Activities On Kauai
Are there "must do" activities on Kauai? There sure are!
As you might have guessed by now, Kauai is a very laid back island. There is not a long list of tourist attractions and sights to see.
Nevertheless, there are some things that set Kauai apart from the rest of Hawaii. These are things you absolutely "must see", and therefore, "must do". I'll let you know what they are, and give you some other suggestions as well...Okay, here we go...
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Must-Do Activities on Kauai
- Kauai Helicopters
This is probably my favorite of all activities on Kauai. I really didn't want to put something that costs money (and a decent amount of money at that) as my favorite thing to do on Kauai...This however, will have to be an exception...
Kauai is the only Hawaiian Island where I would say taking a helicopter tour is a "must do". Besides giving you a great overview of the island, seeing it by air is the only way to see most of its beauty. After all, two-thirds of the island is inaccessible by car. These places where you can't drive to, are what make Kauai, Kauai.
A helicopter tour will take you to places you would never get to see otherwise...places you never dreamed even existed. You will fly deep within Waimea Canyon to Mt. Waialeale, the wettest spot on earth. You will get to see the Na Pali Coast (pictured), Kauai's premier attraction, and definitely one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.
Believe me, you will not forget the sights that await you on this amazing Kauai activity. When you are hovering in the middle of an enormous crevice carved out of a 4,000 ft. tall mountain, you will be awestruck. We sure were...In fact, the memory of the sights we witnessed still give me goosebumps to this day.
I recommend this to be one of the first (if not THE first) activities on Kauai that you do for two reasons:
- It will give you a great feel for the island.
- In case your tour cancels due to weather, you have time to reschedule.
There are many helicopter tour operators on Kauai. They are all very good because it is a very competitive business there.
Most of the tours are about an hour long, and feature comfortable air-conditioned cabins. Many companies also use the Bose noise-canceling headphones for the pilot to narrate your tour, and offer you a DVD from the helicopter-mounted camera at the end of your flight.
My favorite Kauai helicopter tour operators are Safari, Blue Hawaiian, and Will Squyres.
Cost--Most tours cost around $200 per person.
Note--I recommend booking Kauai helicopter tours in advance because they can sell out.
Sidebar--I wouldn't worry about air sickness...The choppers are very stable.
- Na Pali Coast
The Na Pali Coast is a seventeen mile coastline that you cannot see by car. The only ways to see it are by air, boat, or foot. If you decide a helicopter ride is just not for you, there are still other activities on Kauai that will allow you to see the breathtaking Na Pali Coast.
- Na Pali by Boat
There are many ways to see the Na Pali Coast by boat. Most companies offer three types of expeditions:
- Sightseeing cruise--These day tours usually include a tasty lunch.
- Snorkeling--These are for people that want to snorkel in some of the best waters known to man. They also usually come
- Sunset cruise--These usually include pupus (appetizers), dinner, and drinks.
The tours are usually done on either a long catamaran (pictured above) or a zodiac (pictured to the right). Many times, you will be greeted by dolphins who race along with the boat!...This alone was worth the cost of this Kauai activity for us.
During whale season (December-April), you will probably spot humpback whales as well. We opted for a sightseeing cruise and thoroughly enjoyed it.
The summer months (May-September) provide calmer water. During the winter months (especially October-February), any kind of boat activities on Kauai's Na Pali Coast can be "hit or miss"...there may be cancellations due to ocean conditions.
Warning: Regardless of when you do this, do NOT go expecting a smooth ride...This Kauai activity is not for those that easily get seasick. Even on the calmest summer day, if you are not familiar with boating on the ocean, it will seem rough. The constant ups and downs can be hard on your back and "behind". Children over 4 are allowed on some of the cruises, but I think 6 is the youngest child I would even consider taking along.
Cost: Tours run anywhere from $80-$150. There are many tour operators on the Na Pali Coast, but MY favorite is Captain Andy's (all Na Pali photos courtesy of NaPali.com).
- Na Pali by Foot
The best way to see the Na Pali Coast on foot is by hiking the Kalalau Trail. This is an eleven-mile hike that originates at Ke'e Beach on the north shore.
Ke'e Beach is at the end of the road past Princeville and Hanalei Bay. The eleven mile hike is considered a difficult hike, and should only be attempted by experienced hikers with the right gear.
However, most people do the shorter 2 mile hike to Hanakapiai Beach. These first two miles from the Kalalau trailhead are considered only moderately difficult...and a 1/2 mile into the hike, you are rewarded with your first view of the Na Pali Coast. That's as far as I've gone, and I didn't think it was too bad. Believe me...I am not a hiker.
