— 3 Beautiful Places to Explore on the Island of Kauai —

We visited many beautiful places on the island of Kauai. If your heading to the Garden Isle of Hawaii, check out our list of the three we thought were the most memorable (listed in no particular order).

1) Kalalau Trail (Na Pali Coast)

Kalalau Trail (Na Pali Coast)

Kalalau Trail is one of the best hikes in Kauai. We attempted to find parking at Ke’e Beach, which is where the trailhead for the Kalalau Trail starts. That lot was full, so we ended up parking at a pot-hole-and-rock-filled parking lot a few hundred yards down. (Tip: Arrive early and get a good parking spot!)

Kalalau Trail (Na Pali Coast)

The hike starts with a pretty steep incline that gets your heart racing!

Kalalau Trail (Na Pali Coast)Kalalau Trail (Na Pali Coast)

You climb pretty high pretty quickly, so within the first quarter mile, you are overlooking beautiful Ke’e Beach. (To read our post about beaches in Kauai, click here.)

3 Beautiful places to explore on the island of kauai Ke'e beach

The water was so clear! We could see the reefs below and could even see turtles swimming!

Kalalau Trail (Na Pali Coast)

The hiking trail evened out a little, but there were still a few steep parts. Eventually, we had views of the Na Pali coastline, which made for incredible pictures!

Kalalau Trail (Na Pali Coast) three beautiful places to explore on the island of kauaiKalalau Trail (Na Pali Coast)

The first 2 miles of the Kalalau Trail is the most popular hike on the island. After the two-mile mark, hikers have to have a permit to continue on. We had hoped to do the entire two miles, but decided to turn back at about the one mile mark.

Kalalau Trail (Na Pali Coast)

Renting a car is essential for your time on Kauai. Without your own wheels, it may be a little difficult getting to and from these gorgeous places! We found a great deal on a convertible with Hertz.

Hertz logo 125x1252) Mahaulepu Heritage Trail

Little did we know, we’d have to drive down a pot-hole-filled 2.5 mile dirt road to get to this hidden gem! We were actually in search of tidepools at Mahaulepu Beach when we stumbled across what ended upon being one of our favorites places on the entire island!

Mahaulepu Heritage Trail

It was pretty windy out on the beach, so we decided to head back and see what else we could find. We drove the car a little down another road leading off the parking lot and hit a gold mine!

Mahaulepu Heritage Trail

There was a trail that ran along the coast, passing cliffs and rocks leading to the crystal clear water below.

Mahaulepu Heritage Trail

Funny Story: Since we thought we were just going to another beach to look quickly at tide pools and didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into with the long-drive down the dirt road, we both really had to pee. I thought I could hold it, but as the landscape kept getting more and more beautiful as we walked, I didn’t want to just turn around and leave. Obviously Sam had it a little easier, but we both stopped and took turns peeing in the bushes, while the other person served as the lookout. Fortunately, there weren’t too many other travelers along this path and luckily I was wearing a skirt! Hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go!

Mahaulepu Heritage Trail

We got to one point on the trail, where we felt like we had been transported to Ireland!

Mahaulepu Heritage Trail

There were green mountains and beautiful coastal cliffs culminating into crashing waves below.

Mahaulepu Heritage Trail

It couldn’t get more beautiful and scenic than this! And the best part is that we only saw four or five other people the whole time!

Mahaulepu Heritage Trail

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VRBO3) Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon Kauai

On the way to Waimea Canyon, we stopped to take pictures of the beautiful valley at the Hanapepe Overlook and finished the nearly 2 hour drive from Princeville.

Waimea Canyon Road Kauai

Tip for future travelers to Waimea Canyon: regardless of what your GPS says, turn off at Waimea Canyon Road (Highway 550), NOT Kokee Road. The views are much better!

Waimea Canyon Road Kauai

There were so many scenic views from the road.

Waimea Canyon Road Kauai

We probably pulled over at least 7 times before reaching the Waimea Canyon Lookout just after the 10-mile marker.

Waimea Canyon Lookout

This place is appropriately nicknamed the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’, and I truly did feel as if we were back at the Grand Canyon in Arizona!

Waimea Canyon Lookout

The views were absolutely breathtaking!

Waimea Canyon Lookout

We set up the GoPro2 to take a time lapse video while we took our obligatory tourist pictures in front of the canyon!

Waimea Canyon Lookout

We continued on down the road to the very end (18-mile marker) to the Kalalau Lookout. We were getting nervous as we were reaching the end of the road, because as the elevation climbed to 4,000 feet, not only did the temperature drop, but the ever-present clouds rolled in!

Kalalau Lookout

When we finally reached the lookout, you could barely see the Na Pali coast below. Just as we walked up to the ridge, there was a small clearing in the clouds and I snapped a few pictures before the clouds completely covered the vista. We sat on the ground and waited for a good 25 minutes before leaving. The clouds never did clear again, but we were getting hungry, so I forced myself to be satisfied with the pictures I snapped when we first got there and were on our way!

Waimea Canyon State Park

Need help planning your own trip to the Garden Isle? For less than a buck ($1 USD), you can download our printable 4-page Kauai Destination Guide that includes information on: Transportation | Best Time to Visit | Weather | Recommended Lodgings and Restaurants | Suggested Activities Based on Interest | Money Saving Tips | Kauai Facts | Sample 7-Day Itinerary

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  1. Seriously beautiful photos! I would love to get to Kauai – we’ve been to Maui but nowhere else, so I think a return trip in in store. And major lol to your sory about nature’s call – we always travel with toilet paper on our hikes for that exact same reason!

  2. Wow…amazing photos and breathtaking views! So many places to explore beyond the beach! I would love to go.

  3. What fantastic views. We love hiking and this would be the kind of trail we would seek out not only for the views but also for the tranquillity that would come with it.

  4. We were in Kauai for 2 weeks this past September. We hiked 2 miles back on the Kalalau Trail, to the beach. it was an awesome hike. We also drove to the Waimea Canyon lookout, we took one road up and the other one down so we had different views. I think we stopped at every lookout. It was beautiful. Another must do is the Mauna Loa Helicopter tour. They are small helicopters and we did it with the doors off. What an experience that was. We would like to go back to Kauai…there is so much we still want to see and do.

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