Kaua‘i The Garden Isle

Kaua’i is a true island treasure, and folks are taking notice.

Last October, Kaua’i took the No. 2 spot on Conde Nast Traveler‘s list of “Top 25 Islands in the World” as voted on by readers. (Sister island Maui took top honors.)

One reader called the island “a little slice of heaven,” while others raved about Kaua’i's lush vegetation, quaint historic towns, one-of-a-kind ocean sports, world-class shopping destinations, award-winning culinary options and the relaxed, welcoming attitude of kama’aina (residents).

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact source of this magnetism that draws visitors from near and far, year after year, but to help you sort through all that the Garden Isle has to offer, we’ve narrowed the selection down to only the best of the best, which we then compiled into this handy guide.

Don’t let its size fool you. Though the smallest of the main Hawaiian Islands, Kaua’i is home to some of the state’s most-renowned attractions. Here you’ll find Hawai’i's very own “Grand Canyon,” as well as the spectacular Na Pali Coast, miles upon miles of unspoiled golden-sand beaches (an incredible 113 miles of shoreline, to be exact) and the very waterfall made famous in the blockbuster hit, Jurassic Park.

Those with a penchant for adventure won’t be disappointed when they find themselves soaring over treetops on a ziplining tour or venturing deep into a tropical jungle while perched high on horseback. Other island outfitters offer kayak trips along Kaua’i's rugged southern shoreline, hiking treks through picture-perfect wilderness and biking excursions that travel from mauka (the mountains) to makai (the sea).

For those who would rather take it easy—Kaua’i is well-known for its laidback character, after all—there is no shortage of things to do as well. Stroll through a botanical garden; take in a hula show, complete with traditional lu’au; meditate with a yoga session on the beach; stop at a healing sanctuary in Lawa’i Valley; tour a historic plantation village; or play a round of golf on Hawai’i's No.1-rated, and arguably most scenic, courses.

Then, end the day by watching the sun set from the peaceful shores of Polihale.

Kaua’i is just a short plane or boat ride away from the “Forbidden Island” of Ni’ihau, where the highly sought-after shells for jewelry and lei come from, and where a small community of Native Hawaiians continues to perpetuate the Hawaiian language.

And don’t forget to pick up a souvenir or two at one of Kaua’i's homegrown shopping destinations before your trip comes to a close!

No matter your reason for visiting these tropical shores, welcome. And if you find your time with us too short to experience all that Kaua’i has to offer, don’t despair; we’re sure the island’s “magic” will be calling you back soon, and we’ll be eagerly waiting with even more 101 Things to Do.

View our top picks below or see all 101 Things To Do on Kaua‘i!

Peruse Kilohana: The Last Plantation

Kaua‘i’s 120-year-old sugar industry may have hauled its final harvest to the mill, but what remains is a place where the vibrant spirit of the era survives. KILOHANA PLANTATION is a unique destination that recalls a time when “Big Sugar” dominated the island’s economy, culture and landscape. Today, it’s no longer a working plantation, nor… Continue »

Ride the Sugar Train

This land tour draws its inspiration from Kaua‘i’s colorful sugar era, when trains moved produce and all shared the fruits of the orchard. A ride on a refurbished plantation train delivers passengers to a lovely rainforest walk, followed by a picnic lunch and a romp through the orchard. The KAUA‘I PLANTATION RAILWAY is an authentic… Continue »

Laze at Hanalei Bay

HANALEI BAY is the largest bay on the NORTH SHORE, backed by steep cliffs and fronted by a 2-mile curve of white sand beach, an inviting stretch of water and a view of Makana Mountain, also known as BALI HAI. During the summer, the calm waters are ideal for stand-up paddling and swimming. Depending on… Continue »

Film on Kaua’i

Although Hollywood FILMMAKERS have been MAKING MOVIES ON KAUA‘I for more than 75 years, recent big-budget films with A-list stars continue to catapult Hawai‘i into the spotlight. Recently, “PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES,” starring Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz, was filmed here, as was “THE DESCENDANTS,” starring George Clooney, which earned an Oscar…. Continue »

Hele to Jurassic Falls

MANAWAIOPUNA FALLS is not only difficult to wrap your tongue around, it’s also hard to find. Located in the wild on private property, it is off limits to the ordinary person. But film director Steven Spielberg is, of course, no ordinary person. That’s why scenes from his 1993 blockbuster “JURASSIC PARK” were shot at the… Continue »

Hike and Stay Koke‘e

KOKE‘E STATE PARK, located at the very top of the island, is defined by its sprawling 4,345-acre upland forest, intersected by 45 miles of HIKING TRAILS and popularized by its SCENIC CLIFFSIDE VISTAS. The forest is home to native vegetation and birds. Daytime temperatures vary from an average of 45 degrees Fahrenheit in January to… Continue »