sip on mai tais as you wait!

The evening typically ends with a traditional Polynesian show that includes dance, music, and storytelling. You will likely get to watch some exciting fire knife dancing as well!

Luau Kalamaku is one of the best luaus on Kauai. It’s located on the grounds of the Kilohana Plantation, and features an award-winning Polynesian cultural show.

Check pricing and availability for the Luau Kalamaku on Kauai!

Also very popular is Luau Ka Hikina, featuring a traditional torch lighting ceremony, a traditional Hawaiian feast with a modern twist, and a stunning show.

Check pricing and availability for the Luau Ka Hikina on Kauai!

6. Kayak the Wailua River and hike to Secret Falls

For active visitors looking to get up close to Kauai’s natural beauty, one of the best excursions to consider is a paddle up the Wailua River combined with a hike to Secret Falls.

Located on the east side of Kauai, the Wailua River is the largest navigable river in Hawaii. Kayaking on the Wailua River is very scenic!

Kayaking the scenic Wailua River on Kauai, Hawaii
Kayaking the scenic Wailua River

Secret Falls is, alas, not much of a secret any more, but the rainforest hike to the waterfall is nevertheless a fun activity. But it does get a little muddy, especially after rains, so wear clothing and footwear you don’t mind getting dirty or stained.

And Secret Falls is one of the waterfalls on Kauai where you may be able to take a refreshing dip in the plunge pool if conditions permit.

While you can rent a kayak and visit Uluwehi Falls (Secret Falls) on your own, it’s also fun to join a guided tour, where you will know exactly where to pull up your kayak and have insightful commentary on your hike.

Trail to Secret Falls on Kauai, Hawaii
Hiking to Secret Falls on Kauai

This popular tour has a mid-day departure or an early morning departure, and the guide provides a paddling lesson at the start of the tour. Both the kayaking and the hike are guided.

Check pricing and availability for the Wailua River kayaking + Secret Falls hike tour now!

Or consider this equally popular tour with two morning departures: we like the later one because it does not involve waking up super early but still allows you to kayak and hike in the relative cool of the morning.

The tour includes guided kayaking and hiking as well as snacks and drinks.

Check pricing and availability for this Wailua River + Secret Falls tour now!

7. Taste tropical fruit and chocolate on a Kauai garden tour

Kauai is known as the Garden Isle for its lush landscapes.

And, garden lovers, rejoice! There are several botanical gardens you can tour on your Kauai vacation.

Princeville Botanical Gardens Kauai Hawaii
Waterfall in Princeville Botanical Gardens

On the south shore, the McBryde and Allerton Gardens, next door to each other, are expansive rainforest gardens. At Allerton Garden, you can see the fig trees with the massive roots that featured in Jurassic Park.

Limahuli Garden and Preserve on the north shore is definitely a garden to put on your Kauai itinerary. It is a place rich in history, native plants, and beautiful ocean views from the top of the trail.

Also on the north shore, you can join a really exciting garden tour in Princeville: not only is the tour through the tropical Princeville Botanical Gardens fun and informative, you also get to taste tropical fruit and chocolate!

Check pricing and availability for the Princeville Botanical Gardens tour now!

8. Visit the Waimea Canyon

Gorgeous Waimea Canyon definitely deserves a top spot on any Kauai itinerary.

More than 10 miles long and about a mile wide, Waimea Canyon is worth visiting not just for its grandeur but also for its colors: the bright red and green of the landscape is guaranteed to brighten your social media feeds.

Waimea Canyon in Kauai is one of the best places to visit in Hawaii
Waimea Canyon in Kauai

While there are several lookouts from where you can admire the canyon, you can also hike in Waimea Canyon State Park, going all the way to the bottom of the gorge if you so choose.

Adjoining Kokee State Park is also well worth the visit, with miles of hiking trails for all skill levels and a couple of breathtaking viewpoints over the Kalalau Valley, the cliffs of the Na Pali Coast, and the Pacific Ocean.

A lookout in Koke'e State Park, one of the best state parks in Kauai, Hawaii
A view of the Kalalau Valley from Koke’e State Park

Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Parks are located along the rugged west side of Kauai. The drive is winding but scenic.

Active visitors can join an exciting Waimea Canyon downhill bike tour! You’ll drive up in a van, enjoying the views from lookout points, and then enjoy a 12-mile bike ride on the return.

Check pricing and availability for the Waimea Canyon downhill bike ride tour now!

If you do not have a rental car, you can book a guided tour of the two state parks with pick-ups at several places along the east side and the south shore.

Check pricing and availability for the Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Parks tour now!

9. Go beach hopping on Kauai!

One of the top reasons to visit Kauai is the ability to relax on its many golden-sand beaches.

You will find beautiful Kauai beaches to visit on every side of the island, but know that beaches on the north and east sides of the island tend to have high surf in the winter months.

Poipu Beach Park on Kauai’s sunnier south shore is very popular, because it is both beautiful and family-friendly. You may see Hawaiian green sea turtles or Hawaiian monk seals here.

A Hawaiian monk seal on Poipu Beach in Kauai, Hawaii
A Hawaiian monk seal at Poipu Beach

On the north shore, Tunnels Beach is one of the most famous snorkeling spots in Kauai. It has a reef that is rich in marine life and to top that, the beach is very picturesque as well.

Also on the north shore, Anini Beach and Ke’e Beach have fringing reefs that make them popular for swimming and snorkeling in the summer.

Colorful sunset over the tide pools at Ke'e Beach in Haena State Park
Sunset at Ke’e Beach

Lydgate Beach Park on the east side is very family friendly, with protected lagoons perfect for snorkeling and a walking path that runs parallel to the beach.

For some of the most spectacular sunsets on Kauai, head to secluded Polihale Beach on the west side!

10. Hike!

Love hiking? You will find exciting trails to hike on Kauai, no matter what your skill level.

Extensive coral reef on the the right side of Kee Beach, one of the prettiest Kauai snorkeling beaches
A view over Ke’e Beach from the Kalalau Trail

One of the best places to go hiking on Kauai is Koke’e State Park on the island’s west side.

From the iconic Awaawapuhi Trail and the picturesque Pihea Trail to the moderate Canyon Trail to the top of Waipoo Falls, the trails in the park are must-do for active visitors.

If you are up for a strenuous backpacking trail, the Kalalau Trail from Kee Beach to the Kalalau Valley on the Na Pali Coast is a world-famous hiking adventure.

On the south shore of the island, we love the moderate Mahaulepu Heritage Trail, a coastal trail that affords spectacular ocean views and passes along stunning coastal rock formations.


That’s our round-up of the most exciting adventures on Kauai. Which ones will you pick for your next visit to the island?

The Best Kauai Tours

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

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

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!

Where to Stay in Kauai

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.

>> Look for a Kauai vacation rental on VRBO now!

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

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Discover the top adventures in Kauai, Hawaii, to consider for your Kauai vacation, from the Na Pali Coast to the Waimea Canyon and Secret Falls.


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