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Looking for some Kauai Hawaii best things to do for your upcoming vacation? We’ve taken multiple trips to Kauai and keep finding new reasons to love it each time. This island has so much to offer, you could spend months exploring!

We took our first trip to Kauai back in 2018! When we told our friends we were headed to Hawaii for two months for some housesitting gigs and island hopping in between, their first question was “Can we meet you there?”

So, the planning began for a one-week Kauai vacation with our travel besties. Eventually, we narrowed down our time frame to meet up after Buddy and I were done with our last house sit. And a laid-back, but beautiful island was our top pick. So we decided on a Kauai vacation. The Garden Isle did not disappoint!

napali coast views during kauai vacation

In a fun turn of events, we actually moved to Oahu in 2021! Life has been a lot more twisty and turny than we expected since that trip together with our friends, which has made it hard to have another in-person reunion with our pals, but we hope to soon! And they are still cherished friends even though it has been wayyyy too long since we’ve seen them!

Since our move to Hawaii, we’ve focused most of our trips to other islands on Big Island adventures. However, we recently went back to Kauai and had so much fun we immediately booked another trip a few weeks later. So, we’ve have a lot to add to this list of Kauai, Hawaii best things to do!

16 Kauai Hawaii Best Things to Do

Kauai is pretty amazing. It is definitely a nature-lovers playground and has so many unique activities and lovely beaches. Plus, the iconic Na Pali Coast is jaw-droppingly stunning. It’s a small island packed with big fun!

1. Adventuring to Secret Falls

On a recent return visit to Kauai, we wanted an epic day trip adventure. Kayaking two miles up the Wailua River then hiking a mile on a muddy trail to swim in a waterfall definitely checked that box.

secret falls in kauai hawaii

For fellow nature lovers who want an unforgettable iconic Hawaii adventure, the five-hour journey to Secret Falls and back is a must! Just note that you will need to go on a weekday because the river is closed to be allowed to “rest” on the weekends. We also highly recommend getting an early start to get there before other tourists. For the self-guided tour, it is under $150 for a double kayak.

Read all about this amazing Secret Falls experience here!

2. Hiking Kauai’s Coast

While the iconic Na Pali Coast hike looks amazing, it is quite an undertaking and requires a permit. Luckily, there are plenty of other amazing Kauai hikes – and many are along the coast!

Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail is one example of a stunning coastal hike that only takes a few hours to complete. There are others all over the island as well, in addition to some stunning overlooks.

ocean views near makauwahi cave on kauai
Views near Makauwahi Cave trail.

3. Kauai Coffee Tasting at Kauai Coffee Estate

Love freshly roasted coffee? You can go right to the source at a Kauai coffee farm. Kauai Coffee is a popular option that offers tastings as well as tours. We really enjoyed just sipping on the free samples while taking in the views!

kaui coffee tasting cup with scenery

4. River SUPing on the Hanalei River

For anyone wanting a more relaxing paddling trip, renting a SUP board on the Hanalei River is a great option. When we visited Kauai with friends, we found out our bestie Kelley had never been on a stand-up paddleboard, so we knew we had to give it a try! After some trial and error, she eventually got the hang of it and we all laughed as we got a great arm workout paddling upstream on the scenic Hanalei River.

paddleboarding with friends on the Hanalei River - one of our favorite things to do in kauai

The absolute best moment of this Kauai vacation was when we were paddling back and the current pushed Kelley into some overhanging branches. She held on to one to try to stop herself and it fell onto her board. I was right behind her and laughed so hard I went straight into a river-side bush.

Needless to say, the boys weren’t any help either, as they yelled tips from a yard or so away. I so wish I had a photo of her face, the moment that branch snapped off. However, I shouldn’t have trouble remembering it!

paddleboarding with friends on the Hanalei River during kauai friendcation

5. Kauai Rum Safari Tour

Buddy and I stumbled upon this amazing farm tour meets cocktail class on our return trip to Kauai and absolutely loved it. It’s the perfect happy hour alternative since you have two full (DELICIOUS!) cocktails plus some small tastings of a variety of Koloa Rum flavors.

Plus, the tour is super entertaining! The open-air safari truck makes it feel very adventurous and bouncing around on the dirt roads and sipping a cocktail in a jungle bungalow definitely kept us smiling!

mai tai cocktail tasting on rum safari in kauai

Read our full review of the experience here.

