Oh Kauai, you beautiful and majestic little island. To say I fell in love with Kauai during my weeklong stay on the Garden Isle is maybe the understatement of the century. This 7 day Kauai itinerary is full of so many of the most beautiful sights, your eyes may never adjust back to your everyday life. Whether you’re going for your honeymoon or a solo trip, there are so many unique things to do in Kauai. Every day you’re there you feel like you’re experiencing just a little slice of a dream on earth. As always, I’ll break down this one week itinerary for Kauai into a short version and then a deeper dive of each day.
The Short Version
7 days in Kauai is ample time to explore multiple areas of the island! We split our time between Princeville (north shore) and Poipu (south shore) so that we had easy access to all of the unique things to do on Kauai. Here’s the skinny on how we split our time in each area of the island:
- Day 1 – Hike down to Queen’s Bath early in the morning (safety warning: conditions must be right for this) then explore Hanalei town and surrounding area
- Day 2 – Hike the magical NaPali Coast and visit some of Kauai’s most beautiful beaches at Hāen’a State Park
- Day 3 – Explore the Kilauea area and end the day at one of Kauai’s best sunset spot
East Side (transit day)
- Day 4 – Drive from the north shore to the south shore and make these stops along the way:
- Moloa’a Beach
- Kapa’a and Anahola towns
- Opaeka’a and Wailua Falls
- Helicopter tour
- Tunnel Road
- Day 5 – NaPali Coast boat tour
- Day 6 – Explore Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Parks
- Day 7 – Snorkel at Poipu Beach and explore the Maha’ulepu coastal trail/walk
The Long Version
Whew, this blog is a doozie because Kauai is incredible and I could go on and on. You ready for this? Let’s get planning your Kauai trip!
Kauai is the smallest of the main Hawaiian islands so you may think to yourself, “how much time do I really need for Kauai? Can’t just do a couple days and hop over to another island?” And sure, you can, but should you? Personally, I feel that Kauai deserves your undivided vacation attention, and even a full devoted week on Kauai will still feel too short.
For your 7 day Kauai itinerary, you definitely have time to move around and explore different areas and all the best things to do. Like I mentioned above, we split our time between the north shore area and the southern region. This let us comfortably explore the different areas without having to drive for hours in a single day. Kauai only has the one main highway that connects the north and south, and it can take about two or three hours to go end to end. So if you have the time, I highly recommend splitting your time between two areas.
First Half of Your 7 Day Kauai Itinerary at the North Shore
We stayed in Princeville in the Kauai north shore area and I absolutely LOVED it. So many of my favorite activities and unique things to do in Kauai were in the north shore. So if you have to pick just one area to stay, I would definitely choose this area. It was MAGICAL to look up and see these mountains just, seemingly jutting out of nowhere. In my opinion exploring this area of the island is absolutely necessary for any 7 day Kauai itinerary. I could have spent my entire week in Kauai in Princeville and Hanalei to be honest, I loved it that much!
Day 1 – Queen’s Bath & Hanalei Town
SAFETY WARNING: people die here, and it is absolutely not safe to come here in winter or colder months or during high tide. Conditions need to be right for your visit and even then there is risk. Visit at your own discretion. And also, if the trail is closed, don’t go. It’s for your own safety. Take that very seriously.
Hiking to and swimming in this geological wonder is definitely documented as one of the top things to do in Princeville, Kauai. This is a hike I couldn’t do unfortunately because it was closed based on ocean conditions, and we are absolutely not testing that. From what I’ve seen and read, if the conditions are right it’s pretty much a must-do on any Kauai itinerary because it’s so unique. Queen’s Bath is a set of natural pools that appear in the lava rock that you can swim in but only at low tide in calm waters. You have to take a muddy hike down, and if I didn’t make it clear, you need to be super thoughtful/careful while you’re down there so that you’re only swimming when it’s safe to do so. While it is gorgeous, and those I know who have done it loved it, do this at your own risk.
Explore Hanalei Town
On the drive down from Queen’s Bath to Hanalei, make sure to stop at some of the scenic points along the way. Hanalei Valley Overlook is one of these and it’s absolutely stunning.
Once you get into Hanalei, park and walk around/hang out for the afternoon! There’s lots of shopping to be done, a really beautiful church if that’s your vibe, and some beautiful taro fields you can tour during non-COVID times.
Shopping got ya hungry? There are tons of options in Hanalei! Some standouts for me were Hanalei Bread Company for breakfast, Tahiti Nui for happy hour, and The Dolphin for dinner. Are you drooling? I’m drooling.
Also, make sure to stay awhile and watch sunset from Hanalei Bay; truly stunning and on many “best sunset in Kauai” lists for a reason.
