3-7 Day Kauai Itinerary for the Best Experience

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The island of Kauai is breathtakingly beautiful and uninhabited, which leaves it untouched by typical tourist offerings.

There are not as many activities to do on Kauai as there are on some of the other Hawaiian islands; however, what it lacks in activities it makes up for in natural beauty.

You can squeeze more than enough out of your time on Kauai with the right itinerary.

From exploring the valley beyond the dormant volcano at Waimea Canyon all the way up to an aerial view high above Wailua Falls, we’ve got you covered.

This 3-7 day Kauai itinerary will provide you with everything you need to know to plan an unforgettable trip.

Kauai Itinerary at a Glance

Land aloha at Lihue! Dive straight into Kauai’s plantation past and present at Kilohana Plantation before swooping down to Nawiliwili Harbor.

Hop over to Kapa’a for a peek of chocolate and vanilla production.

North Kauai proudly presents: Na’Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park and Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.

Hanalei Bay later rolls in with stunning sea views and beach time.

Kauai’s Na Pali Coast houses the slumbering Waimea Canyon, accessible via various state parks. Check off as many lookout points as you can before visiting the quaint village of Hanapepe.

Pack up and wave Kauai goodbye, or continue onto your 5-day Kauai itinerary.

It’s back to North Kauai again, this time to the end of the road. Haena State Park opens the gates to the Kalalau Trail for an amazing hike.

Don’t forget South Kauai and the historic towns of Koloa and Poipu. From ziplining across reservoirs to indie shops and bombastic beaches, they’ve got it all.

Still not satisfied? Spend a total of 7 days in Kauai.

It is bucket list day, meaning you choose any tour you want to experience. Explore Kauai in all the ways that matter to you.

Wailua is the perfect final stop, especially if you’ve got a flight to catch. Kayak down Wailua River and snap shots of its famous waterfalls.

Pre-Trip Planning

Fly into Lihue Airport to begin your Kauai getaway and spend a minimum of 3 days to see Kauai’s glorious highlights. To get the best of all shores, set up your HQ at Lihue.

Absolutely rent a car unless you want to be at the whims of excursion tours every day.

Pick up your rental car at Lihue Airport and voila – a more efficient and relaxed trip! This allows you to explore Kauai at your own pace.

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Day 1 - Kauai Museum & Kilohana Plantation

Drop off your luggage and start your Kauai trip with what’s closest – the city of Lihue.

As the cultural and historical hub of the Hawaiian island, it is home to major attractions you don’t want to miss.

Kauai Museum

Kauai Museum is a fitting first stop as it pays to know your holiday destination.

Located in a lava rock structure, it’s been a hot spot since 1960.

Read up on Captain Cook’s explorations, Hawaii’s volcanic history and admire the painted stories on the museum’s walls.

Kilohana Plantation
Photo by Kilohana Plantation

Kilohana Plantation

Nearby Kilohana Plantation shows off 16,000 square feet of lush farms and orchards.

A 40-minute railway ride swans past fruit trees, vegetable gardens, tropical flowers and honking animals.

Families with kids love this place as you can feed wild pigs, sheep and goats.

Koloa Rum Company

Adults on the other hand, may want to stop at Koloa Rum Company. The award-winning rums and tasting room is within the Kilohana estate for easy access.

Kalapaki Beach
Kalapaki Beach

Nawiliwili Harbor & Kalapaki Beach

If you’d rather be near water, skip Kilohana Plantation and stop by Nawiliwili Harbor instead.

Housing cruise ships, a yacht club and an active commercial cargo port, it’s a Lihue landmark.

From there, turn north to find Kalapaki Beach. This sheltered cove is backed by a luxury resort with picturesque views and paved shoreline walkways.

You can surf, boogie board and sun tan for hours on this Kauai beach – just don’t forget your sunscreen!

Dining options are plenty in this area; lunch could go from big plates to shaved ice.

Lydgate Farms Kauai Chocolate

Loaded with food, drive out towards Kapa’a direction for Lydgate Farms Kauai Chocolate.

Nibble on cacao nibs and choco-covered macadamia nuts as an informative guide shows you how chocolate is made, and how we can better support the farmers.

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The Vanillery of Kauai

Just down the highway is The Vanillery of Kauai, a small homestead grower who loves vanilla. Who doesn’t?

If you’ve ever wondered why vanilla is so expensive, this private tour explains it all.

Wander Around Kapa’a

Spend your afternoon wandering through Kapa’a’s collection of colorful, eclectic shopfronts.

