Nicknamed ‘The Garden Isle’ due to the dense tropical rainforest that blankets most of the island, Kauai is a natural wonderland that draws tourists from all over the world.
It’s part of the larger Hawaiian archipelago, and not surprisingly, has been the shooting site for hundreds of movies and television shows, some of which date back many decades.
The Nā Pali Coast and Waimea Canyon are among the most dramatic and often-visited of the island’s sights, but with so much else to do and see, you’ll likely have trouble fitting it all into your busy schedule.
Below are 15 of the best tours in Kauai.
1. Traditional Luau and Sunset Dinner Package
For those looking to kick off their Hawaiian adventure with an unforgettable evening of food, dance and music, this traditional sunset luau and dinner deal is a great choice.
It’s family-friendly fun that you won’t likely forget, but be warned, due to its popularity, spots fill up quickly, so it’s best to book in advance if possible.
Dinner includes island-style roast pig and plenty of fresh, locally produced fruits and vegetables.
Everything is included except door-to-door transportation and gratuities, but because it’s so well-known, finding your own ride won’t be a problem. Ask for assistance at your hotel’s reception desk.
2. Sightseeing Flight to Nā Pali Coast and Waimea Canyon
The majestic sights you’ll see on your trip to Kauai will be second to none, but when viewed from thousands of feet above, they’ll be especially breathtaking.
Your pilot-guide will give you an interesting narration of the area’s history and geology and how it relates to the things you’ll be viewing. Sites include the stunning and pristine Nā Pali Coast and Waimea Canyon.
Round trip transportation is available for guests who’ve signed up for the tour aboard their cruise ship. Although the flight lasts a little less than an hour, you’ll feel like you’ve gotten great value for your money.
3. Full-Day Fern Grotto River Cruise and Tour
This seven-hour tour is the perfect way to take in as much of Kauai’s beauty as possible on its eastern and northern shores.
The tour’s highlights include a scenic drive in an air-conditioned van, a boat cruise to famous Fern Grotto and the nearby lighthouse, and for those who’d like to see more from above, an optional guided flight is available too.
Everything is included except food, so bring a few bucks because you’ll get hungry.
It’s also wise to bring a few layers of clothing, a hat, and sunglasses; the weather can change quickly and when the clouds aren’t out the sun can be brutal.
4. Kauai South Shore Picnic, Snorkel and Whale Watch Combo
Considered by many former guests to be the best snorkel tour on Kauai’s south shore, this four-hour tour packs a lot of unforgettable activities into a half-day.
You’ll get up close and personal with some of the area’s most popular and beautiful marine animals, including sea turtles, dolphins and the humpback whales who frequent the clear waters at certain times of the year.
All the training and equipment you’ll need are provided by the staff, but this tour is only open to participants that are at least eight-years-old.
Getting so close to these natural wonders is something you won’t soon forget, so book in advance to reserve your spot.
5. Half-Day Morning Bus Tour to Waimea Canyon
Half-day tours are great ways to see and do lots of great things while leaving a good portion of the day open for other adventures.
Majestic Waimea Canyon is often referred to as the Pacific’s Grand Canyon. It was formed eons ago during the island’s volcanically active past.
Though the canyon is the tour’s main attraction, you’ll also see the Spouting Horn and other amazing natural features for which the area is known.
You’ll see most of the sites via bus, but there will be ample opportunity to get outside, stretch those legs and get some fresh air too.
6. Catamaran Snorkeling Cruise with Lunch to the Nā Pali Coast
Catamarans are exotic boats that slide through the water with ease, seemingly defying the laws of nature. As luck would have it, there’s no better way to see the Nā Pali Coast than from the deck of one of these multi-hulled cruisers.
Your ocean vantage point will give you and your travel companions unrestricted views of the picturesque beaches, dense jungles and magnificent geologic formations for which the area is known.
Swimming and snorkeling are also offered if you’d like to dive into the crystal waters, but if you’re content lounging on deck with a cocktail that’s okay too.
7. Luau Kalamaku with Buffet Dinner
A perennial island favorite due to its amazing scenery, traditional music and dance, and the amazing buffet dinner, Luau Kalamaku is one of those popular tourist activities that really shouldn’t be passed up on your island trip.
The luau takes place on the Kilohana Plantation, which is a focal point of much of the area’s history.
The tour includes food and drink, an amazing show, and even a ride on the plantation’s train, from which you’ll enjoy a narration on the area’s history and see some arts and crafts made by the locals.
8. Eco-Friendly Zip-Line Adventure in Poipu
Kauai’s dramatic topography was seemingly made with zip-liners in mind. If soaring hundreds of feet over jungles, gorges and volcanic rock peaks suspended by only a thin wire sounds like a good way to spend a few hours, then this tour is for you.
