Kauai is the best Hawaiian island for adventurous travelers! Its lush greenery and laid back vibe make it a great location for anyone looking to unplug and spend time in nature. How you spend your time on an island that takes a lot to get to is important, that’s why we’re sharing the best things to do in Kauai for adventurous families.
Kauai (Kaua’i) is known as the Garden Isle and for good reason. It is truly the most beautiful place I have ever seen and should not be missed after traveling all the way to an isolated volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. From adventurous days in the treetops to laid-back mornings on the beach, it is a great place to help you reconnect with nature.
13 Fun Things to do in Kauai with your family
There’s so many different ways to experience Kauaia! It’s a beautiful island with nearly endless opportunities for fun and adventures. Here’s a list of 13 fun family travel activities for your next trip to Kauai!
waimea canyon state park
Visit the amazing Waimea Canyon State Park. Known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, this park is a must-see. Located on the West side of the island, it’s pretty much the end of Hawaii Route 50.
It costs $10 to enter the park for non-residents. You’ll be met with scenic drive, hiking trails, and picnic areas. The views of Waimea Canyon gorge are simply breathtaking. I suggest bringing a picnic lunch and enjoying it alongside loved ones with a view that will last a lifetime. The roads are narrow and windy; take it slow and enjoy every second of every view.
The best hikes in Waimea Canyon State Park:
- The Waimea Canyon Lookout provides amazing panoramic views with very little work (.1 mile).
- Find a more challenging route in Kukui Trail and descend into the canyon (5 miles, 2,162 feet).
- Check out the Iliau Nature Loop for pretty views that are family-friendly (.4 miles, 52 feet).
Stop into the local town on your way to or from the park and enjoy a sweet treat at JoJo’s Shave Ice. Waimea is full of local places to eat, coffee shops, and small shops.
Kauai Community Market
Please do your best to join local farmers and businesses at the Kauai Community Market. The market takes place on Saturdays from 9:30 AM – 1:00 PM at the Kauai Community College Campus.
My family and I happened upon it by chance and wound up spending the better part of an hour talking to locals and tasting great food. I suggest purchasing a few items for your stay and for a snack.
We grabbed several flavored jelly’s for our vacation rental from Monkeypod Jam, fresh honey from Honi Honi Honey (I LOVE honey) and, my absolute favorite, from Hole in the Mountain Farm, Kauai Sugarloaf White Pineapple. It’s a low acid pineapple and is the absolute best I have ever tasted.
If you are staying in or around Lihue, this farmers market is a necessary stop.
Fly high above the luscious foliage with Kauai Backcountry Adventures. There are many different backcountry adventure organizations on the island that have fabulous reviews and great packages. My family and I chose Kaua’i Backcountry Adventures for our Zip Lining expedition.
Our tour guides were amazing. One grew up and spent his entire life in Kauai and the other had vacationed there and left his stateside home to become an adventure tour guide. Both of the men were friendly, informational, and humorous (which is a necessity with the clowns I call family members).
In order to zipline you have to be at least 12 years old and weigh between 100 and 250 pounds. A Zipline Tour lasts about 3 hours and includes lunch!
Have you heard of Mountain Tubing? Yea, I hadn’t either. Kauai Backcountry Adventures offers Kauai’s only tubing adventure activity and it is epic.
Take a four-wheel drive vehicle deep into Kauai’s pristine forest where you’ll enjoy epic views of Mt. Wai’ale’ale. Hop off the four wheel drive vehicle and into your tube where you’ll float down the historic Lihue Plantation ditch and tunnel system.
This tour is available to anyone 5 years of age and older who is at least 43 inches tall and under 300 pounds. Tours generally run rain or shine as well, so you don’t have to worry about the weather ruining your fun.
Mountain tubing is definitely one of the most unique things to do in Kauai.
Queens Bath Tide Pools
A local on the north shore told us about Queens Bath in Princeville and that it was a must-see. Being the go-getters that we are, we halted our shopping venture and got back in our rent-a-cars to see what all the hype was about.
