Best Hiking in Kauai
Hike Kauai’s beautiful scenery, whether you’re a beginner or an expert. These hikes are all conveniently close to our Kauai vacation rentals!
Hiking in Kauai offers stunning, unspoiled views that aren’t accessible by any other means. Roughly 75% of the island is not accessible by car so if you want to see it, you’ll need to put on your walking shoes, climb on a horse, board a boat, or brave a helicopter tour. Hiking is free! Below are some of our favorite choices.
Kauai West Side Hikes
Waimea Canyon is in the southwest part of Kauai, above Waimea. It is nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” and is crisscrossed with numerous hiking trails. The first stop is a very brief walk from parking to the scenic viewpoint. The view point is handicap accessible. The Kukui Trail is challenging – 2.5 miles each way, dropping more than 2,000 feet in elevation. A camping area awaits you at the bottom. There’s a brief loop at the beginning of the trail, less than half a mile long, that’s perfect if you want to take a walk without embarking on an all-out commitment to the entire trail. This is a pleasant little drive from our Poipu vacation rentals. It will take you longer from other parts of the island, but is worth the drive!
Kauai North Shore Hikes
The Napali Coast is a 17 mile stretch along Kauai’s North Shore, accessible via the Kalalau Trail. “Pali” means “cliff,” and the area is aptly named, as it’s filled with deep narrow valleys, some of which still boast stone walled terraces where taro was once cultivated. Day hiking is available here. The Hanakapi’ai Valley is two miles from the trailhead, and is as far as you may go without a camping permit. Hiking the entire trail requires overnight camping and a permit from the state.
While helicopter and boat tours provide astonishing views of this exceptional and unique area, the only way to experience it directly is on foot. Camping permits are in high demand. If you’d like to hike past Hanakapi’ai and camp, be sure to request your permit as far in advance as possible because they’ll sell out months in advance. The entire hike is 11 miles each way and high difficulty. Permit information is here. This is a brief drive from any of our North Shore Kauai vacation rentals, especially the Hanalei Colony Resort.
Kauai East Shore Hikes
The Nounou (Sleeping Giant) Trail is actually two convergent trails. They start at different spots but end up in the same place. Depending on which trailhead you pick, you’ll have between a 4-mile and 5-mile round trip hike. It’s a moderately difficult hike that will take you through guava groves and lava outcroppings on your way to the picnic area at the top with its breathtaking view of Mount Waialeale.
Along the path, you’ll enjoy views of Kapa’a and Waipouli, and farther on of Kalepa Ridge and Wailua Bay. There are no facilities available on this trail. Be sure to take water with you, in addition to your picnic lunch and plenty of sunscreen. If you want an easier hike, the three-mile round trip on the Nounou West trail is mostly shady and not so strenuous. You’ll still need to bring your own food and water. Trailheads are conveniently close to our East Shore Kauai vacation rentals at Wailua Bay View and Islander on the Beach.
Kauai South Shore Hikes
Mahaulepu Heritage Trail is a beautiful coastal two mile long trail on the south shore in Poipu, and it runs from Shipwreck Beach to Maha’ulepu Beach (next to Poipu Bay Golf Course). You can hike the entire trail from Keoniloa Bay (Shipwreck Beach) to Kawailoa Bay, or pick it up in a number of spots along the way if you just want to walk a portion of the route. Enjoy unique formations like sand dunes, limestone pinnacles, petroglyphs, even an ancient heiau. In the winter months, you may be fortunate enough to see humpback whales breaching, as they pause to frolic in the island’s warm waters on their migration from the cooler Alaskan waters.