Backpackers Guide to Kauai – Hawaii

Free Activities on Kauai

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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 for adventurous types

Take a helicopter tour of the Na Pali Coast – Get unmatched views of the famous Na Pali Coastline from the sky.

Snorkel or Scuba Dive off the Island of Kauai

Learn to surf or stand up paddleboard 

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.

Ziplining – 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!

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.

Free Things to do on Kauai

Hike Kalalau trail along the Na Pali Coast- By far one of the most scenic hiking trails I have ever taken. The Kalalau Trail follows the Na Pali Coast for 11 miles going up and down through the valleys. 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 – Often called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. Along the road in there are several lookouts and places to stop to view the canyon. Waimea Canyon lookout is the most popular. Experienced hikers can hike into the valley or down to the waterfall. Book a tour to Waimea Canyon here. 

Things to do on Kauai

Kalalua Valley Lookout –The Kalalua 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 – Ranked Kauai’s number 1 beach and for good reason. If you’re going to have a relaxing beach day, head to Poipu. You could check out Poipu’s Spouting Horn, an active blowhole or if you’re looking for an adventure packed day at Poipu beach, you can book snorkelling, scuba diving and zip lining tours.

Wailua Falls- An amazing 173ft waterfall 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.

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.


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

Getting to Kauai

The only way to get to Kauai is on a flight. From Honolulu, you would fly into Lihue airport. I suggest hiring a car as the most beautiful places on the island are not accessible by public transport.

Places to stay on Kauai

Kapaa – 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 cheap accommodation options here.

See more from Hawaii here.

Book a tour on Kauai

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

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