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12 Must-do’s on Kaua’i

AHHH! You’re going to the most beautiful place on Earth! We know how overwhelming traveling can be when trying to decide what to do and what to skip, so here are 12 of our go-to’s and favorite ways to spend a day on Kaua’i from a local’s perspective! We hope this will help you experience the true magic of this place and remember to always wear reef-safe sunscreen and be mindful of your footprints while exploring this beautiful island. Scroll to the bottom for a little bonus and if you want to purchase our full Kaua’i Travel Guide you can do so here! Have the best trip EVER!!

#1 | Hanakapiai Trail to the beach or falls and Ke’e Beach at Sunset

This is one of my favorite things to do on Kauai. You can either do 1 mile to the first lookout, 4 miles to the beach (worth it!!) or 8 miles round trip to Hanakapiai Falls. If you’re a hiker, the falls is totally worth it but the last 2 miles can be a little tedious with lots of rock jumping and stream crossings. Doing any part of this trail is my number 1 must-do for Kauai, it’s absolutely amazing! Make sure you reserve your permit to park at Ke’e Beach far in advance because they sell out fast! Morning is nice to hike before it gets too hot and then you can enjoy Ke’e Beach when you get back for a cool-off swim, but sunset is epic here too so whatever time of day you choose you can’t go wrong!

#2 | Hanalei and Tunnel’s Beach views. Enjoy Happy hour and my favorite fish tacos (only on Mondays and Thursdays!) at Hanalei Gourmet

Enjoy a day at Tunnels Beach and be sure to walk down to the far end to get the view of the Bali Hai mountains. Everytime I’m here I think it must be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Hanalei is a cute little surfer town that has some great shops in the village and the pier has stunning views of the mountains. Also, Monday’s and Thursdays are Taco nights at Hanalei Gourmet with great drinks at Happy Hour!

12 things you must do on kauai - tunnels beach

#3 | Hiking the Na Pali + Wiamea Canyon (Awa’awa’puhi or Pihea Trails) Followed by a West Side Sunset

Save a day of your vacation to head over to the west side and experience Koke’e State Park! Drive up alongside the Wiamea Canyon and make sure you go all the way to the top lookout if you want to see the cathedral mountains towering over the ocean. If you feel adventurous, hike out onto the Pihea trail that starts at the very last lookout for some more epic views. Also, Awa’awapuhi trail is one of my very favorite hikes up in Koke’e! 7miles roundtrip, this trail is generally easy on the way down to the vista as it is all downhill but keep in mind it is a grueling butt burner all the way back up and takes around 4 hours total. Bring lots of water and your camera, the view at the very end is definitely worth it! If you’re comfortable with heights and have good shoes, you can hike out onto the ridge (very carefully and at your own discretion) for an insane view of the valley. (photography tip, bring a wide-angle lens to get the panoramic view of the cathedral mountains from this spot!)

After your hike, head back down to Wiamea town and hit up Ishihara market for the best Poke on island (We love the chili pepper water poke and the tsunami poke!), pick up some cold beers and drive about 10 minutes west to get to Intersections Beach. This is the beginning of the longest white sand beach in the state of Hawai’i and is an easy place to find your own little zone with no one around. Enjoy your poke and beer while watching an epic west side sunset from the sand. The perfect day!

#4 | Na Pali Boat tour with Komohana Charters or sail the coast with Captain Andy’s!

There are tons of boat companies that offer trips down the Na Pali but if you want a more private and intimate experience call up Koa from Komohana Charters and it will be an experience of a lifetime! We have gone out with Koa multiple times and I love being on a small boat without a ton of strangers! This also allows you to be a little more adventurous if the weather is right to explore the caves and waterfalls! If you want a more luxury and relaxed boating experience, the catamaran tours by Captain Andy’s are our go-to! Open bar, bbq’ed lunch or a steak dinner and a front row seat to Kaua’i’s most epic show. No matter how you do it, definitely getting on the water to see the NaPali is one of the BEST things you can do to experience the island! It might seem pricey but it’s worth every penny and even after being down that coastline more times than I can count, we still go as often as we can. We always recommend taking an early morning tour when the winds are calm for a smoother ride and it’s also almost guaranteed to see dolphins in the morning! If you splurge to do ONE THING on Kauai, make this it!! (Weather dependent of course, double-check that whoever you book with is planning on going up the NaPali when you board!)

