Things to do in Kauai, HI

Get Your Bearings in Kauai

By Jade Eckardt
Kauai Expert

See & Do

Things to See

Kauai's attractions are all about natural beauty and beach time. Each side of the island has terrific beaches, with some of the most spectacular white sand beaches located on the North Shore. For hiking trails and vistas, head inland on the west side to the state parks. Sunny Poipu on the south side is a central spot for boat tours and more beaches, and the east side is home to the island's only museum.


Be aware of large surf in the winter time.

Hot Tips:

Catch the sunset at Polihale Beach.

Where to Stay

From private bungalows to bed and breakfasts to luxury resorts, Kauai has it all when it comes to hotels. The east, south and north sides of the island are where Kauai hotels make a home. For luxury beachfront resorts with shopping and restaurants onsite, spend time on the south side in Poipu or on the east side in Lihue. Small scale hotels and bed and breakfasts are most commonly found in Kapa'a, and Hanalei is home to many vacation rentals.


Vehicles are neccesary to get from most hotels to attractions, restaurants and shopping.

Hot Tips:

Book well in advance for all Kauai accommodations.

What to Eat

Kauai's best restaurants are located on the east and north sides of the islands. Hanalei is home to an array of wonderful eateries serving Pacific Rim cuisine and seafood. In Hanalei, all of the restaurants are nestled between small boutiques and shops, but you'll need a vehicle to get to them from any hotel. On the east side in Kapa'a and Lihue, there are popular eateries that offer local food as well as international cuisines.

Take It or Leave It:

Common restaurant chains are found in Lihue.

Be Sure to Sample:

Hawaiian food and local dishes.

Places to Party

Options for nightlife on Kauai don't include large dance clubs, but there's a nice variety of bars that offer live music and lively bar scenes into the wee hours. Hanalei and Lihue are home to the majority of bars, many of which have pool tables, live music and large TVs for sports. You can find small dance floors and always a mix of locals and visitors.

Hot Tips:

Poipu has several classy resort lounges.

Where to Shop

Although Kauai does have well-known shops and brands, the shopping gems here are really the locally made goods. Hanalei and Kapa'a are home to a huge array of small shops and boutiques featuring locally made art, crafts, jewelry and clothing unique compared to mainstream brands. Check out the Saturday farmers' market in Kapa'a for more unique finds.

Take It or Leave It:

Kaua'is largest mall is located in Lihue.

Best Local Souvenir:

Handmade shell jewelry.



Kauai Neighborhoods

Things to do in Kauai

Kauai is known for...

Four of Kauai's most unique features and characteristics.

1. Beaches:

Sun, sand and crystal clear blue water dot the beaches of Kaua'i.  Some are easily accessible and some so secluded it takes miles on foot to reach them. Either way there’s no doubt the Garden Island truly has some of the most spectacular beaches in the Hawaiian Islands. Fine white sand blankets most of them, while dark gray sand is limited to only a couple.  One is even covered in a layer of colorful beach glass that sparkles in the Hawaiian sun. Beaches here really do have something for everyone. They range from long expanses to tiny secluded spot.  Some have easily accessible and historically safe waters, while others boast huge pounding waves.  Snorkelers will find a spot, for sure.  Try to make time for a sunset walk or perhaps even a surf session. If you’re a beach lover, you’ll be in sandy heaven on Kaua'i.

2. Hiking:

Miles of hiking trails weave through the interior of Hawaii's oldest island, but they aren’t limited to this area. Beaches, oceanside waterfalls, and hidden tide pools can also be found by taking a hike along the coast. Choose the hike that suits your abilities: long and strenuous or short and sweet, those who love to hike will find a seemingly endless variety of trails.  Serious hikers can tackle the 19-mile Kalalau Trail, while visitors interested in a peaceful morning walk can visit Ho'opi'i Falls or take a mile long beach stroll. Either way, hikers of all levels will find a trail to explore, and will never be let down.  Beauty is everywhere.

3. Golf:

Kaua'i isn't just for beach bums and jungle explorers: it has its fair share of world class golf courses. A popular oceanside municipal course and a low cost course rich in spectacular views and cultural history are but two of the options.  Avid golfers come to Kaua`i to golf at high-end courses like the Princeville Resort. World class courses are also found on the east and south sides of the island.  No matter what part of the island you're staying on, quality golf courses, clubhouses, and gear are never far away. 

4. Water Sports:

Surfing is most likely Kaua'i's most popular water sport, but let's not forget about snorkeling, bodyboarding, boat cruises, angling, and kayaking. These can all be enjoyed on Kaua'i. While it’s worth it to hop in the water with snorkel gear at nearly any swimming spot on the island, standout snorkeling can be found at Tunnels Beach, Lydgate State Park, and along the Na Pali Coast on a snorkel tour. The Wailua River is the most popular place for kayaking, although the truly adventurous can kayak the Na Pali Coast during the summer months. Surfing and bodyboarding waves can be found island wide, from the North Shore around the island to the west side, there is certainly no shortage of perfect surf.