A vacation to Kauai, Hawaii is an absolute bucket list item. This island is absolutely INCREDIBLE, and so diverse considering how small the island itself actually is. Let’s talk about Kauai things to do during a week long vacation! Adventure, relaxation, we’ll get it all!
You will find incredible Kauai hiking options, black sand beaches, white sand beaches, lush rainforest, brilliant waterfalls, and of course the enormous cliffs of the Na Pali Coast! Is there anything you won’t find? Nope. Kauai has it all.
With all of that adventure and fun, how do we fit everything into one week? And of course you have to include time to relax and unwind… Well, that’s what we are here for! Let us be your guide to exploring the wilderness of Kauai, and of course relaxing on the beaches, in 1 week on the island.
If you would like to see all of the incredible Kauai sites in addition to reading about them, check out this video we made of our adventure!
Things To Do in Wailua
Wailua is a city on Kauai located on the East side of the island, near the airport. When we refer to Wailua, we will include the surrounding Wailua River State Park, and a few waterfalls that are in short driving distance from town. Wailua’s mix of adventure and city makes it a great first stop!
On our 1 week adventure in Kauai, we spent 2 days exploring the Wailua area, including the day we arrived. We PACKED IN as much exploring as we could, because we knew that after Wailua we had a few days of relaxing at the beach ahead of us.
Wailua Falls is a perfect first stop, either on the day you arrive or bright and early the following morning. The waterfall is visually stunning, and awe-inspiring as it flows over the cliffs and into a deep blue pool below.
Another reason this is a great first stop is that there is no hike associated with it. We will be easing in to the hiking on Kauai, and a beautiful waterfalls that doesn’t take any work is a great way to start if you ask us!
Note: there is no hike required to see Wailua Falls, however we have heard of people hiking down to the base of the falls. There are signs saying not to hike down, but it does look pretty incredible.
Opaeka’a Falls is stop number 2 on our Kauai adventure in Wailua, and honestly there are some similarities between stop number 2 and stop number 1!
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Incredible waterfall? Check. No hike required? Check. Great place to sit in awe of the natural beauty of Kauai? Check!
And another way these 2 are similar? Opaeka’a Falls also has a hike to the bottom of the falls you can do. We didn’t do either hike, since we were saving our hiking time for future hikes, but the pictures from the base of Opaeka’a Falls are incredible.
Whether you hike all the way down or enjoy the view from above, Opaeka’a Falls is a MUST on your Kauai Adventure! Okay, that is 2 waterfalls down, are you ready for some mountains? Ready or not, here comes Kuilau Ridge!
Kuilau Ridge is our first hike of the week! The trail is 2.25 miles each way. for a total of 4.5 miles to see one of the most incredible ridges in all of Hawaii.
The trailhead is located just outside of Wailua River State Park, and it is SO worth the short drive and hike. You’ll be walking through a tropical rainforest and then BAM! The forest parts before you and opens up into a ridge surrounded by green cliffs with the blue ocean in the distance.
If Kauai didn’t have the Na Pali Coast, then the Kuilau Ridge would be the most beautiful place on the island in our opinion. Thankfully, the Na Pali Coast IS on Kauai, more on that later…
On the Kuilau Ridge, you’ll want to bring some shoes that you don’t care much about. Much of the hikes in Kauai (and all of Hawaii) can get dirty, so best to prepare and have a pair of hiking boots or shoes along.
Makaleha Falls Trail
The Makaleha Falls Trail is absolutely one where you are going to get dirty. You will even have to cross the Makaleha Creek 4-5 times to reach the finish line!
This trail we will put in the ‘optional’ category. Not because the finish line isn’t incredible, it is! However it is a TOUGH trail for a few different reasons.
The first reason this is a challenging trail is because of all the creek crossings. Makaleha Creek is a rocky creek and the water flows pretty fast and powerfully at times. You have to know what you are getting yourself into.
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The second reason? This trail is hard to follow! Hard enough that we didn’t make it to Makaleha Falls… Yes, yes, we suck. We tried and tried but we couldn’t follow the trail! We don’t even know where we lost it…
Thankfully, the Journey Era team made it and you can check out their adventure! We ended up at a different waterfall that was incredible beautiful in its own right, surrounded by enormous cliffs and overlooking the valley we had just hiked up.
The Makaleha Falls hike isn’t long, just over 1 mile each way, however it takes TIME to make it that distance. It is an incredibly beautiful hike, though, with a trail through a bamboo forest and multiple waterfalls along the way.
