Kauai is the third-largest island in the Hawaiian island chain, and it is also known as the Garden Isle. It is noted for being the wettest of the islands of Hawaii, as it has higher rainfall averages than the other islands.
However, do not let the wet weather put you off, as there is also plenty of sunshine, and the island boasts many outstanding natural features.
Of all the Hawaiian islands, it has the most beaches, streams, waterfalls, and rivers. Although the diverse landscape is one of the biggest attractions in Kauai, there are plenty of other activities and attractions to enjoy in this destination.
Here are the 23 best things to do in Kauai, Hawaii, for first-timers.
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A stunning botanical garden and preserve on the north side of the island, Limahuli Garden and Preserve is one of the most popular Kauai attractions amongst visitors.
With its tropical location nestled in a valley, this is a place that offers incredible natural beauty and boasts an impressive mountain backdrop.
It is also the location of a stream and waterfall, which cascades 800 feet. You can enjoy exploring the wide variety of exotic flora and fauna here as well as historical taro terraces.
Address: 8301 HI-560, Kapaa, HI 96746
One of the top things to do in Kauai is Waimea Canyon, which is also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. The gorge is 14 miles long, one mile wide, and around 3,600 feet deep.
The canyon and the area surrounding it is popular with hikers, and it is also one of the best places for photography.
Many people visit the canyon by car and only stop at the main lookout points. However, it is best explored on foot to appreciate the beauty and diversity of the surroundings.
The landscape includes crested buttes, evergreen vegetation, and red cliffsides. This is the perfect place to visit in Kauai if you want to enjoy nature at its best along with great scenery and some great walks.
Address: Waimea Canyon Dr, Waimea, HI 96796
On your return from Waimea Canyon, you should spend some time at Koke'e State Park.
Despite its proximity to the canyon, the park has an entirely different landscape. You will find thousands of acres of rainforests that give the park its own microclimate.
If you do not want to explore the park on foot, you can drive through it as the main road runs through the middle.
Those who hike around the park should make sure to stop and enjoy the views from Pu'u O Kila Lookout and Kalalau Lookout.
Address: Hanapepe, HI 96716
The Napali Coast of Kauai is known for its magnificent cliffs, and there are spectacular views to enjoy from the top of these cliffs.
The Kalalau Trail runs along this section of the coast, and hiking is an excellent activity to enjoy for lovers of outdoor pursuits.
Often, you can also enjoy the sights of the dolphins playing in the water below. From lush greenery to golden sands and crystal clear water, you will find it all at Na Pali.
Address: Kapaʻa, HI 96746
Polihale State Park is on the west coast of the island, just before you reach the Napali Coast.
The main reason people visit this park is to enjoy its large and beautiful beach. It is a picturesque spot with soft sands, lush dunes, roaring white waves, and impressive cliffs.
Many visitors enjoy a picnic on the beach, and some spend the night camping in the park.
Address: Lower Saki Mana Rd, Waimea, HI 96796
It is almost impossible to take in all the stunning geographical landmarks in Kauai on foot, especially during a short vacation.
One of the simplest ways to see the island's sights is by taking a helicopter tour over the island. Doing so allows you to enjoy the island's breathtaking landscape, such as its mountains, rivers, and waterfalls.
On the downside, it is one of the most expensive activities to enjoy during your visit to Kauai, but it is worth setting money aside for this experience.
The spouting blowhole is something that you will stop by to see for ten minutes rather than a full day's activity.
You will find the blowhole in Spouting Horn Park, just along the coast from Kiahuna.
The sight of the water spouting from the rocks in the ocean is an impressive sight, and the only way to describe the sound it makes is otherworldly.
Address: Lawai Rd, Koloa, HI 96756
There are many beautiful spots in Kauai for wildlife lovers, but one of the top locations is Poipu Beach.
At this beach, you will have the chance to see green sea turtles and monk seals. However, you mustn't get too close to them or touch them, as they are protected by Hawaiian law.
Address: Hoona Rd, Poipu, Kauai, HI 96756
Hawaii has some excellent foods, including some products you will struggle to find in other parts of the world.
Visiting the local farmers' markets is one of the best things to do in Kauai and a great way to sample the local produce.
There are many of these markets across the island, and each has stalls where local producers sell their goods.
Some also have arts and crafts or souvenir stalls, and some have food stalls selling hot food and local delicacies.
The beach lifestyle is a crucial element of the Hawaiian lifestyle, and the fantastic beaches are one of the top Kauai attractions.
The North Shore of the island is home to some of the best beaches in Kauai, so it is an excellent area to enjoy beach hopping.
Some of the best beaches to visit are Hanalei Bay, Pua Poa Beach, Secret Beach, Hideaways Beach, and Anini Beach.