6. Beach Hopping: A Must-Do on a Kauai Vacation

Of course, we have to make it a point to chill on the sand on any trip to Kauai. On our friendcation, Kelley and I loved to bask in the sun as the boys tried to body surf. Looking out and seeing my hubby with a pal to do those things I’m not a big fan of made me so happy.

And he knew how much my soul craved a girlfriend to ponder the inner workings of my brain and the world with – or just laugh together at how cute the boys looked playing in the water. I think it was a welcome change of pace for all of us full-time travelers who are with our spouses often.

couple on kauai beach

Here are some top beaches in Kauai to check out on your trip:

  • Ke’e Beach
  • Tunnels Beach
  • Anini Beach
  • Queen’s Bath
  • Shipwreck Beach

We loved visiting Shipwreck Beach on a return trip to Kauai. There is a trail along the cliffs that you can get to from the beach park also! It actually goes on for hours and would make a great day of hiking and beach hopping!

7. Driving Tour of the Island

Kauai is a great place to just drive around and explore! We drove over and sampled coffee at Kauai Coffee, stopped at overlooks, walked on the beach, and took in all the stunning views (like tree tunnel road).

At one point on our friendcation, I remembered I had mini dinos in my purse and my friend Kelley was more excited than I can even explain. She giggled like a little kid as she took pictures of the little triceratops I gave her with the lush mountain backdrop. I didn’t think I could love her more, but this moment proved that wrong.

Kauai really has a way of bringing out the joyful little kid in you!

8. Trying Local Foodie Favorites

There are dozens of amazing places to eat across the island. Some top Kauai places to eat include:

  • Island Taco in Waimea
  • Kalaheo Cafe & Coffee Company in Kalaheo
  • Keoki’s Paradise in Koloa
  • Tidepools in Koloa (upscale dining)
  • Duke’s Kauai in Lihue (great views!)
  • The Fish Express in Lihue (for Poke)
  • Bubba Burgers in Kapa’a
  • Hukilau Lanai in Kapa’a (upscale dining)
  • Lappert’s Hawaii in Princeville (sweet treats)

For an inexpensive, quick, and healthy option, we opted for yummy vegan veggie tacos at Leahi Health in Koloa. This little town is super cute also and if you haven’t seen the iconic Kauai roosters and chickens by now, you will here!

For a cheaper and more delicious breakfast option when staying at the Hilton Garden Inn near Wailua Bay, we opted for Paradise Bakery Cafe in Kapa’a. It is walking distance and has some great vegetarian and vegan options as well! I opted for the egg and potato sandwich with vegan sausage and it was super filling and much less expensive than the basic hotel breakfast offering.

On a super tight budget? Bring your Costco card with you to Kauai and hit up their food court for lunch or dinner!

We admittedly aren’t the biggest foodies, but this blog post gives a great overview of some of the awesome food to try on Kauai!

9. Venturing into a Unique Cave!

When I read the only way into Makauwahi Cave was to crawl through a little tunnel, I was hooked – we had to go. Despite a very bumpy road there, we made it to the trailhead and were amazed by how stunning the hike was. The cave itself was unlike anything we had ever seen as well. It is an ancient limestone cave with a secret oasis feel!

makauwahi cave reserve kauai hike

On the way back, don’t miss the tortoise sanctuary nearby as well as the secret beach! This entire area is really wonderful and easy to spend a few hours exploring.

Read more about our visit to Makauwahi Cave here!

10. Taking in a South Coast Sunrise

Lydgate Beach Park is an ideal spot to watch the sunrise. There are large pieces of driftwood scattered all along the beach that are perfect for sitting on to take in the views. There are also plenty of picnic tables and other areas to lounge while you watch the sun peak up at the start of the day. Lydgate is also an awesome protected place for swimming, so you can take a dip after.

11. Obligatory Kauai Vacation Dinner at Smith’s Family Luau

On one night of our friendcation, we got dressed up (for Hawaii, at least), and went to the Smith’s Family Luau. While this wasn’t really any of our ‘thing,’ we decided it was one of the top things to do in Kauai – and Hawaii in general, so we needed to check one out before we all left. We wandered around the property, ate the not-really-our-style food, and watched the awesome show.

bridge and scenery at smith's family luau in Kauai

Truly, the show was fantastic! And we all just ignored the rambunctious kids and drunk people we seemed to sit right between. Funny enough, the best part of this night was just realizing we’d probably all be okay skipping some must-dos on future trips together if we aren’t feeling it.