Sleeping Giant Trail
The Sleeping Giant Trail is another trail we will put in the ‘optional’ category. A good trail to do if you have extra time. The trail itself is 2 miles each way and has an elevation gain of about 1000 feet,
Sunset on the Sleeping Giant is the reason this trail exists. Just an incredible view of the sunsets that help make Kauai one of the wonderful destinations it is!
Things To Do in Waimea
Waimea is on the South side of Kauai, and will be our second location to explore as we make our way around Kauai! We spent 2 days exploring Waimea, and to be honest much of these 2 days was spent relaxing and enjoying Hawaiian culture!
Day 3 on the island we explored Poipu Shopping Village and the Waimea Black Sand Beach! And Day 4 was time for our 1 excursion we did on the island, and WHAT AN EXCURSION IT WAS. A top 3 excursion we’ve ever done without a doubt. More on that in a bit.
Poipu Shopping Village
The number 1 reason to go to the Poipu Shopping Village is the free live Hula show! You HAVE to see Hula when you go to Hawaii, pretty sure it is against the law not to see Hula…
Many places offer a paid Hula show, but Poipu Shopping Village has a free show you can go see! Every Monday and Thursday at 5:00, they put on a show with dancing, music, and Hawaiian culture, which makes this a must stop at least once during your visit to Kauai.
Clothing We Love
You need clothes to travel. Heck, maybe you don’t. We don’t judge. If you want to hop around the world in your birthday suit then go right ahead! But if you want to cover up, here are a few of our favorite clothing items we love, and we think you’ll love too!
Of course, while you’re there you can also grab dinner at one of the many dining options, or shop around at the shops in the village. Make sure to get some fresh pineapple, mango, and coconut while you’re on Kauai!
Waimea Black Sand Beach
Kauai has a black sand beach. You MUST make some time to go see it while you can. Black sand beaches are rare, and they erode faster than white sand beaches, so you gotta check it out while you can!
The beach is not well marked on the map, maybe to keep the beach less busy, but we will tell you how to get there. Head to the Waimea State Recreation Pier and walk West along the ocean coast. Now look down. You’re standing on a black sand beach!
This beach, as with all of Hawaii’s black sand beaches, are formed lava. Yep, those tiny sand crystals used to be flowing liquid fire! The lava cools into a hard, black, rocky substance.
Over time, the waves beat against the shore and break down the rocks into finer and finer sands, which eventually creates BEAUTIFUL black sand beaches for you to enjoy. Bring a towel and spend a few hours relaxing on this treasure!
Capt Andy’s Excursions
Day 4 on our Kauai adventure was our favorite day of all of them. Really it wasn’t very close, and it was all because of Capt Andy’s and the excursion we chose to do on Day 4.
We did the 6 hour rafting tour with Capt Andys, and loved every minute of it. We purposely waited to explore the Na Pali coast until after this excursion, since we knew we’d see the coast from the water on this adventure.
Plus, we wanted to ask our guides about the best places to explore the Na Pali Coast, since it is always best to get information from a local when you can!
The rafting tour starts with a cruise along the coast, passing Polihale Beach and (probably) seeing a pod of dolphins! We were lucky enough to see a pod of spinner dolphins on our tour!
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Apparently, these tours often see dolphins, as they are everywhere and love to jump and spin in the air, making them easy to spot! After cruising with our dolphin pals for a while, we took off for the Na Pali coast!
As you cruise by the Na Pali Coast on the raft expedition, your guide will take you to viewpoints of enormous waterfalls, including the 3,800 foot masterpiece that is the largest in Hawaii! In addition to waterfalls, you’ll explore a few incredible caves along the coast, including our favorite, the Open-Ceiling Sea Cave!
Once you’ve had your fill of caves and waterfalls, Capt Andy’s will take you to a beach along the coast where you will have lunch, learn about Hawaiian culture, and snorkel! We were lucky enough to spot some sea turtles swimming around even!
After lunch, there is short guided hike put on by one of the guides, where you will explore ruins from a native tribe and try some local fruit! And if you ask nicely, the guide may even show you a secret beach where sea turtles come up to hang out in the sun!
After all that adventure, it was time to cruise back to the harbor, where you have another chance to spot a pod of spinner dolphins! Our tour with Capt Andy’s was a top 3 tour we’ve ever done. It was such an incredible day of adventure, and a perfect introduction to the Na Pali Coast!
