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10 best hikes on Kauai
If you love hiking, Kauai will not disappoint. Although all of the Hawaiian islands have amazing hikes, Kauai has several of my favorites. Whenever my clients mention that hiking is on their list of must-dos, I always recommend Kauai. If you have found yourself wondering, “what are the best hikes on Kauai?” this blog post is for you.
Are you trying to figure out the best Hawaii island to visit? I have a blog post for that.
It’s important to note that most hikes on Kauai are moderate to difficult. These ratings are generally due to elevation changes and rough terrain. Visitors should be aware that cell service isn’t always available and take extra precautions, including checking the weather, bringing plenty of water and letting someone know where you’ll be going.
If you want to see beautiful scenery but aren’t sure about some of the hikes on this list, the Ala Hele Makalae Kapa’a bike path is the perfect solution. You can walk, run, or bike along the beautiful coconut coast on this large bike path. It’s one of the best things to do on Kauai and suitable for all ages.
1. Nounou East Trail (Sleeping Giant)
More commonly known as the Sleeping Giant hike, the Nounou East Trail is one of the best sunrise hikes on Kauai. It’s a moderate hike and suitable for families with adventurous kids. It’s also a great hike to bring a shelter dog on a field trip from the Kauai humane society!
I recommend doing this hike early in your trip when you’ll be up in the early morning hours anyway. Bring a flashlight or LED headlamp since you’ll want to arrive at the start of the trail no later than 5 AM to see the sunrise.
2. Kalepa Ridge Trail
The Kalepa Ridge Trail offers some of the best views of the Na Pali coast. You’ll reach a gorgeous viewpoint around 30 minutes into the hike. This trail is currently unauthorized, so please check if you are allowed to hike before attempting this trail.
3. Kuilau Ridge Trail
I wanted to include at least one trail that was a little more accessible for everyone. This two-mile out and back hike is family-friendly without some of the dropoffs seen on the other hikes.
4. Awaawapuhi Trail
The Awaawapuhi Trail is a moderate out-and-back trail that ends with views of the stunning Na Pali Coast and Awaawapuhi Valley. There is a 2125 foot elevation gain, and coming back is a lot harder than getting in! This trail is well maintained and one of the best views of the Na Pali coast that you’ll find on foot.
5. Waialeale Blue Hole Hike
Waialeale Blue Hole Hike is probably the most challenging hike on this list. Mt. Waialeale is one of the wettest spots on earth, and the base of Waialeale called “Blue Hole” is where you’ll see the falls coming down. However, it is a challenging hike and should only be attempted by serious hikers who have taken safety precautions. Flash flooding is frequent, and cell service is weak, so make sure to be extra prepared if you are going to attempt this hike.
I haven’t done this hike myself, but seeing Mt. Waialeale from the air is impressive too!
6. Canyon Trail
Canyon Trail (Waipoo Falls) is the most popular hike in Waimea Canyon. It spurs off the more accessible and shorter Cliff Trail and is a moderate hike that is about 3.4 miles roundtrip. The trail ends at Kumuwela Lookout where you can see through the canyon to the ocean.
The Kauai Humane Society can give you suggestions on the best trail for your shelter dogs field trip!
7. Honopu Ridge Trail
The Honopu Ridge Trail is an approximately 5-mile roundtrip out and back hike with views of Honopu Valley and a portion of the Na Pali Coastline. This trail is challenging because it isn’t officially maintained. Even though it is not maintained formally, it does have one of the best views and is one of the top-rated hikes on Kauai.
8. Hanakapiai Beach
The end of Ke’e Beach marks the starting point of the Na Pali Coast and the Kalalau Trail. If you want to hike along the Kalalau Trail but either can’t get a permit or don’t want to deal with the logistics of camping, hiking to Hanakapiai Beach is a great option.
The hike to Hanakaiai Beach is beautiful and approximately 2 miles from Ke’e Beach. It is a treacherous beach and swimming is not advised. Since reopening, advanced reservations are required. Check out Go Ha’ena for more information.
9. Hanakapiai Falls Trail
If you want to venture even further down the Kalalau Trail, the 4-mile (one way) hike to Hanakapiai Falls is as far as you can get without a permit. The trail is well-traveled and clearly defined, but can have a lot of traffic. Make sure to plan plenty of time for this 8-mile roundtrip.
10. Kalalau Trail
There is no doubt you’ve already heard of the Kalalau Trail. Although not everyone gets to participate in this fantastic journey, many people dream of it! If you’re up for an 11 mile (each way!) hike, willing to get a permit and camp for at least one night, this is an incredible experience that you’ll never forget.
Please take extra precaution on this hike. It is a trail for experienced hikers, and you must be vigilant at all times as some areas are exceptionally hazardous. Crawlers ledge is one of the famous dangerous spots, but miles 7-9 are particularly challenging as well. Make sure to bring a water filtration device. There is plenty of water along the trail, but filtering it is highly recommended.
What to bring on a Kauai hike
- Reef-safe Sunscreen (you can read more about why reef-safe sunscreen is essential here.)
- LED headlamp
- Compact First Aid Kit
- Water Bottle
- Water Filter
Where to stay on Kauai
If you haven’t booked your Kauai accommodations, check out this post on where to stay on Kauai or contact me if you want to work with a Kauai expert.
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Of course, there are plenty of epic hikes on Kauai. I wanted to mention these as the best hikes on Kauai, but there are plenty more to check out! Please make sure to take any necessary precautions and do not trespass or try to do anything beyond your skill level. Hawaii, and Kauai specifically, are beautiful, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t dangers. Please check the weather, listen to the advice of locals, pay attention to signage, and always be prepared. Happy hiking!
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