Best Hiking Trails in Kauai

Couple tourists visiting the Wailua Falls of Kauai, Hawaii
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If you are looking for an adventure in Hawaii, look no further than the island of Kauai, where you can explore some of the most breathtaking and scenic hiking trails in the world. Kauai is known as the “Garden Island” and for good reason, as it boasts lush forests, towering mountains, and stunning waterfalls. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a beginner, there is a hiking trail in Kauai for you. In this blog post, we will be highlighting the top 10 best hiking trails in Kauai, complete with trail lengths, difficulty levels, elevation gains, and trailheads, so you can plan your next hiking adventure on this beautiful island. So grab your hiking boots, a sense of adventure, and get ready to explore the natural wonders of Kauai!



Kalalau Trail

Trail Length: 22 Miles Roundtrip | Difficulty Level: Strenuous | Elevation Gain: 5,000 Feet | Trailhead: Ke’e Beach

Kalalau Trail is one of the most iconic hiking trails in Hawaii, offering stunning views of the Na Pali Coast and the Pacific Ocean. The trail runs along the coast of Kauai and stretches for 22 miles round trip, taking you through lush valleys, towering sea cliffs, and pristine beaches. It is a challenging hike that requires proper planning and preparation, but the reward of experiencing the natural beauty of Kauai is truly unforgettable.

Reasons to Hike Kalalau Trail:

  • Spectacular Scenery: The Kalalau Trail offers some of the most breathtaking views in all of Hawaii, with towering sea cliffs, lush valleys, and pristine beaches. The trail takes you through stunning vistas of the Na Pali Coast and the Pacific Ocean, making it a photographer’s dream.
  • Challenging Hike: The Kalalau Trail is not for the faint of heart, but it rewards those who are up for the challenge with an unforgettable experience. The trail is 11 miles round trip and includes steep climbs, narrow ridges, and rough terrain, making it a test of physical and mental endurance.
  • Experience the Outdoors: Hiking the Kalalau Trail is a chance to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Kauai. The trail takes you through lush forests, pristine streams, and stunning coastal landscapes, allowing you to appreciate the wonders of the great outdoors.
  • Cultural Significance: The Kalalau Trail is not just a hiking trail; it also has significant cultural and historical importance. The trail has been used for centuries by the Hawaiian people to access the remote valleys and beaches of the Na Pali Coast, and it is home to numerous sacred sites and ancient Hawaiian settlements.
  • Beach Camping: The ultimate reward for those who complete the Kalalau Trail is the opportunity to camp on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The trail ends at Kalalau Beach, where hikers can set up camp and spend the night under the stars, listening to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Daypack, Trekking Poles, Water Filter, First Aid Kit, Headlamp, Lightweight Tent


Awa’awapuhi Trail

Trail Length: 6.2 Miles Roundtrip | Difficulty Level: Moderate | Elevation Gain: 1,600 Feet | Trailhead: Koke’e State Park

The Awa’awapuhi Trail is a must-do hike for any visitor to Kauai. The trail offers stunning views of the Na Pali Coast and the surrounding valleys, with a panoramic vista that extends out over the Pacific Ocean. The trail is challenging, but the breathtaking scenery and the chance to experience the natural beauty of Kauai make it well worth the effort.

Reasons to Hike Awa’awapuhi Trail:

  • Stunning Scenery: The Awa’awapuhi Trail offers some of the most breathtaking views in all of Kauai, with panoramic vistas of the Na Pali Coast, the Pacific Ocean, and the surrounding valleys. The trail takes you through lush forests and across dramatic ridges, providing countless opportunities to stop and take in the stunning scenery.
  • Challenging Hike: The Awa’awapuhi Trail is a challenging hike, with steep climbs and rugged terrain that requires a good level of fitness and endurance. But for those who are up for the challenge, the trail rewards you with some of the most stunning views on the island.
  • Experience the Outdoors: Hiking the Awa’awapuhi Trail is a chance to get up close and personal with the natural beauty of Kauai. The trail takes you through lush forests, across bubbling streams, and over dramatic ridges, providing an immersive experience in the great outdoors.
  • Photography Opportunities: The Awa’awapuhi Trail is a photographer’s dream, with endless opportunities to capture stunning shots of the surrounding scenery. Whether you’re a professional photographer or just enjoy taking snapshots, you’re sure to come away with some incredible photos from this hike.
  • Less Crowded: Compared to some of the more popular hikes on Kauai, such as the Kalalau Trail, the Awa’awapuhi Trail is less crowded, providing a more serene and peaceful experience. You can take your time and enjoy the scenery without feeling rushed or crowded.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Shoes, Backpack, Sunscreen, Hat, Insect Repellent, Rain Jacket, Camera


Hanakapiai Falls Trail

Trail Length: 8 Miles Roundtrip | Difficulty Level: Moderate | Elevation Gain: 1,000 Feet | Trailhead: Ke’e Beach

The Hanakapiai Falls Trail is a popular hike in Kauai, known for its lush greenery, waterfalls, and breathtaking views. This moderate to strenuous hike takes you through a dense jungle and crosses streams before reaching the majestic Hanakapiai Falls. The 8-mile round trip hike can be challenging, but the reward is worth it for those seeking a true adventure in Hawaii.