Day 2 – Hāen’a State Park
Hāen’a State Park is a MUST DO on any 7 day Kauai itinerary. Whether you’re wanting to hike, hang out at a beach, or both, this state park is such a beautiful spot on the island it is imperative you spend time here. Important note: you do have to get tickets to enter this park now so book those as early as you can via their online reservation system.
There is a bunch of world class hiking in this park and it’s mostly (if not all) along the main Kalalau Trail. People come from all over the world to hike here because it’s really just that breathtaking. Some people might spend the majority of their entire 7 days in Kauai hiking and camping here and I can’t blame them. If you want to hike a bit while you’re visiting, these are the main trails:
- Kalalau Trail – the full 22 miles, multi-day and definitely the hardest; requires a camping permit but ends at a spectacular beach
- Hanakapi’ai Falls – 9 miles of the Kalalau Trail, still very hard, ends at a waterfall you can swim in
- Hanaakapi’ai Beach – 4 miles of the Kalalau Trail, moderate and ends at beach you may/may not be able to swim in depending on time of year
- Kalalau Overlook – shortest and sweetest, a quick hike that’s still challenging to a beautiful view of the cliffs
We were only able to get an afternoon time slot reservation and wanted to explore other areas of the park. So, we did the shortest hike available (trekking to the Overlook) in order to get back before dark. Still very worth it!
Hāen’a is home to a few caves, both wet and dry. Maniniholo Dry Cave is the easiest to find and is right across from the Hāen’a Beach parking lot. This is a huge cave you can walk around in and explore, feeling like a badass Indiana Jones.
There are two wet caves around mile marker 10 by Ke’e Beach that we couldn’t find in time to see before we had to get started hiking. If we had more time to explore before our hike, we’d definitely have searched harder for them!
Speaking of sunsets, any of the beaches in Hāen’a will truly wow you. I would certainly say that your Kauai itinerary for 7 days must include a sunset here, because Hāen’a State Park has some of the best sunsets on Kauai. Definitely check out these three beaches in some capacity:
- Hāen’a Beach – pretty immediately right inside the park this is a perfect spot to swim and chill for the afternoon as well as stay and watch the sunset
- Ke’e Beach – the last spot you can drive to in the park, this sunset view has beautiful layered cliffs that glow when the sun goes down
- Tunnels Beach – another magnificent spot to watch the sunset that feels a little more secluded than the rest with spectacular cliff views
Day 3 – Explore Kilauea & Enjoy a Final Dream Sunset
Kilauea is a cute town a few minutes east of Princeville that has a couple of great spots to check out:
- Visit the famous Kilauea Lighthouse
- Take a tour of the Na’Aina Botanical Gardens and Sculpture Park
- Hang out at Kauapea or Waiakalua Iki Beach and get your tan on
- Get fish tacos at Kilauea Fish Market and cool off with some shaved ice at Kilauea Shaved Ice
After you’ve had your fill, find a final sunset spot. I would go back to one of the beaches in Hāena State Park that you didn’t get to see sunset at the night before. It’s a little more of a drive but seriously, they’re so dreamy. Pro tip? You don’t need a reservation for the park if you go in after 5:30pm, so a sunset is golden!
Day 4 – Transit Day Driving from Princeville to Poipu
This was such a fun day and there were so many amazing stops along the way! As you can guess, this was the day we left Princeville to head to the second half of our trip in Poipu, and we decided to make a bit of a road trip of it with the following stops.
This beach is apparently where they filmed the pilot of Gilligan’s Island! I knew I had to stop here after reading that, because I watched it all the time with my dad growing up! The beach itself was definitely worthy of the pilot, both beautiful and secluded feeling. I can see how Gilligan and crew would seemingly get stranded here (though I don’t think I’d mind getting stuck there, personally). I truly think this is an underrated beach spot on Kauai; so much to explore in/around this beach.
Stop in the Towns of Kapa’a and Anaholo
Definitely make some pit stops in these towns along the way. They’re super cute with lots of shops and food. Also, Anaholo actually has a gorgeous beach that was basically empty when we showed up at 11:30am. Prime time beach space all to yourself? Highly recommend!
Opaeka’a and Wailua Falls
These falls are super close to one another and both very beautiful. Both of them are accessible from an overlook spot you can park at, but also have secret/hidden/potentially illegal hikes to the waterfall bases. I’m sure you could find exactly how/where these trails are but we didn’t have the time to truly search for the trailheads. If you can carve out time (and the trails look safe enough), check them out!
