How to Spend a Day in Kauai

How to Spend a Day in Kauai

Day trip to Kauai

A family friend mentioned they were going on a cruise to Hawaii and wanted some tips. I realized my previous posts would not necessarily help someone visiting Kauai for 1 or 2 days so this is for those people. In Kauai, the port comes in right by the Marriott in Lihue. This is a great location to be in!  Below I will go over my South Coast activities and North Coast activities that we really enjoyed doing!

South Coast Recommendations

If it’s in the budget, I would rent a car for the day.  On the top of my list, I would say drive up to Kalalau Lookout  (Wai’ale’ale). You will see many look out spots where you can pull over to catch the view,, but don’t spend your time doing this on the way up. Wait until you are coming back down as you will need to get to Kalalau Lookout early. By checking the weather and going early you can miss the clouds and fog coming in. Unfortunately for me, the clouds obstructed my view and I was not able to see the stunning views of the Napali Coast. Kalalau Lookout has an elevation of 5,148 FT and its known to be one of the wettest spots on earth… who knew!

Kalalau Lookout (Wai’ale’ale)

Next make your way to Waimea Canyon the“Grand Canyon” of Hawaii. Waimea Canyon has panoramic views of stunning valleys. This really is a must see in my opinion! This Canyon is about ten miles long and up to 3,600 feet deep and is just breathtaking. Once again, you want to be here early before the clouds roll in.

Waimea Canyon

Because we were on a budget, we went to 7/11 to buy our snacks before we left. However, by now you will most likely be hungry, so I would Yelp popular places to eat nearby.

Next take a drive to Spouting Horn.  A very popular spot to see the ocean waves crash on the coast line and shoot out of a lava tube. The spout can reach up to 50 feet!

Spouting Horn

From here I would recommend going to Po’ipu Beach Park, which has amazing snorkeling.  It was a little crowded when we went but the water was beautiful and there were plenty of fish around! This beach has lifeguards and restrooms.

For dinner make your way back to the port and seek out Duke’s Kauai. They have amazing Nacho’s and fish tacos and do not, I repeat, do not skip dessert. The Hula Pie was amazing! YUMMM

North Coast Recommendations

Kauai is full of beautiful sightseeing areas, but nothing like the Napali coast in my opinion. Napali Coast is a full day thing, but it’s totally worth it. These deep, lush, and jagged coastlines stretch 15 miles long and have easy to expert level hiking trails. There are a couple of ways you can explore these and although I’ve only done one, I am sure they are all spectacular.

Napali Coast

By Helicopter

Maybe one of the most advertised is to take a helicopter ride over the coast. From what I’ve heard and seen, the views are out of this world and you can see the coast from all viewpoints. Some tours even take you to see the waterfall from the movie Jurassic Park. I happen to be afraid of flying so I ultimately did not choose this option.

By Boat

Another way to experience the coast is by boat.There are quite a few companies that offer these boat trips from luxury tours to less expensive tours to fit anyone’s budget. I would recommend reading reviews and seeing which tour fits your needs. If you don’t have your sea legs, this might not be the best option you for you. The seas on the north coast can be very rough, so instead of enjoying the coast views, your head will just be facing the water. Alex doesn’t do well on boats so we decided against this option.

By Land

Last, but not least, is by land. This is the option we chose (since I don’t like to fly, and Alex doesn’t like boats) and we really enjoyed it. We woke up nice and early to get breakfast and got to the start on the 11 mile hike around 10 am. There is a super tiny parking lot so you might just have to line up and wait for a spot. Fortunately, we only waited about 5-10 minutes. Before you get here, I would definitely recommend bringing a large bottle of water per person, or something with electrolytes like Gatorade and a small lunch. This packing list might be different if you are hiking past the 2 mile marker.

Half way to the 2 mile beach. Peep some of the views to the right!
Packing for the hike

Since I started mentioning packing above, I figured I would give you the rest of my go packing list. Besides the above, I would bring the following:


Backpack to hold snacks and water.
1. Wear lightweight clothes, you will definitely be sweating….A LOT!
2. Sunscreen and even bug spray. You are in the jungle.
3. Hiking boots. We wore regular running shoes and our ankles were killing us. There is a lot of climbing up and down rocks, so ankle support will come in clutch.
4. Bathing Suit. Once you get to the stream and beach, you will want to cool down.

Our Hike experience


We are, by no means, hiking pros and even though the 2 mile hike was considered “easy” I found it pretty challenging. It was a lot of climbing up and down hills and rocks the entire time, and even hopping across rocks over a stream, but the views were absolutely stunning. The first 2 miles are hiking to the beach. This is where your lunch will come in handy. We didn’t bring lunch, but I sure wish we had. Once we got to the beach, the waves were too rough to swim and there is no lifeguard either, but there was a pool of water higher up on the beach that was made by the tide. A lot of people were hanging out in this pool.


Napali Coast Stream Cross


Have you ever hiked somewhere and wished you could just be teleported back? That’s what we were feeling after we knew we had to hike all the way back for a total round trip of 4 miles. It may not sound like a lot, but it definitely felt like it. We were short on water and it was really hot. I remember scooping the water up from the stream and pouring it down my head. When we finally made it back I was so relieved. There were times, I felt like I wasn’t going to make it, but when I look back on it now, it was THE BEST experience. Labor intensive, yes but so worth it.

Napali Coast 2 Mile Beach


With our hike we were able to also stop by another beach around 1pm. We wanted to go to some of the North end beaches I read so much about, such as Tunnel beach, but the water was too rough for us to go snorkeling. A lifeguard recommended that we to go to  Lydgate State Park Beach Park. What’s really cool about this beach is that it is protected by a rock cove which protects you from the wave break. It also has good snorkeling by the rocks!

If you choose this route and you are feeling extra adventurous you can even stop by Wailua Falls one of the more accessible falls of Kauai, Wailua Falls will not disappoint! Drive right up to this falls and get a jaw dropping view.


Whether you visit these coasts by helicopter, sea or land you will not be disappointed! Have you tried any of the above? I would love to know your experience and recommendations for anyone else looking to try either helicopter or boat.

Staying in Kauai or Maui for a longer period of time? Check out my other posts for the two spots!

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