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Kalalau Valley

Kauai Best Things to See

Kauai Sights Guide

Kauai has some of the most dramatic scenery in all of Hawaii. From the towering cliffs of the NaPali Coast to the dramatic landscapes of Waimea Canyon, the Garden Isle is filled with geologic marvels that amaze and allure.

Looking for some of the world's best waterfalls? How about ancient Hawaiian villages? And let's not forget that Kauai is a great place to appreciate history and culture. If fantastic sights are on your Garden Isle itinerary, you're in luck! Check out our picks for the best Kauai sights.

John Derrick
Published on: 08-21-2020
Published by: John C. Derrick

This entry includes resources for Kauai's Top Things to See, including tips, advice, rankings, maps, and more.

Top 10 Kauai Things to See

The numbered sights listed below are our absolute favorites on the island of Kauai. When ranking sights & things to see for visitors, we consider several variables - accessibility, scenery quality, location history, costs (if admission required), type of path (if walking/hiking is necessary), and general safety. Here are our top picks for Kauai.

Makawehi Lithified Cliffs

South Kauai Region
#10 Rated in Sights to See 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.

This entire stretch of Kauai's coastline is also a treasure trove of fossils, petroglyphs, and ancient Hawaiian burial grounds.

National Tropical Botanical Garden

South Kauai Region
#9 Rated in Sights to See on Kauai

At the end of Lawa'i Road is one of the most magnificent gardens on Kaua'i, the National Tropical Botanical Garden. It is actually two gardens in one: the 252-acre McBryde Gardens and the 100-acre Allerton Gardens.

The Allerton Gardens were once a private estate and are full of fountains, lush greenery, and interesting flowers. The McBryde Gardens are adjacent to the Allerton Gardens and are home to the world's largest collection of native Hawaiian flora.

Tours of the garden are guided and normally last two to three hours. Visitors must check-in at the Visitors Center across the street from Spouting Horn Beach Park.

Opaekaa Falls

East Kauai Region
#8 Rated in Sights to See on Kauai

Head up Kuamo'o Road until you see a pullout for Opaeka'a Falls on your right, shortly before the second mile marker. From the overlook, you can get a spectacular view of 150+ foot Opaeka'a Falls.

The falls are at their best in full sunlight (late morning usually). If you visit on a cloudy day, definitely try to return at a sunnier hour.

Best of all, the falls are flowing year-round so you're always certain to see it in action.

Puu o Kila Lookout

West Kauai Region
#7 Rated in Sights to See on Kauai

At the very end of Highway 550 in Kokee State Park awaits one of the most jaw-dropping lookouts on the island; a panoramic view into Kalalau Valley and scenic views overlooking the Alakai Swamp (the highest swamp in the world).

Clouds permitting, the views into Kalalau Valley are superb at this location, and you can venture right up to the edge of the valley to snap that perfect photograph.

The swamp that stretches out behind you is the wettest place on earth, ending at the summit of Waialeale

Kilauea Lighthouse & Wildlife Refuge

North Kauai Region
#6 Rated in Sights to See on Kauai

Kilauea Lighthouse is the northernmost point of the main Hawaiian Islands. The lighthouse was built in 1913 with the largest hand-blown clamshell lens in the world. It was later replaced with a beacon in the 1970's.

The lighthouse is open to look around in on the ground level. Today the lighthouse remains one of Kaua'i's most popular attractions.

Native vegetation and an informative visitor center attracts thousands of tourists to this site to bird watch, view the sweeping cliff and ocean vistas, and revel in Kaua'i's past.

Limahuli Garden & Preserve

North Kauai Region
#5 Rated in Sights to See on Kauai

Along the North Shore of Kauai, past mile marker 9 on Highway 560, mauka (towards the mountain) is one of the fascinating gardens on the island, Limahuli Garden & Preserve.

The 1,000-acre garden is now part of the National Tropical Botanical Gardens after being donated to the society in 1976. The garden, nestled in the mountains, is unique and a real treasure to visit.

One of the most amazing areas of the garden is the taro gardens and terrace system, the origins of which date back a century or more to the earliest Hawaiians.

Wailua Falls

Lihue Region
#4 Rated in Sights to See on Kauai

If you've ever fantasized about seeing a double-tiered waterfall, then get ready to turn your fantasy into reality at the gorgeous Wailua Falls.

Unlike many other waterfalls on Kauai, Wailua Falls is easily accessible, as no hiking is needed to reach it and appreciate its beauty up close. In fact, the parking lot basically overlooks the falls.

As an added bonus, when the sun hits at just the right angle you'll get a beautiful rainbow extending out from the base of the falls in the mist, which is nothing short of spectacular. 

Kalalau Lookout

West Kauai Region
#3 Rated in Sights to See on Kauai

Kalalau Lookout isn't just another Waimea Canyon lookout, as many first-time visitors often believe. It's a view into the heart of the Kalalau Valley- one of the most-photographed and well-recognized valleys in all of Hawaii.

The surrounding coastline and valley, which is the largest valley on the island at two miles wide, has served as the backdrop for countless films including "King Kong" (the original), "Mighty Joe Young," "Jurassic Park," and "Six Days Seven Nights."

Kalalau Lookout is also the highest elevation most people reach in Kauai by road, at 4,000 feet.

Waimea Canyon

West Kauai Region
#2 Rated in Sights to See on Kauai

Dubbed "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific" by Mark Twain, Waimea Canyon is the largest canyon in the Pacific and truly a dramatic sight to behold at ten miles long, one mile wide, and more than 3,500 ft. deep.

Carved thousands of years ago by rivers and floods that flowed from Mount Waialeale's summit, the canyon is home to the Waimea River.

The river was named for the red hue of the water, as Waimea means 'red waters.' The red tint is caused by several natural processes that break down the ancient rock inside the gorge. 

Na Pali Coast State Park

West & North Kauai Region
#1 Rated in Sights to See on Kauai

The NaPali Coast is the gem of all gems on the island of Kauai. There are 3 ways to visit the NaPali Coast: by land, by sea, or by air.

Stretching across a road-less expanse from Polihale Beach in on the West Side to Makana Mountain and Kee Beach in Ha’ena on the North Shore; the NaPali Coast makes up the breathtaking, beautiful northwest coastline of Kauai. 

Filled with dramatic cliff faces, pristine beaches, rugged hiking trails and extensive archaeological sites, NaPali Coast is an environment of immense power where natural forces are continually evolving the shape of the land.

Kauai Sights & Attractions

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Kauai Sightseeing Tours

Enjoying everything the Garden Isle has to offer is a snap. Whether you're an extreme adventurer looking for an epic challenge or just want to sit back, relax, and take it all in, we have the perfect Kauai tour for you. Kayak the NaPali Coast, explore the hills on horseback or take a leisurely stroll through an enchanting botanical garden. No matter how you choose to experience Kauai, these sightseeing tours are sure to impress.  

Recommended Kauai Tours