If you plan to go past Hanakapiai Beach, you are supposed to get a permit even if you don't plan on camping. Contact the State Depatment of Parks if you need a permit.
Warning: Hanakapiai Beach is not safe for swimming unless you are a very experienced swimmer. It is too rough! Also, remember to bring the proper shoes even for this shorter hike, because the trail may be uneven and muddy. And be prepared for your shoes to turn red from Kauai's famous red dirt!
There is also another trail on the opposite end (west side) of Ke'e Beach. If you follow the path, it takes you up a steep hill to an ancient heiau (place of worship). Here, you will be greeted by a nice view of Ke'e Beach and the Na Pali Coast.
Warning: You will notice rock formations designating the heiau. Do not touch or disturb anything! This is sacred
- Waimea Canyon & Koke'e State Park
I'm sorry for the expensive Kauai activities above, but they are worth every penny. Here's one of the free "must-do' activities on Kauai
Mark Twain called Waimea Canyon, "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific". Trust me, it is grand in every way. It is 12 miles long, two miles wide, and 3600 ft. deep.
Although it is not as big as The Grand Canyon on the mainland United States, it is more colorful. These colors actually change throughout the day.
Some of the best views of Waimea Canyon can only be seen from a helicoptor, but you can get some great views from Koke'e State Park. This state park is spread out over 4,000 acres at an elevation of 4,000 ft. There are over 45 miles of trails for everybody from novices to experts. There are also cabins and tent campgrounds.
You can easily spend days (or weeks) here. I recommend you allow yourself two days or more for this Kauai activity. You should explore and roam around this wonderful park at your leisure. It will seem like civilization is a world away.
The best way to get there is up Waimea Canyon Road in Waimea. Also, it can get chilly near the top, so bring a sweater or sweatshirt. If you're planning on hiking, bring good shoes, and be prepared for them to turn red from Kauai's famous red dirt.
Tip--The higher elevations of Koke'e State Park can get quite cool. It can get down to 45 degrees (7 degrees Celsius), so you may want to bring something warm to wear.
Other Fun Activities on Kauai
Kayaking in Kauai
Kayaking activities on Kauai are unique in that Kauai is the only Hawaiian island with navigable rivers. The three rivers are the Hanalei River on the north side, and the Wailua and Hule'ia Rivers on the east side. I've only done the Wailua River, and it was alot of fun. It is much smoother than kayaking on the ocean.
If you are up for a challenge, you may want to kayak on the ocean. The best places for ocean kayaking in Kauai is Poipu on the south shore, and the Na Pali Coast.
The Na Pali Coast is definitely for the more experienced...and hiring a guide is recommended. Kayaking the Na Pali Coast is not only one of the most challenging activities on Kauai, National Geographic called it the second best adventure in the country!
Here are a couple of spots that you should definitely make a point to check out for some great "photo opps".
- Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge
This is a beautiful spot overlooking the ocean to stop and take a picture. It is the most northern point on Kauai and the Hawaiian Islands.
Here you will see the Kilauea Lighthouse, and a huge variety of wildlife. Besides the many species of birds, other animals spotted here are dolphins, whales, and the rare &
endangered Hawaiian monk seal.
- Spouting Horn
This is Kauai's answer to Oahu's Halona Blow Hole. Kauai's Spouting Horn is a natural lava tube that shoots out water up to 50 feet in the air when the waves come crashing in. It is located on the south shore in Poipu.
Snorkeling in Kauai
If you are interested in snorkeling activities on Kauai, there are some great beaches to go exploring.
Ke'e Beach (pictured) is my favorite...This pristine beach is located at
the end of the road on the north shore. If it sounds familiar, you're right...this is the same beach where the Kalalau Trail
starts. Snorkeling here is a great way to spend the afternoon, after hiking the Kalalau Trail.
Anini Beach (on the north shore) is a good place for beginners, and Salt Pond Beach Park in Hanapepe (on the west shore) is another good place to snorkel.
There are quite a few luaus on Kauai, but I have only been to one of them personally...Smith's Tropical Paradise Luau in Kapaa, on the east shore. I enjoyed it, and I have heard from others that this is the most family-friendly luau on Kauai...so this is the only one I can recommend.
Did you find a Kauai activity that appealed to you? There are so many different activities on Kauai...so there is something for everyone. Click here to find your favorite activities on Kauai.
Sidebar: If there is one thing you take from this site, I hope this is it. Please don't forget the most important of all activities on Kauai...enjoy yourself. You are in paradise. Take in the heavenly scenery, listen to the sound of the ocean, breathe in the refreshing tradewinds, smell the exotic flora. Enjoy this magical time with your spouse, companion, or friend. Enjoy your children. After all, this is heaven on earth...:)
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