Best Things to Do in Kauai: Ultimate 4 Days Itinerary
Kauai is an island with a very relaxing atmosphere, stunning beaches, incredible views, and breathtaking hikes. Here you will find the Napali Coast, a coastline of lush green cliffs and valleys. You can see the Napali Coast in Kauai by hiking, taking a boat cruise, or booking a flight or helicopter tour. Four days in Kauai is perfect if you are looking to get away from everything, explore the island, and relax on the beach. The map below features the best things to do in Kauai in 4 days including the best beaches, viewpoints, hikes, and activities. Continue reading this guide for the best 4 days Kauai Itinerary.
4 Days in Kauai Itinerary:
Day 1: Beach Hop in Kauai’s North Shore
Day 2: Explore East Side, South Side, and Fly Over Kauai
Day 3: Boat Cruise and Waimea Canyon State Park
Day 4: Koke’e State Park
Note: When we were in Kauai the road to Tunnels Beach and Kalalau Trail were closed. These are both known to be really popular, so if you are planning your trip to Kauai you should look into this beach and trail and see if you want to add them to your itinerary. Unfortunately, I can’t provide much information on those because we didn’t get to go.
Where to Stay in Kauai
Kauai is a small island but since you can’t drive on a large portion of the island, it does take some time to get places. Therefore, during your 4 days in Kauai I recommend spending 2 nights on the north part of the island and 2 nights on the south or west part of the island. The hotels in Kauai can be expensive, and it’s not necessary to stay in an expensive hotel because the island is so amazing you will want to explore instead of resting at your hotel. There are many Airbnbs in Kauai that are typically cheaper than the hotels. During our 4 days in Kauai, we stayed 2 nights in an Airbnb in Princeville and 2 nights in an Airbnb in Waimea. Use this Airbnb link to get $40 off your first home booking.
How to Get Around Kauai
The best way to get around during your 4 days in Kauai is to rent a car and drive around the island to different beaches and hikes. Four wheel drive is not necessary for most of the island. There are enough beaches to see that you can drive to easily without four wheel drive, so if you don’t want to spend more money there is no need to rent a four wheel drive vehicle.
Tips for Visiting Kauai
- Book any activities such as boat cruise and flight tour ahead of time because they do sell out, especially if you are here during the summer.
- Don’t do a boat cruise during the winter because the waves can be very rough. We did a boat cruise in the winter and regret it as the Napali Coast was very dark from the ocean and we couldn’t see much. The waves were so big my sea sickness 24 hour medicine couldn’t even help me.
- Kauai can be expensive, and that includes the food. Walmart in Lihue is significantly cheaper than other grocery stores. I recommend buying what you need here when you arrive to Kauai since it is close to the airport.
- Bring noise canceling headphones or a white noise device. Kauai has a lot of chickens and roosters. They are very loud, all day and all night. Since the roosters are everywhere, most chances are that where you are staying you can still hear the roosters. If you want to get a good night of sleep, I recommend at least investing in a white noise travel device like this one, especially if you are a light sleeper. I bring this device with me every time I travel now since it is so helpful in masking noises and I am such a light sleeper.
Day 1: Beach Hop in Kauai's North Shore
Start your first day in Kauai getting breakfast in Hanalei town, where you can find Hanalei Bread Company. Then spend the day exploring Kauai’s North Shore and all the beautiful beaches.
Hanalei Beach is a nice long beach with views of surrounding lush green mountains. This beach is also known for Hanalei Pier which is a nice spot to sit and watch the surfers. This beach does get crowded because it is easy to get to, so try to get here early. There are restrooms located near the parking lot.
Hideaway Beach is a must-see during your 4 days in Kauai. It is a small but beautiful beach with white sand and clear water. This beach is very picturesque, but try to get here early because since it is so small it can get busy for its size. The climb down to Hideaway Beach is difficult and entails holding onto a rope and going down a steep incline. Make sure that you are wearing supportive shoes so you don’t slip. I wore my Teva Sandals which are perfect for all the hikes to the beaches in Kauai. Note that there are no restrooms or any amenities here.
