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Best day hikes on the Garden Isle?

I'll be in Kauai in late September, and I want to frolic. I'm looking for easy to moderate day hikes I can do on any part of the island. Bonus points if they lead to a beach or a place it's safe to swim. Ideally the hikes would be no longer than 7 miles round trip. I'm looking for beauty and a little exercise, not a death march. 

7 Answers

top answer by
Brew from Manhattan Beach

I think the best day hike fitting your activities is the hike J.R. referenced at the beginning of the Na Pali Coast national park. I tell most people that if they have one day on the North Shore and want to hike/do a beach, this is probably your beast bet.  The hike has two parts:  the first section is miles and goes from the parking lot at Ke'e Beach to Hanakapiai Beach.  Hanakapiai Beach is beautiful and has a littel creak/stream that runs into it where you can cool off (there are signs posted about dangerous swimming because of strong currents).  From there, you can either hike the two miles back to Ke'e Beach, or if you have more energy, there is another trail that follows the stream up the canyon to Hanakapi 'ai Falls (another 2 miles).  It's a fairly strenuous hike, but really great and beautiful and a great way to get some exercise. 

The best part, is after doing the hike, you can hang out at Ke'e Beach which has great snorkeling and TONS of turtles. Most people go to the beach by the cove/lagoon where the beach ends at the mountain and it can get a little bit crowded.  I like to go down the beach a little towards Hanalei (east).  You can find some very good shady areas near the tree roots that can be nice for some shade, especially if its really hot.  When snorkeling here, there is a little canyon that is a great place to swim out through… look for big fish and turtles in the holes and crevaces.  I normally swim over the reef/out the canyon, then hang a right down the reef for a while, then circle back a little more inside.  I have found lots of turtles toward the outside of the reef, but on the shallow sections just inside where the surf rolls in.   Last time I had 10 turtles within 20 feet of me.  Pretty cool.  

Anohter cool hike is the Nualolo Cliffs Trail.  It hikes along the ridgeline of the Napali Coast, allowing you to look down from above which is very beautiful.  To get there, you also drive through  Waimea Canyon, whic his pretty amazing too.  If I were to choose between the two hikes, I'd do the Hanakapiai Hike to the waterfall, but if you have the hankering for more hikes, this is a good one to do and it lets you see a very unique and beatiful part of the island.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Ke'e Beach (attraction)
  2. Hanakapiai Beach (attraction)
  3. Waimea Canyon (attraction)
  4. Hanakapi 'ai Falls (attraction)
  5. Nualolo Cliffs Trail (attraction)
7 thankscomments (2)

answered by
Janice from Golden, CO

Hi Elizabeth!  Just as everyone here has said, the most worthwhile trail is the one going along the Na Palicoast.  Now, I haven't been there myself, but about everyone I know who has said it's totally deserving of the time and effort because of its jaw-dropping spectacular scenery.  I believe the trail is 11 miles from start to end, but you can turn around at any point and head back to the trailhead, which starts at Ke'e Beach and Haena State Park.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Na Pali (attraction)
  2. Ke'e Beach (attraction)
  3. Haena State Park (attraction)
4 thanks

answered by
Heather from Poipu

If you are in the south, a great few mile hike along the coast starts at Shipwrecks Beach (just past the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa). Head north on the trail to Mahaulepu Beach (swimmable with a calm ocean), you will go by a cool cave on the way to the left, and great ocean views on the right...

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Shipwrecks Beach (attraction)
  2. Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa (hotel)
  3. Mahaulepu Beach (attraction)
2 thanks

answered by
Elaine from Toronto, ON, Canada

Hi Elizabeth,

We didn't do a lot of hiking  but we did have the "Ultimate Kauai Guidebook" which I think everyone who is visiting there should have.  It has a ton of info on hiking and places to go.  We probably would not have seen half the places if it not for this book.  I believe you can get it at Amazon or Costco.

One place we did hike in but its not a long hike, was to Queens Bath.  My husband did go in the bath there I was to chicken but it was very beautiful. 

Kapaa is where we stayed and its centrally located to everything on the island.

Enjoy your stay Kauai is the most relaxing beautiful place I have visited to date.



Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Queens Bath (attraction)
  2. Kapaa (city)
  3. Kauai (attraction)
3 thankscomments (1)

answered first by
JR from Manhattan Beach

hey Elizabeth! We did the hike leaving from Ke'e Beach and hiking along the Napali Coast into the Na'Pali Coast State Park. We only went about a mile and half in and then turned around but it was amazingly beautiful! It's a right along the water and a decent amount of elevation changes. If you go further there are some beaches that you hike down to. Some people camp overnight there, but you can do there and back in a day. Depending on the surf you may or may not be able to swim... in the winter those beaches take some heavy surf. Have fun! 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Ke'e Beach (attraction)
  2. Na'Pali Coast State Park (attraction)
3 thanks

answered by
Janice from Golden, CO

Elizabeth - There was one other thing I wanted to add.  Near Kapaa, there is a bike trail that goes northward along the shore.  It's not a hiking trail per se, but it does provide some great access to the beach.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Kapaa (city)
2 thankscomments (3)

answered by
Alana from Trail

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Sleeping Giant (attraction)
  2. Nounou Mountain Trail East (attraction)
1 thankscomments (1)

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