Calling all adventure-seekers! We’ve created a guide to Hawaii’s wildest island, just for you.
Kauai is arguably one of the most beautiful places on earth. It is also full of adventure. This is our guide, for the adventure seekers only.
Hike the Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast: The Kalalau trail, 11 miles long, is truly one of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever experienced. Lush, colorful, vibrant and wildly surprising, this hike is worth every step. The trailhead is at Kee Beach, on the northwest side of the island. Two miles in, the path leads you to Hanakapi’ai Beach, the perfect spot to take a rest and cool off. However, this beach can be dangerous at high tide — be very cautious if you swim or enjoy at a distance. Climb the rocks on the north side of the shore to discover a secret beach with large caves. (Hike early and bring lots of water and some snacks. This trail, though intensely beautiful, is also quite strenuous. Be aware of steep climbs, slippery rocks and fresh red mud. Wear comfortable clothes and strong shoes.)
Hike to and swim at the Hanakapi’ai Falls: Two miles further up the Kalalau trail on the Na Pali coast is the Hanakapi’ai Falls, a 100-foot waterfall that flows into a deep pool. The thin path is mostly unmaintained and is prone to flooding after a rain, so be cautious. The hike leads you through a bamboo forest, crosses the river multiple times, but can become quite challenging as you make your way up toward the falls. However, there are various places to stop on the way to cool off in lava rock swimming holes or rest in the shade. When you finally come to the massive falls, the trail opens up into a place words can’t describe. It’s like a movie scene out of Indiana Jones. The only sound you hear is that of rushing water. The light is subtle. White, long-tailed birds fly high above. It’s as though you have entered prehistoric times. After you get past the unfathomable and overwhelming beauty, strip down and go for a swim. Float on your back and look up into the falls. Swim under the falls and sit in the cave, looking out through the rushing water. Bask in the moment. (Tip: there are various small pools and falls further down the trail. Stop off and hang out there, too, for a private pool party.)
Rent mopeds for the day: Zipping around on a moped is one of the coolest ways to experience Kauai. Everything is just a little bit more amplified and colorful. You need only have a valid license and be at least 18 years old to rent one. We rented from Kauai Mopeds — great service and free delivery and tutorial!
Swim at Secrets Beach: This was my favorite beach at which to swim. About a five-minute walk from a small parking lot and off a dirt road, Secrets is, well, just what the name implies. My boyfriend and I came here to take in many sunsets and there were never more than a handful of people around. It’s private, secluded and absolutely beautiful.
Explore Waimea Canyon: Waimea Canyon is located on the west side of the island. Often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” it stretches for 14 miles and is 3,600 feet deep. Take Waimea Canyon Drive as it weaves up through the mountains. Stop off at the multiple lookout points to see incredible views of crests and gorges of dramatic color. The road ends at Kokee State Park, where there are various hikes and places to explore.
Hike to the two Ho’opi Falls: If you are looking for a short and fun hike, this is it. Finding the trailhead is probably the most difficult part. It’s located in a neighborhood near Kapa’a with no marked signs but, once you find it, the interconnected paths are clearly seen. (Look for the yellow gate to enter.) The first falls is a great spot, to either cool off in the pool or marvel at the rushing water from the rocks. The second falls is another 15 minutes down the shaded jungle path. Getting down to the second falls is a little challenging as it is unmarked but, with careful steps, it will be no problem. Get here before noon to enjoy the falls (and rope swing) all to yourself!
Eat at Hamura Saimin: This noodle shop in Lihue is an authentic no-frills Hawaiian experience that has been around for four generations. Saimin, a staple in Hawaiian culture, is similar to a ramen dish, using thick egg noodles in a salty broth with various toppings. In 2006, the James Beard Foundation honored Humara with an American Classic’s award. A must-go!
Kayak the Wailua River: This meandering two-mile ride up the Wailua River will lead you past an old Hawaiian village and then onto an island where you park your kayak. After you secure your kayak, hike two miles by foot through the tropical rain forest land to Uluwehi Waterfalls. These gentle falls and swimming holes are great for lounging. Head back to your kayak and leisurely make your way on down the river. Kayak Wailua offers guided tours, single, double and triple seat kayaks, and more.
Snorkel at Tunnels Beach: Tunnels, though busy and popular, was the best place we found to snorkel. You’ll see fish of all shapes, sizes and colors — each more intense than the last. Sea turtles are also regularly seen here. (Rent snorkeling gear at Boss Frog’s in Kapa’a for only $7 a day.)
Take a propeller plane ride over the island: After my boyfriend and I hiked the interior of the Na Pali Coast, we wanted to see a different perspective. We took a four-seater propeller plane ride over the entire island and saw not only the Na Pali Coast, but also the Waimea Canyon, secluded beaches, and hidden waterfalls. Wings Over Kauai provided us a history-filled tour and a beautiful way to appreciate Kauai.
+What are we missing? I would love to hear what adventures you seek out on your vacations!
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