Reasons to Hike Hanakapiai Falls Trail:

  • Stunning Waterfalls: The trail takes you through lush jungle and crosses streams before reaching the stunning 300-foot Hanakapiai Falls.
  • Spectacular Views: The trail offers breathtaking views of the Na Pali Coast and the Pacific Ocean.
  • Nature and Wildlife: The trail is surrounded by lush greenery and abundant wildlife, including colorful birds and tropical plants.
  • Moderate Challenge: The trail is moderate to strenuous and offers a good challenge for those looking for a workout.
  • Swimming Hole: The trail ends at a refreshing swimming hole beneath the falls, making it the perfect spot for a cool dip and a picnic lunch.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Shoes, Backpack, Sunscreen, Hat, Insect Repellent, Water Shoes, Trekking Poles


Nualolo Trail

Trail Length: 7.5 Miles Roundtrip | Difficulty Level: Moderate | Elevation Gain: 1,500 Feet | Trailhead: Koke’e State Park

The Nualolo Trail is a challenging and rewarding hike on the island of Kauai. This 7.5-mile trail offers stunning views of the Nāpali Coast, as well as a glimpse into Hawaii’s rich cultural history. Hikers will pass by ancient Hawaiian ruins and terraced agricultural fields, making it a perfect trail for history buffs and nature lovers alike.

Reasons to Hike Nualolo Trail:

  • Stunning Views: The Nualolo Trail offers some of the most breathtaking views of the Nāpali Coast, with sweeping vistas of the ocean and the rugged coastline.
  • Cultural History: The trail passes by ancient Hawaiian ruins and terraced agricultural fields, providing hikers with a glimpse into Hawaii’s rich cultural history.
  • Remote and Secluded: Nualolo is less crowded than other popular hikes on Kauai, offering a more peaceful and secluded hiking experience.
  • Challenging Terrain: This hiking trail is challenging and requires a moderate level of fitness, making it a great option for those looking for a more strenuous hike.
  • Opportunities for Wildlife Viewing: The trail is home to a variety of native plants and animals, including the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, providing hikers with the chance to spot some of Hawaii’s unique wildlife.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Shoes, Backpack, Sunscreen, Hat, Insect Repellent, Water, Trekking Poles


Kalepa Ridge Trail

Trail Length: 2.5 Miles Roundtrip | Difficulty Level: Moderate | Elevation Gain: 610 Feet | Trailhead: Kalalau Lookout

The Kalepa Ridge Trail is a scenic and challenging hike on the island of Kauai. This 2.5-mile trail offers stunning views of the Kalalau Valley and the Nāpali Coast, as well as a unique perspective of the surrounding landscape. Hikers can expect steep inclines and rugged terrain, making it a great option for experienced hikers looking for a challenge.

Reasons to Hike Kalepa Ridge Trail:

  • Breathtaking Views: The trail offers stunning views of the Kalalau Valley and the Nāpali Coast, making it a great option for photographers and nature lovers.
  • Challenging Hike: The steep inclines and rugged terrain provide a challenging and rewarding hiking experience for experienced hikers.
  • Unique Perspective: Hiking the Kalepa Ridge Trail provides a unique perspective of the surrounding landscape, including the valley and the coastline.
  • Quiet and Less Crowded: Unlike other popular hikes in Kauai, the Kalepa Ridge Trail is relatively quiet and less crowded, providing a more peaceful and serene hiking experience.
  • Wildlife and Plant Life: The trail is home to a variety of wildlife and plant life, providing hikers with a chance to see and learn about the unique flora and fauna of the area.

Recommended Gear: Comfortable Hiking Shoes, Backpack, Water Bottle, Sunscreen, Sunglasses, Hat, Insect Repellent


Alakai Swamp Trail

Trail Length: 7.7 Miles Roundtrip | Difficulty Level: Moderate | Elevation Gain: 1,200 Feet | Trailhead: Koke’e State Park

The Alakai Swamp Trail, located in the heart of Kokee State Park, is an incredible and unique hiking experience. This trail leads through a high-elevation bog and offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes. The trail can be challenging, but the reward is the chance to explore one of the most unique and biodiverse environments in Hawaii.

Reasons to Hike Alakai Swamp Trail:

  • Unique and Biodiverse Environment: The Alakai Swamp is one of the most biodiverse environments in Hawaii, with a wide range of unique plant and animal species.
  • Stunning Views: The trail offers incredible panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes, including the Wainiha Pali and Hanalei Bay.
  • Challenging Terrain: The trail can be challenging, with steep inclines, narrow paths, and muddy sections, making it an adventure for experienced hikers.
  • Bird Watching: The Alakai Swamp is home to several rare bird species, including the Hawaiian honeycreeper and the akepa, making it an excellent spot for bird watching.
  • Remote and Secluded: The trail is located in a remote area of Kauai and sees less foot traffic than other popular hikes on the island, allowing for a more peaceful and secluded experience.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Hiking Poles, Rain Jacket, Hydration System, Insect Repellent, Sunscreen, Camera


Kuilau Ridge Trail

Trail Length: 3.6 Miles Roundtrip | Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate | Elevation Gain: 200 Feet | Trailhead: Keahua Forestry Arboretum

Kuilau Ridge Trail is a popular hiking trail in Kauai, Hawaii, known for its stunning views of the island’s lush greenery and beautiful landscape. The trail is great for hikers of all skill levels and offers an enjoyable experience through a variety of terrains, including forested areas and open meadows.

