Almost circular in shape, with a lush picture-perfect landscape of tropical rainforest, towered cliffs and more than 60 stunning white-sand beaches, Kauai is renowned as one of the world’s most idyllic islands – perfect for a romantic honeymoon holiday.
Formed more than six million years ago by volcanoes, the primal landscape of Hawaii’s oldest island has been captured in many movie scenes including King Kong, Raiders of the Lost Ark, South Pacific and Jurassic Park.
A state law decrees that no building on the island may exceed the height of a coconut tree, which means there are no high rises, no sprawling urban centres, no enormous shopping malls and not even a four-lane highway.
Instead, expect to stroll among a profusion of native ferns, birds of paradise, hibiscus and colourful bougainvillea.
Kauai is also home to Mount Waialeale, whose summit, rarely seen as it is usually shrouded in clouds, is known to be the wettest spot on earth.
Kauai offers honeymoon couples a choice of must-see attractions on this scenic island famous for its natural beauty, including…
Waimea Canyon – Known as the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’, this scenic, 16km-long, 1.6m-wide canyon offers a choice of several hiking trails through the 755ha Waimea Canyon State Park.
Hike past stunning waterfalls and alongside exposed red-coloured lava flows and blue-green valleys or take a scenic drive along Waimea Canyon Drive to either Puu ka Pele or Puu Hinahina lookouts for stunning panoramas over the 900m-deep canyon.
From here it’s a short drive to Kokee State Park. Alternatively, swoop through the canyon in a helicopter for a bird’s-eye view.
Kokee State Park – Discover a new climatic zone in the cloud forest on the edge of Alakai Swamp set atop the Kauai plateau. Fly fish for rainbow trout or hike along a network of 45 trails through Californian redwoods, Australian eucalyptus and a variety of native plants, including mokihana berry, ohia lehua and iliau.
Spot moa (Polynesian jungle fowl), goats and black-tailed deer. To learn more about the 1758ha park, pop into the Kokee Natural History Museum, and for panoramic vistas walk up to Kalalau Lookout.
Kalalau Trail – Walk in the footsteps of ancient Hawaiians along a cliff-side path that in some places is a sheer 300m drop into the sea. This spectacular 35km-long trail winds from Ke’e Beach via Hanakapiai Beach into the Kalalau Valley, with views across to Niihau Island and Lehua Rock and a side trip to the 36m-high cascade at Hanakapiai Falls. Best attempted in the dry season.
Na Pali Cliffs – Walk the Kalalau Trail atop the cliff face or hire a kayak to explore caves and admire the stunning Na Pali coastline.
National Botanical Gardens – Admire the fragrant orchids, towering palm trees and thousands of tropical flowers.
Kamokila Hawaiian – Village Learn about ancient Hawaiian history and see cultural and food demonstrations.
The ‘Green flash’ – Stop and enjoy the sunset; watch out for the ‘green flash’ as the sun suddenly drops into the distant blue waters.
Kauai offers numerous watersports, miles of hiking trails along ocean cliffs and through rainforests, and golf options that range from championship links to local courses – just perfect for an active honeymoon or romantic getaway.
Experience also game fishing, scuba diving and Hawaiian-style spas to rejuvenate and relax. Here are some activities to choose from, including…
Kayaking – Take a sea kayak tour along the southern coast and spot spinner dolphins, green sea turtles and humpback whales.
Go inland and paddle around the beautiful Kipu Falls area or along the Wailua River to be surrounded by lush tropical jungle and beautiful flowers; visit ancient ruins and walk down the ceremonial pathway of the royal Alli’i; swim under a waterfall and relax in a fresh waterpool.
Or explore the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge on a guided kayak tour along the Hanalei River, one of only 14 designated as an American Heritage river.
Read more about kayaking the Na Pali coast . . .
Scuba diving – Kauai boasts some of the world’s top diving sites and a variety of courses are offered ranging from open water diver to enriched air instructor.
For the experienced diver head off to Ni’ihau to see the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, big hammerhead sharks, white tip sharks and manta rays. Water clarity is generally excellent and many varieties of coral can be seen.
Snorkelling – Kauai has lots of places to enjoy swimming and snorkelling. For an adventure take a tour to snorkel the wild Na Pali coast or simply swim off a safe beach like Poipu and Ke‘e Beach.
Surfing – Surfing has long been part of Polynesian culture and the south coast of Kauai is an excellent surfing spot for beginners, with reliable waves off Poipu and Kalapaki Beach.
Brennecke’s Beach, world famous for body surfing, is a short walk away from Poipu, and local surf schools offer lessons for beginners.
