Kauai Itinerary 7 Days: How to Spend a Thrilling Week

Planning a trip to Kauai? This 7 day Kauai itinerary includes the best activities, attractions, and must-see spots on the beautiful Hawaiian island. Get ready to explore paradise!

The beautiful island of Kauai, to this day, is still one of my favorite places in the world.  This lush paradise is home to some of the most stunning views I’ve ever seen, yet the island still manages to remain fairly crowd-free. 

With this itinerary, you can see the jaw-dropping Napali Coast, experience the grandeur of Waimea Canyon, and snorkel at Kauai’s stunning beaches.  We hope you come to love this island as much as we do and have many opportunities to return.  

Where We Stayed

Staying on the island of Kauai can be a HUGE expense.  Luckily, when Kendall and I were there in May of 2019 the nearby Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Resort was partially under construction.  We scored big with a significantly discounted room rate and ended up paying about $120 a night.  Our recommendation is to book early, up to a year in advance. 

Day 1 of Our 7 Day Kauai Itinerary: Makauwahi Cave and Ho’opi’i Falls

Makauwahi Cave

This is a very easy 0.5-mile hike that runs along the beautiful southern coastline of Kauai.  The large limestone cave at the end of the trail is believed to have been once used as a grave site.  This is a great activity to fit into your first afternoon after flying to the island of Kauai.  

rocky shoreline with turquoise blue water

Hike to Hoopii Falls

After our short cave visit, we drove 50 minutes north to the trailhead of Ho’opi’i Falls.  This easy 1.8-mile trail passes through lush rainforest, and the falls at the end are small but beautiful. 

There is a pool at the base of the falls, which I ended up swimming in, and then found out later it is not recommended to do so.  The bacteria count in the water is exceptionally high due to upstream contamination.

Small mountain waterfall on the rocks covered with moss in the forest. Beautiful mountain stream with a waterfall, in spring forest, at Hoopii Falls near Kapaa, Kauai, USA.
Hoopii Falls near Kapaa, Kauai, USA.

Day 2 Kauai Itinerary: Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Park

We headed out early in the morning towards Waimea Canyon, a massive 3,000-deep crevice that stretches over ten miles.  The drive itself is stunning, and Kendall and I stopped frequently for some early-morning pictures.  

Waimea Canyon | 7 day kauai itinerary

There are a handful of trails that branch off this first stretch of Kokee Road that we would have loved to explore with more time.  However, we decided to continue to our main activity for the day, the Alaka’i Swamp Trail. 

To access this trail, we parked at the Pu’u O Kila Lookout and walked a few extra miles on the Pihea Trail.  If you are lucky and there is no fog, this trail offers spectacular views of the cliffs dropping down to the shoreline below.  We got a brief glimpse before the morning fog rolled in.

This 7-mile trail is a moderately difficult route that has you feeling like you are, well, walking through a swamp. 

We absolutely loved it; we could see huge waves of mist moving right around us and through us.  We truly felt like we were walking through the clouds. 

There are portions of this hike that are swampy enough that boards have been placed as walkways on top of the mud.  We thought the plank-walking was a fun adventure, although be sure to watch your step as the wood is not always well maintained. 

Kendall did this hiking in jeans, but we would recommend wearing quick-drying pants as you might get wet (we stepped through some rotting sections of the boardwalk a few times).

Wooden planks stretch over swamp trail

Day 3 Kauai Itinerary: Sunrise at Secret (Kauapea) Beach

Kauapea Beach is a large 3,000 ft stretch of shoreline located near the town of Kilauea that sees much less tourism traffic than many of the other beaches on the island. 

Kendall and I woke up early to drive the 45 minutes from our hotel and we started the short 0.6-mile walk down to the beach right as the sun was rising. 

The beach is large, so we picked a quiet spot to sit and enjoy the morning before heading back.  NOTE: the further you walk along this beach, the more likely you are to run into the unofficial ‘nude beach’ section, so keep that in mind if traveling with kids. 

tourist standing on black rocks over an ocean tidepool in Kauai Hawaii
overlooking view of clear tidepools surrounded by black rocks.  A small waterfall can be seen in the background
We found some awesome crystal-clear tidepools to explore

Day 4 Kauai Itinerary: Sleeping Giant (Nounou Mountain) Trail, and Snorkeling at Lydgate Beach Park

Nounou Mountain

This 3.2-mile trail is located on the outskirts of the small town of Wailua, just a ten-minute drive from our hotel near Lihue.  The route is considered moderately challenging as it ascends 1,258 feet up the mountain to a fantastic overview of the surrounding area.  The very top involves a bit of rock scrambling, so it may not be the best hike for small children.  

The sleeping giant, mountain view
The sleeping giant, mountain view

Lydgate Beach Park

After our hike, we headed over to nearby Lydgate Beach Park for some leisurely snorkeling.  We had rented snorkeling fins and masks from a nearby shop, but if I were to come again I would just pack my own snorkeling gear to save the rental hassle. 

Lydgate Beach is a fantastic place for beginner snorkeling because the lava rock formations have separated a calm and fairly shallow area that is great for spotting colorful fish. 

Day 5 Kauai Itinerary: Return to Waimea Canyon, Nu’alolo Trail, and Awa’awapuhi Trail

For our second day in Koke’e State Park, we completed two different trails with amazing views over the Napali coastline. 

We had wanted to hike along the Kalalau Trail during this trip, but unfortunately, Kauai had just experienced an enormous landslide that was blocking Kuhio Highway, the only vehicular access to this trail as well as to the famous Tunnels Beach.  We were definitely bummed (all the more reason to come back!) and opted for these hikes as an alternative.

Awa’awapuhi Trail

Our first hike, the Awa’awapuhi Trail, was a 5.8-mile out-and-back route with about 1800 feet of descent to reach the final overlook over the ocean.

sideview of the green cliffs along the Awa'awapuhi Trail in Kauai

Nu’alolo Trail

We were feeling energized after Awa’awapuhi and decided to push ourselves and do one more overlook hike.  The Nu’alolo Trail is around 7.5 miles and descends 2,400 feet.  Of the two hikes, I liked the Nu’alolo better; but both hikes are similar in many ways.

green cliffs against the backdrop of the ocean on the Nu'alolo Trail

Day 6 Kauai Itinerary: Kuilau Ridge Trail

The Kuilau Ridge Trail (not to be confused with the very popular Kalalau Trail) is part of the Lihue Koloa Forest Reserve, just a 24-minute drive from Lihue.  The hike is 3.5 miles, gains 700 feet, and is rated as moderate.  The route was amazingly green with incredible views of the surrounding rolling hills.  

Foliage-covered mountains as seen from the Kuilau Ridge Trail
Kuilau Ridge Trail

Day 7 Kauai Itinerary: Snorkeling at Tunnels Beach

If you are able, Tunnels Beach (also known as Makua Beach) is hands down the most popular snorkeling beach on Kauai.  The waters are calm, and the reef is made up of lava tubes (where its nickname comes from), which offer the opportunity to see all sorts of fish and other marine wildlife. 

Since the highway to the beach was closed when we visited in 2019, we chose to spend our last day hanging out by the beach near our hotel, but Tunnels Beach is definitely on our bucket list for next time!

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