Reasons to Hike Kuilau Ridge Trail:

  • Gorgeous Scenery: The trail offers stunning views of the Wailua River Valley and Mount Waialeale.
  • Easy to Moderate Difficulty: The trail is well-maintained and offers a gentle incline with occasional steep sections.
  • Accessible: The trailhead is easily accessible and there is ample parking available.
  • Wildlife Sightings: Keep an eye out for native birds like the ‘I’iwi and ‘Apapane along the trail.
  • Educational Signage: Learn about the local flora and fauna with informative signs along the trail.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Shoes, Sunscreen, Insect repellent,  Backpack, Water Bottle, Snacks, First Aid Kit


Sleeping Giant Trail

Trail Length: 3.5 Miles Roundtrip | Difficulty Level: Moderate | Elevation Gain: 1,200 Feet | Trailhead: Nounou East Trailhead

The Sleeping Giant Trail, also known as the Nounou Mountain Trail, is a popular hiking spot on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. The trail takes hikers through lush greenery and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes. At the top of the trail, hikers can enjoy panoramic views of the island’s eastern shore and the ocean beyond.

Reasons to Hike Sleeping Giant Trail:

  • Breathtaking Views: The trail offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, including panoramic vistas of the ocean and nearby waterfalls.
  • Unique Rock Formations: The trail winds through a landscape of towering rock formations that resemble the shape of a sleeping giant, providing a one-of-a-kind hiking experience.
  • Rich Biodiversity: The trail is home to a diverse range of plant and animal species, including many rare and endemic species found only in Hawaii.
  • Family-Friendly: The trail is suitable for hikers of all skill levels, including families with children, and offers a variety of trail lengths and difficulty levels to choose from.
  • Cultural Significance: The trail is steeped in Hawaiian history and mythology, and offers opportunities to learn about the cultural significance of the surrounding landscape.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Shoes, Water Bottle, Sunscreen, Insect Repellent, Backpack, Snacks, First Aid Kit


Okolehao Trail

Trail Length: 2.5 Miles Roundtrip | Difficulty Level: Moderate | Elevation Gain: 800 Feet | Trailhead: Wailua Homesteads Park

The Okolehao Trail is a challenging but rewarding hike that offers stunning views of Kauai’s lush forests and valleys. The trail features steep inclines and rugged terrain, making it a good choice for experienced hikers seeking a thrilling adventure. As you ascend, you’ll encounter stunning vistas of the island’s rugged coastline and pristine natural beauty. The trail is known for its remote and rugged nature, providing a peaceful retreat from the bustle of daily life.

Reasons to Hike Okolehao Trail:

  1. Stunning Views: The trail offers breathtaking views of Kauai’s mountains, valleys, and coastline.
  2. Unique Flora and Fauna: Hikers can spot a variety of native Hawaiian plants and wildlife, including the rare Kauai `elepaio bird.
  3. Challenging Terrain: With steep inclines and rugged terrain, this trail is a great challenge for experienced hikers looking for an adventure.
  4. Cultural Significance: The trail is named after the traditional Hawaiian liquor, okolehao, which was made from the ti plant that grows abundantly in the area.
  5. Secluded and Peaceful: Despite being located near popular tourist destinations, the trail is relatively unknown, offering hikers a peaceful and quiet experience in nature.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Trekking Poles, Sunscreen, Insect Repellent, Hydration System, Headlamp, Trail Map


Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail

Trail Length: 4 Miles Roundtrip | Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate | Elevation Gain: Minimal | Trailhead: Shipwreck Beach

Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail is a scenic coastal hike located on the southern shore of Kauai. This relatively easy trail offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, sea cliffs, and white sand beaches. The trail winds through ancient Hawaiian sites, geological formations, and wildlife habitats, providing a glimpse into the island’s history and natural beauty. Hiking this trail is a great way to experience the tranquility and ruggedness of Kauai’s coastline.

Reasons to Hike Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail:

  • Scenic Views: The trail offers breathtaking views of the ocean, rugged coastline, and lush vegetation.
  • Historical Significance: The trail passes by ancient Hawaiian cultural sites, including heiaus (sacred places of worship) and petroglyphs (rock carvings).
  • Wildlife Spotting: Hikers may encounter a variety of wildlife, such as seabirds, monk seals, and even humpback whales during the winter months.
  • Beach Access: The trail provides access to several secluded beaches, including Gillin’s Beach and Maha’ulepu Beach.
  • Easy to Moderate Difficulty: With a total distance of 4 miles (round trip) and mostly flat terrain, the trail is suitable for hikers of all skill levels.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Shoes, Sunscreen, Hat, Water Bottle, Snacks, Insect Repellent, Camera


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