Visit The Spouting Horn Blowhole
Spouting Horn Park is worth a quick stop to see the blowhole of water spouting out from the rocks in the ocean. The sound is otherworldly, like an enraged Hawaiian god.
This was my favourite running destination from Kiahuna following the coast and there are toilets and a water fountain at the blowhole.
Spend The Day In Hanalei
Located on the North Shore, Hanalei is a small town known for its laidback vibe and as a fantastic surfing destination.
The 1.6-mile beach runs against a backdrop of green mountains, and the waves are nothing short of spectacular.
Small shops and food trucks sell local cuisine, and there is a farmers’ market every Saturday morning.
Hanalei Bay And Hanalei Valley Lookout
Hanlalei Bay is the largest bay on Kauai’s northern shore and a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. It is incredibly scenic, too, with a perfect crescent shape and a backdrop of fields and mountains. The view of the bay is lovely, especially in the summer months when colorful sailboats fill the water.
There is a long pier on the eastern end of the bay, and this area is the best place for swimming. There are a total of two miles of beach along the bay, with Waioli Beach Park located in the center. This is where you will find rest and shower facilities lifeguards aren’t officially stationed here, but they may be present during peak times. Visit during the week to avoid the crowds.
The Hanalei Valley Lookout sits just east of Halalei Bay, at the edge of the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge along Kuhio Highway . The west-facing view encompasses green slopes filled with taro crops, the Hanalei River, and finally Hanalei Bay. It also provides excellent views of the surrounding mountains and is a great spot to watch the sun set.
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Where To Stay In Kauai
While you could do everything on this list from one base, we chose to divide our 11 days on Kauai between Poipu on the south shore and Princeville on the north shore to avoid long drives. This worked really well for us.
See my post on where to stay in Kauai for the differences between each coast, an overview of the types of accommodation on the island, and detailed reviews of our favourite places.
Here is where we stayed:
Kiahuna Plantation Resort in Poipu on the South Shore
Of everywhere we stayed in Hawaii, Kiahuna Plantation is the place we most want to return to for an extended stay.
We loved the beachfront location on Kiahuna Beach , the beautiful gardens and lush lawns, and our comfortable, well-equipped condo with ocean views from the balcony.
The location was convenient for many of the Kauai activities on this list and there were restaurants and shops just across the road.
Hanalei Bay Resort in Princeville on the North Shore
Although we stayed in a one-bedroom apartment with kitchen, Hanalei Bay Resort felt more like a typical resort and it was fun to have that experience.
Theres a gorgeous tropical pool with swim-up bar , a large jacuzzi under a waterfall, live music every afternoon by the pool and in the evenings at the main bar, and lots of facilities including multiple tennis courts.
Take A Dip In The Queens Bath
The Queens Bath is a unique tide pool in the North Shore Kauai. Its technically a sinkhole, with igneous rock surrounding it. Here, the water is semi-protected from the Pacific Ocean waves.
In the summer months of Kauai the tidal pools water is relatively calm, but during the cooler months the ocean waves can crash into the pool, making it pretty dangerous.
Take caution when visiting here. Check the surf report the day of your visit, and try going during low tide for the best chance for a swim.
There are tons of warning signs on the way down to these tide pools just use your best judgment when deciding to get in. Swim or no swim, the pools are beautiful to see!
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See The Turtles And Seals At Poipu Beach
There are many beautiful spots in Kauai for wildlife lovers, but one of the top locations is Poipu Beach.
At this beach, you will have the chance to see green sea turtles and monk seals. However, you mustn’t get too close to them or touch them, as they are protected by Hawaiian law.
Address: Hoona Rd, Poipu, Kauai, HI 96756
Secret Beaches Of Kauai
As much as I’m all about the adventure, let’s be honest, Kauai is a place to relax and soak in some sun. What I love about Kauai is just how the beaches here aren’t all the kind where you drive your car up to the parking lot and the beach is right there. No, in Kauai, you need to do your research or you need to be with a local. Especially up in the North near Hanalei and Princeville, every other beach seems to be a secret beach. They’re never marked, there is barely any parking, and you have to hike down a seemingly treacherous path.
So why go through the trouble of going to a hidden beach than to go to one of the easy-to-access public beaches? The main advantage of these beaches are that they’re completely secluded. While it’s not as secret as it was before the internet came along, you’re going to be dealing with less crowds and will be by its nature more peaceful than the non-secret types.
You’ll notice most of the best beaches are actually located in Princeville which is why I recommend staying there as opposed to on the south end.
