There’s a lot to love about Kauai—its lush landscape, its dramatic valleys and cliffs, its small-town feel, and its beautiful beaches. If you’re considering a move to Kauai, you might be wondering what your life could look like on the Garden Isle, including the kinds of things you’d do on your days off. Below, we’ve put together a list of popular activities, attractions, and things to do on the island, so you can start to get a picture of what it would be like to not just visit, but actually live on Kauai.
Let’s start with Kauai’s North Shore, home to one of its most famous attractions, the Na Pali Coast.
Things to Do on the North Shore of Kauai
Hike the Stunning Na Pali Coast
If you’re an adventurous explorer, hiking the 22-mile roundtrip trail along the Na Pali Coast is the trip of a lifetime. (You might even put it on your Hawaii bucket list!) You’ll be walking in the footsteps of the ancient Hawaiians who lived in the Kalalau Valley and the surrounding valleys you’ll pass on the way to the trail’s end at Kalalau Beach. Expect to spend your hike gazing at the ocean from the top 3,000-foot cliffs, strolling past lush valleys and admiring dramatic waterfalls. The scenery on the Na Pali Coast hike is like no other.
That said, a few words around preparation: Advance registration is required to access this part of the island, whether or not you’re planning to do the whole hike. The 22-mile roundtrip hike is also a strenuous one that requires significant preparation, especially since you’ll have to pack everything in and out. Weather can also be a factor, so plan accordingly.
All that aside, the Na Pali Coast hike is an unforgettable experience, a must-do if you decide to make Kauai your home.
Snorkel Anini Reef
You may hear residents of a certain age refer to this area as “Wanini Beach.” One local legend claims that the W fell off the sign during a storm, although that’s just one of the stories floating around. (You’ll probably collect a few of your own during your time on Kauai!)
Whatever you decide to call it, Anini Beach offers some excellent swimming with frequent sightings of honu. (Remember to observe them from a distance!) Because the beach is ringed by an outer reef, Anini often offers calm waters for swimming even when there’s swell coming into the North Shore. It’s also a great spot to grab some shade and take a break from the sun. (And if shade isn’t something you treasure yet, you’ll learn to do so once you start living on Kauai!)
Cruise Hanalei Town
Kauai is dotted with cool little towns to explore, and Hanalei is a great example. Stop in to do a little shopping, munch on some delicacies during the Saturday farmers’ market, or grab a nourishing juice from one of the town’s many juice bars. Hanalei also has a sweet little food truck scene with options ranging from poke to tacos to plate lunches to Indian to breakfast grindz. The emphasis is on fresh, local ingredients and you practically can’t go wrong with any of the trucks you’ll find in town.
Surf Hanalei Bay
If you’re an experienced surfer moving to Kauai, you’ll want to put your ear to the ground and start working your connections to find your new favorite surf spot on the island. However, if you’re a beginner who’s always dreamed of riding waves, head over to Hanalei Bay. You’ll find waves at Hanalei gentle enough for beginners, and you’ll find a few surf schools in the area who can help you pop up for the first time. Just note that Hanalei, like many of Kauai’s northern surf spots, can get big in the winter months, so make sure you check the forecast before you head out.
Things to Do on the East Side of Kauai
Dig in at NOM Kauai
Kauai offers a few culinary highlights, and NOM Kauai is one of them. Originally a food truck, NOM now has a brick-and-mortar location in Kapaa. It’s popular enough that they’ve been known to run out of food during weekend brunch, so you’ll want to get there early. The place is famous for its PB&J burger, which comes with bacon, peanut butter, and chili pepper jam. (By the way, they’ve also got options for the vegetarians in your life, with veggie burgers made out of local taro, black beans, and quinoa!) We love the Notorious P.I.G., a cheddar jalapeño waffle served with maple pork belly and a sunny-side-up egg. A nap afterward is highly recommended.
Step Back in Time at Kamokila Hawaiian Village
Right across from Opaekaa Falls, you’ll find the Kamokila Hawaiian Village, the creation of four generations of the Fernandes ohana, who started work on the village in the 1960s. As the name promises, you’ll find a recreated traditional Hawaiian Village on the site, complete with native plants and traditional Hawaiian activities and games. You’ll also be able to enjoy the property’s access to the Wailua River. Canoe rental is only $35 per adult, and it offers access to a quieter side of the river, including a hike to a secluded waterfall. Locals often use the property for private events like first birthday parties and weddings. If you want to get a good understanding of life on Kauai before European arrival—and enjoy a serene day surrounded by natural beauty—Kamokila Hawaiian Village is more than worth the trip.
Explore Kauai’s Cultural Heritage at Smith’s Kauai
The east side of Kauai is also home to another significant family operation: Smith’s Kauai. The family started with a small rowboat and a borrowed outboard motor. Today, they operate one of the most popular luaus on the island, as well as a 30-acre botanical and cultural garden. Stroll the garden pathways where breadfruit, jackfruit, soursop, and 20+ more varieties of fruits grow alongside flowering tropical plants. If you stick around for the luau, you’ll be treated to a bounty of food, including kalua pig, teriyaki beef (made using the family’s secret recipe!), ono, mahi, and chicken adobo. You’ll also enjoy a variety of Hawaiian mele and hula, as well as performances from other Polynesian islands.
