There’s no shortage of things to do in Kauai! Get our very favorite recommendations for adventures, shops, food, lodging, and lots more.
On our first trip to Kauai, Hawaii, we spent a week on the North Shore and found a ton of things to do in Kauai with kids. This time around, it was just the grownups and we discovered so much more of the island!
I’m so excited to share my favorite things to do in Kauai, from hiking adventures to wildlife, shopping to food, and lots more.
If Kauai isn’t on your list, be sure to check out some of our other most popular travel guides:
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- Things to Do in Florence, Italy with Kids
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- Things To Do in Cabo San Lucas with Kids
Where to Stay on Kauai
If you travel around the island, you’ll realize pretty quickly that the different areas have vastly different feels. The north shore is a bit more high end, with a boutique feel in upscale Princeville and a cool surf village vibe in Hanalei.
You can read lots about our north shore favorites right here.
The west side (AKA the Coconut Coast) and the south shore are populated with small towns that feel a little less fancy but still very cool and friendly.
And on the west side, you’ll almost feel like you’re in a different place entirely! Lots of the beachy feel of the island gives way to mountainous terrain, beautiful Waimea Canyon, and a tropical forest.
All of this is to say that where you stay on Kauai depends on the feel that you want. There are plenty of great airbnb locations, along with lots of beautiful resorts if you prefer that vibe.
On our most recent trip for our 10th anniversary, we wanted the resort feel so we stayed at the Marriott Kauai Beach Club, and it ended up being an incredible location. It’s right on Kalapaki beach, has a great pool area, and plenty of places to eat if you don’t want to go off property.
However, it’s also centrally located on the island so that it’s easy to go off property and find amazing food, shopping, and adventures.
Things to Do in Kauai
Hiking. There are some beautiful hikes on the island! Plenty of them are somewhat dangerous or challenging, but we wanted something a little more intermediate. The Waipo’o Falls hike was perfect.
It’s about 3.4 miles out and back and took us about 2 hours. At the farthest point you’re rewarded with a beautiful waterfall in a hidden pool and a view of Waimea Canyon that can’t be beat.
Red Dirt Falls. While you’re on the west side near Waimea Canyon, be sure to stop and hike around at Red Dirt Falls. It’s a pretty little waterfall in a red clay area that’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
Koke’e Lodge. Also on the west side, Koke’e Lodge is a little camping lodge hidden away in the tropical forest. There’s a restaurant with killer food and cocktails, and live music on weekends. There’s also a fun little museum and lots of space to roam around or picnic.
Wailua Falls. For another amazing waterfall view, drive up to Wailua Falls and scope it out. This one is quick and easy but the view is stunning.
Find Sea Turtles. Most mornings during laying season, you can find beautiful green sea turtles on the beach at Poipu! Try to get there near sunrise and you might even see some monk seals on the beach as well. Be sure to give any wildlife you see at least 20 feet of space so as not to interrupt their natural rhythms.
Explore Different Towns. There’s a lot of ground to cover in Kauai! But a few of my favorite different towns to explore are Hanapepe (cute art galleries), Kilauea (great shopping and the lighthouse), Kapa’a (a fun main street with tons of shops and good restaurants), and Hanalei (high-end shopping and food, great beaches).
Best Beaches in Kauai
Hanalei Beach. Soft sand and a wide, beautiful beach.
Poipu Beach. Go early to spot some sea turtles! Great for snorkeling with little kids because it’s protected by a reef.
Kalapaki Beach. Awesome for boogie boarding or surfing, with beach volleyball courts set up.
Anini Beach. Gentle waves, perfect for kiddos! If you paddle out toward the reef you might see some sea turtles swimming with you!
Best Kauai Shopping
Kauai is shockingly chock full of amazing shops! There are lots of great local boutiques where you can support Hawaiian makers and shop owners.
A great place to start for recommendations is this post on Where to Eat and Shop in Kauai.
But a few more recommendations from our trip are below!
Kapa’a. If you park at Kuhio Highway near Lehua Street and walk south, Kapa’a is packed with so many great little shops and spots to wander around.
Old Koloa Town. This area is a bit more populated with touristy souvenir shops, but there are also a couple of gems in there, including a Billabong store with specialized Hawaiian gear that you can’t get in lots of other places.
Hanalei and Kilauea. See our other post for lots of great north shore shopping!
Hanapepe. As you drive through, Hanapepe looks like a tiny little town but if you make your way back off the highway there are a few little streets filled with well-curated shops and pretty art galleries.
How to Get Around
We discovered that rental cars are extremely scarce these days on Kauai (and many other places in Hawaii), so I actually discovered Turo and loved it!
Turo is kind of like airbnb but for cars. You rent a car from the car’s owner, they arrange pick up and drop off, and you pay them a fee.
It worked incredibly well for us! One major bonus is that you don’t have to deal with the car rental lines at the airport. Highly recommend.
Where to Eat on kauai
We have a ton of recommendations about where to eat in Kauai right here. But we discovered a few new places that I have to share!
Java Kai. There are two locations (Kapa’a and Kilauea) and both are amazing! Get the acai bowl for sure. best I’ve ever had. Both locations are also highly Instagrammable.
Anuenue. Delicious breakfast from a tiny hidden cafe. Try the Tube Ride frech toast or the Avo Sandoe.
Hamura Saimin. A mom and pop, hole-in-the-wall, cash-only saimin spot (kind of similar to a ramen dish). I loved the wonton saimin.
Scorpacciata. An easy pizza truck with solid pizza and a great outdoor vibe.
Island Craves. Some of the most legit boba tea I’ve ever had.
Have a Picnic. I surprised Ryan with an anniversary picnic and the team at Kauai Luxury Picnics made it all happen! They set up a beautiful picnic on the beach of your choice and you get to just show up and enjoy.
I hope you love all of our favorite things to do in Kauai! Be sure to check out more travel ideas here! xoxo