Located in Princeville, this was one of the beaches we went to because of it’s close proximity to the house rental we had. When I looked this up online, there weren’t many clear instructions to get there and when we walked to the area it was still almost impossible to find but luckily a local pointed us in the right direction.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
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Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail In Poipu
As the last stretch of undeveloped coastline on the south shore, this heritage trail is both special in that locals have fought hard to preserve these areas and also that it’s so unique with its sand-dune cliffs and limestone formations compared to the more jungly and rainforest hikes that you find on the rest of the island. This hike is one where you can go as far as you want and turn back but it is 2 miles in each direction and is classified as Easy.
What’s really different about this trail is that a good part of it is a sand dune. Sure it makes it your steps a little bit more challenging but take that and the backdrop of the crashing ocean into sharp limestone cliffs that is something that feels quite unusual on a island like Kauai that is known for it’s dense rainforest and mountainous ridges.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Best time to go: Good to hike at any time. I’d recommend doing this in the morning or late afternoon because there isn’t much cover along the way.
How long does it take?: I definitely recommend doing this hike as you explore the Poipu area. The full hike can be done in 3 hours round trip but you can turn back at anytime so I’d say you can do most of the best parts of the hike in 2 hours.
Tips: The sand dunes are well very sandy so if you feel that your shoes are going to get full of sand quickly. Again, I’d recommend something like the Keen H2 Newport Sandals so it can freely flow in and out while still providing excellent traction.
Travelling In A Large Group
One of the big differences for my latest trip to Kauai is that I was there with a large group. Doing the math, it didn’t make sense for each couple in the group to book a hotel. As a result, I started looking at my favourite home sharing site Homeaway .
With a group of 12, I was laughing my way through my search because even though properties in Princeville were at least $500 a night, we were still talking about $60 USD per person per night.
The property we had was this beautiful house in Princeville and it was the perfect place for all of us to situate ourselves in Kauai and I daresay may have been an even better than when we moved over to the Princeville Resort .
You’re probably think I’m crazy for saying so.
Now I’m not saying that the St. Regis Princeville isn’t nice. In fact, it’s an incredible resort with top notch service and impressive rooms with bar none some of the best views of Hanalei Bay. It’s really nice. All that said though, it’s kind of nice to be with a bunch of friends under one roof with the ability to just hang out in a living room to just chat or play boardgames. The house also had the added benefit of having its own BBQ, the ability to cook your own breakfast in the morning, brew your own pot of coffee, and do a little suntanning in the backyard. It’s a pretty sweet deal.
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Visit Waimea Canyon State Park
Location: West Kauai
Waimea Canyon, a 10-mile long canyon that is located on the west side of Kauai, is also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Its not nearly as awe-inspiring as the Grand Canyon in Arizona, but it is still quite impressive to see.
State Highway 550 runs through the heart of Waimea Canyon State Park. This is a very scenic drive, as you head up into the mountains with the chance to stop at overlooks along the way.
Here are the best things to do along the drive through Waimea Canyon:
Waimea Canyon Lookout
From this lookout, you get one of the best views of Waimea Canyon.
Waimea Canyon Lookout
Waipoo Falls Lookout
This underrated viewpoint is worth the quick stop. You will have to park on the west side of the road and cross the street for this view :
Puu Hinahina Lookout
From the Puu Hinahina Lookout you have a nice view of the canyon and you can see part of the Waipoo Falls Trail.
Puu Hinahina Lookout
Hike the Canyon Trail
This trail starts next to the Puu Hinahina Lookout. Its a steep descent on a rough dirt trail for about a quarter of a mile before leveling out. You can take the detour to the Cliff View Point or continue on to Waipoo Falls . Just note that this trail takes you to the top of Waipoo Fallsyou wont get to see the waterfall head on.
View from the Cliff Trail
Explore Kauais Epic Waterfalls
While most waterfalls in Kauai are unreachable , there is a generous handful of stunning falls that are accessible for different levels of adventure.
Some waterfalls are easy to get to, like Opaekaa Falls and Wailua Falls. Some require extra effort, like Secret Falls , and others require extreme efforts like the journey to Hanakapaia Falls or the Blue Hole of Mt. Waialeale.
You can also see many inaccessible falls if you take a Kauai helicopter tour. Most of the islands waterfalls are found in the deep crevices of the aging mountains, all sourced from rainfall!
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Sail Around The Na Pali Coast
One of the crown jewels of Kauai is the beautiful Na Pali coast, located in the Northwest corner of the island. There are no access roads to the coastline, so the only way to visit these beautiful shores is by boat or by hiking in.
There are several catamarans, sailing, snorkeling, and diving companies that will take you on a tour up and down the coast!
Blue Dolphin Charters has many tour options to pick from and can cater everyone from families to adrenaline junkies. The adventure is yours to choose!
