Planning a getaway to the Garden Isle of Kauai? Check out our guide for how to plan the perfect 3-7 days in Kauai itinerary!
Beloved for its majestic natural beauty, Kauai is stocked full of impeccable landscapes, rich culture, ancient history, and hot attractions to hit up for your trip to Kauai!
Notorious for its untouched landscapes, regal mountain backdrops, roaring waterfalls, world-famous beaches, and sprawling valleys have tagged the island the nickname “Garden Isle.”
Some of the most famous attractions on the island include the iconic Na Pali Coast, Waimea Canyon, and Poipu Beach. Its lush forests, clean air, untouched environment, and impeccable views make for an undeniably fulfilling trip that will highlight in your memories forever.
Our Kauai itinerary is a masterfully organized list of the best things to do in Kauai for a core three-day trip. Plus, we’ve provided the option of small expansions to five-day and seven-day trips so that you can make the most out of your vacation to the naturally stunning Hawaiian Island of Kauai!
Don’t forget to check out our complete list of the 21 Best Things To Do In Kauai!
With this perfectly compiled 3 to 7 days in Kauai itinerary, you can guarantee you’ll hit the best attractions on the island for an unforgettable vacation. Our Kauai 7-day itinerary begins on the island’s northwest coast, traveling west to south to loop around to the island’s northern coast.
The core three-day Kauai itinerary begins on the north shore and travels to the south shore.
However, if you want to spend more time on this beautiful island, you can easily adjust by adding the recommended five-day or seven-day itinerary to the core three days!
The best way to get around is to rent a car and explore on your own! We recommend Rental Cars, which has the largest range of vehicles for the best value on the market.
Our 3 days in Kauai itinerary will serve as the core combination of things to do. It includes popular points of interest you don’t want to miss out on.
From the beautiful beaches of Kauai, including Kalalau Beach, to the top parks full of prosperous plant and animal life, like Polihale State Park, you can experience the best of the best on this unique and vibrant Hawaiian Island with our three-day Kauai itinerary!
On your first day in Kauai, grab your rental car and start exploring! Hike through Koke’e State Park for opportunities to see unique animal and plant species.
If you dare, trek the dangerously rewarding hike of the Kalalau Trail to the remote and gorgeous Kalalau Beach. Wander where ancient Hawaiians once thrived in the valleys of Napali Coast State Wilderness Park for an amazing start to your trip to Kauai!
Honing nearly 45 miles of hiking trails considered the most sought-after in Hawaii, Koke’e State Park is a land of natural wonder!
Thriving with the rich vegetation of dense jungles and native plants, the park is also home to endemic Hawaiian species of forest birds, including the moa, the ‘apapane, and ‘iwi.
A hike through Koke’e State Park’s trails presents a valued opportunity for trekkers to glimpse these rare species and achieve rewarding sights of the wilderness when they visit Waimea Canyon.
Inside the park is the Koke’e Museum, which houses exhibits dedicated to showcasing educational information on the native species inside the park and Waimea Canyon. The museum offers assistance and information on weather and trail conditions that can be helpful before heading out into the park.
Join an adventure on this Waimea Canyon & Kokeʻe State Park Private Tour! Experience the beauty of the Nā Pali Coast, the Waipo’o Falls, Waimea Canyon Lookout, and Koke’e State Park with informational highlights of the culture and history of these natural attractions provided by your local guide on this one-of-a-kind tour.
Located on the north shore of Kauai, Kalalau Beach is the rewarding destination at the end of the Kalalau Trail.
Considered one of the most challenging trails on the Hawaiian Islands, the 11-mile Kalalau Trail is not for the inexperienced hiker, as it heads above towering sea cliffs, past roaring waterfalls, and through five valleys. Unfortunately, the only other way to reach Kalalau Beach is by kayaking.
Kalalau Beach rests at the base of Kalalau Valley on the Nā Pali Coast and features a rugged but serene escape many yearn to reach.
Many people camp at Kalalau Beach on the north coast to experience a remote getaway surrounded by lush forests, the gentle crash of the ocean’s waves, and the starry night sky.
Full of hiking trails and opportunities to witness the glory of Kauai’s beauty firsthand, Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park is one of the core activities to experience when visiting Kauai.
One of the most popular trails at the park is the Kalalau Trail, though there are plenty of other safe and beginner-friendly trail options to consider instead.
The park has picturesque sceneries of rugged cliffs, towering mountains, rushing waterfalls, and thriving forests. Once upon a time, ancient Hawaiians lived in the valleys within the park, sustaining harvested items like taro and fishing in prosperous waters.
