The calm and secluded Hawaiian island of Kauai is a dream for outdoor adventurers. Attractions here are geared around the island’s terrain, with rushing rivers, towering mountains, lush forests, and miles of ocean coast offering endless opportunities for fun.
Post up on the Coconut Coast in the island’s eastern region and you’ll have access to some of the island’s best cultural attractions and amenities. Options for lodging on the Coconut Coast are plentiful; you’ll find just about any accommodation style you seek.
Once you’ve dropped the bags at your temporary island abode (or, better yet, left the bulk back on the mainland at a Los Angeles or San Francisco luggage storage location), hit the Hawaiian hills for some of the best adventures on the planet.
There’s not a better way to grasp Kauai’s expansive wilderness than from the air. Helicopter tours on Kauai offer a range of paths and aircraft to best serve your tropical-island-viewing needs. Whether you want to fly high in a climate-controlled cabin or seek an open-air adventure, you’ll find it here. Scope out the Waimea Canyon and get a pterodactyl’s-eye view of “Jurassic Falls,” a towering cascade of water featured in the famous Jurassic Park movie series.
Ziplines are another popular way to experience tree-top views of the Kauaian terrain. Strap on the gear and you’ll be hurtling headfirst through the jungle at speeds reaching over 40 miles per hour. Pro-move it and book a sunset trip; don’t forget the head cam.
Kayaking on the Wailua River
Along the eastern coast of Kauai flows the Wailua River. Take advantage of this winding waterway and its untouched surroundings by embarking on a multi-faceted kayaking tour. Paddling these waters is only part of the immersive four-hour excursion, which also includes hiking through dense forests and plunging into a waterfall pool. Pack some sunscreen and bug spray, and make sure your gear’s waterproof; you’re definitely going to get wet.
Float Down Mount Waialeale
Mount Waialeale tubing is one of the best kid-friendly attractions in Kauai. Irrigation channels once used to supply water for a local sugar plantation now usher inner tubes through narrow rock passages, rushing rapids, and cool caves. The waterway’s mostly shallow and easy to navigate; pop on a helmet (for the rocks) and a headlamp (for the cave), and float on down the mountain.
Take a Sunset Stroll (or Two)
Kauai sunsets must be appreciated (and really, they’re hard to ignore). Plan to spend at least one day’s end at Haena Beach Park, on the island’s North Shore. Here, Mount Makana fades into the night shadows as the sun sinks below the horizon. Show up early, and you’ll have the chance to see surfers riding into the sugar-sand beach, one rolling wave at a time.
Watching the sunset from the Kalalau Lookout is a must. A setting so dramatic, it’s been a filming location for numerous box-office hits, including King Kong and Jurassic Park. When you secure a suburb spot for the sun drop here, you’ll find yourself towering over waves crashing into the coastline, with ocean and sky views spanning for miles.
Tour Hanapepe Town
Ahh, Hanapepe, a seaside village of arts and traditional Hawaiian culture. Carve out a little time to tour this historic town to see sites from its agricultural past. Walk the small-town streets to peruse its unique shops and snap a pic of the Hanapepe Swinging Bridge.
Friday nights feature open-air art markets with live music and island culture galore. All of the flavors of the Hawaiian islands can be sampled at this bustling event. Grab some pupu fare for dinner, a shaved ice for dessert, and pick up some coffee and baked goods for the road.
Have Some Family-Friendly Fun
There are lots of places to check out while on vacation with kids in Kauai. For hours of kid-friendly fun, the beaches are the best bet. On the island’s east coast, Fuji Beach (aka Baby Beach) is perfect for toddlers and kids who just want to wade. Picnic tables and restrooms are within easy walking distance, and for stroller walks and bike rides, visitors can head to the paved Ke Ala Hele Makalae Coastal Path on the north end of the beach.
In the western region of Kauai, Salt Pond Beach Park is another place to visit with kids. Lifeguards are on-duty during beach hours, there are shallow tide pools ideal for splashing, and there’s lots of sand and land to explore. Marine life is often spotted around the beach, so keep the cameras ready.
The Na Aina Kai Botanical Garden is an excellent place to visit with kids in Kauai. In Kilauea on the island’s northern shore, this whimsical greenspace features lots of fun attractions. Children can feed koi, navigate a lizard-themed maze, and explore a treehouse. Adults will find some treasures here too; sculptures, stunning gardens, and artistic touches fill the grounds.
Kauai hiking opportunities are all over the island. This vast, unchanged wilderness is teeming with rainforests and river valleys just waiting to be explored.
Kokee State Park features a range of trails; the challenging three-mile-long Awa’awapuhi Trail leads trekkers up over 1,000 feet in elevation, where cliff-top views don’t disappoint. The Pihea Trail is a bit more relaxed, though the terrain is still rugged. For a simple hike in Kokee State Park, zone in on the Kawaikoi Stream Trail.
Consider a multi-day hiking adventure along the Kalalau Trail. Take in a sultry sunrise at Kee Beach and then embark on the 11-mile trek. Backcountry camping is an option here, so you can take your time and immerse yourself in the Hawaiian terrain.