After parking on a side street in a suburban town my family and I took a beautiful 10-minute hike past a waterfall to a volcanic, rocky shoreline. I will suggest doing this short hike in sneakers (not sandals or flip-flops) due to its few steep parts, lush foliage, and of course the lava rocks that you will need to walk across.
Queen’s Bath needs to be treated with caution, as it can become a dangerous place to be if the conditions are not just right. There is a helpful map of the shoreline explaining exactly where one should and should not swim; the yellow triangle indicates where you will exit the hiking path and the green star is where Queen’s Bath (a popular swimming hole) is located. The letters along the way are unsafe places that are often mistaken for Queens Bath.
Don’t swim in Queen’s Bath if the surf report is 4 feet or higher and never play on the rocks between the tide pool and the ocean. Within the pool, you can find beautiful sea life and crystal clear water. Jumping is also not advised seeing as depth levels can change, but we saw other people doing it and joined in on the fun. Whether you swim in the hole or just take in the views, this short trip is a memory maker.
Allerton Garden is one of the National Tropical Botanical Gardens located on the south shore of Kauai. My aunt has a serious green thumb and loves gardening so this stop was entirely planned by and for her. Much to our surprise, we all had a great time.
We did a self-guided tour and found ourselves lost (in a good way) in the beauty of this tropical garden. It was really cool to see such lively plants and trees and just meander, without a purpose, around such beauty. Many plants, especially the poisonous ones, had placards which was a nice educational touch.
If a guided tour is more your thing, they have a few different options available, such as a sunset tour.
This excursion could take as long or as short as you want or need. If you are someone who is in to all things natural, this is a great stop for you!
Whether you’re looking for surfing lessons or you just want to rent a paddleboard for the day, this is one of the best ways to spend the day on the island of Kauai.
You can’t spend time on a Hawaiian island without surfing or paddle boarding. If the balance and fearlessness aren’t quite there for surfing then you must try to paddle board. You can sit, kneel, or stand a paddle so it’s a great option for everyone in the family. And if you have family members who are down for a surfing lesson, this is the best place to learn!
We grabbed our equipment from and scheduled a lesson through Beach Boys Kauai. Our surfing instructor did a great job varying instruction; there were 5 of us, ranging in age from 20 to 12, and all with different athletic abilities, fitness levels, and fearlessness. The out of water instruction was brief but thorough. The in-water session was a blast; despite wiping out more times then actually riding the perfect wave, it was totally fun for me and all of my crazy cousins!
Kong Lung Historic Market
You have to stop by the Kong Lung Historic Market Center in Kauai’s north shore town of Kilauea. Rich in history, the town’s plantation era cottages, and theater merge with chic, contemporary boutiques, a bakery and coffee shop, markets and restaurants, jewelry stores and the center’s award-winning historic photo retrospective.
If you don’t mind a quick shopping pit stop, definitely stop into Cake Boutique. This store ties the perfect touch of elegance, local charm, and originality all into one. In all honesty, my aunt and I found ‘my future wedding dress’ here and were incredibly tempted to purchase it and stash it away until the time came, however, we settled on a blue striped beauty that I could wear as soon as the next day and have worn a hundred times since. The styles are beautiful and well made, so please keep in mind that you get what you pay for; this boutique is not cheap but it is well worth a quality, usable souvenir!
Finally, you can’t miss Daphne, the true star of Kong Lung. This beautiful Umbrella cockatoo is a friendly little lady who will talk to you and loves all of the attention ‘children’ of all ages pay her!
As one of Kauai’s most popular waterfalls, you simply have to pay it a visit. This 85-foot, double tiered beauty is worth the trip.
Wailua falls doesn’t involve any hiking. You can practically see the falls from the parking lot! A short walk to the overlook provides amazing views for the whole family.