Numerous helicopter tours soar from above so visitors can view the breathtaking sights of the coastline. This air tour is one of them, traveling along the Na Pali Coast and through the Waimea Canyon!
Though you can visit the Na Pali Coast without a tour, a guided Na Pali Coast tour is the best way to see this rugged and remote area with ease. A boat tour is another alternative to a helicopter tour, and this one gets great reviews!
Peer at towering sand dunes at the untamed beachside of Polihale State Park. Relish in picturesque viewpoints of the majesty of Kauai at the Kekaha Lookout. Then, witness the splendor of the sprawling Waimea Canyon at Waimea Canyon State Park!
A bit of a challenge to access but completely rewarding in the end, Polihale State Park is a seven-mile remote beach favored for its tranquil, untouched setting. The sand dunes at the beach are super impressive, some stretching up to 100 feet in the air.
As the beach at Polihale State Park is wild, there are no lifeguards or protection from the open ocean, so taking precautions is advised. Many do not recommend swimming or surfing here as there is a rapid drop off into deep water, and the rip currents are infamously strong.
Instead, for water-based activities, it is recommended to head over to the Queen’s Pond at Polihale State Park. It can be found on the southern point of the park and is one of the safer areas to swim in.
Find more fun activities with our list of the 25 best things to do in Hawaii!
A quick but worthwhile stop, the Kekaha Lookout is found in Pu’u ka Pele Forest Reserve. The roadside vista opens up to views of the Hawaiian Island of Ni’hau, the ocean, and the Waimea Canyon.
To reach the Kekaha Lookout, no trekking is required. Step out of your car, take a few steps, and you’re there! From the Kekaha Lookout, awe-inspiring sights of Kauai open up before you, making for a spectacular sightseeing and photo-taking spot to remember your trip by.
Notoriously known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, the Waimea Canyon is the most popular feature in Waimea Canyon State Park!
Nestled on the west coast of Kauai, Waimea Canyon State Park became much more famously known after the American explorer John Wesley Powell visited the island in 1869.
Many hiking trails reach some of the park’s top attractions, including the Waimea Canyon Trail, which heads to the canyon for rewarding viewpoints of the impressive landmark. Plus, there are convenient lookouts, like the Puu Hinahina Lookout, where visitors can relish the breathtaking sights of Waimea Canyon State Park.
This full-day Waimea Canyon & Wailua River tour is a memorable opportunity to cruise down the Wailua River with unique viewpoints of Waimea Canyon, Opaeka’a Falls, and the legendary Fern Grotto!
Sink into the luxurious tropical paradise of one of America’s best beaches at Poipu Beach. Bask in the refreshing air and views hiking the scenic Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail.
And, of course, visit the iconic Shipwreck Beach, where rusted ships were once abandoned on its shores, for an impactful vacation in Kauai’s paradise!
Found on the south shore of Kauai, Poipu Beach is the perfect way to start the day in this tropical paradise!
Previously named America’s Best Beach by The Travel Channel, Poipu Beach is beloved for many reasons.
It is one of the most incredible beaches for swimming, snorkeling, and surfing, and it’s great for kids! This is a very family-friendly beach in Kauai due to its desirable shallow waters that are protected from strong rip currents and crashing waves.
The Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail is a rejuvenating coastal trek that traverses along the last stretch of undeveloped coastline along the south shore of Kauai. The two-mile trail, four miles out and back, is a quaint stroll with convenient access so that you can savor the natural beauty of the island with ease.
Beginning at Shipwreck Beach, the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail winds along the scenic coastline to reach Maha’ulepu Beach. Both of these beach stops along the way are popular beaches for surfing, sunbathing, and sightseeing the stunning coastal ocean views of the island.
Read next: The 21 Best Things To Do In Waikiki, Hawaii
On the south shore is the famous Shipwreck Beach, where abandoned ships once littered its shores. One such ship was the World War II Liberty Ship, a 1940s oil tanker that beached on the coral reef of Kaiolohia Bay. It became a famous landmark until it was later removed.
This beach itself is not a recommended area for swimming or snorkeling. This is due to the intense rip currents and waves that power through the waters here, which can be a perilous safety risk.
Even with this, experienced surfers like to test their luck at Shipwreck Beach, though we highly advise not following suit.
If you want to extend your Kauai adventure, you need to check out our Kauai itinerary for 5 days vacation. We’ve made it simple to add these two extra days of recommended attractions and activities to our core three-day itinerary of the Garden Island!
Snorkel the waters or learn how to swim at Kalapaki Beach. Witness the brilliance of Wailua Falls from afar or up close and personal. Then, learn more about Kauai’s rich culture and history with a tour and performance at the Lu’au Kalamaku! Your exploration of Garden Island continues!
