It takes little to no effort to experience nature’s grandeur on Kauai. Once you’ve stepped off the plane, you are immersed within breathtaking beauty. From there, driving along Kuhio Highway to your home-away-from-home, striking mountains and vast ocean vistas unravel from sky to sea.
There are hundreds of ways to enjoy Kauai’s natural beauty. For those that wish to gently venture into less-trafficked areas, we’ve highlighted a few of our favorite nature trails.
Avoid the crowds and embark on a simple stroll through tropical nature. Some of these trails lead to indescribable gems at the end!
Old Club Med (Princeville)
Easy to moderate with a slight change in elevation
2 miles round trip
A mysterious path leads you through open lawns and manicured ruins of an old resort to one of the best places to watch surfers on the north shore. In the 1960s and 70s, Hanalei Ridge was home to a gigantic, all-inclusive resort. After the resort failed economically, the land was purchased, excavated and still awaits building permits for the next phase. What you see now is one of Kauai’s most beautiful geographical features unadulterated by development. Locals advocate and fight for its preservation. The property is open for public use.
How to get there: From Princeville heading towards Hanalei, turn right on Hanalei Plantation Rd, just after the Hanalei Fire Station. Stay on Hanalei Plantation Rd until the road turns from paved to dirt and gets a little bumpy. When you come to a small public park (just a few picnic tables at an overlook), park your car here. Do not continue on the road to the left that heads down the hill- this is a private drive. Walk on the road to the right. You’ll come to a large iron gate with a pedestrian path on the left. Walk through and stroll along the path to the water!
The Rock Dam (Kilauea)
Easy and flat
2 miles round trip
A section of the Waikoa Loop system, this path follows a straight dirt road most of the way. As you walk with the river on your left and horses on your right, the glorious Namahana Mountain Range bellows before you. This short, easy path leads you to a surprising vista overlooking an oasis of tropical plants and a picturesque waterfall. Follow the path down the hill to meander along the old irrigation canals until you reach the Rock Dam itself!
How to get there: Heading north on Kuhio Highway, turn left on Kuawa Rd (mountainside of Kilauea Town). Drive all the way back until you reach the recently purchased Common Ground facility. Park here near the yellow gate at the end of the road. Walk past the yellow gate and follow the dirt road until you reach the Rock Dam! Be sure to stop by Kauai Farmacy on your drive back down Kuawa Road for a boutique herbal garden experience and fresh brewed tea!
Browse Our North Shore Vacation Rentals!
The white sandy beaches that make Kauai so special are spread across the island, but the North Shore highlights some of the most diverse and unique. Just inland from the glistening ocean shore, quaint towns offer the perfect balance of nourishment, refreshment and island-style entertainment. Hanalei Town, for example contains a full spectrum of eateries from delicious local food trucks to five star restaurants. All within walking distance, you can shop at boutiques and local art galleries, try local foods, enjoy happy hour at a bar, cool down with shave ice, and rent gear for your next adventure.
Surrounded by staggering mountains and cascading waterfalls, this majestic North Shore of Kauai boasts some of Hawaii’s most stunning views. However, this beauty does not come without the reality of rain, which caters to the lush and vibrant landscape. The combination of warm weather, intermittent rain showers and insistent sunshine is what makes the North Shore special. It is also what makes the North Shore the land of rainbows!
Kuilau Ridge Trail (Wailua)
Easy to Moderate with a slight change in elevation
1.5 miles to overlook, then onward as you wish!
Entering into the jungle, this trail takes you closer the heart of the island. Cooler air and cloudier skies are common as you approach the crater. Away from the beaches, you will find an abundance of native plants and groves of Rainbow Eucalyptus trees. You can walk uphill to the overlook with picnic benches and a vista, then turn back. Or, keep going for a few more miles as the trail climbs up into the jungle and reaches the Moalepe Trail. This trail is best done in dry conditions, as the clay-like nature of the soil can be very slippery after a rain!
How to get there: From Wailua, turn mauka (mountainside) on Highway 580/Kuamo’o Road for 6.6 miles. The trailhead will be on your right.
Browse Our East Shore Vacation Rentals!
There is a flair of life that exists on the East Side of Kauai that you cannot find anywhere else on the island. Still grounded in its roots, Kapaa Town teams with activity: fishermen navigating the tides, paniolos (cowboys) working the land, birds soaring the sea breezes. And, as the tides bring change, over time this little seaside town has evolved into a trendy, rootsy, eclectic mana-filled mecca.
There are many elements at play that make the East Side of Kauai special: the myriad of rolling sandy beaches, accessible hikes and waterfalls cascading from surrounding mountains, the convenient central location, the countless festivals, celebrations and farmer’s markets that line the streets or park on any given day.
Makauwahi Cave and Tortoise Sanctuary (Poipu)
Easy to difficult, depending on your approach
1 mile to 4 miles round trip
A part of the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail, this area is unlike any other part of the island. From the developed center of Poipu, you will venture into an arid geological wonderland of caves, caverns and plains dotted with tortoise! The actual area of Maha’ulepu is vast and expansive, however staying central to the Tortoise Sanctuary and Makauwahi Cave will provide more than enough for you to explore. The Tortoise Sanctuary is privately run but open to the public, and the owners are more than happy to talk with you and share about their ecological endeavors. You may even get to see newborn or baby tortoise! From there, a quaint trail system connects the Makauwahi Cave, beach and Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail. For an immersive experience, take a free guided tour of the cave and learn about its rich and significant geological history!
Free cave tours Wed-Sun, 10-2.
How to get there: Warning: rough road! On Poipu Road, continue past the Hyatt for approximately 2 miles. The road turns to dirt and gets rather bumpy with large potholes. At the crossroads, turn right and proceed to a green gate with a shack on the right. Turn right just past the shack down a dirt driveway. Drive along the edge of the field and park on the left side at the bottom of the field, just past signpost 18.
To get to the cave: From the tortoise sactuary, turn towards the ocean and follow a path that crosses a footbridge, turn right and walk to sign post 15.
Alternate access: Walk two miles along the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail that starts from Shipwrecks Beach near the Hyatt. This trail is not for the faint of heart, as it passes by steep cliffs along the ocean.