If you visit the east side of Kauai, then one of the most spectacular sights you can see is Wailua Falls.
It is a stunning double waterfall that falls from the lush rainforest over magnificent rocks into a deep pool below.
It is not unusual to spot rainbows over the waterfalls, which makes them an even more magical sight.
Address: Lihue, HI
Located on the North Shore, Hanalei is a small town known for its laidback vibe and as a fantastic surfing destination.
The 1.6-mile beach runs against a backdrop of green mountains, and the waves are nothing short of spectacular.
Small shops and food trucks sell local cuisine, and there is a farmers' market every Saturday morning.
When visiting a new destination, trying the local cuisines will add some authenticity to your trip and allow you to sample dishes that you may not see anywhere else in the world.
To get the best culinary experience during your visit to the island, avoid chain restaurants, and dine at traditional Hawaiian restaurants where they freshly prepare food using local produce.
Along North Shore Kauai, there is a sinkhole surrounded by igneous rock that has become a unique tidepool called the Queen's Bath.
The rocks partially protect the tidepool from the Pacific Ocean's waves.
If you visit the island during the summer months, the tidepool is a fantastic place to take a dip. However, you should avoid swimming in the pool from November to April as rough tides crash into the pool.
Address: Kapiolani Loop, Princeville, HI 96722
Hawaii is famous for surfing as it is the birthplace of this watersport. However, it is not the only watersport you can try during your trip to Kauai.
On most of the island's main beaches, there are watersport rental businesses where you can hire equipment and book an instructor.
Just some of the watersports you can try other than surfing are snorkeling, paddleboarding, and kayaking. You can also try watersports on the rivers, and one of the best places to do so is at Wailua River State Park.
The park is also an excellent place to explore some cultural heritage sites.
Address: Nalu Rd, Kapaʻa, HI 96746
Nounou Mountain is also known as 'The Sleeping Giant' due to its shape. A popular 3.5-mile hiking trail takes you to the top of The Sleeping Giant and reaching the summit rewards you with stunning views over the city of Kapa'a.
Address: 5290 Haleilio Rd, Kapaʻa, HI 96746
One of the best things to do in Kauai is to try surfing, and it is a popular destination for experienced surfers who want to spend their entire vacation on the waves.
One of the best spots for surfing is at Shipwreck's Beach, where the surf is always perfect for riding the waves.
You can also swim a little in the shallower waters, and there is a rock formation at the beachside that people climb to enjoy views of the beach and ocean, especially at sunset.
A boat trip is a fun activity that allows you to view the coastline from a different perspective, and one of the best places in Kauai takes you along the Napali Coast.
In addition to seeing the island's views, a boat trip is also an excellent way of seeing some of the marine life in the waters surrounding Kauai.
Whale watching is a popular activity, and you should bring along your camera to capture these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
One of the coolest things to do in Kauai is to see spectacular sunrises and sunsets, and there are many excellent vantage points where you can enjoy these in the early morning and dusk.
The best place to enjoy the sunrise is at Larsen's Beach, while some of the best sunset views are at Hanalei Bay.
Along Kauai's North Shore, there are multiple caves. The formation of the caves is the result of the waves pounding against the rocks, causing erosion.
Wet caves have water within them, while dry caves no longer have water within them. You will find both types of caves along the North Shore. Some of the best caves to visit are The Blue Room, Waikanaloa Cave, and Maniniholo Dry Cave.
The Kilauea Lighthouse is one of the best attractions in Kauai for those interested to know the history of Kauai.
It is in the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on the North Shore of Kauai. Although there is a charge to get into the wildlife refuge, it is worth exploring a historic part of the island and seeing the lighthouse.
The wildlife refuge is known for protecting seabirds, including the Laysan albatross and the red-footed booby.
Address: 3580 Kilauea Rd, Kilauea, HI 96754
When thinking of Hawaii's produce, mangoes, pineapples, and bananas are what most people think of first.
Many people forget that Hawaii also produces coffee. Kauai is home to one of Hawaii's largest coffee plantations, and visitors can take a walking tour of the Kauai Coffee Company's plantation.
Visitors have the opportunity to see the plantation and also to learn about coffee production.
There is no shortage of nighttime attractions in Kauai. The best option is to go to a local bar to enjoy a cocktail and listen to traditional Hawaiian music.
Beachside bars are a great option, as you can enjoy ocean views and relax with a cocktail while watching the sunset. Many bars also serve food, so it is a chance to sample some Hawaiian cuisine.
These are just some of the activities and attractions you can enjoy during your vacation in Kauai, and many are experiences that are unique to the island.
Regardless of your tastes, age, or interests, you will find plenty of things to do in Kauai to keep you entertained for the entirety of your visit. Therefore, it is a destination worthy of a place on your travel bucket list.