Kauai is hiking heaven. From the ridges of the Na Pali coast to the muddy trails that lead you 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 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 3 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 at the end. These easy hikes on Kauai are my favorite half-dayers and a great way to kick off your Sunday morning!
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.
The Waipo’o Falls Trail is a disappointing trail for some hikers who believe they are hiking to a viewpoint of the falls. 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 Waimea Canyon Road.
However, definitely don’t feel like this is a hike you should skip because it doesn’t have an epic waterfall view. I thought maybe it won’t be worth the effort considering the other epic hikes in Koke’e State Park. Yet once we finished the hike we were so stoked we had gone ahead with it. 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.
The second viewpoint along the Waipo’o Falls Trail is a huge stretch of red rock, overlooking a huge drop down into the canyon. There is one final stop on the hike, which is to a small waterfall behind the main waterfall. It’s a nice little nook to perch yourself up on a rock and enjoy the sounds and smells of Kauai in tranquility. This is a busy hike due to its ease of access and short duration but you can still find plenty of areas to zen out and enjoy the moment.
CLICK HERE to read the full blog post about the Waipo’o Falls Trail
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 Cathedral’s, 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.
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.
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.
CLICK HERE to read the full blog post about the Okolehao Trail
Ho’opi’i Falls Hike
Ho’oip’i Falls Trail on Kauai is a short hike, which leads you to two waterfalls. The first falls 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.
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 jump with a local who knows where the rocks are hiding beneath the surface or do a thorough check. If you jump in without checking you could land on one of the big builders 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!
CLICK HERE to read the full blog post about the Ho’opi’i Falls Hike
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 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 muddy terrain. I consider myself to be in good shape and a good hiker and slipped several times onto my back on the way down to give you an example of why this isn’t a great trail to take your grandmother on. 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. I would advise steering clear of anywhere near where the waterfall smashes into the pool as you don’t want to get sucked into that mess. 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.
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. You may have also heard about the other name this trail goes by. This ridge formation resembles a ginormous human body laying flat on it’s 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.
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, this is one of the best hikes on Kauai to shake off the jet lag and to get a great view of your surroundings!
CLICK HERE to read the full blog post about the Sleeping Giant Hike
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.
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.
Where to stay on Kauai
I’m going to recommend five places to stay on Kauai. All five of these spots are in great locations but each one is a little different. Two are is a luxury pick, one is a family choice, the other is a value selection and the last recommendation I have for you is where I recommend for the budget backpackers.
Kauai Shores Hotel – Luxury (but value also): Okay so Kauai is expensive that is just a fact. So luxury on Kauai is REALLY expensive. We are talking $700+ a night at many hotels. Kauai Shores Hotel has the luxury feel with the resort style property, palm trees, and a beautiful pool area. However, it is less than $300 a night. The best part about this hotel is that it is right on the beach. The restaurant literally looks out to the waves, which is an awesome spot to start your day with breakfast. This is a great choice if you do want a high-end hotel for your stay in Kauai but you still want to keep things reasonable and not blow thousands and thousands on your getaway. Remember you will want to do lots of activities and get a rental car as well maybe so saving a couple of hundred a night by staying at the Kauai Shores Hotel compared to the Marriot will give you the resort vibe but not be extravagant on your budget.
Koloa Landing Resort – Luxury (high-end): I was lucky enough to spend three nights reviewing Koloa Landing Resort and honestly the place is just phenomenal. It is part of the Wyndham Autograph collection and has the LARGEST pool on all of Kauai with beautiful, natural-style landscaping throughout the pool areas. Palm trees surround the pool and restaurant areas on what is one of the most luxurious properties on the island. The rooms had all of the trimmings and it was definitely an amazing experience to spend a few nights at Koloa Landing Resort.
The Grand Hyatt Resort – Best Family Resort: With the best kids’ club on the island, wildlife talks in the lobby, and a five-acre pool complex that includes an enormous lazy-river pool, a waterslide, and a saltwater lagoon big enough for kayaking, the Grand Hyatt is unbeatable for keeping kids busy and parents happy. Plus, five of the resort’s 11 restaurants have children’s menus at The Grand Hyatt Resort.
Hilton Garden Inn – Value Pick: The Hilton Garden Inn is your number one choice if you are on a budget but still need comfort. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t cheap it is still over $200 USD but this is Kauai. $200 USD is a bargain. The Hilton has a beautiful pool, has private beach access and hot tubs so you are still getting awesome value and the resort experience. The Hilton Garden Inn is where you go when you want to enjoy the hot tub, pool and beach access but don’t necessarily care about all of the trimmings at the resorts that are 4 figures or more per night. If I was on a honeymoon or with a family, this is where I would stay and spend the saved money and helicopter tours, rental cars and experiences!
More Kauai Blog Posts
I spent an entire month exploring the island of Kauai. In particular, I was hiking all of the trails and made several guides for the best hikes and easiest hikes so you can enjoy the trails of the island.
North Shore Hiking Guide: 4 AWESOME HIKES ON THE NORTH SHORE OF KAUAI
Kauai Hiking Guide: 15 BEST HIKES ON KAUAI
Easy Hikes on Kauai: 8 EASY HIKES ON KAUAI WITH GREAT VIEWS
Cliff Jumping Guide to Kauai: BEST CLIFF JUMPING SPOTS ON KAUAI
Open Door Helicopter Flight Kauai: EPIC DOORS OFF HELICOPTER TOUR OF KAUAI