Things To Do at Na Pali Coast
Now we are ready for the BIG PAPI. The number 1 reason to visit Kauai. The Na Pali Coast! Yes, people, this is the place Jurassic Park used for the helicopter scene…
The Na Pali Coast is our favorite piece of land in all of the United States of America. Yeah I said it. Havasupai Falls will be mad at me for saying that but that’s okay, the Na Pali Coast is UNREAL.
The best way to explore the Na Pali Coast, other than by boat, is by hiking. So grab those hiking shoes you brought along and let’s get exploring!
We are starting with a bang. The Awa’awapuhi Trail is an INCREDIBLE way to see the Na Pali Coast. It was our favorite trail on the island, therefore we are listing it as the first thing you should do, depending on weather.
If you get a good weather day on your first day in the Na Pali Coast, do the Awa’awapuhi trail. If it is a bad weather day, try out the lookouts or the Waimea Canyon trail. Weather can change fast on this side of the Kauai, so maybe after a few hours the rain will have passed!
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The Awa’awapuhi Trail is a 6.4 mile round-trip trail that involves a descent of 1,500 feet. Of course, since you descend 1,500 feet to the end, you’ll have to ASCEND that on the way out, so be prepared!
Pack a picnic and enough water, and have a nice break at the end of the trail. The views are so good that you won’t want to leave, trust us.
After a hike through the forest, you’ll reach the coastal portion of the Awa’awapuhi Trail that looks straight out of Jurassic Park. Don’t worry, there aren’t any dinosaurs (that we know of…)!
The end of this trail is nothing short of SPECTACULAR. There is not a better view. Anywhere. A full panorama of green and red cliffs in incredible shapes along with the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean. Birds circling beneath you, clouds both above AND beneath you. There is nothing this viewpoint doesn’t have.
Honopu Ridge Trail
The Honopu Ridge is another wildly awesome trail on the Na Pali Coast. The trailhead is extremely close to the Awa’awapuhi Trailhead, however these trails are very different.
Awa’awapuhi is more heavily trafficked than Honopu Ridge, and there is a reason for that. The Honopu Ridge Trail is more difficult, though that means the trail is much less busy! You’ll have it all to yourself.
The Honopu Ridge Trail is 5 miles round-trip, and has a descent of about 1,500 feet one way. The trail itself is difficult, thick with the growth and a lot of trees and roots to duck under and step over. We would recommend wearing long pants for this hike, for if you don’t (like us) your legs will get scratched up by the scrubs pretty good.
However, once you break through the difficult portion of the trail, it opens up to an incredible viewpoint that is second only to the Awa’awapuhi trail. And you’ll be all alone at the overlook! Take some photos, have a picnic, get freaky, you do you!
In our opinion, the Honopu Ridge is a must for any avid hikers. If hiking isn’t your thing, you may not enjoy this trail, as it is difficult and will be slow-going. If you want a lookout without the hiking, there are 2 viewpoints for you to stop at: Kalalau and Pu’u O Kila!
Kalalau Lookout (and the Kalepa Ridge Trail)
Located right off Kokee Road, the Kalalu Lookout is a beautiful stop that overlooks the Na Pali Coast from above it all. Ideally, you’ll want to catch this viewpoint at a time when the clouds have broken.
If you get there and it is cloudy, give it a few minutes and the clouds may open up to reveal the beautiful mountains and coast below! The Kauai weather moves quickly, so give it some time.
The Kalalau Lookout, in addition to being a wonderful viewpoint, is a trailhead for the Kalepa Ridge Trail. This trail is advertised as being very difficult and has many steep drop-offs along the trail.
As a result, the trail is officially closed. However, if the rules don’t apply to you, then you can hop the fence and check out the trail for yourself! There is a ‘closed’ sign conveniently located directly at the entrance to the trail.
If you’re interested, check out what The Mandagies have to say about hiking the Kalepa Ridge Trail!
Pu’u O Kila Lookout
At the end of Kokee Road is another incredible lookout: Pu’u O Kila! This lookout is another must stop for anyone traveling through the Na Pali Coast, if only because it is a quick stop with a beautiful view. Low effort high reward!
There are a few trails you can take from Pu’u O Kila that are beautiful if you have the time! If not, then take a walk around the area and get your fill of the overlook, as this is the highest you will get on your Kauai adventure! After this, we are heading on down the road back to civilization.
We would be remiss to not mention the Kalalau Trail on this blog. We ourselves were unable to get permits this time, but we are going to do it in the future, definitely!