Take your time to really explore Kuhio Highway and hunt down secret local places to eat.

Coconut Marketplace is a quaint open-air shopping village that’s perfect for early dinner.

Day 2 - Kauai's North Shore

Day 2 of your Kauai itinerary begins bright and early as you set off for Kauai’s north shore.

Na’Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park

Less than 40 minutes drive away is Na’Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park. Breathe in the greens at this 240-acre preserve that features both diverse gardens and waterfalls. Life-sized bronze statues also keep you in good company.

Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens
Photo by Na'Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge shares the same slice of coast, coming right up against the oceanfront.

It is birds, birds, and more bird spotting: red tails tropicals, albatrosses, NeNe, and red footed Bobbies galore.

For surround sound (and views), Kilauea Viewpoint is even better than 4D cinemas.

Tip: Buy your tickets online beforehand and note that only water can be brought out of your car.

Kilauea Lighthouse

But the highlight is actually Kilauea Lighthouse, located at the tip of the refuge.

You can really take in the scale of the ocean as you look out from this historic lighthouse.

Kilauea Lighthouse Kilauea USA
Kilauea Lighthouse Kilauea USA

Hanalei Lookout Points

As the clock hand passes 12PM, hop back onto Kuhio Highway towards Hanalei.

Make brief stops at Hanalei Valley Lookout and Hanalei Bay Lookout because the views are stunning. Sweeping hills? Check.

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Have Lunch in Hanalei

Hanalei has the best eats along north shore, ranging from food trucks to island-themed grills or Asian noodles and buns.

They’re mostly clustered around the highway, so you can easily walk and browse.

Hanalei Bay

After lunch, venture into Hanalei Bay proper. Two miles of beach are hemmed in by mountains, offering both photo ops and a lovely place for water activities.

Whether you rent a sailboat, do paddleboarding or swim off the heat, you could spend your entire afternoon here.

Join a guided kayak and snorkeling tour to explore Hanalei River and underwater Bay Reef Lagoon.

Beach Hopping

Or if that’s not your thing, you could go beach hopping across northern Kauai instead:

Ines’s Secret Beach – Best natural beach just off Waipa Farmer Market.

Anini Beach – A very long beach with campgrounds for a night under the stars.

Tunnels Beach – Reef-protected beach that’s perfect for surfing.

Kalihiwai Beach – Sheltered beach with plenty of lounging space.

When you’re done, enjoy dinner at Hanalei or return to Lihue.

Day 3 - Na Pali Coast & Waimea Canyon

Kauai Helicopter Tour

Flip your compass because you’re heading to southeast today. But first – wake up to literal bird’s eye views over Kauai with a doors-off Kauai helicopter tour.

Capped at 6 people, this flight takes off from Lihue Airport to hover over Mt. Waialeale, Waimea Canyon State Park, the Na Pali Coast, “Jurassic Park” Falls and more.

Without doors in the way, you can see everything.

Tip: The early bird gets the worm! Sign up for the earliest tour so you have more time for later activities.

Waimea Canyon
Waimea Canyon

Waimea Town

Whizz down the highway to Waimea town. It may not be the busiest, buzziest town on the island, but it’s the historic seaport where Captain Cook first landed in Hawaii in 1778.

Take a quick gander and pick up last-minute hiking snacks before your epic Waimea Canyon excursion.

Waimea Lookouts

Turn onto Waimea Canyon Road and head straight to Mile Marker #19 for the Puu o Kila Lookout.

When the fog plays nice, this lookout point offers incredible views over Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park.

You may also want to stop at Kalalau Lookout when you finally turn back down the road.

Red Dirt Waterfall Kokee State Park
Red Dirt Waterfall Kokee State Park

Kokee State Park

Your Waimea Canyon adventures don’t end here, don’t worry. Head back down the mountain until you reach Kokee State Park, which is famous for its Kalalau Valley appreciation.

Some things to do:

  • Koke’e Museum – Loaded with information about local plantation, wild life and trails. Also comes with a restaurant if you’re peckish.
  • Hiking – It goes without saying that you have to hike on Kauai! Popular trails include the Pihea Trail, the Awa’awapuhi Trail and the Nu’aloo Cliffs Trail.
  • Red Dirt Waterfall – Literally what it sounds like, and extremely cool to see.

Waimea Canyon State Park

Waimea Canyon State Park is slightly further down the ridge, and it offers its own set of lookouts and hiking trails too.