Anini Beach has a big reef which is perfect for snorkeling. The beach is really narrow during high tide, so try to visit during low tide.
Hanalei Valley Lookout
Hanalei Valley Lookout is a quick stop for a view of the valley, taro fields, Hanalei River, and surrounding mountains. You will see this pull out across from the shopping center in Princeville on highway 560. You will most likely end up driving by it multiple times during your 4 days in Kauai, so make sure to stop when it is more clear so you can see the taro fields.
Secret Beach (Kauapea Beach)
Secret Beach is a quiet and wide beach surrounded by rocks. From here you can see a nice view of the Kilauea Lighthouse. To get to Secret Beach you will need to walk about 10 minutes through a tree covered trail. Make sure to wear supporting shoes like waterproof sandals or sneakers. There are no amenities at this beach.
Kilauea Lighthouse is located at Kilauea Point and is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 am-4 pm. If you don’t make it in time to enter the lighthouse, it is still worth ending the day here with a nice sunset and view. If you don’t have time on your first day in Kauai, try to visit the morning of your second day.
Day 2: Explore East Side, South Side and Fly Over Kauai
Anahola beach is a quiet beach on the East side. We went here around 10 in the morning on the way to our flight tour and we were the only people on the beach, except for a cute seal. The beach is right next to the parking lot so it is easy to get to. There are bathrooms and picnic tables next to the beach.
Wailua River State Park
Opaeka Falls and Wailua River Views
Your first stop in Wailua River State Park offers two viewpoints. You will see a view of Opaeka falls on the right and when you cross the street there is a view of Wailua River and mountains.
Wailua Falls is a must-see during your 4 days in Kauai. From Opaeka Falls to Wailua Falls you actually need to drive back through Wailua, there is no road connecting the waterfall viewpoints. This drive will take about 20 minutes. At Wailua Falls there is a small parking lot which gets very busy, so try to get here early. You can go up to the railing and see a nice view of the the waterfall. There is also a hike down to the waterfalls that you could do but it is known to be dangerous.
Fly Over Kauai
A flight tour over Kauai is an incredible experience, but it does get expensive. You can book a flight with a helicopter or on a small airplane. We decided to go with a small airplane because it is at least $100 cheaper than a helicopter. The flight tours are also longer at 60-65 minutes versus the helicopter tours at 45 minutes so you get to see more of the island. The helicopters get really close to waterfalls, Napali Coast, and the mountains which could be a cool experience although definitely scary. A flight tour over Kauai will be the highlight of your 4 days in Kauai.
We booked a flight tour through Wings Over Kauai on their Cessna plane which cost about $140/person. We had an amazing time flying over Kauai and learned a lot about the island from our pilot. The flight tour was definitely worth the cost because it is the only way to see some of the island. The views from the airplane were breathtaking and it was nice to be the only ones on the plane.
Note: The helicopters and airplanes are small and the ride can get bumpy. If you are prone to motion sickness make sure to take medicine beforehand. My go-to is this 24 hour dramamine.
Mahaulepu Beach was our favorite beach in Kauai and we actually didn’t know about it until our airplane ride when we flew over it and the pilot told us how to get their. This beach has very soft sand and is surrounded by dark rocks and tidal pools. This beach is a bit out of the way so it is quiet and more off the beaten path. You should definitely prioritize this beach during your 4 days in Kauai.
Directions to Mahaulepu Beach: Drive on Poipu Road past the Hyatt Resort Poipu. You will come to a split in the road where straight is to a horse stable. Don’t go straight, take the road on the left and park on this road as close as your car can handle as it is a dirt road and gets bumpy. Then follow the trail to the left down to the beach. There are multiple sections of this beach if you continue to walk to the left. The first section has nice soft sand, the second section is more interesting with views of surrounding mountains and large dark rocks.
