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.
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.
Waimea Canyon State Park Hike
Waimea Canyon Dr., Waimea
You can hike your way to an 800-foot, two-tiered waterfall, which is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Take the extra time to hike the Canyon Trail: It brings you through a forest until you reach the exposed ridge, where you’ll be greeted by an incredible view of the canyon’s monumental rock formations (take care, as there are no guardrails). Hike up from there to a peaceful pool above Waipo’o Falls; the whole trek takes a few hours roundtrip.
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