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Kauai, Hawaii
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The 11 best things to do in Kauai

It isn't known as the Garden Island by chance. Check out the best things to do in Kauai, with added rum

Written by
Lori A May
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Nature is king in Kauai. Hawaii’s most underrated island is a veritable oasis of lush rainforests, verdant greenery and jaw-dropping scenes, leaving visitors in no confusion as to why it is known as the Garden Island. Kauai is a hiker’s paradise, a nirvana for outdoor enthusiasts and a dreamland for anyone who simply likes looking at how beautiful the world can be. Trust us; this place is plenty beautiful.

A hike to trails leading to Hanakaipai Falls is a must, while the same can be said for an excursion along the rugged edges of the Nā Pali Coast. Open parks and plenty of watersports options await the adventurers, making Kauai a playground for the excitable. You could say that about Hawaii as a whole (this place is Paradise, after all) but Kauai takes the proverbial biscuit. These are the best things to do in Kauai, an island where relaxation and adventure live side by side.

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Find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world.

Best things to do in Kauai

1. Koloa Rum Company

What is it? A tasting room and company store dedicated to legendary Hawaiian-made rum.  

Why go? Thanks to Hawaii’s rich history of sugar cane plantations, rum has long been a natural step and Koloa even offers rum cakes and rum fudge sauce in addition to its single-batch spirits. Tastings are offered every hour, daily. Its location at the Kilohana Plantation is surrounded by beautiful greenery and offers a family train ride through the historic grounds.  

2. Wailua River

What is it? Twenty miles of stunning river flanked by palm trees and other jungle greenery.

Why go: Given the outrageously gorgeous and extremely verdant surroundings, Wailua River makes for perfect boating. Hire a kayak or hop on a guided tour and start weaving your way around the waterfalls, natural lava rock caves and draping ferns.

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3. Kauai Coffee Estate

What is it? Kauai Coffee Estate is the largest coffee farm in the country. Visit for free tours and tastings.  

Why go? There’s nothing like sampling freshly roasted coffee straight from the farm! The Kauai Coffee visitor center is open for complimentary tastings of their various Hawaiian roasts, along with free tours of the estate where guests can see how coffee is grown and harvested. The on-site gift shop has special small-batch roasts for sale, too. This venue is a coffee lover’s paradise.

4. Lydgate Farms

What is it? A small-scale cacao farm crafting single estate artisanal chocolate, vanilla, and honey.

Why go? Rain or shine, if you have a sweet tooth you’ll love exploring Lydgate Farms. Seriously, have you ever seen a cacao tree up close and in person? Touring the estate is a great way to see how small batch chocolates are made, branch to bar. And, yes, there is sampling involved. 

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5. Lappert’s Ice Cream

What is it? This Kauai-based gourmet ice cream company is family-owned and operated.  

Why go? Let’s be clear: Lappert’s Ice Cream is highly addictive. Thankfully, there are three locations on the island so you’re never too far from enjoying these incredible island-inspired flavors. Ingredients range from Hawaiian sea salt and macadamia nuts to pineapple and shredded coconut. Stop by the Hanapepe location to see the factory.

6. Smith Family Garden Luau

What is it? Four generations of the Smith family host a lively luau at their estate in the Wailua River Valley.

Why go?
 Even if you’ve attended luaus at resorts, the Smith Family Garden Luau is a must-try experience. The feast includes grandmother’s poi, cousin Gary’s teriyaki beef, and the multi-generational unearthing of the juicy Kalua pig. The meal is accompanied by a Polynesian family hula celebration. Arrive early to stroll the 30-acre gardens and see local fruit trees and a little wildlife.

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7. Salt Pond Beach Park

What is it? A shallow beach protected by a reef, perfect for family swims and beginner snorkeling.

Why go? Head to the western shores near Hanapepe for a beautiful sandy beach with lifeguards on site. You might spot a few locals panning natural sea salt. Facilities include restrooms, showers, and picnic tables, but the main attraction is calm warm waters not over-populated by tourists. Keep your eyes out for monk seals in the distance.

8. Kauai Zipline Tour

What is it? A variety of zipline courses for most skill levels, soaring above Kauai’s natural landscape.   

Why go? If you’re craving a little adrenaline, try ziplining above the island’s rivers and waterfalls. You’ll travel 60 mph through one course, then swing into a bamboo pool on another. Feeling extra adventurous? Combine hiking and paddling with your zip tour to experience the ultimate trio of outdoor bliss. Bonus: You’ll see some of the famous landscapes featured in Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean.  

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9. Waimea Canyon

What is it? Located on the southwest side of the island, Waimea Canyon is nearly 14 miles long and more than 3,000 feet deep.

Why go? Due to its size and natural beauty, Waimea Canyon is often referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Hikers and backpackers will be drawn to the challenging trails, but one of the easiest ways to enjoy this piece of paradise is with a leisurely drive up Waimea Canyon Drive. You’ll climb in elevation, passing steep canyon walls, before reaching the vantage point parking lot for panoramic ocean views.

10. The Shrimp Station

What is it? A casual roadside eatery serving island shrimp, cooked up by a Kauai-based Hawaiian family.

Why go? You’ll find just one location of The Shrimp Station in Kauai, so build up your hunger whenever you’re near Waimea. The shrimp tacos and fish platters are classics—and try the papaya ginger tartar sauce—but the real deal is in the sautéed shrimp. The garlic shrimp plate is a must-try treat with peel and eat shrimp prepared in olive oil, garlic, and white wine.

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11. Historic Hanalei Town

What is it? A small pedestrian-friendly town on Kauai's north shore, full of shops and galleries.  

Why go? You’ll find national brands and chain stores all around Lihue, but if you want to find unique souvenirs, handcrafted goods, and local art head to Hanalei Town. You’ll also find a cluster of independent eateries serving local dishes. For a look at local history, explore Waioli Huiia Church and Mission House, built in 1837.

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