Best Attractions near the Cruise Port in Kauai

10 Best Things to See & Do Near the Kauai Cruise Port

When reaching Kauai on a cruise ship, don't just sit on the dock of the bay. Some of the best experiences to be had on Kauai or just a short drive from the Lihue cruise port, where you'll be docked while spending time on land. All of these things too see and do are just a few minutes from the port, but you'll need a shuttle or taxi to get you there. From history, to waterfall exploration and surf lessons, you'll find plenty to do while docked at Nawiliwili Harbor.

Fusing together history, dining and retail therapy is the Kilohana Plantation. A historic plantation mansion is home to galleries, a rum distillery, restaurants and a farm that feeds the restaurants. On site is the Kauai Plantation Railway, the newest attraction in the area. A historic train (the last on the island) weaves visitors around the plantation and through the orchards and gardens that grow produce served on site.

For some outdoor action try surfing lessons with the Kalapaki Beach Boys at Kalapaki Beach. Ride waves by the end of the day. Or, join Outfitters Kauai in a Wailua River Tour and kayaking exploration. Journey through the jungle to Secret Falls where you can swim in the fresh water pool.

Although all of these attractions are close to the harbor, you'll need a vehicle to reach them. Check with your ship about free shuttles in the area, or book a rental car just for the day which is usually pretty affordable.


An exciting excursion with Outfitters Kauai that isn't too far from the cruise port is their Wailua River tour. The tour is guided and takes guests up the Wailua River to explore Secret Falls. They provide a lunch with a choice of a turkey watercress wrap or a Mediterranean veggie wrap, along with pasta and a cookie. Cold drinks are offered all day long. Prices are $102 for adults and $82 for kids from five to 14 years old. The kayak part lasts for about 60 to 90 minutes each way and then goes over a somewhat rugged trail, ending at the falls.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: Kayaking, river and waterfall exploration, what could be more exciting?

Jade's expert tip: Bring a bathing suit to swim at the falls.

Read more about Outfitters Kauai Wailua River Tour →

Blue Hawaii Helicopters offers a tour called the Kaua`i ECO Adventure. The company's new American Eurocopter ECO-Star offers more interior room to take you over the Hanapepe Valley, then on to Manawaiopuna, otherwise known as Jurassic Park Falls. After that it's off to the Olokele and Waimea Cantons, then over the Na Pali Coast, Bali Hai Cliffs, and Hanalei Bauy. If weather permits, you get to explore the crater of Mount Wai`ale`ale - the wettest place in the world - by air for the great finale. You'll have seen the whole island. Prices are $240 with special online prices that vary.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: Blue Hawaiian Helicopters is a reputable company offering beautiful tours.

Jade's expert tip: Make sure not to forget a camera.

Read more about Blue Hawaiian Helicopters →

Wailua Falls
Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt

Many visitors recognize these twin falls as the ones pictured in the opening sequence of the "Fantasy Island" TV show. Their dramatic, 80-foot double tumble is the subject of many tourist photographs, a distinct difference from the days when Hawaiian royalty dove from the cliffs as a sign of power and prowess. Although the falls' beauty waxes and wanes depending on rainfall, they're always a worthy site. Some folks choose to hike down to the basin, but the journey, which is steep and somewhat treacherous, is perhaps best reserved for adrenalin junkies. The thunder of the falls is a relaxing sound and whether you hike down to the pool or watch from above it's a wonderful excursion.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: Wailua Falls is easily accessible and picturesque, and the falls thunder, offering a zen like experience.

Jade's expert tip: Serious adventurers can consider taking the trail up to the falls.

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To take surf lessons at Kalapaki Beach, try the Kalapaki Beach boys who offer 90-minute classes at the popular beach with no more than four people in a class. Classes begin with about 30 minutes on land with the instructor giving tips and sharing surfing information. The rest of the class is in the water. Lessons include all the gear you need - rash guards to protect against sun and rash from the wax, booties for foot protection and boards. With some focus and attention it's possible to stand on a wave by the end of a lesson. Lessons run daily, usually at 10 a.m., noon, and 2 p.m. for $78.12 per person.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: Kalapaki Beach Boys are known for being a safe and successful surf school.

Jade's expert tip: Don't forget sunblock.

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Lydgate Beach Park truly has everything you could need for a day at the beach - two protected natural swimming pools, spectacular snorkeling, white sand, amenities, lifeguard, and an amazing playground for children. This is where snorkel lovers will have the time of their lives. The underwater worlds in nearly always pulsing with life, and offers views of colorful tropical fish. The calm pools are perfect for children or anyone else who would prefer to not get knocked around by waves. Lydgate is a great place for a full day at the beach or a quick snorkel stop. It's also centrally located on the east side so it doesn't require driving far out of your way.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: Lydgate has a reputation for offering the best snorkeling on the island, in a pretty protected pool.