Hanapepe Swinging Bridge
Check out the town of Hanapepe and its historic swinging bridge. This 100-year-old bridge is completely safe to traverse. True to its name, it does sway as you cross it!
Visit on a Friday night to enjoy the Hanapepe Friday Night Art Walk! From 5-8 PM visitors and locals alike come together to peruse local artowrk and listen to live music. The town really comes alive on Friday nights!
With over 70% of Kauai being inaccessible by land, it is best seen from the sky. The 17-mile long Na Pali Coast is a sacred place that can only be viewed by helicopter or boat. As one of the most recognizable coastlines in the world, it is highly recommended if you can swing it!
Many companies offer helicopter tours that show the beauty of Kauai’s coastline, waterfalls, and beyond. Although it isn’t a great activity for large groups and it’s arguably the most expensive way to see Kauai, it’s something to consider!
A much more family-friendly way to explore the Na Pali Coast is by boat! Capt Andys offers a number of different boat tours that allow you to see the Napali Coast in a variety of different ways.
From sunset dinner sails to snorkel picnics, there’s a variety of fun family travel activities. They also offer a high-speed, more adventurous expedition that is listed as one of the most exciting things to do in Kauai. Darting in and out of sea caves and plunging under cascading waterfalls sounds like the best way to experience the Na Pali Coast.
A boat trip is a great way to spend the day and an amazing experience your family will never forget.
Koke’e State Park
Koke’e State Park provides commanding views of the Kalalau Valley from 4000 feet elevation. After a beautiful drive through Waimea Canyon State Park, you’ll find yourself in Koke’e State Park where you can embark on a number of great hikes.
- The whole family will enjoy the views from Kalalau Lookout
- Canyon Trail to Waipo’o Falls is a popular moderate hike with views of the 800-foot Waipoo Falls (3 miles, 1,066 feet).
- Awa’awapuhi is an amazing trail with steep drop offs and epic views of the Na Pali Coast (6 miles, 1,945 feet)
- The easy Pu`u Hinahina Lookout Trail provides dramatic views of the Waimea Canyon (1.5 miles, 374 feet).
Waimea Canyon is the more popular destination, so you’re likely to experience significantly less crowds at Koke’e. In addition to over 45 miles of hiking trails, the park also includes a number of stunning lookouts.
The North Shore of Kauai is one of the most epic places to snorkel in the country. Snorkeling is one of the most popular activities for families when visiting Hawaii.
Because snorkeling keeps you close to the surface, explorers of all ages and abilities can enjoy this activity. Here are some of the best spots to snorkel on Kauai:
- Ke’e Beach, North Shore
- Tunnels Beach, North Shore
- Anini Beach, North Shore
- Poipu Beach, South Shore
- Prince Kuhio Beach, South Shore
It is best to snorkel in calm waters. The best beaches for snorkeling in the winter months are on the South Shore. In the summer, the best snorkeling is on the North Shore. Viewing marine life for the first time can be very exciting! Please remind your family members not to touch or disrupt sea creatures.
Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge
Located on the Northern-most point of Kauai, the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge is one of the best things to do on Kauai. As the peninsula stands 180 feet above sea lvel, it’s an amazing place for wildlife viewing and photography.
- Humpback whales – October through May. Best from January to February.
- Spinner Dolphins – Year round
- Green Sea Turtles – Year Round
- Monk Seal – Year round. Best seen in the summer.
- Seabirds – so many! Check out their species page.
Be sure to also photograph the kilauea lighthouse while visiting as it was an iconic navigational aid for commercial shipping vessels in the early 1900’s. Reservations are required for this experience, so be sure to book up to two months in advance online.
The garden island is one of the best places for families to experience tropical paradise and whole lot of fun. We’ve highlighted 15 of our favorite ways to spend time on the island but there’s a handful of other amazing ways to experience Kuaia. Visiting Polihale State Park, horseback riding, and taking in the views at the numerous beautiful beaches should not be overlooked. Plan your trip to the garden island today!