The oldest and most alluring of the Hawaiʻian islands, Kauaʻi is a place unlike any other. Hawaiʻi’s enchanting Garden Island is a paradise of natural wonder, from the dizzying heights and plunging valleys of the Kalalau Trail to the pristine rainforests and breathtaking lookouts of the Alakaʻi Swamp.
With its otherworldly landscapes and scenic vistas unlike anywhere else on earth, it’s no wonder the island has become a beloved destination for hikers, explorers, and nature lovers from across the globe. Here, we’ve rounded up just a few of our favorite spots to experience Kauaʻi’s wild, untamed beauty for yourself when staying at Timbers Kauaʻi.
Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park
For many, Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park is considered the quintessential Hawaiʻian landscape. Located on Kauaʻi’s scenic northwestern shore, this iconic stretch of unspoiled coastline offers a perfect panorama of dazzling waterfalls, hidden beaches, narrow valleys, and plunging sea cliffs — and is an absolute must-see for visitors to the Garden Isle.
Once the home of early Polynesian settlers who first reached these shores roughly 1,500 years ago, Nāpali’s rugged, undulating landscape is free of roads and can only be explored by air, sea, or trail. Board a boat or helicopter tour and marvel at the park’s namesake cliffs that rise 4,000 feet above the turquoise waters below. Or lace up your hiking boots and experience the park’s breathtaking vistas on one of Kauaʻi’s most celebrated hikes — the Kalalau Trail.
Stretching 11 miles along the Nāpali Coast to its terminus at secluded Kalalau Beach, the Kalalau Trail is widely considered one of the most beautiful (and challenging!) hikes in the United States. The trail traverses five valleys, winding through a mountainous terrain of canyons, forests, cliffs, and streams. Barely a foot wide at its narrowest points, hikers can expect their fair share of mud and treacherous footing along the way, thanks to the notoriously rainy climate of Kauaʻi’s north shore.
A two-mile section from the trailhead near Keʻe Beach to Hanakāpīʻai can be completed in about five hours as an out-and-back route — an ideal option for day hikers and those looking to avoid the dizzying heights of Crawler’s Ledge at mile seven. Experienced trekkers looking to complete the entire 22-mile adventure must obtain a permit to hike past Hanakāpīʻai. You’ll want to budget at least two days for the journey — though many hikers opt to tack on an extra day or two to revel in the pristine beauty of remote Kalalau Beach.
Affectionately dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”, Waimea Canyon State Park on Kauaʻi’s southwestern coast is a true nature lover’s paradise. Fourteen miles long, 3,600 feet deep, and more than a mile wide, the canyon offers a stunning expanse of crested buttes, plunging valleys, and vast inland gorges that seem to go on forever.
Visitors to the park can enjoy a scenic drive by way of Waimea Canyon Road (Highway 550), with multiple lookout points offering dazzling views along the way. Just past mile marker 10, you’ll catch sight of breathtaking Waipoʻo Falls, a two-tier waterfall that plunges some 800 feet into the valley below. Travelers by vehicle can go as far as the historic Puʻu O Kila Lookout, but the park offers plenty more to explore on foot through its network of scenic hiking trails, with options for beginners and seasoned backpackers alike.
Swaying palms, mystic mountain ranges, sugar-white sands, and sparkling, clear waters — it’s little wonder Hanalei Bay is home to one of the most photographed beaches in the world. Located a short, ten-minute drive from nearby Princeville, this crescent-shaped bay is the largest on the island’s north shore.
Hanalei Bay is sheltered from the Pacific currents by nearby Makahoa Point. Its picturesque scenery and warm, tranquil waters (known to be particularly calm in the summer months of June through September) have made it a favorite spot for swimming, paddleboarding, and snorkeling. It’s also home to the historic Hanalei Pier, a local landmark and popular gathering place that dates back to the 1860s.
Wailuā River State Park
Take a step off the beaten path and out onto the water on the beautiful Wailuā River. Located on the eastern end of Kauaʻi and just north of Līhuʻe, Hawaiʻi’s only navigable river lies nestled within the idyllic natural splendor of Wailuā River State Park. Known for its tranquil, emerald-tinged waters and abundant rainbows, it’s a popular destination for kayaking excursions and guided tours.
At the southern end of the river, you’ll find the Wailuā Falls. If the scenery around here looks familiar, that’s because it is — the iconic waterfall was featured in the opening credits of the hit TV show Fantasy Island.
The Alakaʻi Swamp is the popular name for what is actually the Alakaʻi Wilderness Preserve in Kokeʻe State Park, the world’s highest rainforest and swampland and one of the wettest places on earth. This unique forest ecosystem is unlike any other on Kauaʻi and is an ideal place to get better acquainted with the island’s native flora and fauna.
The park boasts an impressive network of nature paths and boardwalks connecting to captivating lookout points like Kilohana and Puʻu O Kila — the perfect place to stop for a celebratory photo with an enviable view. The seven-mile out-and-back Alakaʻi Swamp Trail takes just under three and a half hours to complete and is ideal for day hikers looking for a moderate-but-not-too-challenging adventure in the great outdoors.
One of Kauaʻi’s most photographed and recognizable spots, Spouting Horn, is steeped in ancient myth and legend. When waves crash against the shore of Kukuiʻula Bay, the blowhole emits a spectacular hiss and spout of water that has been known to reach as high as 50 feet into the air. According to traditional lore, however, the jaw-dropping sight is actually the breath and roar of a mighty sea monster named Kaikapu, who became trapped beneath the lava shelf hundreds of years ago.
Family-friendly and easily accessible by vehicle, Spouting Horn Park offers majestic views of the Poʻipū coastline. It’s also a prime spot for whale-watching in the winter months, with Humpback whales known to make an appearance. And with the lush splendor of Allerton Gardens right next door, you can revel in the unmatched natural beauty of Kauaʻi — no hiking boots required.
Experience the Garden Isle
Aerial tours, river excursions, secret beaches, and awe-inspiring canyons — there’s something about the beauty of Kauaʻi that can’t help but awaken the nature lover within even the most avowed of indoor types.
Are you hearing the call of the wild yet? Whether you’re dreaming of an epic, multi-day hike or a quiet stroll through an ancient forest, your Hawaiʻian vacation dreams can become a reality when you stay at Timbers Kauaʻi. Experience authentic and luxurious island living, complete with breathtaking golf courses, relaxing spa services, world-class dining, and so much more — all tailored to your needs.