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Top 7 Things to do in Kauai, Hawaii

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

Wailua River and sea view
Wailua River

Kauai, known as the “Garden Isle”, is Hawaii’s westernmost island. It is less developed than Oahu and Maui, and while frequented by tourists, has a much quieter feel. With stunning lush landscapes and a variety of activities to suit every visitor, Kauai is a great option for scuba divers, families, and even solo travelers.

1. Scuba Diving

Scuba diving in Kauai is most popular along the south coast, where most dive boats depart from Kukuiula Boat Harbor and shore dives take place at Koloa Landing. Divers have the opportunity to see loads of turtles at Sheraton Arches dive site where there are interesting lava rock formations with some easy swim-throughs. Humpback whales can be seen from shore, dive boats, and underwater if you’re lucky! Diving at Ni’ihau, the “Forbidden Island” is weather dependent but offers divers the chance to encounter the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, whales, and sharks among its gorgeous reefs. If you're planning a dive holiday in Hawaii, read about the best scuba diving in Hawaii.

Sunrise at Kukuiula Boat Harbor
Sunrise at Kukuiula Boat Harbor

2. Snorkeling

Snorkeling in Kauai is a great option for those who wish to stay at the surface while experiencing the underwater life around Kauai. Snorkelers need to find suitable entry points to avoid rocky areas and dangerous currents, so ask the locals where is best to experience Kauai’s reefs from the surface. Lydgate Beach Park is a popular snorkelling spot for families.

3. Whale Watching

Head to the west coast of Kauai to join one of the whale watching charters leaving from Eleele. With early morning and afternoon (sunset) departures, the captains and crew members on the various whale watching vessels are experts at finding the local population of humpbacks for visitors to catch a glimpse of these incredible creatures. If you want a closer encounter, read all about the best places to swim with whales.

4. Boogie Boarding, Surfing, and Foiling

Awesome surf breaks surround Kauai, making it a popular destination for surfers and boogie boarders. Surfing schools and rental shops for surf boards and boogie boards are widely available around the island. Be aware of rip currents and stick to areas marked for safe watersports. Foiling is gaining popularity and is often enjoyed in calmer areas such as Kalapaki Beach.

5. Kayaking and Stand-Up Paddling

Sea and river kayaking has long been a popular activity in Kauai, while stand-up paddling has gained popularity over recent years. Koloa Landing is an easy ocean entry point on the south coast, while Wailua River is an excellent route through lush tropical foliage. Look for guided tours of Wailua River for a fun experience for the whole family.

6. Visiting State Parks

Kauai is a beautiful island to explore on land, with multiple reserves and state parks offering different scenery. Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park is perhaps the most famous for its stunning cliffside vistas, while Polihale Beach State Park is an immense stretch of white sand with massive wave breaks. Wailua River State Park includes views of the river and impressive waterfalls.

Polihale State Park

7. Food and Drink

Maui may be the most popular hotspot for tourists, but don’t discount Kauai’s culinary scene. You’ll find local grinds (food) such as takeaway poke bowls to local grinds featuring rice with meat (fried Spam!) everywhere from strip malls to street stalls. For fine dining options, check out the restaurants in hotspots like The Shops at Kukui’ula, Old Kaloa Town, and Princeville.

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