With scenic plateaus, craggy mountains, and plunging valleys rimmed with native forests, Kaua‘i is a hikers’ paradise. From the legendary Kalalau Trail spanning the rugged Na Pali Coast to more overlooked but equally breathtaking hikes into the island’s interior, there are trails for every type of hike and every level of hiker. This small volcanic island features hundreds of miles of trails, from overnight excursions to remote valleys to accessible day hikes into tropical forests, lowland swamps filled with native birds, pocket valleys, and windswept seasides.
Kauai Hikes: Kalalau Trail
World famous and the most popular (and rugged) Kauai hike, this 11-mile trail follows the vertical contours of the majestic Na Pali Coast from Ke`e Beach to Kalalau Valley, crossing 2 streams, 7 narrow valleys, and countless waterfalls along the way. Remote, wild, and incredible beautiful, this is a multi-day hike that requires a permit for anyone venturing past Hanakapi`ai Stream and the 2-mile marker. With sweeping and vertigo-inducing views of the Pacific, the later stages of this trail are not for the faint of heart, but are incredibly rewarding to those who undertake the challenge.
Two miles into the Kalalau Trail at the first stream crossing you can venture inland along the Hanakapi`ai Stream to the eponymous waterfalls 2 miles farther back the valley. The hike climbs over 700’ in elevation through native forest and bamboo groves, ending at the base of the 300’ cascade and a beautiful collecting pool perfect for a cooling swim.
Offering a chance to see the Na Pali Coast from another side, this trail (6.4 mi round trip) begins at the top of Waimea Canyon and descends 1,600 feet through native forest in Kokee State Park to a peaceful grassy plain atop the rim of two of the valleys that form the crinkled North Shore. After the first mile the forest things and you are afforded stunning views of the sea cliffs and sharp pinnacles colored in reds, greens, and yellows.
Kuilau Ridge Trail
This easy hike (4.5 mi) is a relaxing nature walk through the Keahua Arboretum near Wailua in east Kaua‘i. The trail introduces hikers to native and non-native plants with beautiful scenery, panoramic mountain views, easy stream crossings via quaint wooden bridges, and tranquil picnic areas surrounded by `Ohia forests. Located near Opaeka`a Falls on Hwy 580.
Mahaulepu Beach Trail
While most Kaua‘i’ hikes are on the north side of the island, this scenic seaside trail can be found in sunny Poipu. At 4 miles round trip, this coastal Kauai hiking tour takes you through the last undeveloped sections of this scenic shoreline, from Shipwreck Beach to Keonela Bay. Along the way you will pass majestic dunes, kiawe trees, coves that are popular resting areas for green sea turtles and Hawaiian monk seals, and interesting limestone rock formations. Ideal for whale watching during the winter months.
Kaua‘i has far too many incredible Kauai hiking tours to list here, with dozens of excellent ones throughout Waimea Canyon, Kokee State Park, and along the eastern shore. Be sure to explore and find your favorites!