Cruise – Take a cruise along the 24km stretch of rugged Na Pali coastline on Kauai’s northwest shore to get an awesome view of the 1200m cliffs (pali) that rise abruptly out of the Pacific.
Discover stretches of golden sand, deep jungle valleys and sea caves. In winter, from December through April, expect to see humpback whales along with dolphins and sea turtles.
Game fishing – Hook up to a fishing charter and go after marlin, dorado (mahimahi), yellow fin tuna (ahi) or wahoo (ono). Or if the big game fish doesn’t interest you, fish for grey snapper (uku), jack (ulua), barracuda (kaku), rainbow runner (kamanu), sea bass and shark.
Hiking – Kauai is a hiker’s paradise with a variety of easy and strenuous trails. For the experienced hiker take the Kalalau Trail, a multi-day, round-trip 35km hike along the stunning Na Pali Coast – don’t miss the spectacular Hanakapi’ai Falls, a spectacular 300m to 480m tiered waterfall above Hanakapi’ai Beach. The final tier drops 125m and forms a natural Jacuzzi, great for soaking trail-weary feet.
Another great hiking experience is the Waimea Canyon, the 900m deep centrepiece of Kokee State Park or the Blue Hole at the base of Mount Waialeale, with its spectacular view of the 600m vertical walls draped with waterfalls.
For an easy day trip hike to Waipo’o Falls – the 240m high falls is located in the heart of the canyon.
Biking – Rent a mountain bike and explore the area around Poipu, which has wide, flat roads and several dirt-cane roads.
Take a spin around Mahaulepu and along the dirt road used for hauling sugar cane between Kealia Beach and Anahola, north of Kapaa. Or take an early morning guided bike tour from Waimea Canyon to the ocean on a cool 20km downhill ride.
Horseback riding – Ride across wide-open pastures under volcanic peaks and past secluded beaches and bays. Tie off your horse and take a short swim in the sea or in a swimming pool at the base of a waterfall.
From Haupu Ridge to Mahaulepu Beach or along the bluffs of the North Shore to Anini Beach you’ll experience a range of great horseback rides on Kauai.
Eco-safari – Take a safari in the Kipu Falls area and combine kayaking with hiking, swimming and ‘zipping’ in a special climbing harness through the forest canopy high above rivers and waterfalls.
Golf – Every golf course on Kauai offers a different experience. Try the award-winning Mokihana/Maile course with Mount Waialeale serving as a spectacular backdrop to its Scottish-style course with rolling fairways.
Or tee-off at the Princeville at Hanalei, billed as one of the world’s most spectacular golf courses. Located on Kauai’s north shore at Princeville resort, the golf course features magnificent views from 90m above the Pacific Ocean.
For something completely different visit the pretty Kukuiolono golf course. Built in 1929 as the personal course of sugar baron Walter D. McBryde, Kukuiolono is now a 9-hole public course that can be played all day for just USD8. Expect to encounter wild chickens and ancient Hawaiian rock structures along the way.
Helicopter tour – See many places you’re unable to reach on foot: fly over the Waimea Canyon, the Alakai Swamp and get a bird’s-eye view of the dramatic Na Pali coastline.
Spa – Try an Hawaiian-based treatment such as the lomi lomi massage technique available at any of island’s major resorts or at a private massage parlour.
Shopping – Pick up an expensive but exquisitely made Niihau-shell lei or necklace, hand-crafted from tiny Niihau shells. Or for something less expensive check out the Red Dirt Shirt – every T-shirt is hand-dyed and unique.
Kauai offers more than 60 gorgeous white-sand beaches, from the tranquil waves of Poipu to the crashing surf of Polihale State Park Beach.
Here’s a round-up of Kauai’s best beaches…
(South Shore) – This crescent of golden sand curves for around 300m between two small bays and offers year-round calm waters on Kauai’s south shore, just perfect for families.
A narrow reef of black lava stretches from the beach to a sand bar (known as Nukumoi Point) in the middle of the cove and acts as a breakwater, creating a protected pool-like area with a sandy bottom and calm, shallow water on the eastern side – perfect for children and parents wanting to play and snorkel.
On the western side you’ll find ideal wave conditions for body boarding, surfing, windsurfing and snorkelling.
Look out for endangered green sea turtles as you snorkel the reef and while sunbathing don’t be surprised if you’re joined by endangered monk seals that often waddle up the beach for a snooze. Pick a spot on the 15m-wide beach to build sandcastles, or picnic on the grassy lawns of the small park that borders the beach.
Facilities include showers, toilets, covered pavilions and lifeguards, as well as surfboard and snorkel rentals, a restaurant and deli. Brennecke’s Beach, world famous for body surfing, is just a short stroll away.
