Kauai Hiking Trails Guide
Best Places to Hike on Kauai
The island of Kauai is home to some of the best hiking trails in the entire state of Hawaii, if not the world. If you like to hike, Kauai will certainly not disappoint.
The island offers a huge variety of trails and hikes that vary from 3,000 ft. ridge and cliff trails to treks along the gorgeous NaPali coastline. Some trails take you for a stroll along the beach, some take you for a journey into Waimea Canyon or into the world's highest upland swamp, while others climb thousands of feet above sea level and offer views that are simply breathtaking. In our opinion, no other Hawaiian island can make an impression on hikers the way Kauai can.
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This entry includes resources for Kauai's Top Hiking Trails, including tips, advice, trail rankings, maps, and more.
Top 10 Kauai Hiking Trails
The numbered hikes listed here are our absolute favorites on the island of Kauai. There's a lot to consider when ranking trails for visitors - trail length, difficulty, elevation change, views, clarity of the path (some trails are more "official" than others), and general safety. Whether you choose to take on these more challenging hikes or stick to adventuring on your own, we're certain you'll see Kauai from a completely new perspective after exploring these remarkable trails. Let's countdown the very best trails on Kauai.
West Kauai Region
#10 Rated Hiking Trail on Kauai
The Awa'awa'puhi Trail is the first trail from Kokee State Park to make our list, but it won't be the last. The Awa'awapuhi trail involves a trek through dense jungles and dry landscapes, but the journey is worth it - at the end, the trail offers sweeping views of several valleys along the Na Pali coastline.
Awa'awa'puhi gets off to a slow start but picks up steam about halfway. The beginning of the trail is a relatively mellow stroll through the high forest. The trail starts at approximately 4,120 feet and ends at the lookout around 2,500 feet; so be prepared for the climb out.
Makawehi Lithified Cliffs Trail
South Kauai Region
#9 Rated Hiking Trail on Kauai
Whether you're an armchair geologist or simply appreciate Mother Nature's stunning handiwork, you'll want to check out the fascinating Makawehi Lithified Cliffs on Kauai's South Shore.
Located next to Shipwreck Beach in South Kauai, these ancient limestone sea cliffs have been virtually sandblasted by a combination of wind, salt, and water over millions of years.
The trail stretches along several miles of the Kauai coastline and is a treasure trove of fossils, petroglyphs, and burial grounds.
Nounou East 'Sleeping Giant' Trail
East Kauai Region
#8 Rated Hiking Trail on Kauai
This is a great hike in Central/East Kauai. The Nounou East or Sleeping Giant trail will take you on a journey of 1,000 ft., but the views at the top certainly are grand.
You'll be rewarded with a view of all of the east side of the island and a good look inland towards Waialeale, as well. The trail can be hot if you start too late in the day, so try to get an early start.
Be careful at the top because some of the dropoffs are pretty steep, but enjoy the view; it's unlike anything else in East Kauai.
Kuilau Ridge Trail
East Kauai Region
#7 Rated Hiking Trail on Kauai
This is one of the easier trails on our list, and it's a great hike if you want to surround yourself with a lush jungle setting and a good view into the heart of Kauai, towards Waialeale.
The hike doesn't take that long and is an easy family hike if you have kids. Just keep an eye on the weather, as the trail is sometimes frequented by rainstorms, hence the lush vegetation. Overall, this is an excellent hike.
Beyond the 2nd Mile at Hanakapiai Beach
Na Pali Region
#6 Rated Hiking Trail on Kauai
You'll need a permit to hike beyond Hanakapiai Beach, but getting one is easy (visit DLNR here for reservations). If you hike at a good pace and get started early, you can get as far as Hanakoa in a day and back out.
The views beyond Hanakapiai are amazing, especially from the entrance of Waiahuakua Valley around mile marker 4.5.
If you do try to make it to Hanakoa, make sure you give yourself ample time to get back out. Hiking in the dark on this trail is no picnic; don't be like us and learn this the hard way.
West Kauai Region
#5 Rated Hiking Trail on Kauai
This is another great trail if you want to head inland a bit at Waimea Canyon. The Canyon Trail offers incredible views from an angle into the vast Waimea Canyon that you won't get from the main overlooks.
The trail actually takes you to the very top of the Waipoo Falls, which you've probably seen from the overlooks on the opposing side of the canyon.
Pihea & Alakai Swamp Trail
West Kauai Region
#4 Rated Hiking Trail on Kauai
The start of the Pihea Trail skirts the back of Kalalau Valley offering views into the valley that are incredible. The trail dives into the Alakai Swamp, and eventually intersects the Alakai Swamp Trail.
We recommend taking the Alakai Swamp trail to the end of the boardwalk (which will feel like a lot further than it is) to the Kilohana lookout. Weather permitting, you can see all the way back to Hanalei.
