Best Kauai Hiking Trails
Take one of the many fascinating Kauai hikes if you like to get outdoors while vacationing and experience the natural environment. There are a plethora of trails on the Garden Isle that are suited for beginners to experts. Trails such as the Kalalau are beautiful with extensive elevation gains and tremendous views of pristine wilderness landscapes. Other trails such as the Ke Ala Hele Makalae are ideal for families and bicycle riders too. You can climb to the top of Sleeping Giant and have a picnic or you can follow the Koloa Heritage Trail and learn about the ancient cultures and history of the island. If you like flowers then the Awaawapuhi Trail is perfect. The coastline offers excellent hiking opportunities on the Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail. No matter if you are looking to spend an hour, a day or several nights, there is a great hike in Kauai for you.
Kalalau Trail in Kauai
The Kalalau Trail is the premier Kauai hike that is ideal for people looking to spend a night or just the day in Kauai's most wild area. Located in the northwest section of the island, the Kalalau Trail crosses five valleys and is over 11-miles in length. The Kalalau Trail begins at the Ke'e Beach and extends to Kalalau Valley in the Na Pali Coast. The Kalalau Trail will first take you to Hanakapiai Beach and then to the Hanakoa Valley which is just over halfway. From here you will travel to Kalalau Valley as well as Red Hill and finish at Kalalau Beach. You will spot numerous waterfalls such as Hanakoa Falls as well as Hanakapiai Falls and you will view many hanging valleys on your hike while you absorb an incredible amount of tropical scenery during your hike. Most people require 5 days to complete the 22-mile trek and you must obtain a permit for camping. Others make short day trips to closer locations such as Hanakapiai Beach which is only 2 miles from the start of the trail. The lush tropical landscape and steep valleys make most of this trail strenuous which is ideal for experienced hikers.
Photo by calamity_sal
The Kauai Path is one of the only Kauai hikes that will take you all over the island. The Kauai Path is an organization that is constructed several premier pathways for biking and walking on the island. The eastern section is referred to as the Ke Ala Hele Makalae Trail and extends from Anahola to Ahukin Landing near Lihue. The northern section extends from Kilauea to Hanalei and is currently under construction. The south side path is intended to connect Koloa to Poipu along the historic Hapa Trail and is under planning. The west side corridor is to connect Keiki to Kapuna and is just now in the staging phase.
Photo by Robert Linsdell
Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail in Kauai
The Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail is a fascinating Kauai hike that will take you along stunning coastline and several historic as well as cultural sites of the south shore. Located near Poipu along the south shore, the Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail is a 4-mile roundtrip trek that is considered easy and will take you to numerous sites of interest. You begin your hike at Keoneloa Bay where you will view the lithified sand dunes which compose the ridges of this bay. As you continue you will travel to the Paa Dunes which formed some 8,000 years ago. From here you will view the Pinnacles and the cultural important site of Heiau Hoouluia which is a temple to the god of the sea. Continuing forward you will see the Punahoa which are the oldest sand dunes in the region and the Makauwahi Sinkhole which contains a trover chest of fossils. After crossing Mahaulepu Beach you will reach the Waiopili Petroglyphs. Along your hike you can see humpback whales, sea turtles, monk seal and several native flowers such as Ilima Pua, Ironwood Trees as well as Kiawe trees. To return to your starting point use the same the route.
Photo by Eric Chan
Canyon Trail in Kauai
The Canyon Trail is a perfect Kauai hike for those interested in several features from a waterfall to the steep canyon cliffs of Waimea Canyon. Located in Koke'e State Park within the northwest portion of the island, the Canyon Trail is 4-miles roundtrip and is considered to be moderate hiking. To reach the trail head you must drive Highway 550 until mile marker 14 where you will see the Halemanu Road to the right. After parking you will walk the road for three-quarters of a mile until you reach the top of a hill where you will notice a small parking lot and the trail signs. After a short hike on the trail you will come to junction that will take you to the Cliff Trail (very short hike to view Waimea Canyon), the Canyon Trail or the Waipoo Falls Trail. You can choose to add the additional 2-mile roundtrip to Waipoo Falls if you choose. The Canyon Trail has superb views of the canyon but you won't be able to view the waterfall because once at the lookout you are actually above the Waipoo Waterfall. Caution should be used when near the cliff edges because of erosion and unstable footing. After you take several photographs of the Grand Canyon of the Pacific you return on the same route to your car.
Photo by Bryce Edwards
Sleeping Giant Trail in Kauai
When you want to take a Kauai hike that will bring you to the top of a rock formation shaped like a sleeping giant with great vistas of the NouNou Mountains, then the Sleeping Giant Trail is ideal for you. Located on the eastern shore of the island near Wailua and Kapa'a, the Sleeping Giant Trail offers a moderate 4-mile roundtrip hike with just over 1,000-feet of elevation gain. The preferred route is the east side trail which you can access from a neighborhood called Wailua House which is situated at the top of Haleilo Road. The east side trail has you gaining elevation rapidly through a series of switchbacks in first mile and you will have enormous views of the Pacific Ocean, Wailua Bay and Kalepa Ridge. Once you reach a three-way junction you must stay left which will take you to a nice picnic facility. You are afforded big vistas of the Wailua River and Mt. Waialeale while you picnic on the chest of the sleeping giant. Your return route is the same trail.
