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!

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 »

Stroll Kaua‘i’s Prized Botanical Gardens

Stroll Kaua‘i’s Prized Botanical Gardens

Kaua’i is nicknamed “The Garden Isle,” and for good reason. Kaua’i is home to three botanical gardens belonging to the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG), a private, nonprofit organization and the only officially recognized tropical garden in the United States. This institute is dedicated to scientific research, conservation and education, working every day to protect… Continue »

Cruise Humpback Territory

Cruise Humpback Territory

Anyone who climbs aboard a vessel this time of the year and heads for the open ocean off Kaua’i can expect to see humpback whales. There are so many of them that most boat companies don’t hesitate to guarantee sightings. (Truth is, it’s hard to miss a 40-ton humpback when it propels its 45-foot bulk… Continue »

Shopping Kaua‘i-Style

Shopping Kaua‘i-Style

A shopping spree on Kaua’i mimics the island experience to a T—you can’t possibly know what to expect, and you have to keep a keen eye peeled for treasures hidden along the way. There are shopping malls—none of them guilty of a sprawl—along with big-box discount stores and Macy’s, the island’s only nationwide department store…. Continue »

Jump Out of a Plane

The view from the Cessna 182 is all gorgeous coastline, shimmering canyons and beckoning blue sea. On any other day, it would be a relaxing ride, but today, your heart is pumping, your hands sweating, and you can practically smell the adrenaline. That’s normal, you’re about to jump out of an airplane. From the minute… Continue »

Take a Hike

Kaua’i is renowned for its hiking trails and backcountry vistas. This list covers all the basics of the island treks. To start, Waimea Canyon, the 3,000-foot-deep centerpiece of Koke’e State Park, is a premier hiking experience. One trail at the canyon ends at an 800-foot waterfall, and while strenuous, the hike will provide visitors with… Continue »

Golf Princeville

Golf Princeville

Set 300 feet above the Pacific along the island’s rugged north coast, the Prince Course at Princeville Resort is an 18-hole, par-72 course rated by many experts and golf publications as the No. 1 course in Hawai’i. This rating isn’t given for the stunning scenery; the Prince is a golfing experience that will try your… Continue »