I’m planning a trip to Kauai, Hawaii, with my family and have been brainstorming all the things I’d like to do if time and money were no barrier. Since winter can get pretty dreary in Nebraska, I’m more than willing to daydream about Hawaiian adventures. Aren’t you? Here’s my Kauai bucket list to inspire wanderlust in you, too!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking the link, I receive a small referral stipend.
Kayak to a waterfall
There are adventurous excursions combining two things I enjoy – kayaking and chasing waterfalls. (Now I got that song in your head, didn’t I?) Kauai has the only navigable rivers in all of Hawaii (Wailua, Hanalei and Huleia rivers), so why not explore one?
There’s even one that takes you to the Hidden Waterfalls, which sounds lovely (I also read about one called Secret Falls, which may or may not be the same). But, frankly, I’m eyeing the one that lets you kayak to the waterfall and then boats you back in a motorized canoe.
The last time I kayaked was a moonlight float in Decorah, Iowa. I think I’d prefer daytime kayaking. In Hawaii. For sure.
Learn ukulele with friends
I came across this one-hour class through the AirBnB Experiences search. For $25, it sounds like a fun and unusual way to spend the evening in Kauai. But, for even less, your hotel may offer casual lessons. I know the resort where we’re staying offers lessons!
Hike all the hikes
I’m having a hard time narrowing down which trails I most want to hike in Kauai (this post has 15 Kauai hikes to choose from, for instance).
Some of the trails that are always popping up on “must do” lists include Kalalu Trail, which has spectacular views of the Na Pali Coast; Canyon Trail through Koke’e State Park, which offers views of Waimea Canyon State Park (AKA, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific); and a coastal hike to the Makawehi Lithified Cliffs.
Not looking for something quite so strenuous but still want to see pretty sites on the island? Look into this lovely golf cart sunset tour!
Take a dog on a field trip
This is the most novel, fabulous idea from a humane society ever: The Kauai Humane Society has a program for travelers missing their fur babies (or just wants to have a fur baby for a day). They can take a dog on a field trip, that is to say, borrow a dog for the day!
While the dogs wear a vest that says “Adopt me,” they get a valuable chance to exercise and socialize. Win win.
Red Dirt Falls
I saw pictures of the brightly colored dirt in an area of Waimea Canyon State Park, and it looks like a place straight out of a Mars movie. Wouldn’t that be something to see in real life?
Word is, you find it on your drive back down the mountain, turning left at the Y in the road.
Eat all the foods
It wouldn’t be a bucket list of mine if I didn’t mention restaurants I want to go to. I’d like to try breakfast at Kalaheo Coffee Co. It sounds like the baked goods are the way to go there, but on the menu, there’s a pineapple french toast with coconut dressing that sounds like the thing I’ll order.
And to help me achieve the goal of “all the foods,” I’d like to try a pupu platter while there. A pupu platter is like a cross between tapas and bar food.
Friday night = Art Night
I stumbled across a blog post about Hanapepe’s Art Night, which is a weekly thing on Fridays. Think live music, art, and according to the aforementioned post, twinkling fairy lights. Too bad my flight schedule isn’t going to make attending possible this time around.
For a unique float trip to top all float trips, there’s mountain tubing in Kauai. Imagine floating down waterways through lush terrain and tunnels. I read these were waterways originally carved out for agricultural purposes, but now work well for recreation.
When in the tropics, right? You can enjoy free rum tastings at Koloa Rum Co., and that sounds like an item I’ve got to check off this list.
Spelunk in wet and dry caves
Makauwahi Cave Reserve on the South shore was used to film a scene in “Pirates of the Caribbean,” so right away, you gotta imagine how cool it must look. It sounds a little more accessible (especially if traveling with kids) than the smaller wet cave there that you’d have to swim to.
For dry caves, I heard Maniniholo Dry Cave looks like a scene out of an Indiana Jones movie, complete with vines running down the rock walls. I heard it’s a good one to take kids to, and that you should bring a flashlight. Some of the island’s caves are closed due to flooding in 2018, like Waikapalae Wet Cave, so double-check it’s open before setting out.
Pretend I’m in a movie
Speaking of “Pirates of the Caribbean,” scenes from that movie, as well as “Jurassic Park,” were filmed at Allerton Garden.
It sounds beautiful, a tropical paradise of flowers and water features nearly 200 acres. I really want to see the Moreton Bay fig trees up close.
Best shaved ice on Kauai
So, every travel blogger who goes to Kauai pretty much says you’ve got to try the shaved ice. I dunno. I figure I should, though, in case someone asks.
For good, off-the-beaten-path ice cream, I read Loco Coco Shave Ice in Poipu is good, and even serves all-organic ingredients.
All the beaches
I’ve got a lot of plans to just sit and stare at the waves. Which beach should I go to? A bit out of the way is a beach known as Barking Sands Beach (it’s really called Polihale State Beach, but there’s some odd wind-passing-through-the-sands thing there that sounds like barks).
I’m told the snorkeling is good at Moloa’a Beach, and on the north side of it, is a great spot to spy aquatic life like turtles in the reef-protected area. Then there’s Poipu Beach, which looks as kid-friendly as it comes for ocean beaches, don’t you think?
See the Spouting Horn
Speaking of Poipu Beach, it’s also the home to Spouting Horn. It’d be great to be there when the tide is high to see just how loud things can get (from a safe distance). The water can shoot up to 50 feet into the air.
Take the kids on an adventure
We’ve biked, sure, but what about biking an island like Kauai? And I’ve snorkeled, but my kids haven’t. So I’m putting both on this Kauai bucket list. I read that Lydgate Beach Park is a great place for beginner snorkelers, so maybe we go there (it’s a man-made protected swimming area). And for bikes? The Kauai Coastal Path looks like a dream.
Of course, there are a ton more options for the family: ATV tours, zip lining, horseback riding.
Find the best beach for a sunset
Not all beaches are created equal for good sunset viewing. Obviously, the west side of the island is going to get that orb dipping into the water effect. I heard Polihale State Park has a good beach for sunsets.
Want more Hawaii vacation inspiration?
Check out my Hawaii Pinterest board, which includes pins to other islands beside Kauai. There, you’ll find itinerary ideas, packing lists, reviews and more!
Get travel inspiration in your inbox
Get more posts like this delivered straight to your inbox twice a month. Subscribe to the FREE e-newsletter here.