Great Activities and Adventures in Kauai

Blessed with spectacular natural panoramas some call Kauai Hawaii’s most scenic island. Nicknamed the Garden Island, it is covered with lush greenery and tropical plants, watered regularly by abundant rainfall. Kauai also has more miles of sandy coastline than the other Hawaiian islands. In many ways, Kauai is different from the rest of the islands. Compared to Oahu, Maui or the Big Island, Kauai is smaller, less populated, more rural, and more laid back. That’s why it’s the favorite destination for many visitors to Hawaii, and for many Hawaii residents as well. Visitors come to explore the island’s beaches and natural wonders, but the multitude of resorts on white sand beaches provide ample opportunity to just sit and do nothing if you’re so inclined.

People come to Kauai primarily for one thing: the beaches with their great snorkeling, surfing, swimming, and sunning. But Kauai also boasts more navigable rivers than the other Hawaiian Islands making kayaking very popular. If the surf is calm you can even combine a river run with time paddling the bays and ocean shoreline. You’ll find kayak rentals near the mouth of the most popular rivers. Many will also rent roof-top strap-on kayaks for travelers interested in trying one of the several smaller river runs.

Kauai has great hiking and mountain biking trails as well. Outdoor adventurers will find the guidebook Kauai Trailblazer to be helpful in comparing various locations for hiking and biking (as well as snorkeling, kayaking, and surfing). The Waimea Canyon area has extensive hiking trails both into the canyon itself as well as great overlooks of the Na Pali cliffs. Check with the park office on trail conditions and weather before starting your hike.
There are many commercial tour guides that offer various land and sea adventures such as guided hikes, downhill bike tours, back-country ATV trips, river tubing adventures, and more.

A sunset cruise on the Na Pali Coast, Kauai

A sunset cruise on the Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii. Photo by terratrekking

Hanalei is a charming Hawaiian village in beautiful country on the north of the island. Hanalei has a nostalgic, romantic quality of simpler times on the Islands. An easy drive to the northwest of Hanalei is the Na Pali coast. Drive to where the road ends, park and hike the twenty-two mile round-trip journey to mythical Kalalau. The Kalalau Trail is generally regarded as among the most spectacular hikes in the world, albeit incredibly painful. If you want to get a taste, hike 2 miles in to the first beach (Hanakapi’ai). Day hikes are unrestricted, but camping requires a permit from the parks department. There is a long waiting list, so signing up a year in advance is a good idea. Tour boats can also access the coast; they may be chartered out of Hanalei or other outfits on the south of the island. Snorkeling is very good.
In the winter, Na Pali Coast boat tours are sometimes rerouted due to high seas, and the Kalalau Trail can become very wet and muddy or, at times, impassable.

Kapa’a is a small, cute, tourist-friendly town on the east side. It features a movie theater, an internet cafe, several restaurants, and a Birkenstock outlet. Look up from Anahola and see the mountain that faded in from the Paramount logo at the beginning of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.

The South Shore has a number of great beaches such as Maha’ulepu Beach with its ancient petroglyphs and the rocky Shipwreck Beach, both perfect for snorkeling or scuba diving. Poipu Beach, often ranked as one of the world’s top beaches by travel surveys. Venture to Kipu Falls, where the opening sequences for Raiders of the Lost Ark were filmed. Kauai is a leading destination for scuba divers, with many beautiful, relatively unspoiled coral reefs and a variety of fish not found anywhere outside the Hawaiian archipelago. Dive boats leave daily from Po’ipu. Shorter trips typically involve two dives at locations off the south shore. For a once-in-a-lifetime dive choose a dive off the coast of Ni’ihau, the privately-owned island to the west of Kauai. Kauai is also a destination for whale watchers; If you want to see the humpback whales, February is the best month, though they arrive as early as December and a few may still be around in early April. Dolphin pods are also a very common sight. Whale watching boats leave multiple times a day from Po’ipu and the dock at Nawiliwili in Kalapaki Bay.

Hanakapiai Beach on the Na Pali Coast in Kauai, Hawaii

Hanakapiai Beach on the Na Pali Coast in Kauai, Hawaii. Photo by Jeff Kubina

A drive up to the Waimea Canyon is highly recommended or explore the Canyon and surrounding areas on a breathtaking tour.
If you rent a jeep make sure you take a trek out to Polihale Beach. It is located at the southern end of Na Pali and to the north of Barking Sands. It is a wide sprawling sandy beach. The sunsets here are truly awesome and with a permit you can camp there too (it is a state park). During the winter and early spring you can also see the whales from the beach.
This beach is the most beautiful beach on the island. If you can get to Polihale – do it. You won’t be sorry!

Kaua’i is beautiful in every season, but if you must have good beach weather you should plan to visit between June and October. The rainy season runs from November through February, with the windward or east and north areas of the island receiving most of the rainfall. Nights can be chilly from November through March. Rain is possible throughout the year, of course, but it rarely rains everywhere on the island at once. If it’s raining where you are, the best thing to do is head to another side of the island, usually south or west.

You might think a Kauai vacation will cost more than you can ever afford, however this is not necessarily the case and you should do some research and will find that sometimes Kauai really is an affordable destination and a great place for a family vacation, honeymoon, or even spring break. Don’t miss traveling to this amazing destination simply because you believe it is out of your price range.

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