Kauai is home to some of the world’s most beautiful coastline, insane ridges, and monumental waterfalls. The trails here are peaceful, abundant, and mind-blowing, and we CANnot wait to show you around. Keep reading for 9 hikes in Kauai you CAN’T miss!
Kauai has hikes for everyone, from leisurely walks along the beach to multi-day treks on the Na Pali Coast. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced hiker, I would highly recommend hitting the trails on this beautiful island.
If you do plan on any hikes in Kauai, proper footwear is a must. The majority of the trails can be steep, slippery, and narrow. Trust me, nothing will ruin your hike faster than struggling up a vertical, muddy bank in sandals or sneakers.
Hiking is a great way to explore the island, with lush forest and dramatic ridge lines everywhere you look. On top of hiking, there are several other activities in Kauai that you should add to your bucket list. Some of my favourites include a doors-off helicopter tour, a trip to Polihale State Park, Night Markets in Hanapēpē, and surfing!
We spent about 10 days in Kauai and did not even come close to exploring all of the hiking trails on the island. We did however hit up what we believe to be the most spectacular. There are so many options, so prioritizing is important. How do you do that when they all look amazing? I hear you, it’s tough!
Start by taking a look through the hikes on this list. Before leaving for your trip, write them down in order based on which ones you want to do the most. Once you arrive, start with number one on your list and work your way down based on how much time you have!
Sounds fair enough, right? Great! Without further ado, then, let’s get into it. Here are 9 of our favorite hikes in Kauai, Hawaii.
The Kalalau Trail
DIFFICULT: 22 miles(35.4km) & 1883m elevation
The Kalalau Trail is a 35.4 kilometer(22 mile) out and back hike located along the North Shore of Kauai. This stunning area is known as the Na Pali Coast, famous for being one of the most magnificent shorelines in the entire world. Picture this: clear blue waves rolling into white sand beaches surrounded by dramatic cliffs. Lush, green ridges up to 4,000 feet high sprinkled with powerful waterfalls and scenic rivers. All in a protected area with no infrastructure, no roads, and barely any people. This place is paradise!
The Hawaiian Government along with the local communities have worked very hard to protect this 17 mile stretch along Kauai’s North Shore. The ecosystem is fragile and it is important to respect the land as well as the wildlife living in the area.
Fun fact: Dozens of movies have been shot along the Na Pali Coast including Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean!
Hanakapi’ai Falls Trail
DIFFICULT: 9 miles(14.6km) & 812m elevation
Hanakap’ai Falls Trail is a popular day hike that will take you up to a lush waterfall on The Na Pali Coast. This hike begins on the first few miles of The Kalalau Trail, and you do need to book a permit in advance. Once you reach Hanakapi’ai Beach, there are signs leading you up the valley to the falls. If you’re planning to stop in on your way to Kalalau Beach, it will add 3.4 miles(5.4 kilometers) to the 22 mile hike.
Kalepa Ridge Trail
ADVANCED: 1.9 miles(3.1km) & 186m elevation
Kalepa Ridge Trail is one of the most epic cliff trail hikes in Kauai. It’s short, but the path becomes very narrow with sheer drop offs on each side making it an advanced hike for experienced hikers only. We decided to give it a go a few days after hiking the Kalalau Trail and were blown away seeing Kalalau Beach and the spectacular coastline from above. Do not attempt this hike if the ground is muddy or if you are afraid of heights.
MODERATE: 6 miles(9.7km) & 593m elevation
Awa’awapuhi Trail is an awesome ridge hike in Koke’e State Park. Mostly downhill on the way out to the viewpoint, the stunning views of the Na Pali Coast get better and better as you go. Be mindful though, because what goes down must come up and you will feel that elevation gain in every step on the way back. This hike is best attempted in dry conditions as it can get quite muddy when wet.
Kuiliau Ridge Trail
EASY: 3.6 miles(5.8km) & 203m elevation
The Kuilau Ridge Trail is a fantastic afternoon hike on the east side of the island. Like many other treks in Kauai, the views are amazing from the moment you start! The, usually muddy, trail will wind you along a ridge with mountainous views and incredibly green forest all around you. This was our first hike in Kauai, and we had so much fun taking in the beauty of this incredible place.
MODERATE: 3 miles(4.8km) & 325m elevation
The Waipo’o Falls Trail is an absolutely beautiful hike in Waimea Canyon, but the name can be misleading and cause disappointment for some hikers. This trail brings you to the top of the 800 foot waterfall, not to the bottom. This means that you don’t actually get a view of the falls, but you do get incredible panoramic views of the canyon. The hike is relatively easy and a great sunrise or sunset option!
MODERATE: 3.4 miles(5.5km) & 293m elevation
Also known as Nounou Mountain, this ridge formation got its name because it resembles a giant laying flat on its back. There are two ways to get to the summit, the east side is moderate (the trail we would recommend) and the west side is slightly shorter but steeper. From the top, you will have incredible views out over the island and the coast.
MODERATE: 2.8 miles(4.5km) & 259m elevation
This hike is absolutely mesmerizing, however, it is not for the faint of heart! The trail is hard to follow and crosses the stream several times. You have to be okay with your feet and pants getting wet and muddy on this hike! Our best advice is to follow the path on the AllTrails app and stay close to the river at all times. It will lead you to a beautiful two-tiered waterfall nestled in a luscious canyon.
Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail
EASY: 3.7 miles(6km) & 97m elevation
Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail runs along the south shore of Kauai from Shipwreck Beach to Punahoa Point. It is easy to navigate and suitable for all fitness levels. From the trail, you will have gorgeous views of the coast and a high chance of spotting marine life. Keep your eyes peeled for sea lions sleeping on the beaches and dolphins playing in the waves. Once you’re finished, enjoy the white sand on Shipwreck Beach. You can even try cliff jumping into the ocean here if you are brave enough!