Backpackers Guide to Kauai – Hawaii

Free Activities on Kauai

Kauai is an island of Hawaii, known as the Garden Isle. The island offers an endless supply of natural beauty and sightseeing opportunities. The diversity in landscapes is most appreciated by adventurous types and outdoor enthusiasts.

Things to do on Kauai

There are literally SOOO many things to do on Kauai, you will NEVER get bored. There are many free things to do on Kauai, and if you are looking to get adventurous, you will also find many adventure packed things to do. These are the best things to do on Kauai.

Hike Kalalau trail along the Na Pali Coast

The Kalalau Trail follows the Na Pali Coast for 11 miles going up and down through the valleys. For the avid adventurers, you can take a tent and some supplies and camp at Kalalau Beach, at the end of the trail.

There are also options for the less experienced hikers. The first 2 miles of the trail leads to Hanakapiai Beach and gives hikers a taste of what is to come. From Hanakapiai Beach hikers can choose to go inland for 2 more miles, which leads to Hanakapiai Falls or can continue along the Kalalau trail. Hanakapiai Falls is well worth the extra 4 miles (round trip).

Free things to do on Kauai
Things to do on Kauai

Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon is often called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. Along the road into Waimea Canyon, there are several lookouts and viewpoints where you can stop and admire or photograph the canyon. Waimea Canyon lookout is the most popular. Experienced hikers can hike into the valley or down to the waterfall.

Things to do on Kauai

Kalalau Valley Lookout

The Kalalau Valley Lookout is the islands most iconic postcard view and for good reason. The Kalalua Valley is completely undeveloped, and accessible only by foot. The valley gives visitors a glimpse of the famed ridges of the Na Pali cliffs against the Pacific Ocean. The lookout is at the very end of the road, past Waimea Canyon.

Things to do on Kauai

Poipu Beach

Poipu Beach is ranked as Kauai’s number 1 beach, so if you want a relaxing beach day, this is where you should go. Poipu’s Spouting Horn, an active blowhole is worth checking out when you are in the area. Or if you’re looking for an adventure packed day at Poipu beach, you can book snorkelling, scuba diving and zip lining tours.

 Backpackers Guide to Kauai - Hawaii

Wailua Falls

An amazing 173ft waterfall found 10 minutes north of Lihue. There is a lookout from the top, but the more adventurous travellers can venture to the bottom for a swim under the falls.

Things to do on Kauai

Kilauea Lighthouse

The picturesque lighthouse sits high on the edge of the cliff and is worth the pit stop for a quick photo. Access to the lighthouse is $5, but free parking and photo opportunities await at the entrance. The area around the lighthouse is home to thousands of native seabirds.

Things to do on Kauai

Wailua River Tours and Fern Grotto

Fern Grotto is one of the most popular spots on the garden isle, accessible only by boat. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it there but have heard many great things.

Backpackers Guide to Kauai - Hawaii

Opaeka Falls

Located along the road that follows Wailua River into the valley. There is a lookout where you can stop to take a quick photo of the falls.

Take a helicopter tour of the Na Pali Coast

Get unmatched views of the famous Na Pali Coastline from the sky.

Backpackers Guide to Kauai - Hawaii

Snorkel or Scuba Dive off the Island of Kauai

Kauai offers world class diving conditions.

Learn to surf or stand up paddle board 

You can’t visit Hawaii and not learn to surf, right? On Kauai you can get a surf lesson, or if you prefer you can try stand up paddle boarding. The warm tropical waters make it a perfect destination to try it out.

Whale and dolphin watching tours

Kauai is the perfect whale and dolphin watching destination. Not only will you spot whales and dolphins around the island, you will also get amazing views of the famous coastlines surrounding the island.

Zip lining

Zip through the sky on a heart-racing Hawaii Zipline Adventure, the ideal outdoor experience for any fun-loving thrill-seeker.

Sunset dinner and cocktail cruises

End a perfect day with a romantic sunset cruise around the island. The sunset cruises have dinner or drink options.

Kayaking

Some of Hawaii’s most gorgeous views are accessible only by canoe or kayak, so don’t miss out! Fern Grotto is one spot only accessible by kayak.

Horse riding

An exciting way to explore the valleys, beaches and forests of Kauai.

ATV and 4WD off-roading tours

My personal all-time favourite activity, guaranteed to get your heart pumping.

Book a tour on Kauai

Climate in Kauai

The temperature in Kauai is consistent year-round, averaging around 25 degrees Celsius (75°F). June till August has the least rainfall but is the busier period so prices are higher at this time.

Recommended trip length

I recommend visiting Kauai for 4 – 5 nights. You could explore the entire Island within 4 days, but then again you could spend 2 weeks or even 2 months doing it at a slower pace, it depends on how much time you have.

Getting to Kauai

The only way to get to Kauai is on a flight. From Honolulu, you would fly to Lihue airport. The cheapest airline is Island Air.

Once on Kauai, I recommend hiring a car from the airport as the most beautiful places on the island are not accessible by public transport. If this isn’t an option for you, Kauai does have a public transport system that you can use to get to most places.

Places to stay on Kauai

There are two towns in particular that I recommend for backpackers on Kauai.

Kapaa

Kapaa is the cutest coastal town on the island of Kauai, and my favourite place to stay. Kapaa is halfway between Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali Coastline so a great place to position yourself if you plan to be in between these two areas. Backpackers can choose between Kauai International Hostel and Kauai Beach House Hostel.

Hanelili

Another cute coastal town located close to the Na Pali coast. Hanelili is a smaller town than Kapaa, offering quieter and more pristine beaches with an abundance of water-based activities to choose from. Haneleli is a great location to stay if you plan to hike the Na Pali Coastline. Unfortunately, there are no hostels in this town.

Search for accommodation on Kauai

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Travel Insurance for Kauai

Travel insurance is a necessity when backpacking to Kauai. I recommend World Nomads.  If you are still unsure if you should buy travel insurance or not, read this. 

Packing for a trip to Kauai

Some essentials I recommend packing for Kauai are:

  • Swimmers and a towel
  • Reef safe sunscreen
  • A good book
  • A snorkel
  • Hiking Shoes and clothes
  • Insect Repellant

Overseas Travel Checklist

See more from Hawaii here.

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Disclosure: This post on things to do on Kauai contains affiliate links.

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