ATVs (also called quads) are a fun way to see some of the back country of Kauai. There are two companies that currently offer this experience: Kipu Ranch Adventures – This company takes you on a 3 hour trail tour along a stream and through the very beautiful Kipu Ranch and also to a breathtaking viewpoint of the hidden valley and beach of Kipu Kai (This is something very few people on Kauai ever get to see because it’s private). Kauai ATV – takes you on a tour via dirt roads while visiting waterfalls and also goes through a 1/2 mile long tunnel. You will be either dirty or muddy by the end of this tour.
Please see ‘Beaches‘ tab under ‘Area Guide/Things To Do’.
Flat roads and a lack of big hills make the Ke Ala Hele Makalae trail a leisurely bike ride along parts of Kauai’s east shore. The shared-use path stretching along the eastern coast of Kauai was completed in 2009. Ke Ala Hele Makalae is Hawaiian for “The Path that Goes by the Coast.” Visitors can now walk, bike or run 4.1 miles between the Lihi Boat Ramp in central Kapaa and Ahihi Point in Kealia, as well as bike through 2.5 miles through Lydgate Park. When fully complete, Ke Ala Hele Makalae will create an uninterrupted bridge between Anahola in the north to Nawiliwili in the south, perfect for biking. On the West Side, you can also take a downhill bike tour 3,600 feet down to sea level along Waimea Canyon. Half-day tours are available.
Remember to always wear a helmet, gloves, appropriate bike shoes, and sunglasses. Travel safely and wear sunscreen. Take a map, water, snacks, sunscreen, bike repair kit and any other accessories that will ensure a friendly, uneventful, but wonderfully scenic ride.
Some of the most humbling scenic sights on Kauai are the towering cliffs of the Napali Coast on the North Shore. One of the best ways to see these natural wonders is by taking a boat tour or cruise. Spend half a day in the sun, sailing the seas as dolphins ride the wake of your boat and honu (green sea turtles) swim curiously by. Many tours offer snorkeling time and experienced crewmembers keep things lively with fun facts and information about Kauai’s geography and marine life.
During the winter months between December and May you’ll also spot humpback whales playing and breaching off Kauai’s shores. Whether you’re embarking on a journey to the Napali Coast or just taking a romantic sunset catamaran cruise, an exploration of Kauai’s seas may be the highlight of your vacation.
There are many good boogie boarding beaches on Kauai for varying levels of skill with some requiring fins because the break is in deeper water. Most resorts and condominiums will rent boards & fins to guests, but if not you can rent them from Hanalei Surf Co. on the North Shore, Seasport Divers & Boss Frog on the East Side, and Seasport Divers & Po’ipu Surf on the South Shore. For the best boogie boarding beaches, look at the ‘Beaches‘ tab under ‘Area Guide/Things To Do’.
Kauai is a great place to camp with 13 different areas – six State Camping Areas and seven County Camping Areas. The most popular camping for vacationers to Kauai is the world famous Napali Coast State Park (via the Kalalau Trail) which has Special Rules and requires Obtaining a Permit in advance.
Native Hawaiians have been fishing on Kauai for centuries. Just one example of this can be seen at the Alekoko, Menehune Fishpond near Lihue. This engineering feat was believed to have been built more than 1,000 years ago by hundreds of little, mythical Hawaiian people called Menehune.
