Yay! You’re going to Kauai! There is soooo many great things to see and do on the island that you’ll literally be bombarded with activities and excursion opportunities from the minute you arrive at the airport. So how do you know where to save and where to splurge? Listen up, here’s what you need to know:
In my opinion, there are a couple paid tours/excursions on Kauai that are absolutely worth doing. However, many tours and excursions are actually things you can do yourself or things that maybe aren’t worth doing. I’ll break down the activities on Kauai that I think are worth paying for, the ones you can do yourself, and the ones you should skip.
To clarify, this post is breaking down the best PAID activities/tours. For more ideas, check out the best FREE things to do in Hawaii and my favorite general things to do on Kauai.
UPDATE: In April 2018, Kauai experienced record setting flooding especially on its north shore. As a result, the road west of Hanalei town is currently closed cutting off access to the popular Kalalau Trail, Ke’e beach, and snorkeling at Tunnels. I encourage you to check local news coverage before your trip to obtain the most current conditions, and I will also update this as things reopen.
RELATED: Not very familiar with Kauai? Read up on the lay of the is(land) and where to stay plus my favorite beach resorts, budget hotels, Airbnbs, honeymoon resorts, family friendly resorts, luxury resorts, and boutique hotels.
Helicopter Tour: Don’t miss a helicopter tour of Kauai! If you can only afford to do one thing on the island, make it this. You won’t regret it. Read more about it here.
Napali Coast Boat Tour: The other must do experience is a boat ride down the Napali Coast. During the summer months (April to October) you HAVE to take a tour that leaves out of Hanalei on the north shore as you get to see the full coast this way (if you leave out of Port Allen in the south, you’ll spend much of your excursion time just journeying to get to the coast). Read more about it here.
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Do on Your Own
Snorkel Trips: Most boat tours in Kauai do the Napali Coast, but especially in the winter months they tend to cancel excursions a lot (high surf), but will still book “snorkel trips.” I would skip this. Their snorkeling spots are often subpar and you can find much better snorkeling from the shore (Tunnels an Po’ipu beach). Skip the boat tour and go snorkeling on your own.
Need a packing list for Kauai? Find my best packing advice here.
Kauai Backcountry Adventures: An excursion that gets a lot of hype on Kauai is the tubing adventure with Kauai Backcountry. During the trip you’ll get to float in an innertube down old sugar cane irrigation ditches. While it’s a neat experience, I think it’s way over priced (it’s $100/person and you’re only in the ditches for 30-45 minutes. The rest of the tour feels a bit padded for time and includes a “nature hike” and a stop at a swimming hole for a mediocre lunch. If it were half the price I would say do it. I recommend skipping this attraction if you’re on a budget.
Also, if you’re looking for absolutely everything you could ever want to know about Kauai, I highly recommend ordering the Kauai Revealed guidebook (this is an affiliate link which means if you choose to purchase I’ll make a little money). It’s worth its weight in your backpack just for its directions on finding hidden beaches, waterfalls, and trail heads. Seriously, I never would’ve found half of my favorite spots on Kauai without it.
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I’ve included everything from the best snorkeling spots, beaches, and excursions and it’s all broken down by each part of the island so you won’t waste any time backtracking.
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