Great Hikes for Your Kauai Vacation

One of the most enjoyable ways to see Kauai is to go on a hike and enjoy the fresh air, tradewind breezes, coastal and mountain views, and great exercise. What more could you want in a Kauai adventure?

The choices of Kauai hikes are many. From the highlands of Koke’e overlooking the Na Pali Coast and Waimea Canyon on the west side to the iconic Sleeping Giant hike on the east side, there are many wonderful Kauai hiking adventures for beginners as well as the more adventurous.

One of Kauai’s most arduous hikes is the renowned Kalalau Trail that leads to Kalalau Valley. The trail begins at the end of the road on Kauai’s north shore. Near the trailhead is one of Hawaii’s most scenic beaches, Ke’e Beach, an idyllic lagoon beach set beneath the majestic mountain of Makana, known popularly as Bali Hai for its role in the 1958 movie South Pacific.

The Kalalau Trail proceeds eleven miles along the renowned Na Pali Coast to Kalalau Valley. While this requires a permit and some planning, you can also enjoy the first part of the trail on a great day hike.

The first two miles of the Kalalau Trail leads to Hanakapiai Valley and Hanakapiai Beach. Along the way the trail goes in and out of the forest making for a relatively easy yet adventurous hike with great views of the coast and the Na Pali coastline.

Once you reach Hanakapiai Beach you can hike another two miles up the river valley to the spectacular Hanakapiai Waterfall. If you do this the round trip will be eight miles in all. The less adventurous can just do the four mile round trip from Ke’e Beach to Hanakapiai Beach and back.

Hiking beyond Hanakapiai toward Kalalau requires a day-use permit from the Division of State Parks. Be aware that Hanakapiai can be an extremely dangerous beach at any time of year and swimming is not recommended. Cool off with some river water, and then later you can enjoy one of Kauai’s lifeguarded beaches like Ke’e Beach or Hanalei Bay.

Another great coastal hike begins just past the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort in Poipu where an unpaved sugar cane road leads to a parking area near Kawailoa Bay. From there you can walk through the dunes to get to Mahaulepu Beach.

The quiet sanctuary of Mahaulepu has extensive archaeological and cultural sites including burial places in the dunes, so be careful not disturb the area and respect this important place that is considered to be Kauai’s living museum.

Research at Mahaulepu is ongoing including endangered plant and animal studies as well as analysis of fossils of animals that were found well-preserved in a limestone cave. Make sure to stay on the paths as the limestone headlands are fragile and the cliffs are undercut in some areas.

In Koke’e State Park on the west side of Kauai you can hike through redwoods at Sugi Grove or through the world’s highest swampland, the Alakai Swamp. The swamp trail leads to Kilohana Lookout over Wainiha Valley with views taking in all of Hanalei Bay.

There are more than forty-five miles of hiking trails at Koke’e including a trail traversing the rim of Waimea Canyon and leading to Waipoo Falls and the Kumuwela Overlook. This is great for a refreshing swim and amazing views of the 3,600-foot deep canyon.

Some of the most spectacular hikes at Koke’e are those that extend out onto the fingers of land looking over the Na Pali Coast and the Pacific thousands of feet below including spectacular views into the valleys of Kalalau, Nualolo, Awaawapuhi and more.

In Wailua on Kauai’s east side is the Sleeping Giant Trail up Nounou Mountain. The hike is a little less than two miles in all and brings you up to the Alii Vista Hale picnic shelter which is located on the mythical giant’s chest.

From atop Sleeping Giant you will enjoy amazing panoramic views in all directions including the eastern shore as well as inland along the Wailua River and up to Mt. Waialeale. These are just a few of the great hikes Kauai has to offer.

If you are planning a Kauai vacation please feel free to give us a call. The Bali Hai Realty vacation rental staff will be happy to help you find the perfect Kauai vacation rental as well as plan fun Kauai activities during your stay.

Also see our Kauai Vacation Rental Galleries or use our unique Map-Based Kauai Vacation Rental Search feature.

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