See Birds And Coastal Views From Kilauea Lighthouse
Since July 2020 you now must book your visit in advance and its only open Thursday to Saturday from 10 am until 4 pm.
The Kilauea Lighthouse is located on a rocky peninsula with fantastic views along the coast. Its a wildlife refuge and you can see many seabirds including the red-footed booby, red-tailed tropicbird, lawson albatross, and great frigatebird.
You can borrow binoculars for free from the information centre and get a close-up view of the birds and even whales in the winter. You cant go inside the lighthouseits more about enjoying the views and wildlife, although you can read about its history.
We visited at midday and had to wait a while for a parking spaceits quieter later in the day. The $10 entrance fee felt quite expensive for a quick stop, but it goes towards protecting the birds so its a good cause.
It close to Secret Beach so you could combine a visit.
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Sunbathe At Poipu Beach
Listed as the Travel Channels Top 10 Beaches In The World, Poipu Beach sits on the islands south side. Nicknamed the sunny side of paradise, this is a haven for aquatic wildlife like seals, whales, dolphins, and giant sea turtles.
On an island with mostly rocky beaches, Poipu Beach welcomes sunbathers with its sandy shores. Poipu actually consists of two beaches, split in the middle by a narrow sand bar. To the left: calm, shallow waters offer a spot ideal for families with kids. Small swells to the right side invite body boarders and beginner surfers to hit the waves.
The west facing beaches give perfect views of the sunset over the water. Rent a surfboard or snorkel for the day. You might even catch one of the beach natives: a Hawaiian monk seal.
Poipu Beach Surf Lessons
Where To Stay Near Hanalei And Princeville Kauai
If you are reading this post, you are probably already planning a trip to Kauai!
Personally, we think some of the best hotels in Kauai are located in Princeville and Hanalei of Kauai on the north shore. Youll find that this area has the lush and remote-feeling locations, and tons of privacy for a relaxing trip to Kauai.
Perfect for honeymooners, couples, and people who want to relax by the beach all day.
Here are our thoughts on the best places to stay on Kauai in the north shore!
Affordable: Airbnbs in Princeville and Hanalei.
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Bike At Waimea Canyon State Park
Waimea Canyon State Park is one of the most visited Kauai landmarks. There are many ways to explore this beautiful park, thats known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.
Along with hiking or taking a helicopter tour over the Canyon, a bike tour offers the ideal way to see Waimea Canyon State Park. You will be provided with a bike and can follow a selection of trails that will offer incredible views of the canyon and Kekaha Beach.
Hawaii is home to many amazing marine creatures. One popular sea species to see in the state is humpback whales. When visiting Kauai, you are likely to see these gentle giants in the waters surrounding the island.
To guarantee a humpback whale sighting, go on a whale watching tour. A fun one to try is a Catamaran Cocktail Whale Watching tour. Once aboard, you can enjoy wine, beer, and cocktails while you sail to spots known to be home to whales.
Explore The Wailua River Valley
TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre
A trip up the Wailua River Valley either by boat or kayak is a must for any first-time visitor to Kauai. The valley has been used to film such films as Outbreak and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” A boat trip takes you to the Fern Grotto which has recently been restored after years of neglect. A kayak trip can take you even further on Hawaii’s only navigable river.
The boat captain narrates the ride along the river pointing out points of interest, describing the flora a fauna along the river’s banks and relating tales of the significance of the river and surrounding areas to early Hawaiians.
Guests arrive at the grotto area in less than 30 minutes and the make the short walk through the rainforest to the Fern Grotto area itself where they encounter a small group of entertainers who perform the Hawaiian Wedding Song, a long tradition in at the Fern Grotto. Over 19,000 weddings have taken place at the Grotto. Even today four or five take place each week.
As is a long tradition with Smith’s, the return trip down the river features live Hawaiian music and hula dancers.
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Shop And Eat At Warehouse 3540
Warehouse 3540 is a cool warehouse of artisan stalls selling locally made clothes, jewellery and art with some tasty food trucks outside.
Its a little off the beaten track away from the towns, but its only a 10 minute drive from Poipu and is well worth a stop when youre driving along the south coast.
We enjoyed a vegan tofu poke at Kauai Poke Co and excellent coffee at Dark Roost. They also host a farmers market on Friday mornings .
Hang Out At Polihale State Park
Polihale State Park is a remote beach, and exploring this tranquil oasis is one of the must-do things in Kauai. The beach also sits on the most western point of Hawaii that is accessible to the public.
When visiting Polihale State Park, you can enjoy the ocean views and relax on the sand. Due to strong currents, swimming here isnt recommended, and you will need to walk a little way from the parking area to access the beach.
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