A great family-friendly attraction, Kalapaki Beach is settled on the east shore of Kauai with the Kauai Marriott Beach Resort at its back.
Enjoy some beach time here are try some water sports! A sturdy break wall protects a portion of Kalapaki Beach, fending off the most violent waves that travel from the open ocean.
Due to this feature, water activities such as swimming, paddle boarding, and boogie boarding are popular at Kalapaki Beach, along with surfing lessons for beginners.
Nearby are rental accommodations for water-based activities, plus shave ice to cool off from a hot day spent in the sun! Shave ice is a classic Kauai treat, so definitely grab one when you’ve finished up your beach time!
Featured on the hit television series Fantasy Island, the 173-foot Wailua Falls are found on the Wailua River. These dramatic falls are stunning as they cascade into the waters below.
The Wailua Falls can be seen from the roadside if you’re content with sightseeing. If you’re more inclined to get up close and personal, a three-mile hike is required from Ma’alo Road.
One of the most rewarding sights can be gifted if you time it right in the morning when occasionally a rainbow trickles across the rushing waterfalls through the mist!
Full of culture and history, Lu’au Kalamaku is a dinner theater located on a plantation that combines native cuisine, hula dancing performances, and local crafts for a one-of-a-kind experience!
Visitors are welcome to book a guided tour of the plantation or a cultural demonstration of local arts as crafters construct enigmatic creations made from the island.
Afterward, guests can sit back and enjoy the show as fire and hula dancers perform to share Kauai’s story, history, and culture.
Consider island hopping over to Maui next! Here is our list of the best things to do in Maui when you get there.
Start day 5 of your ultimate Kauai itinerary with a quick stop at Hanalei Valley Lookout for impactful views of Hanalei Valley from above. Next, see one of the most iconic attractions on Kauai at the Queen’s Bath.
Then, go surfing or kayaking at Hanalei Bay for an active day spent savoring the impeccable environment of the tropical paradise of Kauai!
The Hanalei Valley Lookout is a quick and popular spot for panoramic observational points of the sprawling valley.
As one of the most photographed spots in Hawaii, a visit to the north shore to reach this lookout can be extremely fruitful.
The valley has taro fields, luscious forests, mountain peaks, and cascading waterfalls. Within Hanalei Valley are unique species like the Hawaiian coot that can be pictured above in their natural habitat.
The Queen’s Bath is one of the most famous attractions on Kauai’s north shore. It only takes a short hike to reach the Queen’s Bath where natural tide pools, the open ocean, and lava rock combine for a spectacular sight.
This natural attraction is a favorite summertime activity of tourists and locals, though it is important to proceed cautiously when visiting this spot.
Some individuals will try to swim in the rock pools, which may seem appealing initially, but sudden rip currents and dangerous crashing waves are infamous here, known to drag people out in the open ocean.
Two miles long, Hanalei Bay is a crescent-shaped stretch that traverses from the Hanalei River to the Waipa Stream.
Named one of the best beaches in America, Hanalei Bay boasts breathtaking sparkling waters, a mountain backdrop, and access to nearby shopping and eating attractions.
From Hanalei Bay is access to the Hanalei River, which many reach by paddling on rental kayaks. At the Bay, surfing is popular thanks to its impressive sought-out waves in the winter.
If you have the time to spend 7 days exploring Kauai, you won’t be disappointed! This seven-day itinerary can be added to the core three-day and five-day itinerary to help take your Kauai trip to the next level.
Begin the day at the iconic Lumaha’i Beach to dip your toes in the soft white sand. Then, swim at Ke’e Beach, a safe and exceptional swimming and snorkeling spot. Finally, take your pick of attractions at Haena State Park, where ancient Hawaiian sea caves can be adventured firsthand!
Settled on the north shore of Kauai, Lumaha’i Beach is wonderfully nestled at the mouth of the Lumaha’i River. This white sand beach’s scenic setting has been featured in many postcards, paintings, and photographs.
Though Lumaha’i Beach offers a fantastic setting perfect for photography, sunbathing, and sightseeing, it is important to proceed with caution in the waters of this beach. The waters are exposed to the open ocean, meaning swimmers are exposed to strong rip currents.
Read next: 21 Best Things To Do In Honolulu
The beloved Ke’e Beach on the north shore of Kauai is adored for its stunning white sands and sparkling blue waters. Its location is also conveniently near the legendary NaPali Coast, one of the most famous areas of Kauai and Hawaii for its breathtaking beauty.