(North Shore) – Nestled beneath volcanic mountain ridges and 1200m-high peaks, Hanalei Beach stretches for 3.2km along a half-moon crescent of 38m-wide golden sand fronting the largest bay on Kauai.
The beach offers year-round swimming, fishing, windsurfing and kayaking, especially in summer when the bay becomes a large placid lake.
When conditions are right, surfers head to the large waves at the right side of the bay and boogie boarders to the middle of the bay. Near beachside waves are perfect for beginners, while scuba divers can dive a wreck and coral reefs at both ends of the bay.
Facilities include a pavilion, toilets and picnic tables, as well as the services of a lifeguard.
(North Shore) – Fringed by stands of ironwood trees and nestled beneath soaring emerald mountain peaks, this 3km-long golden-sand beach shelves into calm turquoise waters, providing a postcard-perfect setting.
Protected by a fringing coral reef, Makua Beach (also known as Tunnels Beach) is perfect for swimming, snorkelling and diving during the long summer months. There are no beach facilities.
(North Shore) – Discover Kauai's safest beach for year-round swimming and windsurfing.
Fringed by shade-giving Kamani trees and sitting beneath vegetation-covered cliffs, Anini Beach offers a nearly 5km-long stretch of golden sand that dips into a shallow 1.5m-deep lagoon that is protected by the longest fringing reef in Hawaii.
Snorkel the reef or dive through a channel on the northwest side to the ocean side. Facilities at this beach park include showers, toilets, barbecues, picnic tables and a park.
(North Shore) – Swim from one of Kauai’s most popular beaches, located at the start of the famed Kalalau Trail.
Set beneath volcanic cliffs at the end of Kauai’s North Shore between the dramatic Na Pali Coast and Limahuli Stream, Ke’e’s small crescent of golden sand is renowned for its incredible sunset views.
Fringed with a lush backdrop of ironwood trees and coconut palms, the beach flows into a sheltered lagoon perfect for swimming and snorkelling among colourful reef fish and sea turtles during the summer months when the sea is calm.
Stroll up to a panoramic lookout overlooking the Na Pali Coast and don’t miss the ancient heiau platform. Facilities include showers, toilets and picnic facilities but no lifeguard.
(North Shore) – Relax on one of Kauai’s most scenic beaches where much of the movie South Pacific was filmed.
Sunbathe or stroll along the wide crescent of golden sand then cool off with a swim in the fresh water of Lumahai' Stream, which often pools behind a sand bar before flowing into the sea.
Although absolutely gorgeous to look at, strong currents and backwash make this an unsafe beach for swimming or surfing most of the year.
Huge lava rocks lie scattered across a small, protected bay just metres from the shoreline, creating an enclave for splashing around in the turquoise-coloured sea. There are no facilities or lifeguards.
(East Coast) – Discover a small, 50m-wide beach of golden sand fronting the Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club and shelving into the calm turquoise waters of the half moon-shaped Nawiliwili Bay, overlooked by the 670m-high Haupu Ridge.
Go swimming and surfing in winter with surf lessons, enjoy catamaran cruises and beach volleyball or rent a sailboat nearby. Other facilities include showers, toilets, a food kiosk and picnic area in the adjacent Nawilwili Park. There is no lifeguard.
(West Shore) – Stroll along Hawaii's biggest beach, a 27km-long stretch of wind-blown golden sand located just beyond Waimea and backed by huge sand dunes, some of which are 30m high.
With the exception of the 90m-wide Queen's Pond Beach, which fronts a small reef and is safe to swim in a shallow protected inlet, the entire beach is unprotected from strong ocean waves and currents.
Explore the ancient Hawaiian heiau (temple) within the park and discover Barking Sands Beach, which is said to make the sound of a dog’s bark when trod upon. Facilities include toilets, showers, picnic tables and drinking water. There is no lifeguard.
(East Shore) – Head to one of the best snorkelling and safe swimming beaches along the eastern shore of Kauai.
Backed by a park, picnic and playground, the two boulder-enclosed swimming areas offer calm protected waters that are perfect for children. Facilities also include showers, toilets and lifeguards.
Kauai is balmy and warm all year round, with an average 27°C (80°F). Winter (December to March) can be wet and slightly cooler than summer (June to August).
For more climate info: Kauai Weather Guide…
Kauai lies to the northwest of Oahu. The Hawaiian islands are located in the Pacific Ocean, around 3860km from mainland USA.
Getting to Kauai generally includes a short layover in Honolulu, unless you're flying from Los Angeles.
Information on how to get to Kauai…
Latest update:Kauai: 12 January, 2023