The Hawaiian Islands offers many natural beauties that most people have never witnessed – especially when you are able to witness them from some of the best hikes in Kauai.
With backpacking trails leading to waterfalls, canyon overlooks, and wilderness jungles, it’s easy to say something new lies around every corner to be discovered.
The island of Kauai, located in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean, is the Northernmost of the many chains of islands that make up the state of Hawaii, and indeed the oldest. With this it has aged to perfection, offering many natural phenomena’s that will leave you awestruck without words. Whether it be the Na Pali Coastline, Waimea Canyon or Poi Pu Beach, Kauai is one of the most beautiful and underdeveloped islands of Hawaii and is nicknamed the Garden Isle with good reason.
With over 40 hiking trails, it’s hard to say that there’s not much to be explored. Trails cover just about every major area in Kauai and for the outdoor adventure enthusiast, if there would be anywhere to explore in Hawaii it would be along the trails of Kauai.
Read on to explore some of the best hiking trails in Kauai, and arguably, in the entire Hawaiian islands!
Best Hikes in Kauai | Hawaiian Hiking Trails
1.) Nounou Mountain Trails and the Sleeping Giant
The Nounou Mountain Trails that lead up to the Sleeping Giant are rated for the hardy family so require a fair amount of effort to reach your final destination and can vary anywhere between 1.5 to 2 miles in length. It will take you approximately an hour to an hour and a half of hiking time to reach the summit which stands at the nose of the Sleeping Giant, some 960 feet up.
While hiking, it is recommended that you take rain gear, hiking boots, a camera, food, and your own water but if you go during the right time of year you will not only get spectacular views of the entire east side of Kauai but also a wide variety a fruit including 100% organic strawberry guava that grow along the trailside which will make a delicious midday snack. Keep an eye out for native wildlife as well as flora and fauna such as the Hibiscus Tree, Philippine Orchid, and eucalyptus.
2.) Backpacking Moloaa Beach Trail
The Moloaa Beach Trail is rated for its unique views and handy features. With plenty to do for any beach lover, you can swim, surf, snorkel, go shelling, beachcombing, fishing, and even find fruit while hiking up to the beautiful views that overlook one of the most secluded beaches on the island.
Mango trees line Moloaa Road for the perfect opportunity to try some fresh Hawaiian fruit. However, it is said that you should avoid carrying pork on the road during the night because even present-day Hawaiians believe that Kamapuaa, a demigod who is a part pig, part man, sill lives in the valley and will change shapes to attack anything if he smells fresh pork. This trail is rated for just about any family, so pack up your bags and start hiking to this beautiful destination!
3.) The Powerline Trail
With the combination of scenic views, native and introduced flora and fauna, fresh fruit, and two very beautiful views of the world famous Kapakanui Falls, many hikers flourish to Kauai to hike this trail. Although it is quite strenuous, this 13-mile long hike rises up to an elevation of over 2,000 feet and can take anywhere between 6-8 hours for you average hiker. Turning off of Route 56 and making your way down Kapaka Street, park your car and start hiking south on this abandoned but up kept powerline trail towards the Moloaa Forest Reserve.
Here you will find a variety of feral goats and pigs as well as an old abandoned shack that was once used by workers, hunters, and hikers alike. Depending on the season, there may be many waterfalls to view during your hike, as well as a beautiful overlook of the makings of Mt. Waialeale, the wettest spot on earth and the beginning of the Hanalei River.
Towards the end of your hike, you will arrive at the Lihue trailhead where you can hike another 0.2 miles to the Keahua Forestry Arboretum for a refreshing swim after a long day of blood, sweat, and tears on the trail.
4.) Kokee State Park Trails
Kokee State Park was my closest pick for top trails in Kauai, Hawaii because it features almost all of the best areas of Hawaii, showing you everywhere from the driest of hikes down Waimea Canyon, to the downright sobbing wet ones along the Kawaikoi Stream Trail.
With the combination of its variety of seasonal fruits, wildlife, flora & fauna, waterfalls, swimming areas, and scenic views, Kokee State Park is located alongside Waimea Canyon. With well over 27 miles of hiking trails, taking a vacation in Kokee State Park is the way to go where you have both opportunities to either rough it in a tent or stay in one of the state parks cabins.
Along with various points on these trails, you will have the opportunity to view the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” (also known as Waimea Canyon), Alakai Swamp, Kalalau Valley, and Wai ale ale (the wettest spot on earth) along with many more spectacular sights. Tropical birds flourish in many of these areas so leave your iPod back home as natural tunes are constantly around you.
5.) Kalalau Trail & the Na Pali Coast
Be prepared for the hike of a lifetime! This two-day hike is not for your average novice hiker and spans 11+ miles. You will be zigzagging in between 5 steep valleys, trekking on a 2 foot path alongside a 300ft plummet to the earth below, and be amazed at what you’ve accomplished!
The Kalalau Trail is guaranteed to leave a place in your heart as one of the most dangerous, yet thrilling hikes you’ve ever done. Although all who have attempted the beast have not succeeded, those who have say the same thing over and over again: that they’ve reached a new milestone in their life. With plenty of features such as camping areas, coastal views, seasonal fruits, waterfalls, historical sites, and exotic flora & fauna, Hawaii has outdone itself in creating another work of art.
Only accessible by foot or boat (just like the hikes in Northern Laos) this trail will lead you to the grand famous Na Pali Coastline where you can get a permit to camp alongside the crashing surf and gaze at the stars in pure, blissful serenity. Very little clothing is needed during the day as the cool breeze off the coast keeps a very comfortable temperature year round so it is not uncommon to find people of both sexes hiking in the nude. At night a comfy hammock and a light sleeping bag will suffice as you sleep your worries away.
Which of these hiking trails would you consider as the best hikes in Kauai, Hawaii?