Outdoor enthusiasts may want to spend the rest of their day exploring here.

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Hanapepe

Hanapepe is probably the cutest town in all of Hawaii. Having inspired Disney’s Lilo & Stitch and played set for various movies; you bet it’s teeming with eateries, quirky shops and art galleries.

Don’t miss out on the Hanapepe Swinging Bridge or the Lilo & Stitch Mural.

Stay in Hanapepe for dinner or return to Lihue.

Waimea Canyon

Those who don’t fancy navigating up and down mountains themselves could sign up for a half-day Waimea Canyon tour instead.

Your schedule would look something like this:

– Pick up from hotel in Lihue or Poipu at 8:30AM.
– Carted off towards Waimea, historical lessons included.
– Pass by Russian Fort Elizabeth State Historical Park and Spouting Horn Blowhole.
– Set loose on Hanapepe.

Go Downhill Biking

Immediately continue your day with a Waimea Canyon Downhill Bike Ride as the meeting point is in Hanapepe.

This 4-hour tour will actually take you into the mountains, stopping at secret lookouts as you coast downhill through three state parks.

Arrive back to the oceanfront just in time to catch the beautiful sunset.

Tip: This isn’t mountain biking; you’ll be riding on public asphalt road. Still, good biking skills are required if you want to have a good time.

Stay at Hanapepe for dinner or return to Lihue.

You're at the end of your 3-day adventure on the island!

If you’re doing a 5-day Kauai itinerary, dedicate an extra day to the South and North shore respectively.

You can play switcheroo with which days come first, but the ideal itinerary will offer you two days in Southern Kauai, two days in Northern Kauai, and one day around Lihue.

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Day 4 - Limahuli Garden & Haena State Park

It’s back to north Kauai for day 4 of your itinerary. This time, we’re heading for the very end of Kuhio Highway and the Na Pali Coast.

Do pack a picnic or pick up food along the way; there are no restaurants around the area!

Limahuli Garden & Preserve

Spare an hour or two for Limahuli Garden & Preserve. Featuring rare trees and a lovely loop trail, the botanic garden overlooks the Pacific for spectacular daylight views.

Book a self-guided tour in advance to get an informative guidebook with marked highlights.

Tip: Bring mosquito repellent!

Haena state park
Photo by Haena state park

Haena State Park

Haena State Park is 230 acres of agricultural land, sea caves and ancient sites. It also houses the trailhead of Kalalua Trail as well as Ke’e beach.

Bathrooms, showers and tables to sit at are provided. Some sites you’ll come across may include:

– Hula Complex
– Restore Agricultural Complex
– Historic Poi Mill
– Restored houses like Allerton’s House
– Ke’e Beach for unlimited water time and sunbathing

Tip: Visitors have to reserve spots ahead of time to enter the state park.

If you’re planning on staying the whole day, you need reservations for all three slots: morning, afternoon, and until sunset.

Ke’e Beach & Kalalau Trail

Enjoy time under the sun at Ke’e Beach and take it easy for once.

Avid hikers (and casual ones) are highly encouraged to do the Kalalau Trail.

The 4-mile round trip takes you to Hanakapi’ai Beach, while the 8-mile round trip leads you to Hanakapi’ai Falls.

Note that you need reservations to access the rest of the trail after Hanakapi’ai Beach.

Head back to Lihue after watching the sunset and stop by Hanalei or Princeville for dinner.

Day 5 - Koloa & Poipu Town

There is still plenty to experience in south Kauai. Visitors often flock to Koloa and Poipu for luxury resorts and easy beach access, so spoil yourself with commercial comforts!

Tree Tunnel

If you haven’t passed through the Tree Tunnel on Day 3, here’s your chance.

Over 500 eucalyptus trees loom over you in a 1-mile canopy – it’s an amazing stretch of road.

Punch in 520 Maluhia Rd on your GPS so you don’t miss it.

Old Koloa Town
Photo by Old Koloa Town

Koloa Town

Pull into Koloa town for plantation-era houses that have been turned into shops and restaurants.

Its growing food scene makes it a great breakfast place. For some of Kauai’s best food trucks, look for the remnants of the old sugar mill.

Tip: Coffee from Dark Horse Coffee Roasters will smack you awake.

Waita Reservoir Ziplining

It’s time to zipline across Waita Reservoir on eight different tracks!

The island’s longest ziplines offer a new perspective over Kauai and let you live out that superhero dream.