Although it wasn’t a bad time and it was a beautiful location, we all had the same looks of, “yea, not so much for us,” which was surprisingly, a relief!

couple with kauai views at smith's family luau

However, I’ve since found out about a fire show on Kauai’s north shore that looks awesome! The Ahi Lele Fire Show is definitely on our list for next time!

12. Sunsets by the Ocean

While we couldn’t afford a beach-front property in such an expensive destination, we had an awesome sunset spot at our second and final rental condo during our friendcation. There was a trail that led out to some stunning volcanic rocks where we could sit or stand while we admired the crashing waves, swimming turtles, and setting sun.

beautiful ocean views of kauai with waves and sunset

We went out there pretty much daily while we stayed there, and took so many great photos. It was a time to be quiet, be a little romantic with our couple, and just take in why Hawaii is such a very beloved place. Paradise with friends? Can it get much better?

waves crashing on kauai coast over couple

13. Tasting the Best Ginger Beer of Your Life

If you are obsessed with the deliciousness of Ginger Beer like I am, don’t miss a chance to go to Aloha Ginger Beer in Lihue. They have mastered the art of making strong yet yummy ginger beer in a variety of local flavors. They even have slushies that are perfection on a hot day. Swing by their store to do a tasting, grab a drink to go, or fill up a growler!

aloha ginger beer lihue kauai

14. NaPali Coast Boat Tour

Going on a Kauai vacation without seeing the Na Pali Coast is kind of silly since it is THE top of any list of Kauai’s best things to do. And for good reason. Our tour with Makana Charters of this epic, iconic coastline was a highlight of our trip. And we all loved admiring the rugged mountains, waterfalls, caves, and sea life.

friend photo on na pali coast boat tour

Plus, it was Kelley’s first-ever time snorkeling which turned out to be a fun adventure for all of us! It was great getting to share something we had fallen so in love with during our prior weeks in Hawaii with one of our besties. After a few minutes with her face in the water, she definitely understood – especially when a sea turtle swam by!

snorkeling on na pali coast boat tour for kauai friendcation

15. Sipping Cocktails with Ocean Views

One of our favorite places to have a drink and take in the island ambiance is Mamahune’s Bar. You get to sit in a little tiki bar or in Adirondack chairs and take in the ocean views from above Lydgate Beach Park.

mamahune bar at hilton garden inn kauai

The bar is actually attached to the Hilton Garden Inn Wailua Bay in Kapa’a (near Lihue), so it is especially nice if you happen to be staying there. They have a wide variety of yummy drinks and serve good food as well!

16. Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon was one of those must-see places that really surprised us. Although it was a short visit, we were all in awe of this large canyon in the middle of such a lush island. Hawaii’s landscape never ceases to amaze me! It is no wonder this is considered “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.”

waimea canyon views - one of the best things to do in kauai

Our first trip to Kauai for our friendcation happened right after they had some bad mud slides and a lot of rain, so we didn’t get to do as much hiking as we wanted to. However, we still saw PLENTY of amazing places and are happy we’ve been able to do so much more exploring now that we live in Hawaii!

couple at waimea canyon in Kauai

Other Kauai Hawaii Best Things To Do

We’re constantly adding places to our list for return trips to Kauai. Please let us know if you have any more to add!

  • South Shore
  • Hanalei Bay
  • Lydgate Chocolate Tour
  • Poipu Beach Park
  • Hanalei Beach Park
  • Kalalau Beach
  • Koke’e State Park
  • Wailua Falls
  • Hike Kalalau Trail
  • Sleeping Giant Trail
  • Farmer’s Markets
  • Kauai’s North Shore
  • Food Truck Hopping
  • Kilauea Lighthouse
  • Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge
  • Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail
  • Koloa Heritage Trail
  • Polihale State Park
  • Ha’ena State Park
  • Take a Humpback Whales Tour
  • Go on a Helicopter Tour
  • Botanical Gardens
  • Allerton Garden
  • Kalalau Lookout

Tips for Flying In & Out of the Lihue Airport on Kauai

Kauai’s international airport in Lihue is close to a ton of great activities, including the iconic Secret Falls hike (preceded by a paddle up the Wailua River), popular Lydgate Beach, the Kauai Rum Safari, and more!