Whether it’s deep sea or freshwater fishing, Kauai delivers. Reel in ono, mahimahi, opakapaka and fighting marlin from Kauai’s shores, piers or fishing boats. Deep-sea fishing charters are available primarily from Nawiliwili Harbor in Lihue, and some from the North Shore and from Port Allen in Hanapepe on the West Side. You’ll only need a fishing license if you choose to freshwater fish (available from the State Division of Aquatic Resources). Note that each boat captain has their own policy on what happens to large fish caught on board. Please check specific policies before
Please see ‘Golf’ tab under ‘Area Guide/Things To Do’
Since much of the island can be seen only by air, helicopters with their giant windows and their ability to hover, is a great way to explore more of Kauai’s beauty. You will see the ruggedly beautiful NaPali Coast, Waimea Canyon (the Grand Canyon of Hawaii), more waterfalls than you could imagine, a different view of Kaui’s North Shore beaches and reefs, and the spiritual splendor of Wai’ale’ale Crater. Some reputable companies are Blue Hawaiian, Jack Harter, Mauna Loa, Sunshine, and Ni’ihau. When deciding on seating, front is best, then back seat on the right (because flights go clockwise around the island).
Please see ‘Hiking’ tab under ‘Area Guide/Things To Do’
Get back to nature and discover Kauai on horseback. Ride along bluffs, across foothills toward the coast, past secluded beaches and bays, across sugar cane fields, and even waterfalls. A couple of horseback riding companies offer guided tours ranging from 90 minutes to five hours, which includes stops for snacks, photos, picnics, swimming and time to soak in the views. Many of the tours take you into their privately owned ranches, complete with waterfalls and secret vistas seen by only few.
Opt for gentle, slower trots, or attempt more strenuous and lengthier journeys. Make sure you wear jeans and sunscreen with a swimsuit underneath, depending on your itinerary. Experience Kauai like a real paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) as you tour the Garden Isle on horseback.
Kauai is home to the only navigable rivers in Hawaii, so kayaking is an integral part of a unique Kauai vacation.
Relax and take in the exquisite scenery as you paddle down the Wailua River. This popular river for kayaking weaves by lush, jungle landscapes along the island’s East Side. Other river routes include the Huleia River from Nawiliwili Harbor in Lihue, as well as the Hanalei River on the North SHore, the longest on the island.
If you’re up for a more difficult challenge, ocean kayaking is a seasonal alternative to experience Kauai by sea. On the South Shore, try the Poipu to Port Allen course with a stop in Lawai Bay. When conditions are calm, kayaking along the 17-mile Napali Coast is unforgettable. “National Geographic” deemed kayaking the Napali Coast the second best adventure in the country. Because this can be a physically demanding activity and the seas can be unpredictable, hiring a guide for this once-in-a-lifetime experience is a must.
Take to Kauai’s historic waterways in a mountain tube and discover a whole new way to access the island’s tropical interior.
Over a century ago, laborers hired by the Lihue Sugar Plantation hand built the Hanamaulu ditch system. This series of canals and tunnels was designed to bring water from the waterfalls and streams of Mt. Waialeale to provide irrigation for the large sugar cane fields in and around Lihue.. Although the Lihue Sugar Plantation has since closed down, these amazing waterways are still here and have adopted a new life as one of the most unique water adventures in Kauai.
The gentle flow of water offers a fun and relaxing ride through mountainside flumes and tunnels that emerge to stunning views of beautiful and remote locations. Be sure to bring sunscreen, bug repellent, water friendly shoes and clothes you don’t mind getting wet.
Snorkeling and Scuba Snuba
While flourishing gardens and rainforests get most of the attention on Kauai, the island offers a wide range of snorkeling and scuba spots to explore under the sea.
On the North Shore, fantastic shoreline snorkeling beaches include the reefs off Kee Beach and Haena Beach Park. Anini Beach offers a lagoon great for beginning snorkelers. Makua, or “Tunnels,” Beach in Haena also has a wide reef area that’s a treat to the senses. On the East Side, Lydgate Beach Park offers a protected snorkeling lagoon great for keiki (children) snorkelers. While on the South Shore, Poipu Beach State Park offers protected areas for snorkelers. Be sure to check ocean conditions and currents prior to going out, especially during the big north shore swells of the winter.