#5 | Get fresh Poke from Poipu Fish Market in Koloa and enjoy sunset from the lawn at Kukuiula Harbor

One of my favorite low-key things to do. The Koloa Fish Market has recently moved to a brand new building on Koloa Road in Koloa Town, and they have the best poke selection on the south side. I love the Avocado Poke, and it’s perfect for a sunset picnic at the Kukuiula Harbor on Lawai Rd!

#6 | Dinner or Breakfast (or both!) at La Spezia in Old Koloa Town!

One of our very favorite restaurants on Kauai! This little locally owned family Italian place is a cute little spot in Old Koloa Town. They have a great wine selection and amazing food. I’ve had everything on the menu about 12 times and it never disappoints. Great for a date night, family-friendly and can also be super casual if you sit in the bar side !! They also have THE BEST breakfast ever. Bacon and Brie French Toast? Yes please.

#7 | The BEST Mexican food at the Taco Libre Food Truck

Taco Libre food truck is hands down my favorite Mexican food on Kaua’i! Find them on instagram @tacolibrefoodtruck to see where they are posted up for the day, but you can usually find them in Koloa Town in the food truck lot! They have breakfast too!

#8 | Walk the Shipwrecks Cliffs to Mahaulepu Beach

I love doing this walk in the mornings, and if you’re visiting in the winter it’s a great spot to see whales! It’s more of a walk than a hike and it starts at Shipwrecks Beach by the Hyatt and ends at a secluded Mahaulepu Beach. I definitely recommend doing this walk as early as you can in the morning before it gets too hot and don’t forget sunscreen and lots of water! The colors of the water and the cliffs are just amazing and it’s one of my favorites! 

#9 | Wednesday Farmers Market at Kukuiula for live music, beer gardens and fresh eats

This is always a fun thing to do with good energy and great food and drinks and also a fun way to check out the local farmers for some Kaua’i fruit and veggies! A few of the restaurants have little drink stations set up outside and there is live music and local vendors set up everywhere.  Worth checking out if you feel like a lilikoi margarita or a famous Merrimans Maitai!

#10 | Sleeping Giant Trail (East Side), then lunch at Street Burger

We love this little trail!! This is a perfect half day hike, if you go in the morning before it gets too hot you’ll be done before lunch time. The view at the top is so incredible, once you get to the picnic tables keep going as far as you’re comfortable up to the ridge and you can see 360 degrees around you. The best part about hiking sleeping giant is that Street Burger is right there. A draft beer and gourmet burger spot with the most interesting and delicious burger combos. My favorite is the Frenchie!

#11 | A Morning Paddle at Waiohai Beach

One of my favorite things to do on a calm morning with no wind! If you’re looking to rent a stand-up paddleboard, you can do so right at Waiohai beach. The water is super clear and glassy, especially in the mornings. If you’re lucky you’ll see turtles and seals here too!

#12 | Happy Hour at the Honu Bar for sunset

This is our go-to spot for a sunset happy hour cocktail! The Honu Bar is down on the south side connected to the Waiohai by Marriott Resort. If you park in the furthest parking lot for Poipu beach you can walk down the sidewalk right to it:) The perfect outdoor beach bar to sit and have a maitai and watch the sun go down. They have a pretty reasonable happy hour deal and great nachos! (I love swimming right out front of here in the mornings when it’s calm too! The water is so clear and beautiful!)

12 things you must do on kauai - honu bar sunset

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