Kauai is the ultimate paradise, with lush, rugged landscapes that will blow your mind. Exploring Kauai is a dream! Traveling to Hawaii? Here is your Kauai Bucket List for unique places to visit in Kauai, Hawaii. From the stunning beaches that will take your breath away, to the majestic Na Pali Coast, the “Garden Isle” is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful islands in the world.
Kauai Overview: Know before you go
With a population of more than 60,000 people, this round-shaped island is the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands and one of my favorites.
As soon as you get off the plane the tropical adventure begins. No trip to Kauai is complete without seeing the iconic Na Pali Coast. With 17 miles of coastline, sheer cliffs, emerald valleys, and sky-high waterfalls, nothing compares to the Napali Coast.
You can experience the Napali Coast by hiking the Kalalau Trail, taking a boat tour or flying in a helicopter.
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Kauai Bucket List
1. Kalalau Trail – Na Pali Coast
The Kalalau Trail is an 11-mile hike from Ke’ e Beach to Kalalau Beach. The first two miles to Hanakāpīʻai Beach are easy, and you don’t need a permit. If you plan to hike the whole trail, you’ll need a permit once you pass Hanakāpīʻai Beach. Plan ahead. If you get caught without a permit, you’ll get fined.
The hike starts at Hā’ena State Park, where you’ll find Ke’ e Beach. It’s an 8-mile hike to Hanakāpīʻai Falls.
Permits are $20 per day per person.
2. Ke’e Beach
The North Shore is lush, it’s striking and it’s exactly what you dream this island will look like before you see it for the first time. At the end of the road, you’ll find Ke’e beach, where the Kalalau trail begins. The backdrop is dramatic. On the way back, be sure to stop at Tunnels beach, Princeville, and Hanalei.
3. Tunnels Beach
On your way to Ke’e beach, stop by Tunnels Beach on the North Shore of Kauai. This crescent-shaped bay is popular for surfing, swimming in snorkeling.
Trust us; this place is paradise.
Hanalei is a small town on Kauai’s north shore. Grab a bite to eat in Hanalei town and head to Hanalei Bay to watch the sunset. Hanalei Pier also offers spectacular views.
5. Kilauea Lighthouse
Stop by the Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife refuge and soak in the views of the ocean, cliffs and look for whales cruising by. The Kilauea Lighthouse is open Tuesday to Saturday 10 am to 4 pm, and closed on Sunday and Monday.
The cost is $10.00 per person.
Bucket List Adventures: Unique Things to do in Kauai, Hawaii
6. Polihale State Park
Your adventure starts well before you arrive at Polihale State Park. You’ll need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to access the rough road to set up your tent on the beach. With the Napali cliffs as the backdrops and views of Niihau in the distance, this is one of the ultimate Kauai camping destinations and the last beach on the West side. We set up camp above the dunes overlooking the water. Pure magic!
Know before you go: Swimming is safe only at the Queens Pond because of the strong currents and rip currents. This site has picnic tables, a restroom, and showers.
Book a camping permit online here and print it before your stay.
- $12 per campsite per night for Hawaii residents.
- $18 per night for Non-residents.
7. South Shore Beaches
If you’re looking for sunny skies head South, to Poipu Beach Park. This is where you’ll find the fancy resorts, a second Kauai Juice, Co. and Shipwreck beach, where I tried slacklining for the first time in my life. Head towards the golf course, for a peaceful scenic walk along the coast. Don’t be surprised if you get caught in the occasional downpour, chances are it won’t last too long.
8. Waimea Canyon: The Grand Canyon of the Pacific
It’s a two-lane windy road to Waimea Canyon. More than 3,000 feet deep, you won’t find a gem like this anywhere else in Hawaii.
There are countless drive-up photo ops throughout Waimea Canyon and plenty of hikes. One of my favorites is located in Kokee State Park and overlooks the secluded Kalalau Beach, the final destination of the 11-mile Kalalau Trail.
9. Sleeping Giant Hike
On the Eastside, you’ll find a Sleeping Giant- This hike is easy and takes you through a stunning green forest at the base, you’ll eventually smell the sweet aroma of strawberry guavas as you get ready to soak in a 360-degree view of the island. Pause and Enjoy the moment.
What to eat in Kauai
- Bar Acuda– Ordered most of the pupus (appetizers) on this menu. The tapas are priced on the higher end, but you won’t be disappointed.
- Kauai Juice Company – a local favorite. So good!
- The Dolphin Restaurant- fresh fish and a great ambiance.
- First Saturdays in Old Kapaa Town offers plenty of vendors with a variety of cuisines.
- Hanapepe Town Art Walk on the First Friday of every month has a selection of food trucks that hit the spot.
- Pono Market – Fresh fish and plate lunch in Kapaa
- Hamura Saimin – Lihue
- Deli and Bread Connection – Bakery and Deli in Lihue
- Koloa Fish Market – plate lunch in Koloa
Where to stay in Kauai
- Wyndham Shearwater – Princeville
- Makai Club Vacation Resort – Princeville
- Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa – Poipu
- Koa Kea Hotel & Resort – Poipu
I use Airbnb and Booking.com to search for the best places to stay.
Book Your Next Stay on Airbnb – Click here to search for your next dream vacation rental.
How to pack for the Ultimate Kauai Trip:
- Bathing suits – In my opinion, you can never have too many swimsuits when you’re traveling to Hawaii – 8 Ethical + Sustainable Swim brands.
- Flowy Dresses – These are some of my favorite boho brands.
- Shorts and Casual Tees – Opt for comfortable and breathable fabrics.
- Comfortable flats – Pack a pair of shoes you can hike in if you plan on going on some adventures. Keep in mind, some of the trails get very muddy.
- Hats for sun protection – I love bringing boho style hats and straw hats.
- A lightweight rain jacket – Be prepared! I always carry a jacket in my bag when I’m traveling on the islands.
- Travel Bag – I usually travel with a carryon, but I always bring a backpack or small bag for hiking and beach days.
If you have any questions about this Kauai Bucket List Travel Guide, let us know in the comments.
Searching for more adventures in the United States, check out:
- The Big Island 3 Day Itinerary: Beaches, Waterfalls, and Volcano
- Things To Do in Lanai, Hawaii – The Ultimate 2-day Trip
- Sunrise at Haleakala National Park – The Ultimate Guide