Kauai Helicopter Tour
If I had to pick one activity that was my favorite thing to do in Kauai, it would probably be this helicopter tour. Whether you have a 3 day or a 7 day Kauai itinerary, a helicopter tour NEEDS to be on it. Seriously, this was so beyond badass. I’ll write an entire blog on it some day, but for now just mark a helicopter tour as a “must do in Kauai” on your itinerary.
You’ll have to drive down this road to get to Poipu and in doing so you’ll see there’s a decent amount of traffic. If you want to take photos here, you’ll need to be SUPER careful regarding, ya know, cars on the road. It’s beautiful though, and worth it, if you feel confident you can snap the pic safely. Be brave, not dumb.
Sunset at Poipu Beach
After you’ve checked into your accommodations, get yourself ready for sunset by visiting Poipu Beach. Another top sunset in Kauai, this beach is often home to many sea turtles and the Hawaiian Monk Seal. So if you’re lucky enough you might see some resting on the beach. If you do, definitely leave them some space or risk getting fined by the state of Hawaii; they take their animal protection seriously.
South Side Portion of Your 7 Day Kauai Itinerary
To round out the back half of your 7 day Kauai itinerary, the south and west side of the island are where it’s at. Poipu is a great center point – and where we chose to stay – but Koloa would be a good home base too.
Day 5 – NaPali Boat Tour
You might be saying, “Amanda, another NaPali coast tour? I’ve already hiked here AND taken a helicopter tour? Do I really need a boat tour?” and my answer is YES.
The boat tour allows you to see this insane coastline from another one-of-a-kind viewpoint. And did I mention it’s a BLAST?! Depending on the tour/season, you’ll get to adventure into and out of some of the sea caves, and hop in the waters to snorkel. AND, did I mention dolphins? Because there are pods of spinner dolphins everywhere!
Day 6 – Explore Waimea Canyon & Koke’e State Park
Hike in Koke’e State Park
Trying to get another in-person look of the NaPali coast from but from another angle? I can’t blame you it really is THAT good. So much of this 7 day Kauai itinerary is spent exploring this epic coastline and when you see it, you’ll understand why! It’s just absurdly beautiful and every angle brings something new and breathtaking. Here are a few ridge-line hikes I would recommend to get spectacular views:
- Awa’awapuhi Trail – rated moderate and about six miles, this jungle hike is supposed to have an absolutely breathtaking end view
- Pihea Vista Trail – rated moderate, and a little over two miles; we ran into a couple who had just come from hiking this trail and loved it
- Kalepa Ridge Trail – this was the one we did and is rated hard, not necessarily due to how strenuous the hike is but because it’s definitely muddy and not for the faint of heart. I loved this hike so much. Don’t get me wrong, it definitely takes some physical exertion, but I think it’s more “scary” than exhausting. It had INCREDIBLE views the whole way to the end and was just a total blast. 10/10.
Explore Waimea Canyon
Nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon is truly a sight to behold. It also kind of reminds me of a more colorful Badlands National Park but that’s beside the point (unless you know how pretty a day at the Badlands is, then it’s just more encouragement to visit).
There are plenty of hikes you can explore in Waimea too, but there are also lots of beautiful overlooks and views from the side of the road if you’re tired of hiking for the day. Also, there is a super cool red dirt waterfall that deserves a stop because you look like you’re on Mars and we all love a little space travel.
Need More Sunset?
On the way back to Poipu from the parks, there are -surprise! – some more beautiful spots to watch a Kauai sunset:
- Polihale State Park – this is a beautiful spot to watch sunset BUT it is a hard-to-access destination and many rental companies won’t let you take your car down there, but if you DO make it down there you surely won’t regret it
- Glass Beach – this is a little black sand beach with sea glass and a beautiful view; this is the most underrated spot I think I visited during my whole 7 days in Kauai
Day 7 – Snorkel at Poipu Beach & the Coastal Maha’ulepu Trail
Snorkel at Poipu Beach
Just swimming around in Poipu Beach for about an hour or two I saw roughly 10 sea turtles! It was pretty amazing. Poipu Beach is considered one of the best snorkel spots In Kauai and I can certainly see why! If you want to snorkel in Kauai, definitely spend some time in Poipu Beach.
Walk the Maha’ulepu Trail & Sunset at Shipwreck Beach
Unfortunately this was something we failed at doing, but it looks incredible! Tons of cliffs and caves and beautiful Kauai views, then another gorgeous Kauai sunset at Shipwreck Beach. This seems like the perfect way to end your weeklong Kauai vacation if you ask me.
So there you go, a perfect 7 day Kauai itinerary for your week on the Garden Isle. Got more Hawaii on the brain? Check out my other blogs on the Aloha State. And as always if you have any questions, shoot me a note. Or check out my Kauai Instagram story highlights for some on-the-ground intel.