Featuring eight distinct lines that crisscross over the area, you’ll get a healthy dose of adrenaline and see Kauai’s scenery from a birds-eye-view that few get to experience.
The tour lasts 2 ½ hours and includes all the equipment and instruction you’ll need to have a safe and unforgettable time.
Dress accordingly and don’t forget a few bottles of water and some sunblock.
9. Nā Pali Sea Cliff Kayak Tour
Due to the physical nature of this tour, it’s only recommended for the relatively young and those that are of above average fitness.
At five hours, the tour will cover nearly four miles of scenic coastline, including views of towering cliffs and most likely visits from a few of the area’s marine creatures – like dolphins, stingrays, and even whales if you go during the right season.
You’ll have plenty of time to relax and swim in a few of the area’s clear water coves that’ll remind you of the cover of a glossy tourism brochure.
The tour comes with a deli-style picnic lunch on a secluded beach, which will give you enough energy for the long but scenic paddle home.
10. Full-Day Waimea Canyon and Wailua River Tour
After you’ve taken in the majestic scenery of Waimea Canyon and the Wailua River, you won’t be surprised to learn that they’ve been popular filming sites for Hollywood movies and television shows dating back to the beginning of the 20th century.
This full-day tour from Kauai will include portions on the road and the river itself.
The Wailua River and canyon are often referred to as ‘the Grand Canyon of the Pacific,’ due to their dramatic majesty and the amazingly colored, stratified rock cliffs that loom over them.
The resorts at Poipu, Queen Victoria’s profile, and Nawiliwili Harbor are also on the schedule.
The tour lasts between nine and ten hours and includes everything except food and drink.
11. Hana Day-Tour
Starting in Lahaina, this 9 ½-hour guided tour will lead you down the Road to Hana, which is perhaps the most scenic and visited road in Maui.
You’ll snake through the twists and turns in your air-conditioned bus while your guide points out historically and geologically significant areas.
The road is especially known for the dozens of one-lane bridges that cross many rock and jungle-filled gorges; you’ll get some amazing photo ops at some of the many waterfalls that dot the area.
Door-to-door transportation is included, as are breakfast and lunch.
Make sure your phone is charged and your camera has plenty of film before setting off.
12. Kauai Waterfall Picnic Tour and Off-Road Adventure
If you’re a movie buff, this off-road adventure tour is for you; it includes stops at a few of the filming locations used for modern classics like Jurassic Park and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Some of the roads are a bit on the rough side. Since you’ll need to do some hiking in order to get to some of the gorgeous swimming spots you’ll visit, this tour is best enjoyed by the relatively young, fit and fearless.
Lunch is included and consists of a sandwich buffet with all the fixings, which will replenish those calories you expended.
13. Nā Pali Sightseeing Sunset Dinner Cruise
Though you’ve already heard about the Nā Pali Coast and maybe even experienced it, there’s something extra special about it when viewed from the deck of a gently swaying boat as the sun fades behind the western sky.
If you’re a guy who’s looking to make it up to his significant other for putting up with you leaving the toilet seat up for all these years, this romantic evening cruise with dinner is the perfect way to say, “thank you” and “I’m sorry” all at once.
The four-hour tour will take your breath away; even though the boat is capable of carrying nearly 100 passengers, the tour is restricted to 49 to give guests a more intimate feel.
14. Zip-Line, Kayak and Hiking Tour
For nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts and those just looking to do a bit of communing with Mother Nature, this adventure-packed tour would be a wise addition to your itinerary.
Due to the physical exertion required, guests must be pretty darn fit; the tour includes a two-mile walk, 90-minute kayak, and multiple trips down a zip-line or two.
You’ll also get to ride in a wagon and eat lunch in a tree house high in the jungle canopy, after which you’ll hike to a waterfall and enjoy some swimming and relaxation.
Before you book, make sure you and your travel companions meet the age and weight restrictions for this tour.
15. All-Inclusive Kauai to Pearl Harbor and Oahu North Shore
If all you’ve got to spare is a day and you’d like to make the most of it, this all-inclusive Pearl Harbor and Oahu North Shore trip from Kauai will give you a great bang for your hard-earned buck.
All transportation is included, as are meals, drinks and entry tickets to the Pearl Harbor Arizona Memorial and nearby museum.
Your tickets also include skip-the-line features, so waiting won’t be an issue, thereby enabling you to see many of the sites that usually take more than a day.
You’ll be accompanied on each leg of your journey by a professional guide whose insight will add a lot of value to your tour.