Kauai is hiking heaven. From the ridges of the Na Pali Coast to the muddy trails that lead to monstrous waterfalls, this island has it all. The great part about the hikes on Kauai is that you don’t need to be an athlete to enjoy many of the trails. If you are a keen hiker but looking for the best easy hikes on Kauai, I’ve put together a list of hikes that fit the following criteria:
Easy hikes on Kauai checklist:
- Under three miles return
- Clearly defined trail
- No dangerous rock-climbing
- Can be done in half a day
- Has an epic view
It’s a tough little checklist but these are the kind of hikes I call ‘Bang for Buck’, meaning it is a smaller amount of effort for a big payoff. Ultimately you are on the trail for less time but you get the epic viewpoint or waterfall at the end. The great part about Kauai is that it’s quite small so no matter where you decide to stay on the island, you are always within reach of a great hike. These easy hikes on Kauai are my favorite half-dayers and a great way to kick off your Sunday morning!
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THE BEST EASY HIKES ON KAUAI
These are some of the top trails on the island for short adventures, a perfect way to start the day!
Waipo’o Falls Trail
Waipo’o Falls Trail is a great way to experience the Waimea Canyon on one of the best easy hikes on Kauai. The trail is well maintained and the out and back can be completed in under 2 hours. The trail can be a little steep in some sections but is suitable for all ages who are in moderate level physical shape.
You will actually never see these falls head-on during the hike and you are in fact, heading to the top of the falls. The reality is you will only see the stream that becomes the waterfall. It’s a great view but not the classic Kauai waterfall hike. There is a second small waterfall you will see but it isn’t quite the 800ft cascading fall you can see from the lookouts while driving up to Waimea Canyon Road.
The views of Waimea Canyon are insane all along this hike. The patterns, colors, and textures of the rock formations from inside the canyon are just hard to imagine until you get down this close. These incredible rocky landscapes are what sets Kauai hikes apart from Oahu hikes.
The second viewpoint along the Waipo’o Falls Trail is a huge stretch of red rock, overlooking a huge drop down into the canyon. This is easily one of my favorite easy waterfall hikes on Kauai.
- Distance: 3.6 miles out and back
- Duration: 2 hours
CLICK HERE to read the full blog post about the Waipo’o Falls Trail
THREE EPIC TOURS I RECOMMEND ON KAUAI
Before we get into the hikes, I wanted to share with you three of my favorite tours on the island of Kauai. I know if you are into hiking, you will love these adventurous tours as well.
What will give you a great understanding of the island and the highlight of my trip to Kauai is booking a helicopter or scenic plane flight. It will blow your mind and I think it’s the most scenic helicopter flight in the world.
- Helicopter Flight: The most popular helicopter tour on Kauai is the Kauai Island Highlight Helicopter Tour.
- Sightseeing Plane: The Na Pali Coast and Waimea Canyon Scenic Plane Flight are well under $200, which is more than half the cost of the same trip via helicopter.
- Eco-Friendly Kauai Zip Line Tour: Soar over three different valleys against a backdrop of breathtaking mountain views and ocean scenery on Kauai’s award-winning 8-line zipline adventure: Eco-Friendly Kauai Zip Line Tour
Kalepa Ridge Trail is definitely one of the most epic cliff trails but also one of the easiest hikes on Kauai. It’s only a short hike taking about 30 minutes until you reach the viewpoint. The cliff trail becomes very narrow as the hike continues further but you can stop before the trail gets too crumble and still enjoy the views of Kalalau Valley. If you continue further the hike would no longer be classified as an easy hike on Kauai.
You will have views over Kalalau Valley and even down into Cathedrals, which is the most famous section of the Na Pali coastline. If you are looking for a quick sunset spot then this is one of the best hikes on Kauai to catch that golden hour glow on the ridges. If you think this coastline looks great from the ridge, you should try a helicopter flight on Kauai, it’s the best way to experience the island.
The night I visited Kalepa Ridge, the clouds parted just in time for the sun to light up the remaining fog in a golden glow, while the ocean still beamed blue. Looking down the ridge while all of this was going on is a moment I’ll never forget.
- Distance: 1.9 miles out and back
- Duration: 2 hours
The Okolehao Trail is on the north shore of Kauai near the town of Hanalei. It is only a short way up to a viewpoint with a bench that looks out over Hanelei and the north shore of Kauai.
The Okolehao trail is one of the north shore hiking trails on Kauai and is just around the corner from Hanalei. Unless you hike along the Kalalau Trail or to Hanakapiai Falls, this is probably the best hike you can do on the Kauai north shore.
- Distance: 2.8 miles out and back
- Duration: 2 hours
CLICK HERE to read the full blog post about the Okolehao Trail
What are my favorite pieces of hiking gear?
