Best Outdoor Activities in Kauai

Best Outdoor Activities and Adventures on Kauai Island in Hawaii

There's no doubt that the best Kaua`i has to offer is found outdoors. As the oldest of all of the Hawaiian Islands, Kaua`i has had generations to develop a variety of terrains thanks to geological transformations and has become the most scenic island. From its lush and green mountain ranges, to rocky valleys and long white sand beaches, Kaua`i offers something for every type of outdoors person. You can view the 3,000 foot elevations of Waimea Canyon to the 5,148 foot high Mount Wai`ale`ale, the wettest place in the world.

On the Garden Island, you have plenty of options for outdoor activities, and 10 Best is here to guide you right to them. Dive into the Pacific for spectacular swimming at Ke`e Beach on the North Shore. Or for a more safe and protected snorkeling experience, jump into the pools at Lydgate Beach Park. If you're looking for waterfall viewing, kayaking, a luau, or a Hawaiian cultural experience, Waialua River State Park will fulfill all of these needs on its own.

Inland at Koke`e State Park, two of the most spectacular views on the island are offered at the vistas at the end of the road, not far from Waimea Canyon, otherwise known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Down in Poipu, visit Spouting Horn to watch the ocean explode from a hole in the cliffs.

Whichever you choose to do on Kaua`i, never, ever forget to bring a camera. And remember, with an island this small, it's not impossible to see it all.


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 Outdoor Activities because: Wailua Falls is a beautiful sight and radiates a thundering peaceful sounds to relax by.

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

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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 souvenirs, jewelry and sundries.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Spouting Horn is a beautiful natural wonder on the sunny south side of the island.

Jade's expert tip: Notice how the spout happens before the noise does. Very odd!

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Poi'pu Beach Park and Brennecke's Beach
Photo courtesy of jade eckardt

Thanks to its proximity to South Shore resorts, this stretch of beach gets a good amount of traffic. It doesn't hurt, of course, that it boasts abundant sunlight, soft sand, incredible views, and a good mix of surf and gentle shallows. Families and teens gather to bask in the sun, snorkel, swim, and laze in contented bliss. Food is available nearby, and the park also features showers, restrooms, and picnic facilities. This is a great place to take surf lessons. Brennecke's Beach, on the eastern end, draws a constant crowd of body surfers, who take advantage of the area's rolling waves.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Poipu Beach Park is made of fine white sand, sparkling blue water, and is the type of picturesque beach seen on magazine covers.

Jade's expert tip: Bring the family and a picnic for a full beach day at Poi`pu Beach Park, it's an ideal place for children.

Read more about Poi'pu Beach Park and Brennecke's Beach →

Ke'e Beach State Park
Photo courtesy of jade eckardt

Located at the western end of Ha'ena State Park, this spectacular beach is a North Shore favorite. Offering a protected swimming environment (thanks to offshore reefs), the beach is at its best in the summertime, when waters are serene. The presence of the reefs also promises terrific snorkeling and affords unbelievable glimpses of colorful marine life. The Kalalau Trail, which leads to Hanakapiai Waterfall and into the Na Pali Coast, begins here, and you'll also find showers, restrooms, and parking facilities. This is the last stop along the road from Hanalei where beautiful beaches trace the road the entire way.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Ke'e Beach Park is a slice of paradise and is also home to some of the best snorkeling on the island.

Jade's expert tip: Do not forget a mask and snorkel here, the underwater life is awesome.

Read more about Ke'e Beach State Park →

Reservations are required to tour the ocean with Lahela Sportfishing. Leaving out of the Nawiliwili Harbor in Lihue, Lahela takes guests out on the 34 foot Lahela, which is the only fishing boat on Kauai certifies by the Kauai Coast Guard and takes up to 14 guests out at a time. Private charters range from $575 to $1,725 depending on the time. You also have the option of deluxe shared charters at $219 and guests who just watch and don't fish are allowed on the boat at half price. They have an age minimum of seven years old so it can be family time.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Lahela Sportfishing has a solid reputation and is known for taking their guests to fish heavy parts of the ocean.

