The 4 Best Things to Do in Kauai
Once you’ve made it to Kauai, booked accomodation and hired a car, get ready to make the most of your time on this magical island.
Our pilot flew us over the largest coffee plantation in the States*, dropped us into the dusty red gorges of the Waimea canyon, cruised alongside half a dozen waterfalls, then emerged from its cavernous walls into a clear open sky. Circling back around we were given a full view of the Na Pali coastline. The enormous cliff faces ended right at the edge of a clear azure sea that stretched out forever into the deep blue of the ocean. When we landed an hour later, I hadn’t realised my own exhilaration at having the wind whip past me where a door should of been - my legs were shaking as I set my feet back down on solid ground!
Any tourist or local will tell you that if your going to take a helicopter tour anywhere, Kauai’s the place to do it. Flying over the backdrop of Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean is an unforgettable experience. Jack Carter Helicopter Tours makes it even more thrilling by offering a doors off option. Plus, the sight of those unmistakeable waterfalls is accompanied by the Jurassic Park theme music. Winning.
- Book your helicopter tour in advance, for the beginning of your holiday. There’s always the chance of flights being rescheduled due to the weather.
- The doors off option is worth the extra cost.
- If you decide to go for the doors off option, wear pants and bring a jacket - the wind gets fierce up there!
- Charge everything you have to the full extent, the scenery is a photographers dream
*If you have the time, Kauai Coffee Company is worth the visit. Free tours run at 10am, 12pm, 2pm and 4pm while free samples flow all day long. Yum.
2. Na Pali Raft Cave Patrol
Pockets of caves were tucked into the dark rocks all along the base of the coast. We weaved into half a dozen snug, cavernous chambers, that had tamed the water into a still vivid blue inside. The rocky ceilings created jagged viewfinders that framed the changing sky above us. On our way back to shore, the grey shadows that had been plunging through the passing ocean surfaced alongside the raft. The Captain slowed down enough to give them a stage around us, which they used to show off their morning theatrics.
Don’t miss the opportunity to get up close to the Na Pali coastline. The Cave Patrol Tour at Captain Andys is boundless fun that usually ends with a pod of dolphins making a frisky appearance.
- Although I booked this tour when I arrived in Kauai, it never hurts to book in advance
- Wear clothes you don’t mind getting wet! It’s a bumpy ride
- Pack light and bring sunscreen
- Dry bags, life jackets, snacks and water are provided
- Charge your cameras and Go Pro’s and be ready to use them in an instant - you never know when the dolphins will appear!
3. Hike the Waimea Canyon
The canyons rivets were a dizzying way down. Out in front of us, the Na Pali coast stretched on into the never-ending blue of the ocean. We walked past the safety gate with careful footsteps that got slower and more precise the further out onto the ledge we ventured. The drop down either side of us expanded as grassy patches gave way to hard crumbling earth. There was no wind to temper the sun beating down on our backs, contributing to the sweat that was forming with each step forward. When he reached the end of the ledge, he was so far away he appeared a dot camouflaged into the walls of earth that lay on the far side of the canyon.
Hawaii’s answer to the Grand Canyon has more hikes than you can shake your walking stick at (yep, I went there). From the family friendly trek to Waipoo Falls, to the more adventurous Awa’awapuhi Trail , choosing which trek is take is a matter of personal fitness and the weather. You’ll be enveloped in the canyons splendour who ever track you choose, so lace up your boots and get going!
- Pack plenty of water and snacks
- Wear plenty of sunscreen
- If hiking solo, be sure to let someone know where your going and what time your expecting to return
- Allow time to take in the view points along the way
- Stay up to date information on weather and track conditions here
4. Explore beaches and waterfalls
The sky and the sea were one colour at the horizon, but as the water came closer to shore it became so clear I could see the white sand underneath. The smooth black rocks had been warmed by the now high sun that the roosters were scrambling to find shelter from. They scratched amongst the pine needles that had fallen from the trees that circled the beach, oblivious to the passersby who had come down from the clifftop to have lunch on the sand.
Grab your slipahs’ (or your jandals, thongs, flip flops or sandals) and head to one of the many beaches found all over this jungle paradise. Spend a day taking in the chilled vibes at Hanalei on The North Shore. Thick green jungle on a white sand beach provides the backdrop for the towns’ plethora of cafes, restaurants and boutique stores. Well manicured vacation rentals at Princeville lead the way to some secluded beaches as well as the popular snorkel spot, The Queen’s Bath. Stop off at Kilaeua Lighthouse for some red-footed booby bird gazing and views of the peninsula.
Visit the blue waters of the South Shores Poi’pu Beach and Shipwreck Beach. Poi’pu offers family friendly beaches and the occasional Hawaiian Monk Seal sighting. Above the roosters that roam the white sand and pine needles at Shipwreck Beach, there’s a cliff top walk with wide ocean views.
If you prefer to cool off in fresh over salty waters, there’s a plethora of waterfalls all over the island. Here’s a guide to some of the best.
- You’ll be surrounded by Kaui’s natural beauty wherever you go, but here's a link to get you started.
Aloha & Mahalo!