The Garden Island of Kauai is the oldest of the main inhabited Hawaiian Islands in the chain. There is no shortage of adventurous activities for the whole family to partake in across the unique and incredible natural environments that this island has to offer! From flying above the precipice of the 4,000-foot cliffs of the lush Na’Pali Coast to mountain tubing down waterways fed from the wettest place on the planet to hiking into Waimea Canyon that is known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Read on for some of the best adventures and outdoor activities on the island of Kauai!
Adventurous Things to Do on Kauai
Guest Post by Kelsie DiPerna
#1: Hike Waimea Canyon
Waimea Canyon, dubbed by Mark Twain the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” is a geographic marvel sure to impress. This spectacular canyon is splashed with red and green tones from the lush foliage, and red rock that lies beneath and is lined with waterfalls that fall from the 3,000ft cliffs. Stretching over 14 miles long and 1 mile wide, lookouts along the canyon walls offer views that stretch for miles into Kauai’s dramatic interior. To venture further into this natural environment, check out the many opportunities to hike into or around Waimea Canyon, such as the Cliff Trail or Waipo’o Falls. Private Waimea Canyon hiking tours are available too! It’s also one of the few places you may encounter native forest birds and listen to their songs.
#2: Explore the Na’Pali Coast
The Na’Pali Coast on the north shore of Kauai spans 17 miles and is one of the most extraordinary coastlines on the planet. The iconic landscape is characterized by the jagged ridgeline of emerald-colored mountains that give way to deep valleys, waterfalls, and the lush rainforest that proliferates.
One of the best ways to experience the Na’Pali Coast is via a helicopter tour that will take you above this dramatic landscape and up to the face of these cathedral-like cliffs and tumbling waterfalls.
Another great option is to take a Na’Pali Coast boat tour, departing from Port Allen on the west side of Kauai, to access the shoreline from the sea. The magnitude of the landscape and the rough, rugged shoreline is astounding.
#3: Snorkel the Forbidden Island of Ni’ihau
Access the remote and rugged shores of the “Forbidden Island” of Ni’ihau by boat to snorkel some of the most unique and untouched sites in all of Hawai’i! Boat tours to Ni’ihau will take you to Lehua Crater and the beautiful north shore of Ni’ihau to snorkel the crystal clear waters over colorful coral reefs home to an incredible array of marine life. Enjoy the incredible sights and landscapes that unfold both over and under the surface of the sea and learn about the natural history, people, and culture of the oldest of the inhabited islands in the Hawaiian chain. During the season, humpback whales are frequently seen in the channel crossing to Ni’ihau!
#4 Experience a Shamanic Nature Retreat
For those who are interested in shamanism, healing, or nature retreats on Kauai, you are in for a real treat. Join a retreat to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Garden Island while being guided through daily activities such as sound bath healing, qigong, shamanic teachings, indigenous wisdom, and hiking to incredible places rich with natural wisdom. Accommodation, meals, and activities are all included in the retreat price.
#5 Go Mountain Tubing
For one of the most incredible and unique experiences on Kauai, grab an inner tube to enjoy the phenomenon that is mountain tubing by floating down the waterways of the old Lihue sugar plantation! Float down the hand-carved flumes, tunnels, and waterways through this magnificent, remote landscape surrounded by towering mountains and the Waialeale Crater. The water that flows through this area is fed by Mount Waialeale, one of the wettest spots in the world! The experience is both relaxing and exciting and will make sure to entertain the whole family. Mountain tubing is one of the most popular tours on Kauai, so do make sure to book in advance.
#6 Take an Off-Road Adventure
Head to Kipu Ranch, a 3,000-acre private cattle ranch to explore the lush environments of Kauai. There are off-roading and 4X4 tours that traverse the beautiful ranch property, through the jungle, and waterfalls. Wildlife is abundant, and the landscape is rather diverse, with lush green pastures, tropical Hulei’a Valley and River, and up to the majestic Haupu lookout for a view of Kipu Kai, an untouched beach paradise only accessible on the overland tour. Geared towards movie buffs, you can see where scenes from many famous movies were filmed including Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Descendants.
Which activity sounds the most exciting to you? Let me know in the comments!
*Click here to see all my blog posts on Hawaii.
About the author:
Kelsie DiPerna is a biologist, photographer, and avid traveler that loves to write off-the-beaten-path travel tips and guides. Living amidst the natural beauty of Hawai’i sparked her to become a voice for sustainable tourism and nature conservation via creative media. Her work has been published by Lonely Planet, Animal Planet, Huffington Post, and Atlas Obscura.