Jade's expert tip: Bring some fish food from a snorkel gear shop and send the fish into a feeding frenzy!

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Citizens of, and visitors to Lihue (home to the cruise port) often take advantage of Kalapaki, considered one of the island's foremost swimming beaches. Not far from town, it offers subdued waves rolling onto white-sand shores. The beach sits near the Kauai Marriott Resort, and its cafes are ideal for a quick bite, in between frolicking on the shore and bodysurfing among the waves. Rental equipment and lifeguards are available, and the scenery is lovely as well. This is a popular place for surf lessons and beginner surfers, stand up paddlers and body boarders. Check with the surf schools about taking lessons.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: Kalapaki Beach is a long white sand beach very close to the cruise port.

Jade's expert tip: Check with Kalapaki Beach Boys for surf lessons here.

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Kauai Plantation Railway
Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt

As the newest visitor attraction at Kilohana Plantation, the Kauai Plantation Railway recreates the days when steam powered narrow gauge trains moved the harvested sugar cane from field to mill, and raw sugar from mill to the wharf for shipment. Although they once ran island wide, the many rail lines of Kauai's sugar plantations were shut down over 40 years ago and today remain only as a fond memory of old time residents. The train runs through the grounds of the Kilohana Plantation and the adjoining 70-acre tropical plantation, the 2.5-mile rail line passes stands of original island crops, sugar cane, taro and on past grooves of mango, banana, papaya, coffee, pineapple and then on to experimental plantings of longan, cashew, hybrid mango, noni, and atamoya. Train riders are told the tale of Kauai's unique place in Hawaii's agricultural history.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: The Kauai Plantation Railway is Kilohana's newest attraction, and takes riders on a beautiful trip through the fields.

Jade's expert tip: Take a ride on the railroad while visiting Kilohana Plantation.

Read more about Kauai Plantation Railway →

Nawiliwili Harbor

Legend has it that an industrious race of small-statured peoples once inhabited the islands, predecessors to the Polynesians who now populate the archipelago. Known as the menehune, they were master craftsmen who could build with great skill and speed. This fish pond was supposedly constructed by them at the request of a prince and princess, who were given the dictate that no one could watch them work. The order was disobeyed, and the menehune fled, leaving the pond to be completed by human workers. The Hawaiian name for the pond, Alekoko, means "rippling blood" and is said to commemorate the menehune washing their hands (cut by lava rock) in the waters. N.B. The fishpond is on private property and is currently overgrown and not easily accessible.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: Blending history, culture and scenery together, the Menehune Fishpond is one of Lihue's most famous sights.

Jade's expert tip: Get out at the pull off spot up the road for a photo opportunity.

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Preserved in this museum's collections are the story of Kauai, detailed in artifacts, exhibits, and photographs. Just a short drive from the cruise port, this is one of the best experiences you can have in Lihue, the town you'll dock in. Two buildings showcase items from the era preceding Western contact as well as the plantation period. There's also a focus on the influx of various ethnic peoples who came to labor in the fields. Royal garments, native handicrafts, exotic shells, model ships, and documentary images are spread throughout the complex, which also offers guided tours, a cafe, and a gift shop.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: The Kauai Museum is the largest and most elaborate museum on the island and it's not far from the port.

Jade's expert tip: Go at the start of your trip, it will provide you with a deep background to enrich the rest of the vacation.

Read more about Kaua`i Museum →

Kilohana Plantation
Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt

In its heyday, this grand, 1930s-era mansion was the focal point of a successful sugar-cane plantation. Today, the Tudor-style, 16000-square-foot home has been restored to its original glory and houses galleries, boutiques, and the historic train. Visitors may wander its halls with their rich detailing and explore the cottages that lie on the estate's grounds. In addition, 22 North gourmet food fit for a locovore, and local artwork and crafts from on-site shops make ideal souvenirs. You'll also find Kauai's only rum distillery and a ceramics shop where you can make your own pottery to ship home as a unique souvenir.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: Kilohana Plantation is the best near port place to pick up locally crafted gifts and souvenirs.

Jade's expert tip: Ride the historic train.

Read more about Kilohana Plantation →


Meet Jade Eckardt

Raised on the Big Island of Hawaii, Jade has traveled the world and doesn't intend to stop, yet the Hawaiian Islands are still her favorite place. She spent seven years living on Oahu and...  More About Jade