The trail is an absolute GRIND! 11 miles each way, and an elevation gain/loss of 7,000 feet! Again, you go 7,000 feet UP AND DOWN and 11 MILES LONG each way! That is just about the hardest hike we’ve ever heard of.
The reward at the end is the Kalalau Beach, where you’ll camp for a few days depending on the permit you get for your hike. You can do 1 day if you’d like, or stay for longer if you have the time!
The Kalalau is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. We will be back to do it without a doubt. Until then, check out Jess Dales’ adventure for tips and tricks.
Things To Do in Princeville
Princeville is located at the North end of the island, and is where we spent our last day on Kauai. Princeville is a high-end neighborhood, so you’ll probably have to shell out some coin to stay the night up here, but we decided to make it a day trip!
Even though we only had 1 day, we were still able to have quite the adventure in Princeville. This is home to 2 incredible sites: the Queen’s Bath and Turtle Cave!
Queen’s Bath is a tidepool that forms right along the northern coast of Kauai. There is a parking lot right at the trailhead, though you may have to wait for a spot to open up. Since the trail is so short, there will likely be a few people streaming out every few minutes!
The Queen’s Bath itself is a wonderful place to hang out for a few hours. You can swim in the bath, sunbathe along the shore, jump off the 10 foot cliff into the bath, and even snorkel! We must add it is only safe to swim here during low tide and when the surf report is under 4 foot waves. Be sure to do your research first so the timing of your visit works for some great swimming time. You are going to want to jump in!
Fish swim into this area during high tide, and when the tide recedes some get trapped for the day! Lucky for you, you can snorkel around and see these beautiful fish up close and personal.
We spent 3 hours or so hanging out and walking around the coast at the Queen’s Bath. This place alone was worth the drive up to the North part of the island.
Turtle Cave is located right near Queen’s Bath, and is only accessible at certain times of the day depending on the tides. The hike down to Turtle Cave involves some steep descents, use of ropes (already along the trail, don’t bring your own), and even a swim into the beach area.
However, it is worth it to catch a sight of some Green Sea Turtles! These beautiful creatures are all over Kauai, and being lucky enough to see a few of them is a magical experience. You can even try and ask how old they are!
That was a TON of adventure PACKED into a 7 day span, wasn’t it?? We had an absolutely incredible week exploring Kauai, and we are SO confident that you will have the time of your life!
However, there are still a few things you’ll need to know to maximize your adventure. First off, your packing list!
Kauai Packing List
You aren’t going to be naked for your whole week in Kauai, and you probably are going to want to take some pictures. Though if you do go naked, you probably won’t want a camera along…
I digress, let’s talk about what you are going to pack for your week in Kauai! First off, and most importantly, clothes.
You are going to want to bring along clothes for adventure AND clothes for relaxing during your week. Here was our packing list, which was more than enough!
- 5 Swimsuits
- 4 pairs Shorts
- 1 pair Pants
- 4 Tank Tops
- 2 T Shirts
- 1 Rain Jacket
- 1 Hat
- Hiking Boots/Shoes
- 6 pairs Socks
- 7 pairs Underwear
- 7 Bras
- 2 Dinner Outfits
- 3 pairs Swim Trunks
- 3 pairs Hiking Shorts
- 1 pair Pants
- 4 Tank Tops
- 2 T Shirts
- 1 Rain Jacket
- 1 Hat
- Hiking Boots/Shoes
- 6 pairs Socks
- 7 pairs Underwear
- 2 Dinner Outfits
Note: make sure you are okay with the sandals you bring getting wet. They WILL get wet.
Electronics & Cameras
Basically, all the electronics you bring should be what you are going to capture your adventure with. Kauai has some of the most beautiful scenes on earth, so bring at least 1 camera along!
For us, we love to get different perspectives. GoPros are the best way to get underwater shots, and our DJI Drone is our best way for getting an in-the-air-perspective!
- GoPro Dome
- DJI Drone
- All Charging Cords
Note: the GoPro Dome is how you get the half-above-half-below water pictures like this one!
You won’t need many miscellaneous items for your adventure, but MAKE SURE YOU BRING SUNSCREEN! And not just any sunscreen. Make sure it is reef safe as that is the only type of sunscreen Hawaii will allow you to use while swimming in their beautiful oceans. And for good reason! Also don’t forget aloe vera lotion for after the sun. That Hawaiian sun is HOT and BRIGHT, you have to protect your skin. Nothing worse than ruining a vacation by getting sun-sick or severely sunburned.