Yes, as with most luau, you’ll rub elbows with a number of tourists at Smith’s. However, if you’re making Hawaii your home, it’s practically required for you to attend at least one luau, and an evening with the Smith family will be one well spent.
Things to Do on Kauai’s South Shore
Enjoy Happy Hour and Dinner with a View
With a number of resorts on this side of the island, Kauai’s south shore offers a number of activities that cater to the island’s visitors, such as shopping, dining, and golf. However, that opens the door for residents to head to the south shore for a special night out and enjoy the fun of “playing tourist” for a night.
Start with a world-famous mai tai at Brennecke’s Beach Broiler during happy hour. They served their one millionth mai tai just a few years ago, and there’s a reason so many people have enjoyed them here. Sip yours while enjoying the beautiful South Shore views. If you’re hungry, order the coconut shrimp off the happy hour menu, but leave some room for your next stop: RumFire.
Located just a little more than a mile and a half down the road, you’ll find RumFire in the Sheraton Kauai Resort, which offers an ocean view from every seat in the restaurant. Since you’ve already started with rum at Brennecke’s, you might as well enjoy one of RumFire’s signature, contest-winning rum cocktails before you eat. As with many of the restaurants in Kauai, you’ll find RumFire’s menu crafted around local ingredients to give you a taste of your new island home. To continue those “we’re on vacation” vibes, head back to your side of the island for a nightcap, and sleep late the next day. It’s a great reminder of how much fun it can be to be a tourist in Kauai.
Play a Round of Golf
Golf is popular all around the state of Hawaii, and Kauai is no exception. You’ll find golf courses all over the island, but you’ll find a few notable ones on the South Shore. First, two designed by the famed golf architect, Robert Trent Jones, Jr.—Kiahuna Golf Club, which takes you through an ancient Hawaiian village, and Poipu Bay Golf Course, which hosted the PGA Grand Slam of Golf from 1994-2006. Locals tend to prefer the low-profile Kukuiolono Golf Course, which offers a unique Kauai feel: a laid-back and relaxing 18-hole experience. No matter where you decide to play, if you decide to spend time on your golf game on Kauai, you’ll have a number of options.
Hop a Sunset Sail
Although we opened with it, we realize that the 22-mile Na Pali Coast hike isn’t to everyone’s taste. However, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the majestic beauty of this area. In fact, many people will argue that the Na Pali Coast is best viewed from the water, especially with the light of the setting sun gracing the cliffs. There are a number of sailing tours that take off from the south side of the island, Holo Holo Charters and Captain Andy’s among them. In addition to admiring the Na Pali Coast by boat, you’ll also catch a glimpse of Niihau, Hawaii’s “forbidden island,” which is reserved exclusively for its current residents. Depending on which tour you take, you might get the chance for a closer view of Niihau, as well as an opportunity to snorkel its surrounding reefs. Whether you decide to swim or simply sightsee, getting out on the waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands can be a great reset that gives you a new perspective on your home island.
Things to Do on the West Side of Kauai
Stroll Waimea Town
One of the biggest attractions on Kauai’s west side is Waimea Canyon, a spectacular geological formation that’s been called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. But there’s also plenty to see and do in Waimea town. If you’re hungry, grab a fish taco from Island Taco or stop at Porky’s food truck for a pork pineapple sausage topped with pulled pork. You can also take a long stroll down Waimea Beach, a black sand beach that offers some stunning views of the sunset and Niihau off the coast.
The immediate area also around Waimea offers some interesting history. You’ll find the spot where Captain James Cook first landed in the Hawaiian Islands in 1778 at the mouth of the Waimea River. Just across the river, you’ll find Russian Fort Elizabeth, an encampment built by a German physician who was hoping to give Russia a foothold in Hawaii.
By the way, if you’re on your way to the canyon, make sure to fill up in Waimea, since it will be your last chance to gas up!
Get 360 Degree Views of Kauai from the Air
Because so much of Kauai is inaccessible by road, helicopter tours are especially popular on the island. However, if you’re a little more adventurous and you want to get a bird’s eye view of your new home, consider skydiving. Skydive Hawaii leaves from Port Allen Airport in Hanapepe, and you’ll enjoy a 20-minute scenic ride, followed by an adrenaline-inducing freefall, then a gentle parachute glide as you take in all of Kauai with absolutely nothing between you and all of the island’s sights.
Enjoying Your New Island Home
If you decide you’re ready to make Kauai your home, there are plenty of activities, attractions, and things to do await you. This list will give you a good start. However, once you make Kauai your home, you’ll soon discover your own list of favorites and must-dos that will help you enjoy your time on the island to the fullest.
Ready to move to Kauai? We’d be happy to help! We have crews and a warehouse on Kauai, and our Lihue-based team would love to help you make a safe, easy, and affordable transition to Hawaii. Just request a free quote to get started!
Tell us about your move!