Jade's expert tip: Bring lunch because they don't provide it.

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Glass Beach
Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt

On the west side, Glass Beach proves that one person's trash is another person's treasure. Here the black and gray sand beach is blanketed in a thick layer of colorful beach glass that offers hours of treasure hunting and sparkles beautifully. Swimming here is best done in the small tide pool rather than in the open ocean, but it's worth a visit. The photo op here can't be beat, and having fun with the camera is very rewarding. To here, head west and turn left on Waialo Road toward Port Allen. Turn left on Aka Ulu then right at the fork in the dirt road and you'll see the beach.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Glass Beach is a beautiful cover blanketed in beachcoming treasures.

Jade's expert tip: Watch the sunset here and notice how the glass sparkles in the light.

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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 4,345 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. The two most famous vistas on the island are located at the very end of the road in the park.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Koke'e State Park is home to a number of beautiful hiking trails, vistas and places to camp and picnic.

Jade's expert tip: Bring gear for both hiking and a picnic. You can even sleep up here in a bunk room or tent.

Read more about Koke'e State Park →

Mahaulepu Beaches
Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt

To visit three beaches that are off the beaten path on the South Side, venture out to the Maha'ulepu Beaches. Consisting of three beaches named Gillin's, Kawailoa Bay, and Ha'ula Beach, the beaches offer privacy and a great expanse of white sand. This is a great place to go for a long day at the beach, but you'll want to bring water and food. Kawailoa is a bay and offers the most protection from the wind which can often get strong out here. Maha'ulepu Beach are a nice break from the busy resort area of Poipu. There aren't any lifeguards out here so always be careful in the ocean. To get here, drive past the Grand Hyatt Kauai until the road turns to dirt. You'll see the CMJ Stables sign as the road turns to dirt and a gate with a sign that states the gates are locked at 6 p.m. Keep following it for a few minutes and you'll first come to Gillin's, second Kawailoa, and the last and most secluded, Ha'ula.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Maha'ulepu Beaches are three side by side, and are some of the most secluded and beautiful in the area.

Jade's expert tip: Kawailoa Bay offers the best protection from wind out of the three and it's a gorgeous area.

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Sunshine Helicopters offers the "Ultimate Kaua`i Adventure," which leaves out of Lihue before 8:30 a.m. The tour flies over Waimea Canyon, Mount Wai`ale`ale (the wettest place on earth), and the nearby Alaka`i Swamp as well as Wailua Falls. Views of the nearly 18-mile long Na Pali Coast are also a treat. Guests will also be treated to views of majestic Manawaiopuna Falls, also known as Jurassic Falls because it was featured in the Hollywood blockbuster, Jurassic Park. Much of Kauai's lush wilderness is not accessible by car, so an aerial tour is the perfect way to experience Kauai's hidden natural wonders.The tour lasts about 45 to 55 minutes and runs $244 with special online prices.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Sunshine Helicopters are a long standing, well respected business.

Jade's expert tip: Sunshine Helicopters does tours on Kauai, Maui and the Big Island.

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Ni`ihau Helicopters
Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt

Fly to Hawaii's Forbidden Island of Ni`ihau, owned by the Robinson family, the same owners of the helicopter company. Hop on the chopper mid-morning and then across the west side channel to the desolate island. Here you'll explore beaches, walking for hours and picking up whatever you find. They treat you to a sandwich lunch, and you get a roughly half hour air tour of the island. After about four hours on Ni`ihau you head back. An option to the beachcombing tour is a hunting tour. This tour lands guests in the center of the island and lets them traverse the island shooting cows, oryx and gazelle type animals.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Ni'ihau Helicopters takes guests to the forbidden island of Ni'ihau where they can explore untouched beaches and beachcomb.

Jade's expert tip: Bring a bag with a snorkel and mask and a small bag to put shells in.

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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