This is a great trail for those looking to really get into the thick of the beautiful Alakai Swamp.
Honopu Ridge Trail
West Kauai Region
#3 Rated Hiking Trail on Kauai
Honopu Ridge Trail is one of the only trails we recommend that's not an official "trail" any longer. The trail was partially destroyed and lost back to the jungle of Kauai after a pair of hurricanes in the last couple of decades.
Fortunately, you can now make out most of the trail, though the very beginning of the hike can still get you lost if you're not careful. We highly recommend a guide for this hike the first time you make the trek, as they can provide guidance on what is the real trail versus what are fake spur or hunting trails. The key is to stick to what appears to be the main trail at the very beginning, but a guide is an asset, in our opinion.
The views from the end of the trail (weather permitting) are astounding. They rival the hike along Nualolo and Awaawapuhi, but Honopu is uniquely different and is definitely one of our favorites.
West Kauai Region
#2 Rated Hiking Trail on Kauai
If you want sweeping views of the NaPali coast, along with up-close views into some of the valleys that grace this beautiful stretch of coastline, then this trail is for you. In our opinion, it's best done as a loop trail combined with Awa'awapuhi Trail.
It's not for the faint of heart; however, as it's a full-day hike that will push your endurance. My wife and I took my parents on this hike once (they were in their late 50's at the time) and it was a little too much for them. But it is certainly a trail we love because it offers amazing views of the NaPali Coast you won't get anywhere else.
First Two Miles to Hanakapiai Beach
West Kauai Region
#1 Rated Hiking Trail on Kauai
Number one on our list is the Kalalau Trail, or what some refer to as the "Hanakapiai Trail." This trail includes the first two miles (one way) of the 11-mile Kalalau trail that stretches along the NaPali coastline, starting at Kee Beach at the end of the road on North Kauai.
It is popular with visitors who want a very scenic half-day hike. It can be semi-strenuous, however, as the trail does do a good bit of climbing and descending. Crossing the stream at Hanakapiai Beach can also be hazardous, but overall this is a good trail for visitors who want to see some of NaPali's beautiful coastline on foot.
Visitors planning to make the Kalalau trail hike must now make online reservations; which will currently be limited to 900 a day, according to the state DLNR. Please also be aware of the new rules for the whole Haena State Park area.
All Kauai Hiking Trails
Categorized by Region
Need help? View our Kauai Regions Guide →
There is so much to learn and explore on the Garden Isle and one of the most intimate and exciting ways to do so is by hiking any of the island's spectacular trails. Call us biased, but Kauai is home to many of the most spectacular hiking trails in all of Hawaii. In fact, many hikers travel to the state with the sole purpose of hiking Kauai’s NaPali Coast Trail. The cliffs of the NaPali Coast drop straight to the ocean below and the rugged scenery is a wonder to behold. Here, indescribable beauty mixes with culture and history. The impressive Kalalau Valley, at the end of the NaPali Coast Trail, used to be home to over 6,000 indigenous inhabitants prior to the arrival of the western world in the Hawaiian Islands.
Waimea Canyon, also known as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific," and Kokee State Park encompass several distinct ecosystems within a small radius. One of the most rewarding aspects of hiking on Kauai is to set off on your trek through a high altitude forest and suddenly find yourself at the edge of a cliff looking 3,000 ft. below to the ocean. Fortunately, the Garden Isle has trails for hikers of all ability levels, so there's no reason not to get out and explore. Let's explore all of Kauai's trails by region.
West Kauai Hiking Trails
The western region of Kauai offers some phenomenal hiking trails, some of the best you'll find anywhere in Hawaii!
- Nualolo Trail - #2 Best Hike on Kauai
- Honopu Ridge Trail - #3 Best Hike on Kauai
- Pihea Trail & Alakai Swamp Trail - #4 Best Hike on Kauai
- Cliff & Canyon Trail - #5 Best Hike on Kauai
- Nualolo Cliff Trail
- Awaawapuhi Trail - #10 Best Hike on Kauai
- Kukui Trail
East Kauai Hiking Trails
East Kauai offers several great hikes for beginners and more advanced hikers; many with incredible views into the center of Kauai.
- Kuilau Ridge Trail - #7 Best Hike on Kauai
- Uluwehi 'Secret' Falls Hike
- Sleeping Giant - Nounou East Trail - #8 Best Hike on Kauai
- Makaleha Falls Hike
- Wai'ale'ale Blue Hole Hike
Kauai Hiking Tours
If you think hiking in Kauai is an epic experience- which it is- then try hiking with a seasoned local guide who knows the ins-and-outs of the sights, flora and fauna, history and legends, and practically everything else you’ll love to learn about the Garden Isle’s hiking trails. We recommend these professional and highly-rated guides and have either used them personally or our team of Hawaii travel experts has selected them just for you. Book your Kauai Hiking Tour with confidence and get ready to make some memories!