Well, I’ve heard it said that the whole of Kauai is a Must see Spot but there are some things that you shouldn’t miss. So here’s my take on Must see Spots on Kauai.
The Na Pali Coast ~ Must see Spot
Number one has to be the Na Pali Coast: majestic 3000 feet emerald mountains and cliffs with waterfalls cascading down into the azure water below. Famously used in “Jurassic Park”. as the island where the dinosaurs roam (scene at the beginning when they are flying in by helicopter).
Rightly considered by many “best of” in the world to be one of the most magnificent coastlines anywhere on this amazing Earth. Not only does the coastline feature on many a top 10 list, but the Kalalau Trail, which is the hike along the Na Pali to get to fabled Kalalau valley is also on the Top 10 list of extraordinary hikes.
So, how do you get there? How do you see it? Thankfully it can never be ruined by roads, buildings or any other form of modern destruction. There are 3 ways to see the Na Pali: by foot, by air and by boat. All 3 are amazing and different.
First thing you need to know here is that you have to be FIT and I mean FIT. If you want to try and hike all the way to Kalalau, it’s 11 miles and it’s switchbacks all the way: 1000 feet up, 1000 feet down. I’ve seen people do it in 4 hours but they had just completed the entire Appalachian trail. Most people take 6 – 9 hours. You can read more about the trail and Kalalau here.
It is possible to do just the first two and a half miles into Hanakapiai Beach and this does give you the vistas of the glorious Na Pali, so I would recommend that.
Helicopter tours are an hour long and take in the Na Pali coast, Waialeale (the famous “wettest spot on earth”) in the center of the island and the rest of the island. Yes, it’s a fabulous trip and you certainly get a bird’s eye view of the majesty. Generally 6 people per helicopter. Most go from Lihue but there is one company that goes from Princeville airport.
There is also a light plane that flies over the Na Pali – check my post about activities.
There’s nothing quite like being out on the ocean and gazing at those 3000 ft cliffs and waterfalls – it’s stunning. There are a variety of boat tours, most of which go from Port Allen or the Kukukiola Boat dock on the west side but there are 3 companies that go from Hanalei. Again check out my post on activities.
Some people do all 3, but don’t leave Kauai without seeing the Na Pali Coast, it truly is one of the Must see Spots on Kauai.
Hanalei Bay ~ Must see on Kauai
No wonder so many songs have been written about fabled Hanalei Bay; it’s the perfect half moon shaped bay held in the midst of green mountains in the background. It’s gorgeous at any time of day. Early morning walks along the bay, sunset walks along the bay, hanging out at “Grandpa’s” or “Pine Trees” or “Pavilions” or the Pier….. just a few of the beaches along the bay.
Wonderful beach for couples, families….. just all around beach fun. Hanalei Bay is a Must see Spot on Kauai…. and Hanalei Town is the prettiest on island.
The Princeville Lookout & Hanalei Overlook with Bali Hai View
The Princeville Lookout is right after you pass Princeville just before you go down the hill into Hanalei. They are just finishing building a new lookout on the left hand side. This location gives unparalleled views of part of Hanalei Valley, the Kale (Taro) fields and the mountains with numerous waterfalls. Gorgeous whether sunny or raining. As you drive down to Hanalei, there’s a spot on the right hand side, just enough for 3 cars to pull in which affords the most glorious view of the valley, Hanalei Bay and the famous Bali Hai View – absolutely stunning and majestic. Absolutely one of the Must see Spots on Kauai.
Opaekaa Falls ~ Must see Spot
There are many falls on Kauai. Opaekaa Falls is wonderful because there is an entire area from which you can view the falls. Drive up Kuamoo road in Wailua, park where indicated and you have a perfect view of these falls. Along with Wailua Falls (which access is actually from Lihue just to confuse you) these are the most photographed and used in movies. It used to be possible to hike down to the falls from this viewpoint but that is now highly discouraged for safety reasons. Opaekaa Falls is definitely one of the Must see Spots on Kauai.
Kalalau Lookout ~ Must see on Kauai
If you are staying on the North Shore or East Side… or even South Shore, it’s worth the drive to go visit bot the Kalalau Lookout and Waimea Canyon. The Kalalau lookout gives you spectacular views down into the fabled Kalalau valley from the very top Koke’e. Go pass the Waimea Canyon lookout and keep going past the Koke’e State Park Lodge…. you’ll see the signs for Kalalau Lookout at the end. No trails from this point (those are further back, see my post about hikes) but you can stand and gaze at the stunning view.
If you really want a taste of heaven, spend a minimum of 3-4 nights (preferably 5) camping in the Kalalau Valley; any shorter than that and you barely get to see anything because it’s a day trip in and out. A Must see Spot on Kauai!
Before you get to the Kalalau Lookout, you will get to the Waimea Canyon. As you drive up to this point, you will pass points on the road where you can easily stop and get views of the canyon, but the lookout gives you the best views.
Yes, it is called the “Grand Canyon” of the Pacific for obvious reasons. The light in the morning or late afternoon makes it even more special. Another Must see Spot on Kauai.
Polihale Beach ~ Must see on Kauai
7 miles of beach, crowned with craggy cliffs that reach out at the end. This beach is where the Hawaiians believe “the souls depart”. You can see why. Go towards sunset and marvel. The sand dunes go one for ever, there is wonderful foliage and trees for shade and it’s a great camping spot; though sadly still closed for camping. Go for a morning or afternoon. Swimming can be dangerous so be careful.
The drive to get there is a good 20 minutes plus down a very bumpy dirt track; you do really need 4 wheel drive or otherwise go really, really slowly and when you turn right at the end of that first stretch, park where you can see packed sand and don’t go further unless you have 4wd. Many a person – tourist and otherwise – has become stuck in the soft sand. But it’s worth the drive. Polihale Beach is a must see Spot on Kauai!
Those are the absolute you have to see during your visit. There are other places that I personally think are must see… from Secret Beach to Ke’e Beach, the Kalepa Hike, the hikes in Koke’e, Tunnels, Hanalei Town, Sunset strip in Kilauea, Mahalepu Falls above Kapa’a and more. But for now, that’s my list of Must see Spots on Kauai!