- Sunscreen – must be reef safe!
- Aloe Vera
- Day Backpack
- Water Bottles/Bladder
Where to Stay
Kauai is one of the most beautiful vacation destinations on earth. Because of this, some of the most beautiful resorts in the world choose to call Kauai home.
We hopped around to 3 different places during our time on the island, and loved each and every place we stayed at. What’s more? Each resort had something unique and special to offer to make our stay incredible!
We will tell you what made our stay so special at each place, so you can choose which is best for you! Or you can do like we did and hop around the island a few times!
Grand Hyatt Kauai
The Grand Hyatt Kauai is located right at the Southern tip of the island, and this place had it all. First off, let’s talk location. What are the 3 L’s of real estate? Location Location Location.
There are 2 huge benefits to staying at a resort on the Southern tip of the island. First, you will get a sight of both sunrise AND sunset. Hawaii is famous for having some of the most gorgeous sunrises and sunsets on earth, so you might as well experience as many of them as you can!
Second, being on the Southern tip of the island puts you right in driving distance of everything you want to do on the island! The Na Pali Coast is a pretty quick drive heading West, and Wailua is a pretty quick drive East! The Grand Hyatt Kauai is centrally located for all of the adventure you’ll have on Kauai.
On top of the great location are the amenities offered by Grand Hyatt Kauai, and OH MY GOODNESS are there amenities. There are over 5 acres of water on site here, including hot tubs, a lazy river, multiple swimming pools, a fountain pond, AND a sand-bottom pool!
Do you like swimming or laying out near the pool? Maybe you like laying out while your kids or significant other frolic around the pool? You’ll be in heaven at the Grand Hyatt.
This resort also has a prime beach a stone’s throw from your room. The beach itself is absolutely gorgeous, and is even a destination for some skim boarders and boogie boarders! When we were there, the red flags were up (meaning swim at your own risk) so we didn’t venture out too far in the ocean, but it was still an unbelievable site.
Right on the East side of that beach is also a super quick, but rewarding, hike that you can do! The hike is really nothing, takes about 10 minutes each way, but brings you to a cliff overlooking the ocean. And when you turn around, you’ll get a stunning view looking back at Kauai!
Of course, like every Hyatt hotel, the Grand Hyatt Kauai has beautiful rooms and excellent service. And as a bonus, you’ll even get a ‘lei’ upon your arrival at the hotel! You’ll absolutely love your stay here, guaranteed, should you choose to hang your hat at the Hyatt!
Waimea Plantation Cottages
The Waimea Plantation Cottages were an extremely cute place to stay, and we absolutely loved our time here. As the name suggests, when you book a stay here you get your own little cottage!
What comes in each cottage? Really everything you could ask for during your stay on Kauai! You’ll have a private bathroom with shower and tub, a full kitchen stocked with utensils, enough beds for your party, and a living room with a TV! Also, on-site there are free DVD rentals so you can catch a movie as you unwind in the evening!
The Waimea Plantation Cottages also has a TON of things to do on-site. There is a pool, multiple hammocks near the beach, an on-site barbecue restaurant (which serves free coffee every morning), and the Waimea Black Sand Beach!
Remember that black sand beach we talked about earlier? Well, these cottages are right on it! Just a quick walk to the coast and you are there. You can stroll to the beach and take in the beautiful Kauai sunset with the fine black sand between your toes.
The Waimea Plantation Cottages was a top-notch destination for us, and the fact that every room was a separate cottage was so unique and cool. And the people working on-site were so friendly to us, helping out with anything and everything we could have asked for during our stay!
Kauai Beach Resort
The Kauai Beach Resort was stay number 3 for us on the island, and of course this was a fantastic experience! This resort had an absolutely stunning pool area complete with waterfalls, a huge arch to swim under, and multiple hot tubs to soak in.
As the name suggests, this resort is right on the beach. Whether you love hanging at the beach or the pool, you will get your fill at the Kauai Beach Resort!
One big selling point for this resort is the proximity to the airport. If you want a place conveniently located near the airport, this is your jam. The negative is that you will have a bit of a drive to visit the Na Pali Coast.
On top of all of the on-site amenities, the Kauai Beach Resort has absolutely wonderful service. Everyone we interacted with had a big Hawaiian smile on their face and were happy to help us on our way!
There you have it folks, everything you need to know to have the adventure of a lifetime on the island of Kauai! A week absolutely PACKED with exploration and relaxation! If you loved this article, please use the below images to Pin It and save for later!
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