I recently returned from a weeklong vacation in Kauai, the fourth largest Hawaiian island. I thought it might be helpful to share my 5-day itinerary that centers around me and my boyfriend’s interests which include hiking, sunshine and good food. I’m really happy with how the trip went, we fit in a ton of activities but also had time to relax. Here’s how I would recommend spending your time in Kauai:
Day 1: Beach Day in Princeville and Hanalei
Princeville is in a beautiful, more jungly area of the island. We rented a unit at the Wyndam so we used our first day to get accustomed to the time change and explore the area.
If you’re looking for a healthy way to start your day, The Spot in Princeville offers delicious acaii bowls and other hot breakfast options.
There are a ton of beaches on the north shore, each as beautiful as the next. Most of them do require a short, steep hike to reach the ocean. I would highly recommend Secret Beach because it’s surrounded by dense trees, cliffs and rocks instead of houses and golf courses.
You can see the Kilauea Lighthouse watching over Secret Beach. The lighthouse and surrounding are is also a wildlife refuge. The cliffs and grassy slopes of a dormant volcano provide a breeding ground for many Hawaiian seabirds.
Another natural attraction in Princeville is Queen’s Bath. It’s a tide pool in the rocky shoreline. On calmer days, people wade into the pool but we visited in the winter when the surf tends to be extremely high. We really enjoyed watching the huge waves crash into the rocks. But use caution! Every year, people lose their lives to these waves.
Day 2: Scenic drive through Waimea Canyon
Waimea Canyon, also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, is located on the western side of Kauai. Starting in the town of Waimea, a 2-mile scenic drive will take you through Waimea Canyon State Park and Koke’e State Park. There are tons of scenic overlooks and hiking trailheads.
I highly recommend the Canyon Trail to Waipo’o Falls. It’s takes you to the top of the 800 foot waterfall!
It’s incredible that a canyon of this size exists on such a relatively tiny island. I have a full post with lots of photos from our day in Waimea Canyon, click here to check it out!
Day 3: Hiking Sleeping Giant and Ho’opi’i Falls
If you’re looking for accessible and relatively short hikes there are two fairly close to each other on the east side of Kauai.
Looking to get some good views from a mountaintop? Sleeping Giant is a heavily trafficked out-and-back trail that takes you up above Wailua.
Are waterfalls more your style? The hike to Ho’opi’i Falls is flat and easy and you get to see two sets of falls. You can even jump in and swim if you’d like.
I recommend doing both! The trailheads about only about a 15 minute drive apart. You can read about the full experience of both these hikes here.
End your hiking day with a snack by grabbing fresh caught fish tacos from the Al Pastor Taco Truck in Kapa’a. Or if you are more of a sweet tooth, Island Craves Kauai has one of the best apple fritters I’ve ever eaten, and they are open until 8:30pm!
Day 4: Napali Coast Tour
The Napali Coast is one of the most iconic and unique parts of Kauai. The mountainous shoreline spans 17 miles along the west side of the island. There are a number of ways to explore the coast but by air and sea offer the best views.
There are tons of tour options. Aerial tours leave out of Lihue Airport and boat tours out of Port Allen. Winter is humpback whale migration season so we decided to book a catamaran excursion through Captain Andy’s Sailing Adventures based on a recommendation from a friend. Our tour was 6 hours long and included snorkeling, whale watching, views of the Napali Coast and a snack. There were about 50 people on our catamaran but they also offer whale watching tours on rafts that are much smaller.
We encountered a ton of sea life! There was a sea turtle where we snorkeled, an extremely rare monk seal sighting, spinner dolphins, bottle nose dolphins and of course, humpback whales.
Unfortunately by the time we made it to the far reaches of the Napali Coast, Glenn and I were both extremely sea sick. The waves were the biggest I’ve ever experiences and the catamaran got rocked. Pro tip: Wear motion sickness patches or take motion sickness medication before the trip. I may or may not have thrown up off the back of the catamaran and it may or may not have been the second time that’s happened in my life. It was after the fact that I realized almost everyone else on the boat was wearing motion sickness patches. You live and you learn!
Day 5: Hiking Ha’ena State Park
Ha’ena State Park is located on the north side of the island and offers another way to explore the Napali Coast, this time on foot. The Kalalau Trail is an 11-mile trail that hugs the Napali Coast. Permits are required to hike the trail and reservations must be made in advance.
We made our reservations about a month in advance and booked shuttle passes as well. The shuttle leaves every 30-minutes but passes do sell out so plan ahead.
We did the 9.1 mile out-and-back hike to Hanakapi’ai Falls. It is a difficult hike but so worth it! At the end of the trail, you’ll reach a 300-foot tall waterfall that you can swim under! Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Check out my full post for videos and more details about this epic hike.
After the long, difficult hike, you should reward yourself with a Mai Tai and coconut shrimp at Tahini Nui in Hanalei. It has been a family operated restaurant since 1963!
That’s pretty much everything I fit into a five day stay on Kauai. We used our down time each day to lay on a beach or grab a snack. I would love to check out the other Hawaiian islands but Kauai is definitely one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.
Thanks for stopping by! Cheers!