Free Things to Do in Kauai

10 Best free things to do on Kaua`i are all nature's gifts

As Hawaii's oldest island, Kaua`i has had plenty of time to grow, change and develop varied terrains - valleys, beaches, rivers, waterfalls, inland trails, mountains and panoramic vistas. Being that these are all natural attractions, they're all free too!

One day or more of your Hawaiian vacation can easily be spent enjoying the best of Kaua`i for free, and whether you're looking for free of cost fun or not, the good news is that these are truly the best Kaua`i has to offer. Folks that love the water, and those that love mountain treks and panoramic views are all in luck with our list of the 10 best free things to do on Kaua`i.

If you'd like to spend time under the sea, grab a mask an snorkel and head over to Lydgate Beach Park. The usually calm and protected pools offer a rainbow of tropical fish and underwater life that goes unrivaled on Kaua`i. For another type of water related thrills, Wailua Falls is the place to wander through a rainforest and view the falls from the bottom of the gorge or easily from the top off the falls.

For those that are more into inland cool weather, panoramic views and meandering hiking trails, Koke`e State Park, Waimea Canyon, and the Kuilau Ridge Trail all offer escape from the rest of the world.

So remember that you can save your cash for tasty meals and great drinks because the island has plenty to offer free of charge.


Spouting Horn
Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt

Arguably one of Kauai's most popular natural sites, this geyser-like attraction delights visitors with its spectacle and energy. Incoming surf rushes into an ancient lava tube and is forced upward and outward in a dramatic display of sea water. At times, the geyser can reach heights of fifty feet. A peculiarity of the formation is that the water also creates a low, moaning sound, leading ancient islanders to speculate that a giant lizard was trapped below ground, calling out to escape. At times, local folks hawk their wares in the area, creating a tented village of jewelry, souvenirs and sundries.

Local Expert tip: Notice how the spout happens before the noise does. Very odd!

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A lovely hike with great views, the Kuilau Ridge Trail is pretty gentle at first but is at a consistent incline, which can be a bit tiring. About half an hour up the trail you'll come to a picnic area and this is a great place to enjoy a lunch. This spot also has wonderful views down into a valley and if it's a clear day you'll be treated to a great view of Mount Wai`ale`ale. Keep going past the picnic area for a few minutes and you'll be rewarded with a nature stroll like no oter, with amazing views, lush foliage, and coastal views. Turn around a the wooden bridge and head back. The whole hike should take about three hours. It starts about 1 3/4 mile past the Kaua`i Research and Extension Center. Head up Kuamo`o Road and you'll see the trail head marker on the right side.

Local Expert tip: Make sure to bring a picnic lunch to enjoy at the picnic area.

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Waimea Canyon
Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt

This amazing, yawning chasm seems almost incongruous on a tiny, tropical island, but the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" harbors a wealth of scenery, lush vegetation, and native fauna. Its multi-hued brilliance attracts thousands of visitors, who appreciate the canyon's beauty from scenic overlooks or hike into its depths for firsthand views. Roughly 10 miles by 2 miles, Waimea extends down 3600 feet, carved by river waters and provoked by an ancient earthquake. State parks set around the formation provide recreational opportunities and information about local nature and geology. Hiking trails weave through the canyon and camp sites can be found deep into it for avid outdoors people.

Local Expert tip: Try to make it up here in the morning before the clouds come.

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Hanapepe Art Night
Photo courtesy of garden island

Hanapepe is a true art town. The small historic town, which surprisingly once served as the most bustling town on the Garden Island, is filled mostly with art galleries selling locally made art and locally crafted jewelry and housewares. Each and every Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. the west side town opens its doors to invite the public - both visitors and locals alike - to enjoy a night of socializing and entertainment in the name of art and creativity. Music can usually be found somewhere along the strip of art shops, as well as appetizers, chatting with new friends, and buying and window shopping of art. Dress up or go casual, either way art night is not to be missed while visiting Kaua`i.

Local Expert tip: You may want to eat a full meal before heading to art night, you'll most likely find appetizers here.

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Just beyond Princeville, a highway overlook affords travelers a view of the Hanalei Valley's incredible beauty, which spreads out in a lush panorama of color, texture, and dimension. Set against rugged mountains are the shimmering strands of river and waterfalls, and taro fields push out across the valley in a study of the possibilities of green. Although the location begs for photographic documentation, the scope of the image is undoubtedly one you won't soon forget. Here you can read plaques that share the history of the valley and about the area's varied wildlife, some of which are endangered. After a photo opportunity up here you can head down the hill to experience it up close.

Local Expert tip: You'll see more waterfalls coming down the cliffs after an extremely heavy rain.

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Ha`ena Beach Park
Photo courtesy of jade eckardt

A truly gorgeous beach, Ha`ena Beach park is near the end of the road on the North Shore. The park offers full amenities - bathrooms, cold showers, a lifeguard, grassy lawn, picnic tables, and often a lunch wagon or two. This beach is quite picturesque, which tall green cliffs backing it, two surf spots called Cannons and Tunnels (for expert surfers only), and sometimes a little freshwater river when there's been rain. During the winter months the ocean here is often not swimmable, but during the summer it's an exquisite place to swim and lay in the sun. Even if the waves are too big for swimming here the beach is still very worth visiting. Slightly east past the lifeguard stand is some of the best snorkeling on the island at the part of the beach known as Tunnels. This is also a great place for tent camping.

Local Expert tip: If the parking lot is full look on the western end of the beach for the small dirt parking lot.

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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.

Local Expert tip: Serious adventurers can consider taking the trail up to the falls.

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Koke'e State Park
Photo courtesy of jade eckardt

Just north of Waimea Canyon, inland from the Na Pali Coast, lies this rugged state park, spread across 4345 mountainous acres. Especially popular with nature lovers, the park offers terrific scenery and plenty of outdoor activities, from hiking to pig hunting to trout fishing (with pre-arranged licenses). Temperatures at this elevation are a bit cooler than elsewhere on the island, so you'll want to dress accordingly. Plus, nature trails crisscross the landscape, and camping is available. The park also features a lodge, museum, and visitors center where you can check park conditions before venturing onwards. Spectacular vistas and hiking trails make this trip a not miss.

Local Expert tip: Bring gear for both hiking and a picnic. You can even sleep up here in a bunk room or tent.

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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.

Local Expert tip: Bring some fish food from a snorkel gear shop and send the fish into a feeding frenzy!

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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