Day 3: Boat Cruise and Waimea Canyon
We did a Napali Coast 5 hour group tour with Makana Charters with the main hope of seeing the beautiful Napali Coast from the ocean and snorkeling with the view. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great on this side of the island. There were huge waves, rain, and the coast was very dark. We were not able to snorkel next to the Napali coast because it was too dangerous. We didn’t have a great experience with the boat cruise, but it was due to the weather. It was interesting to hear more about Kauai from our guide, and we got to see some dolphins and snorkel on the southwest side of the island where the water was calmer. We were here in March which is still considered winter in Kauai. I think the boat cruise could be a good experience if you go in the Summer when there is better weather, but I would skip it if you are in Kauai in the winter. If you are here in the winter instead of doing a boat cruise you could spend more time exploring beaches or do another hike in Waimea Canyon or Koke’e State Park.
Waimea Canyon Viewpoints
Waimea Canyon State Park is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, with its red and green canyon walls, waterfalls, and river. Waimea Canyon is one of the highlights on the island that you should prioritize during your 4 days in Kauai. There are several viewpoints of Waimea Canyon as you drive up highway 550 through the park. Most of these only require a short walk to see the view. You should take the time to stop in several different viewpoints to see the differing views. At some of the viewpoints you can see the large waterfall, Waipo’o Falls in Waimea Canyon.
Hike Waimea Canyon: Canyon Trail to Waipoo Falls
The best trail in Waimea Canyon is the 3.2 mile moderate Canyon Trail. This hike takes you down through the forest for the majority of it until the trees start clearing out and you see views of the canyon. Eventually you reach a part right in the canyon with incredible views. You will continue to hike to a small waterfall and if you are not afraid you can continue to the large waterfall, Waipo’o Falls, and stand right next to it. This trail is a little muddy, and could be a lot more muddy depending on the amount of rain this part of the island has had recently. Hiking boots are recommended for this hike. If you don’t have hiking boots and are looking to get a pair, Amazon has a large selection.
Day 4: Koke'e State Park
Spend your fourth day in Kauai in Koke’e State Park, where you will find many incredible views of the Napali Coast. Drive up to the viewpoints and choose a hike through the forest. I recommend hiking Awa’awapuhi Trail which brings you to a ridge within the Napali Coast.
Napali Coast Viewpoints
There are some great views of Napali coast in Koke’e State Park. Unfortunately, sometimes the view can be covered by clouds but the clouds come and go so you should keep trying. We tried to see the view before we started the Awa’awapuhi Trail and it was too cloudy to see anything, and then we came back to the viewpoint after and it had cleared up. The first viewpoint is Kalalau lookout which is also where the Kalepa Ridge Trail starts. The next viewpoint is Pu’u O Kila Lookout which is further up the mountain. This viewpoint further up is where a hike called the Pihea Trail starts. It is nice to walk part of the trail to enjoy the views of the Napali Coast. Koke’e State Park has the most incredible viewpoints of the Napali Coast that you will see during your 4 days in Kauai.
Awa’awapuhi Trail is a difficult 6.2 mile trail to a breathtaking viewpoint of the Napali Coast and a ridge that you can stand on and take in the views. This trail can get very muddy so make sure you have hiking boots. It is significantly muddier in the beginning of the trail and then it gets better as the forest starts to open up. Most of the hike is through the forest but about 1.75 miles in it starts to open up and you can see views of ocean and surrounding mountains at different points through the trees. At about 2 miles there is an opening you can climb up for a beautiful view of ocean. At the end of the hike there are multiple viewpoints. First there is the more obvious viewpoint on the ridge where all the people are, but there is another view where you can look down into a valley. You will see a sign that says Vistas and points left and straight, make sure to go to both viewpoints.
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Waimea Canyon State Park and Koke’e State Park are both incredible and very different state parks located next to each other along highway 550 in