There are four pieces of gear that I simply never forget when I go on a hike. These are four items that I using right now and this list gets updated every year! Here are my hiking essentials.
- Arcteryx BETA AR Rain Jacket: This is my go-to rain jacket. It’s super light, folds down into a tiny ball, and protects brilliantly in a storm. This one never leaves my backpack.
- Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boots: For the best ankle support, waterproofing, and durable exterior I’m a fan of tough but light hiking boots like these Salomons for my adventures.
- Black Diamond Head Torch: I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve arrived back from a hike unexpectedly late. I always keep this lightweight but strong headtorch in my bag for the unexpected.
- Darn Tough Socks: These are the most comfortable hiking socks I’ve ever worn and last for years. They also have a lifetime warranty and you just send them in with a hole and they replace it no questions asked.
Ho’opi’i Falls Hike
Ho’oip’i Falls Trail on Kauai is a short hike, which leads you to two waterfalls. The first waterfall is a great spot for cliff jumping or a refreshing dip. The second falls is one you may recognize from the film Jurassic Park. The trail is very muddy at times but leads you through some unbelievable scenes as vines and ferns are strewn throughout huge trees on either side of the Ho’opi’i Falls trail.
If you are like me and love an adrenaline rush, check out my Kauai Cliff Jumping Guide for all of the best spots.
After about 20 minutes you will reach the first falls. The pool is quite narrow but deep enough to jump into. However, it is only deep enough in certain parts. The water is dark so you must do a thorough check. If you jump in without checking you could land on one of the big boulders just feet below the surface.
The main falls are in a famous location. It is the scene of Amber Mine from Jurassic Park. It doesn’t look quite the same and a lot greener when I visited but nonetheless, you will find yourself standing on a Hollywood set as you watch the water flow down Ho’opi’i Falls. This is one of the best short hikes on Kauai and even has a bonus cliff jump!
- Distance: 2.4 miles out and back
- Duration: 2 hours
CLICK HERE to read the full blog post about the Ho’opi’i Falls Hike
MY TOP HOTEL PICKS FOR KAUAI
- Kauai Shores Hotel – Luxury (but value also): A luxury feels with the resort-style property, palm trees, and a beautiful pool area.
- Koloa Landing Resort – Luxury (high-end): LARGEST pool on all of Kauai with beautiful, natural-style landscaping.
- The Grand Hyatt Resort – Best Family Resort: Best kids’ club on the island, a 5-acre pool complex with a lazy river pool, a waterslide, and a saltwater lagoon big enough for kayaking.
- Read my full guide: You can check my favorites in my Kauai: Where to Stay Guide
Wailua Falls Hike
From the viewpoint the waterfall is spectacular but the Wailua Falls hike allows you to follow the trail down to the bottom pool and enjoy the raw power of this waterfall from up close. If you can manage the incline, this is one of the best easy hikes on Kauai.
The Wailua Falls hike is only a short trek down a slope, which is often quite slippery and muddy. Despite the short distance, this is a waterfall hike for able-bodied, fit people. This is due to the steep incline and potentially muddy terrain. In terms of effort to pay off, this is one of the best hikes on Kauai.
You can swim in Wailua Falls and it will definitely be refreshing as the water is freezing. There is quite a strong current in the pool but it seemed to push outward. Stay near the edges and don’t go inspecting the waterfall too close while you swim.
- Distance: 1 mile out and back
- Duration: 1 hour
CLICK HERE to read the full blog post about the Wailua Falls Hike
Sleeping Giant Hike
The Nounou Mountain Trail is one of the most popular hikes on Kauai in Hawaii. It is also known as one of the easy Kauai Hikes. This ridge formation resembles a ginormous human body laying flat on its back. That’s why the trail is known as the ‘Sleeping Giant’ hike of Kauai.
The giant’s body is visible from anywhere in Kapaa. The local legend tells of a giant who overate at a feast during a celebration in his honor, fell asleep, and never woke. I think we can all relate.
The trail begins in a beautiful tunnel of trees. It is an eerie opening to the journey, which captivated us from the first moments. The muddy trail switches back and forth before leading you into an epic pine forest. It’s something most people wouldn’t imagine when they think of Hawaii. A grove of Norfolk and Cook Pines stretch high into the sky, so high arching your neck isn’t enough to catch the treetops. The trees were planted long ago in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
I highly suggest doing this hike during golden hour as the valley will light up in such a magic way! We ended up taking over 3 hours to do this hike because we chilled at both the plateau and the summit hanging out. If you have just arrived in Kauai, this is one of the best hikes on Kauai to shake off the jet lag and to get a great view of your surroundings!