A hands-free harness will have you swooping like Superman.

Poipu Beach Koloa United States
Poipu Beach

Poipu Town

Poipu town isn’t much bigger than Koloa but The Shops at Kukui’ula is a fun stop.

Find boutiques, restaurants, art galleries and a Wednesday’s farmers market at this ‘shopping mall’.

Beach Hopping in Poipu

You definitely have to spend some time at Poipu’s numerous beaches too:

Poipu Beach – For family-friendly swims in calm waters.

Brennecke’s Beach – Perfect beach for boogie boarding.

Kiahuna Beach – Backed by palms, it’s great for snorkeling and surfing lessons.

Shipwreck Beach – Modest beach for surfing and a sunset viewing spot.

Fancy a walk? Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail starts right by Shipwreck Beach and Poipu Bay Golf Course.

The beautiful coastal trail is private and low-key, taking you over low-laying cliffs to the ancient Waiopili Heiau site.

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McBryde & Allerton Gardens

Once you’ve had your share of beaches, detour to McBryde & Allerton Gardens.

Where McBryde Garden houses endangered plants and breathtaking greenery, Allerton Garden combines art installations and landscaping to amazing effect.

The various garden rooms and water features are A+.

Right across the road is Spouting Horn Park, which features a cool blowhole plus sound effects.

Kilohana Plantation Luau

Stop by Kilohana Plantation once again to catch a luau before you leave Kauai.

From a champagne reception to a four-course meal and mesmerizing fire twirlers, end your trip on an unforgettable note.

Tip: Check out our ultimate guide to the best luaus in Kauai.

Enjoying a week in Kauai? The Green Isle just keeps giving as you enter the final stretch of your one-week Kauai itinerary.

Having gone full speed the previous few days, you can stretch out your activities on days 6 and 7.

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Day 6 - Kauai Bucket List Adventures

Sign up for tours that let you explore a particular landscape in-depth.

You could also squeeze in a full day of hotel-only pampering – sea views, room service, spa treatments and nothing but.

Some fantastic tour options include:

Napali Raft Adventure

It’s truly a never-done-before Na Pali Coast excursion, as most boat tours stay far from shore.

This raft sneaks into sea caves and hidden beaches, even landing at an ancient Hawaiian fishing village (special permit needed).

Kauai Snorkeling Tour
Kauai Snorkeling Tour Photo by Viator

Kauai Shore Snorkeling

This guided snorkel tour brings you through Kauai’s south shore reefs, pointing out sea urchins, sea mammals and all the sea life. Beginners are welcome.

Guided Foodie Tour

Oh yes, fall in love with Kauai over food! Choose between the south, north and west shores and meet the people behind Kauai’s best cuisine.

From chef to farmer meet-ups and seasonal tasting menus, you’ll get the best of Hawaiian food.

Kauai ATV Tour
Kauai ATV Tour Photo by Viator

ATV Backroads Adventure Tour

Get down and dirty on an ATV tour as you delve into plantation trails, inactive volcanic craters and famous movie sites. If you’re lucky, you may even fit in some bass fishing.

Kauai Filming Location Tour

Movie buffs will appreciate Kauai with new lenses as you’re brought to famous movie locations.

The minibus will trundle to places featured on Blue Hawaii, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jurassic Park and more.

Day 7 - Final Stop in Wailua

Those with afternoon flights to catch will find Wailua a quick morning stop. This town is the perfect last-day itinerary for Kauai, especially since it’s so close to Lihue.

Pick one or two of the following attractions to finish off your holiday:

Wailua River – Wander up this river via kayak or rent paddle boards to get the best of Wailua’s lush interior. Paddle all the way to Secret Falls if you can.

Kamokila Hawaiian Village – Recreating a traditional Hawaiian village, this stop offers canoe rentals and a grotto for swimming.

Opaekaa Falls – Just by Kamokila Village is a nice scenic spot that overlooks the verdant valley. Spot waterfalls in the distance.

Keahua Arboretum – The rainbow Eucalyptus trees are a highlight, although hikers will like the Kahalia trail even more.

Wailua Falls – There’s no need to hike to Kauai’s famous Wailua Falls as it’s just by a scenic road. The twin spouts fall into a refreshing pool.

Lydgate Beach Park – Well-protected, this slice of beach is perfect for families with kids. There are multiple playgrounds and natural pools to enjoy.

Fern Grotto – The fern-covered lava cave is extremely pretty, viewed by boat or from an observation deck.