Mahaulepu Heritage Coastal Beach Trail
The great thing about this coastline hike is that there are several trails that run parallel to the island’s southern shore (with varying degrees of difficulty). The one closest to the ocean is more technical, and if you’re on the way back, the inland trails are friendlier and easier on the feet. Bring plenty of water and start early at Shipwreck Beach. From there, you’ll hike through different ecosystems and across sand and lava rock along the ocean (and curiously enough, along the edge of a golf course for part of it). The trail will lead you to either a semisecluded beach or Makauwahi Cave, a limestone formation that requires a good army crawl to enter.
Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge
If you’re not into birdwatching this wildlife reserve is worth visiting for the insanely beautiful ocean view and the historic lighthouse alone. But if you are a birder, you’ve come to the perfect place. It’s that easy to spot many different species up close and personal here—the seabirds often fly really low, which makes for a pretty magical experience. Images courtesy of USFWS.
Hwy. 50, Waimea
Your rental car contract will prohibit you from accessing this beach—and should you attempt it, you'll understand why. The road is terrible, but the beach at its end is incredible. At 17-miles long, its one of Hawaii's longest beaches and it is vast and stunning and more or less empty. It abuts the Napali Coast and shares those epic views. Similarly, it faces the open ocean and the waves are intense, making the water only safe for strong swimmers. Most visitors come to walk the beach.
Anini Beach, Kalihiwai
Protected even in strong surf by what is, in fact, Hawaii’s largest coral reef, the crystal-clear waters of Anini (which was called Wanini until a hurricane knocked the W off the sign, and the locals decided to leave it) are shallow and calm enough for little ones. Better yet, there’s ample public parking, and grassy picnic spots abound.
Hanapepe Friday Art Night
Every Friday night from 5pm-9pm, you’ll find a community festival and art walk in the cute little town of Hanapepe, stocked with local vendors and food stalls. There are more than a dozen art galleries, too, where local artists mingle, along with live music (and gorgeous sunsets). Kids love it, too.
Kayak Wailua River & Hike to Waterfall
Wailua River State Park, Wailua
This stunning natural adventure takes you up the Wailua River by kayak, followed by a short hike to a secret enclosure with a gorgeous waterfall; it’s pretty easy to do on your own, though there are tours as well. The trip takes about four hours roundtrip—don’t forget to pack a lunch.
Princeville Ranch Adventures
Hwy. 56, Princeville
For an adventurous, action-packed day trip, Princeville Ranch is the place: their team of locals can lead you through everything from ziplining to horseback riding. There's also swimming, guided tours through the rainforest (where you’ll encounter challenges like scaling down a 10-foot wall of rock and crossing a waterfall—pro-level assistance and safety gear included), and hikes up to Kalihiwai Falls; theirs is the only tour with access to the peak of Pu’u O’ Henui, with a panoramic view of the North Shore.
Haena State Park, North Shore
This peaceful ocean lagoon at Ke'e Beach is the last car-accessible stop on the north shore, and as this part of the coastline is shielded by coral reef, it’s perfect for snorkeling—particularly during the summer months, when the water is calmest. It also offers views of the Nāpali coast.
Nā Pali Coast
Nāpali Coast State Park, Nāpali Coast
You can explore the stunning thousand-foot-drop cliffs of Kauai’s coastline by sailboat (or luxe sunset cruise), or, if you’re up for the challenge, you can take the scenic route—there’s an 11-mile hike (yes, that’s 11 miles each way) that takes you along the coast, and a gentler, 2-mile hike to Hanakapiai Beach (about 4 miles round-trip). Not only will you encounter some incredible natural beauty, but some essential Hawaii activities, too, as this is a great area for snorkeling and kayaking tours.
Salt Pond Beach
Lokokai Rd., Hwy. 50, Hanapepe
A natural lava rock ridge protects this crescent beach, meaning its gentle lagoon makes for safe, easy swimming and snorkeling with kids. (Plus, its glimmering red-and-gold sand is too pretty to miss.) Located close to Hawaii’s last remaining traditional salt-gathering ponds (hence the name), it’s known to be a preferred hangout for Monk Seals, as well as local families. That said, in order to protect the fragile natural environment, the namesake salt ponds are off-limits to the public.