Photo by Bob Miller
Kuilau Ridge Trail in Kauai
If you are seeking for an easy Kauai hike that is ideal for families and picnics, then you should take a trek on the Kuilau Ridge Trail. Located on the east shore of the island near Keahua, the Kuilau Ridge Trail is situated adjacent to the Keahua Arboretum and is part of the larger Na Ala Hele Trail. The Kuilau Ridge Trail is an easy 4.5-mile roundtrip with just over 800-feet at its high terrain point. The trail is positioned on an old road which eventually turns into a grassy trail that is well marked. As you walk you will notice the Makaleha Mountains to the north, Kawaikini and Mt. Waialeale to the west. The Kuilau Ridge Trail is ideal for viewing the incredible native and non-native species of flowers that bloom on the Garden Isle. You will continue until you reach a wooden bridge that crosses Opaeka'a Stream where after a few moments you will reach a junction in which you stay to the left. Once at the large grassy area you will notice picnic tables and facilities as well as experience big views of the Makaleha Mountains. Your return trip to your car is on the same Kauai hiking trail.
Ke Ala Hele Makalae is also known as the East Shore Beach Path
Photo by Mike Linksvayer
Awaawapuhi Trail in Kauai
If you are seeking a moderate Kauai hike that includes stunning views of the Na Pali Coast and a lesson on the wild flowers, then the Awaawapuhi Trail is perfect for you. Located on the north shore near Kekaha and within the Koke'e State Park, the Awaawapuhi Trail is a 6-mile roundtrip that has an elevation gain of almost 2,000-feet. Before you start your hike on the Awaawapuhi Trail it is recommended to stop at the Koke'e Natural History Museum and pick-up the Awaawapuhi Botanical Trail guide to help further your knowledge of the many flowers that are marked on the trail. The Awaawapuhi Trail begins at 4,150-feet and the first mile is an easy stroll through a dense jungle environment. You will gradually notice the trail declining in elevation when you get to the more desert like terrain which affords you views of the beautiful Na Pali Coast. At 3-miles you will notice a trail junction with the Nualolo Cliff Trail and once past here you are moments away from the breathtaking views of the Awaawapuhi Nualolo Lookout which has a nice area to picnic as you take in the surrounding vistas of the valleys below. On your return route you may choose to take the Nualolo Loop Kauai hiking trail, but this will add an additional 5 miles to your day hike and you will have to walk the road to your car.
Photo by Rick McCharles
Hanakapi'ai Trail in Kauai
The Hanakapi'ai Trail is one of the most beautiful Kauai hikes that you can take which leads to a gorgeous beach and the hike can be extended to include a waterfall. Located on the north shore near Hanalei, the Hanakai'ai Trail is actually the first 2-miles of moderate trail of the longer Kalalau Trail. You will begin your hike at Ke'e Beach on Highway 560 which is the starting point for the Na Pali Coast and the Kalalau Trail. The trail is well marked and you will gain elevation rapidly in the first mile of your hike. As you hike you will have perfect vistas of Ke'e Beach and the coral reefs. Once you reach Hanakapi'ai Beach you will have gained almost 800-feet in elevation. The beach boasts a great resting area before you choose to return or go an additional 2-miles inlands that is very strenuous the Hanakapi'ai Falls. If you select to go inland expect the trek to the falls to be difficult and is recommended for expert hikers only or travelers in very good health. Once at Hanakapi'ai Falls you will be thrilled with your work as you gaze at the 300-foot drop of cascading water. Your return trip from either the beach or the falls is the same trail and you can revel in your accomplishment as you gaze out over the Pacific Ocean.
Photo by Sarah and Jason
Koloa Heritage Trail in Kauai
The Koloa Heritage Trail is an ideal Kauai hike for travelers interested in learning about the rich history and culture of the Garden Isle. Located in the south shore region of the island, the Koloa Heritage Trail is composed of 14 sites that are along a 10-mile corridor that can be completed by walking, biking or driving. You will be pleased to learn about the early history of native culture and early sugar plantation through a series of sites that each has an interesting interpretive sign that explains each location. You will view such sites as Spouting Horn along the coast, Hanaka'ape Bay and Koloa Landing, Pa'u A Laka or the Moir Gardens, the cultural site of Kihahouna Heiau which was once 130-feet by 90-feet, Poipu Beach Park where you will watch marine like the Hawaiian Monk Seal and Keoneola Bay where many ancient fishing camps were located. As you continue you will see geologic features like the Makawehi and Pa'a Dunes with fossilized plant roots as well as the Pu'uwanawana Volcanic Cone. There are also stops at the Jodo Mission, the Koloa Missionary Church, the Sugar Monument and Hapa Road. Take your time on this Kauai hike and enjoy the rich history of Kauai. .
Photo by Robert Linsdell