Kauai also offers a variety of scuba sites for beginners and experienced persons. Boat pes, night pes and other pe tours offer plenty of tropical fish, reef creatures, dolphins and honu (Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles) to discover. Experienced pers will generally find more thrilling spots on the east and west shores, while those new to scuba should start on the north or south shores (Hanalei, Kee Beach, or Poipu Beach). More advanced pes include cave exploration and lava tubes.
You can rent all the gear and equipment on Kauai, as well as get your certification on the island, but bring your medical paperwork with you if you choose to get certified. Also, keep in mind that if you drive to Waimea Canyon or Kokee State Park, or want to take a helicopter excursion, you need to wait 24-hours after ping due to altitude change. As amazing as this island is on land, you’ll discover even more incredible sights in the waters of Kauai.
There are several spas on the island but please note that they are more expensive than on the mainland. The grandest tropical experience is Anara Spa at the Hyatt in Poipu (808-742-1234) that boasts a 45,000 square foot full-service spa with day facilities. The most opulent is Halele’a Spa (808-826-9644) at the St. Regis Princeville which also includes day use of the spa facilities. On the east shore is Spa-by-the-Sea (808-823-1488) but they have no day facilities.
Surfing / Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP) / Kite Surfing
Surfing, or “hee nalu” in Hawaiian, was once only reserved for alii (Hawaiian royalty). Today, the sport of surfing has spread throughout the world from Hawaii’s shores and you can find some great surf spots on Kauai.
Watch surfers hit the waves at spots like Poipu Beach on the South Shore, Nawiliwili Harbor in Lihue as well as Makua “Tunnels” Beach and Hanalei Bay on the North Shore. Big wave season hits Hawaii’s north shores from November through February so look for surfers charging these massive swells from the safety of Kauai’s best beaches. You can also see kite surfing (surfing using a kite for added power and aerial acrobatics) on the East Side as well as stand-up paddle boarding (riders stand upright on wider, longer boards and use a paddle to maneuver) at spots like Hanalei Bay and Kalapaki Beach.
You can feel the exhilaration of surfing yourself by taking a surfing lesson of your own on Kauai’s shores. Experienced instructors will take you to safe breaks and get you on your feet during lessons that last between 1-2 hours. Experience for yourself why surfing is the “Sport of Kings.”
From December to May, you are likely to catch a glimpse of a majestic kohola, or humpback whale, off Kauai’s shorelines. These gentle giants come to the warm Hawaiian waters every year to breed and give birth to new calves.
Schedule a tour or charter a boat to spot these magnificent creatures. Treat yourself to scenic ocean views as guides take you to the best spots to observe whales playfully surfacing, tail slapping, or blowing spouts in the air. Regulations prohibit boats from approaching within 100 yards of a whale and you should never swim with or touch whales or any other marine animals.
You can also spot whales from Kauai’s many beautiful beaches, including Poipu Beach on the South Shore, and from scenic spots like Kilauea Lighthouse and the Napali Coast’s Kalalau Trail on the North Shore. On the East Side, the Kapaa Overlook between Kapaa Town and Kealia Beach is another notable viewing spot. Whales are attracted to Hawaii’s warm, shallow waters, so keep your eyes open on the sands of Kauai.
Capture a bird’s eye view of Kauai while soaring at up to 35-miles an hour above its lush valleys, streams and rain forests on an exhilarating zipline tour. These eco-friendly tours will provide you with both a thrilling experience and educational insight into Kauai’s rich history.
Enjoy the rush as you soar above a green jungle canopy, 50-80 feet above the ground. Panoramic views surround you as you descend into the forest below. You’ll also learn about Kauai’s diverse ecosystem filled with rare endemic plant and animal species.
Kauai is home to a variety of ziplining opportunities, each offering a unique aerial perspective of the island’s diverse landscapes. Princeville Ranch Adventures (North Shore), Kauai Backcountry Adventueres and Just Live (Lihue), as well as Outfitters Kauai (South Shore) all operate zipline courses. All zipline companies will have similar requirements and restrictions. For tour-specific information, please contact each zipline company directly.