Kauai has some of the most stunning landscapes in the world. From the lush, towering ridges of the Na Pali coast, to the sand beaches and clear blue waters of Kealia Beach, and everything in between. You can get a sense of the island's beauty just driving around, but to really appreciate it, you need to get out on there on the trails and see the forests, lookout points, beaches, and waterfalls that can only be reached on your own two feet. Although there are a lot more great hikes to choose from, here are three that you shouldnt miss.
Hanakapi'ai Falls (About 8 Miles Total / 4-7 hours)
This is probably the most popular hike on the island, and for good reason. It is a gorgeous hike along the Na Pali coast on which you will see ridgetop views, lush jungle, a beautiful beach, and a huge cascading waterfall. It is a heavily trafficked trail though, so expect to see a lot of other sweaty people! The trail starts at the very end of the road on the North West side of the island at Ke'e beach. The first 2 miles are on a wide dirt trail which hugs the ridges of the coast until you reach Hanakapi'ai Beach. This is a great place to stop and take a breather. Walk along the beach and cool off in the ocean but be careful, there is a pretty dangerous shore break here and swimming is not encouraged. When you are ready, the next 2 miles of the trail follow the creek upstream. You will pass some beautiful bamboo groves and some stone walls left over from Native Hawaiian settlements. The second half of this section gets relatively muddy and slippery, and you will have to cross the stream a few times. At the end, you will come across the 300 ft high Hanakapi'ai Falls, with a large pool at the bottom perfect for a refreshing dip. Be sure to bring a lot of water for this hike, you will go through more than you think!
Awa'awapuhi Trail (6.2 Miles Total / 3-5 Hours)
If you want breathtaking views of the Na Pali coast, then this is the trail for you. Depending on where you are staying, it could take a while to drive here, but it will be totally worth it. Head up into Koke'e State park, stopping by the numerous lookouts and the museum on the way. At about mile marker 17, look out for a fenced parking lot on the left-hand side of the road. There should also be a small sign in front of the lot that says it is the Awa'awapuhi Trailhead. Make sure you bring your camera and water bottle! The trail is relatively forested for most of the way, making for a nice shady hike. This is not a hike to do if it has just rained, the trail can be very muddy and slippery even in dry weather. After an hour or two of heading downhill through the woods, you will step out onto one of the high ridges of the Na Pali coast. Hopefully you are ok with heights because the cliffs dropping off on either side of the ridge are thousands of feet high! The views are incredible. If you sit around long enough you will probably see helicopters tours flying down through the valleys below you. Take as much time as you need admiring the view and getting your energy back because the hike back up to your car is uphill the whole way,
Sleeping Giant (About 4 Miles Total / 2-4 Hours)
The Sleeping Giant trail is not quite as noteworthy or difficult as the other two hikes, but is definitely still worth checking out for the beautiful views. The ridge is located on the windward (east) side of the island, near Kapaa. Heading north into Kapaa on Rt 56, take a left onto Haleilio Rd and follow that almost until the end. When the road curves off to the left there will be a parking area on your right for hikers. Although this hike is relatively short, the way up is a workout for sure. It is pretty steep in some parts and the scrubby brush does not offer very much shade. By the time you reach the top, you will be sweating. The trail eventually reaches a picnic pavilion but, don't be fooled, you are not quite done yet. Go across the clearing and keep following the trail until you reach the rocky outcropping with incredible views of Kapaa and the windward side of the island. If you are ambitious and not afraid to do the hike up in the dark, this would be a great spot for sunrise.