The swimming conditions at Ke’e Beach are ideal and safe for swimmers to savor the vibrant blue waters of Kauai. The crescent-shaped beach is not only excellent for swimmers but for snorkelers too, where visitors of Ke’e Beach can catch sightings of sea turtles in their natural habitat!
Frequently referred to as the end of the road, Haena State Park is the final point of the Kuhio Highway on the north shore of Kauai.
From Haena State Park is access to ancient Hawaiian sites, such as a collection of sea caves that are calculated to be over 4,000 years old.
There are other important attractions at Haena State Park to check out. Kee Lagoon is one such attraction, beloved for its dazzling scenery and ideal swimming conditions. And from Haena State Park, the wild and untouched expanse of the NaPali coast can be experienced firsthand!
Sink into the sand and laze in the sun at Hanakapi’ai Beach for your last day in paradise on Kauai.
Next, scour the crafted exhibits of local species at the Limahuli Garden and Preserve to learn more about local plant life, culture, and history. Finally, snorkel in the waters with sea turtles at Tunnels Beach for a memorable way to end your trip to Kauai!
A few miles from the Kalalau Trail, Hanakapi’ai Beach is a secluded hotspot on Kauai’s north shore!
The golden-sanded Hanakapi’ai Beach has plenty of space to settle down in the sand as the sun’s rays warm your skin and the crash of the waves lulls you to relax. Pack lunch for an energizing picnic at Hanakapi’ai Beach before exploring the nearby sea caves.
As a safety note, swimming at Hanakapi’ai Beach is not advised. It is infamous for its dangerous waters that have resulted in more than a few drownings.
A nature preserve and botanical garden, the Limahuli Garden and Preserve on the north shore of Kauai is one of the five gardens included in the National Tropical Botanical Garden.
Limahuli Garden and Preserve is one of the top attractions on the island that has established itself on the footprint of its Hawaiian ancestors.
A stroll through the Limahuli Garden and Preserve opens the doors to the diverse life that has made its home on Kauai. Limahuli Garden and Preserve is home to numerous native species that have played a significant role in Kauai’s culture and history!
Tunnels Beach is the most sought-out spot for snorkeling in Kauai, which is the perfect way to end your trip to Kauai!
Snorkel through the crystal-clear waters while basking in the vibrant diversity of the marine life that flourishes in its waters and the coral reef nestled near the shoreline.
One of the most common sightings at Tunnels Beach is Hawaiian green sea turtles, as they like to laze about on the beach’s sandy shores or hunt for food in its waters.
Stopping in Cali on your way to Hawaii? Check our our list of the 25 best things to do in California!
From a boat tour or a helicopter tour over the Na Pali Coast to exploring the beaches of Kauai’s south shore, you now know how to spend anywhere from 3 to 7 days on Kauai.
Now let’s discuss the best time to visit, how to get around the entire island, and where to stay when you visit the wildest and most rugged of all the Hawaiian Islands!
The best time to visit the Hawaiian island of Kauai is the months of April, May, August, September, and October.
These months are considered shoulder season, and they are ideal travel times as they have fewer crowds, more desirable weather for adventuring the outdoors, and the prices aren’t as excessively high as they are not “peak” tourist months.
When it comes to getting around Kauai, you don’t necessarily need a vehicle for transportation. There are bike rentals, walking guides, shuttle service, rideshares, public transportation, and area shuttles to get around the island to reach the different top attractions in the area.
If you’re more inclined to be in control of transportation, rental cars are available on Kauai. Renting a car allows you full flexibility to explore the island however you choose!
The best way to get around is to rent a car and explore on your own! We recommend Rental Cars, which has the largest range of vehicles for the best value on the market.
If you’re wondering where to stay in Kauai, there are some great options for every budget scattered around the island. Here are our top recommendations!
Kauai Beach House Hostel used to be the best cheap accommodation on Kauai, but it has unfortunately closed. Kauai Palms Hotel is the next best option! It’s not a hostel, but it’s one of the most affordable hotels on the island. It’s located right next to Lihue Airport and has beautiful mountain views.
Only a four-minute walk to Nukoli’i Beach Park, Kauai Beach Villas is a beachfront stay serving desirable accommodations. On-site is a restaurant and bar serving refreshing drinks and American cuisine, an outdoor swimming pool, a terrace, and a garden to unwind at.
Where world-class service welcomes you, The Lodge at Kukui’ula offers guests classy celebrity treatment with unrivaled accommodations, features, and service. Sink into luxury at the spa center, savor chef-driven dishes at the hotel’s restaurant, burn excess calories in the gym, or sweat it all out at the sauna!
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