If you’ve decided to take a trip to Kauai, let’s just say that I knew I liked you. But seriously, Kauai is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, not just in Hawaii but anywhere in the world. We spent a week exploring the entire island of Kauai (check out the full 7 day itinerary for all the details) and I particularly loved my time staying in Princeville on the North Shore. It’s one of those incredible places that every direction you look is just like living in a dream. So if you’re like me and love natural beauty, good food, and fun activities (and the occasional free one too), check out my list of the best things to do on Kauai’s north shore.
The Short Version
- Take a boat tour of the NaPali Coast
- Hike the Kalalau Trail
- Go shopping in Hanalei town
- Hike down to Queen’s Bath – SAFETY MEASURES NEEDED, PLEASE READ FULL DETAILS BEFORE CONSIDERING THIS HIKE
- Relax at some of the best beaches in the world
- Spend a day at Hāen’a State Park
- Explore Kilauea and see the famous lighthouse
- Eat your heart out
- Watch some of the best sunsets on the planet
The Long Version of 9 of the Best Things to Do on Kauai’s North Shore
Before we dig in too deep, I highly recommend renting a car for your time in Kauai. There is no good public transit system and you can’t rely on cabs/Uber/Lyft, etc. I simply don’t know how you would see all of these amazing spots on Kauai’s north shore without renting a car.
Alright, let’s move on to all the amazing things I recommend you do on Kauai’s north shore!
1 – Take a Boat Tour of the NaPali Coast
Without a doubt, this is one of the more fun things we did and it’s a must for any Kauai itinerary. Seeing this iconic coastline from the water is so special and without a doubt one of the best things to do on Kauai’s north shore.
There are a bunch of tours that you can choose from, from adventure boats to sunset catamarans, so pick the trip type you want and go from there. Pro tip though! Make sure the tour you choose leaves from one of the marinas on the north shore and not on the south/west so you don’t have to drive all the way around.
2 – Hike the Kalalau Trail
Another thing that you’ll find on any “best things to do on Kauai’s north shore” list is the Kalalau Trail. This is a world-famous hiking trail that is very difficult to complete. The good news for people who aren’t the best or most experienced hikers but still want to explore the coast by land is that there are many stops along the way. Here’s the lowdown on what you can hike:
- 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
3 – Go Shopping in Hanalei Town
So honestly I’m not typically a “go shopping on vacation” type of traveler but Hanalei had so many amazing little shops to explore, I just had to. Whether you’re looking for local crafts, trendy clothes, snorkel equipment, or honestly whatever other travel fares you could need, you can find them there. I bought a super cute hat, earrings, a swimsuit, hot sauce, and GoPro equipment. So.. like.. there’s truly a little bit of everything ha.
4 – Hike Down and Float in Queen’s Bath
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 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.
This is something I couldn’t do due to weather while I was there but I considered it a must do on any adventurer’s list. It’s a relatively easy but apparently very muddy hike down to this unique rock formation along the coast. Plenty of people hike down here throughout the year but it’s important to understand the dangers before you go. Keep your eye on the tide, don’t go when the weather is too choppy, and be smart. If you’re not afraid of a little mud, the conditions are RIGHT for a visit, and know how to be a responsible traveler, hanging out at Queen’s Bath is one of the best things to do on Kauai’s north shore.
5 – Relax on Some of the Best Beaches in the World
Kauai beaches are truly some of the most magical I’ve ever been to. And these beautiful beaches are everywhere along the coast. Whether you’ve got reservations to go into Hāen’a State Park and see their beaches or simply exploring all that the north shore has to offer, I’d recommend these ones for sure:
- Hanalei Bay
- Pu’u Poa Beach
- Haena Beach Park
- Tunnels Beach
- Ke’e Beach
6 – Spend a Day at Hāen’a State Park
Whether you’re hiking the trail, hanging at the beaches, or exploring the caves, a day at Hāen’a State Park is absolutely one of the best things to do on Kauai’s north shore. You do need to get reservations for your time in the park so definitely plan ahead and book those as early as possible.
7 – Explore Kilauea & See the Famous Lighthouse
Kilauea is such a cute town with a lot to do! You can tour some of the farms, go to the gardens, check out the lighthouse and nature reserve, and just enjoy a day in this relaxed little town. It felt like a nice break from Princeville, which definitely has a slightly more touristy feel. So I always like a little escape from that, which is why it’s on this “best things to do on the Kauai north shore” list.
8 – Eat Your Heart Out Any and Everywhere
In Kauai, we definitely ate well, to say the least. I’m always a big fan of eating the local fare and I ate seafood everywhere we went! Eating well is a must on any of my trips, but is it one of the best things to do on the Kauai north shore? Well.. duh! Here are some of the spots we ate at and what we got:
- Hanalei Bread Company – the Fancy Toast and cinnamon roll were both to die for
- The Dolphin – the mahi mahi was INCREDIBLE as were the scallops
- Kilauea Fish Market – some of the best fish tacos I’ve ever had, hand down
- Tahiti Nui – a great happy hour with some awesome food; I had the daily special and it was a phenomenal mushroom and crab ravioli – this place also does luaus if you’re interested in that
- The Spot – I had the Fancy Bagel and it was good but we had to wait in a really long line and it frankly just didn’t compare to Hanalei Bread Company
- Tiki Iniki’s – if you’re looking for a STRONG COCKTAIL this is your spot
- Kilauea Bakery & Pizza – lots of delicious and fresh pastries
9 – Watch Some of the Best Sunsets on Earth
Truly, some magical sunsets can be found on this gorgeous little island. My favorites along the north shore were at:
- Ke’e Beach
- Tunnels Beach
- Hanalei Bay
So there you have it! My list of the best things to do on Kauai’s north shore. Looking for more Hawaii planning help? Check out all my Hawaii blogs and as always if you have any questions, reach out here or on Instagram or TikTok!