If renting a car, you will need to be shuttled over to the rental car area a few minutes away. But it is also walkable. Nearby, there’s a Costco and Walmart if you need to go stock up on essentials like sunscreen, water, and snacks. Lihue also has some great places for a sit-down meal as well as the very tasty drinks at Kauai Beer Company and Aloha Ginger Beer.

Once you are all setup and have a good meal, there are tons of great beaches nearby as well as some more effortful hikes and adventures.

Luckily, Lihue is not nearly as busy as the Oahu airport, so you won’t need to arrive super early for your departure. But, if you get to the airport early and need to kill some time before checking in, go up to Ahukini Recreational Pier State Park to watch the planes come in while relaxing by the waves.

Ahukini Recreational Pier State Park nar lihue airport in kauai

Where to Stay on Kauai, Hawaii

Of course, there are many hotels as well as AirBnB and VRBO rental homes to consider when planning a trip to Kauai. One thing to note about Kauai is that there is not a road that circles the entire island. So, it may make sense to split your trip into having two bases: one in the north and one in the south.

I’d narrow down your options by checking where your must-see places are then picking your bases from there. Lihue and Waimea in the south are popular Kauai destinations with plenty of top sights and activities near each. (Note: Lihue is also home to the airport.) Up north, Princeville is known for its amazing beaches and is a popular place for a resort Kauai vacation.

kauai airbnb rental

If you don’t mind driving around a lot, it is only about two hours from the famous Waimea Canyon up to Princeville, but just note that traffic can get really bad and can make the drive almost double that.

We found A TON to do in and around Lihue, so felt that the Hilton Garden Inn Wailua Bay in Kapa’a made a good base. The rooms are fairly basic, but the location within walking distance to beautiful Lydgate Beach Park is really ideal. They are home to the awesome Mamahune bar we mentioned above as well.

Plus, we were able to use our annual free night that we get with our American Express Hilton Honors credit card for our stay, which is always a win!

hilton garden inn wailua bay kauai

BONUS: Notes on Our First-Ever Friendcation!

Aside from a few friends who came to visit us when we lived in Colorado and a few weekends away here and there, we’ve never gone on a vacation with friends. And we’ve certainly never planned a week-long trip to a new destination with another couple.

Honestly, the idea of it really freaked us out, so we never really pursued it. We didn’t want to spend a bunch of money just to be annoyed for a week when we have different ideas of what vacation means. But then we met Kelley and Rob – fellow nomads who full-time RV.

kauai things to do hawaii friendcation

We only knew them from a brief interaction at an RVing event, but had kept in touch during our first (and only) year of RVing and met up a few times in person. We just have too much in common not to be besties. But, enough differences to have some really great conversations. The more we learn about them, the more we like them and realize how similar we are.

So, although we were a little bit nervous about putting one of our favorite friendships to this kind of test, we were psyched for them to come meet us in Kauai for our epic friendcation.

Everything didn’t go perfectly – the rental car company jacked us around a bit, I lost my prescription sunglasses to the ocean, Kelley busted her butt on a muddy trail, Buddy had a wicked bad hangover after indulging in too many of Rob’s amazing alcoholic concoctions the night before, and Rob somehow managed to attract the most obnoxious people to us at the luau (a talent he forgot to share before! haha). But that’s just life.

Getting to be together for an extended time and share in our struggles as well as all the joy was an amazingly special thing. It allowed for long, heartfelt talks, some frame-worthy group photos, and SO MUCH laughter – uncontrollable, child-like laughter. All with the gorgeous background of Kauai that just elevated this trip to the next level.

friends watching the sunset on a kauai vacation

We already loved these two before, but this trip made us family. And like any close-knit family, we’ll have many reunions in our future. Until then, we’ll just have to deal with withdrawals from not seeing our travel besties.

Do you have a Kelley and Rob in your life? What’s your favorite friendcation memory or top Kauai activity?

Read more about our other tips for visiting Hawaii here. And if you want to know more about how we made this vacation happen, check out our guide to pet and housesitting!

16+ Kauai Hawaii Best Things to Do & Unique Activities16+ Kauai Hawaii Best Things to Do & Unique Activities16+ Kauai Hawaii Best Things to Do & Unique Activities16+ Kauai Hawaii Best Things to Do & Unique Activities