There are many great hikes to choose from on the Garden Island of Kauai. Here are five great day hikes suitable for those who want to spend a morning or afternoon enjoying the remarkable scenery and verdant beauty of the island.
1. Kee Beach to Hanakapiai Valley on the Na Pali Coast
One of Kauai’s most popular day hikes, this coastal trail along the Na Pali Coast will reward you with great views of a rugged and remote shoreline on the northwest side of the island.
The hike is four miles round trip, and when you reach Hanakapiai Valley two miles in you have the option of hiking another two more miles, up the valley along the stream, to the spectacular cascade of Hanakapiai waterfall. Hiking up to the waterfall extends the hike to 8 miles round trip, and the trail up the valley is much more rigorous than the first two miles to the valley, but well worth the journey if you’re feeling energetic.
Swimming at Hanakapiai Beach is not recommended due to potentially dangerous currents, though when you finish the hike you will be back at Kee Beach which is a lifeguarded beach with a protected lagoon area for swimming and snorkeling, and incidentally this is one of Kauai’s finest beaches. Just down the road from Kee is Tunnels (Makua Beach) which has some of the island’s best snorkeling.
2. Awaawapuhi Trail in Kokee State Park
Stunning vistas await you on this high mountain trail on Kauai’s west side in Kokee State Park. The trail descends about 1,600 feet to a lookout about 2,500 feet above sea level providing great views into both Awaawapuhi and Nualolo valleys of the Na Pali Coast, a landscape of spired pinnacles and furrowed cliffs that you will never forget.
Marked plants along the Awaawapuhi Trail help you learn about Kauai’s native flora. If this interests you then you may want to stop in at the Kokee Museum before your hike and pick up the Awaawapuhi Botanical Trail Guide. The hike is 6.4 miles overall (3.2 each way).
3. Hike to the Top of Waipo Falls in Waimea Canyon
This hike leads from the upper rim of Waimea Canyon down to Waipoo Falls which cascades 800 feet into the canyon. Great views along the way give you a unique perspective on this region. The trail leads to a lovely pool atop the falls surrounded by fragrant awapuhi ginger plants. A protected area along the stream provides a nice area for a refreshing dip in the water.
This is a great family hike, about 3.6 miles in all and only moderately difficult. When you are done you can drive up into Kokee State Park and gaze over the Na Pali Coast from the Kalalau Lookout which provides another unforgettable view of the Na Pali’s furrowed cliffs and peaks rising steeply up from the blue Pacific.
4. Sleeping Giant Hike on Nounou Mountain
This is a moderately difficult hike about 4 miles round trip and takes you to the top of one the east side’s most prominent peaks. The forested trail begins at an elevation of about 200 feet and climbs to the peak at 1,300 feet where you can take in panoramic views inland toward Mt. Waialeale – known as “the wettest spot on Earth” – as well as seaward over Kapaa and Wailua with the blue Pacific beyond.
When you are passing through Kapaa town before or after the hike take a moment to notice the view of Nounou Mountain (to the west) and its upper profile which resembles, you guessed it, a sleeping giant!
5. Mahaulepu Heritage Trail Along Southern Coastline
This scenic coastal hike along one of the south shore’s last undeveloped areas is relatively easy and about four miles round trip. The hike begins on the sand dune cliffs near Shipwreck Beach and leads to rocky inlets, tidepools and unique limestone, sandstone and lava formations.
Keep an eye out for sea turtles as well as Hawaiian monk seals, and during the winter months humpback whales often pass by offshore. Swimming is not recommended at Mahaulepu Beach due to currents though it’s great for beachcombing and enjoying the scenery and wide variety of terrain. Mahaulepu is one of Kauai’s hidden treasures and great way to spend the morning, when it will typically be a little less windy than the afternoon.
Planning Your Kauai Vacation
Next time you start planning for a family vacation in Hawaii, consider Kauai as your destination. Hawaiian Beach Rentals offers exceptional Kauai accommodations. Browse our site or talk to a live, local agent at 800-853-0787.