- Distance: 3.4 miles out and back
- Duration: 2-3 hours
CLICK HERE to read the full blog post about the Sleeping Giant Hike
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Kuilau Ridge Trail
The Kuilau Ridge Trail is only a 2-mile, out and back trail, which is easy for all levels of hiking ability. It’s a perfect two-hour adventure.
It’s short but because you are already elevated so high from the drive, the views are awesome from the first moment. A small muddy trail leads you along a winding path that cuts in and out along the ridge for two miles.
The trees and plants on the Kuilau Ridge Trail are out of this world. Huge ferns blanket the lower level of the forest, while enormous trees tower above you as you make your way along the path. It’s a classic Hawaii hike that has you feeling like you are on the set of Jurassic Park.
From the viewpoint, you can check out the epic views of the valley. We counted six layers of mountains and looking at the blanketed ferns creating a canopy below was a scene I won’t forget.
This is a kid-friendly hike with no real drop-offs or dangerous sections. Having said that is is still one of the best hikes on Kauai for me because it is so quiet and peaceful.
- Distance: 2 miles out and back
- Duration: 1-2 hours
CLICK HERE to read the full blog post about the Kuilau Ridge Trail
Maha’ulepu Heritage Coastal Trail
The Maha’ulepu is one of the easiest hikes on Kauai and is actually more of a coastal walk. The walk begins at Shipwrecks beach and winds along the coast. It’s a little under 2 miles each way but you can really turn back at any point unless you are trying to reach the caves. The Makauwahi caves are at the end of the trail and it’s truly a sight to behold. In this cave is lush green grass and plants but also fossils, which are millions of years old.
What are my favorite pieces of travel gear?
There are four pieces of gear that I simply never travel without. These are four items that I using right now and this list gets updated every year! Here are my travel essentials.
- Packing Cube Set: Once you cube you’ll never go back. Organize your clothes within your luggage with these smart mesh containers. It will revolutionize your packing.
- PackTowl Quick-Dry Towel: A quick-dry towel is a must for travelers. It hardly takes up any room and dries in seconds.
- Travel Wallet: Keep your passport, wallet, and vaccine card safe as well as any forms and important documents you need to store.
- Grayl GeoPress Water Filter Bottle: I’ve used this for three years. It filters your water with one press and you can drink directly from it. Never buy a plastic water bottle again!
Wednesday 28th of December 2022
The cheapest place to stay on the island is the Kalaheo Inn in (not surprisingly) Kalaheo. It's a drive to any of the south shore beaches, but centrally located and an unbelievable value at $140/night for a - sparkling clean - room with two comfortable beds and a full kitchen. Larger suites and an entire cottage are also available. The inn has a very cute garden with a gas grill as well as laundry facillities. People actually respect the 8p-8a quiet hours. The area is a very modest residential/business neighborhood, but very safe.
Tuesday 11th of January 2022
Thanks for the great info! Will be on Kauai early March Can you suggest a few hikes that would generally be considered the least muddy/slippery ??? Just trying to avoid a fall for one travel partner.
Thursday 29th of April 2021
Do you have to purchase a hiking or entry ticket for all of these hikes? I'm going to Kauai at the end of May and it looks like all the tickets are sold out! I'm wondering if there's any other way that we can hike without tickets.
Saturday 1st of May 2021
Hi Roxane, I just returned from Kauai and have done a couple of these hikes. Only the Kalalau trail on the North Shore needs an entry + parking ticket (or camping permit + parking if you choose that option) which you must book in advance. The other ones don't, though you do have to get a parking ticket when you arrive and park at the lookout spots at Waimea Canyon. I do have to point out though that the Kalepa Ridge Trail is closed now. You can still see the trail entry point when you're out at the Kalalau Lookout in Waimea, but there are "Do not Enter" and "Trail Closed" signs everywhere so we chose to do another trail instead.
Wednesday 22nd of July 2020
Hoping to visit Kauai for a second time next year. This has some awesome options for us to hike further now that our kids are getting a bit older!
Tuesday 14th of July 2020
Nice list of hikes and beautiful photos! I wouldn't label these hikes as "easy" because although they might be for adults, they are probably not family friendly for young kids. Also, I'm not sure why you're promoting Wailua falls "hike" since it is clearly illegal and trespassing. It's one thing to enjoy the adventure and keep it to yourself, and other to tell the whole internet about it. As a resident of Kauai for many years we are seeing many sights completely closed down because people are just telling the whole world about them. Please consider not promoting hikes that are closed.
Wednesday 15th of July 2020
Yea I understand they might not all be suitable for kids but comparatively, these are the easier hikes on the island. I laid out the criteria for what makes them 'easy' and didn't include that they were for kids necessarily. Easy for one is hard for another so it's just from my point of view. My criteria for an easy hike was: Under 3 miles return Clearly defined trail No dangerous rock-climbing Can be done in half a day Has an epic view