Kauai is a hiker’s heaven. In fact, I spent a month on Kauai just to hike. I wrote a blog post about my 15 favorite hikes on Kauai. However, Kauai is a bit of a segmented island. If you are staying out west you want to hike in Koke’e State Park rather than drive 2-3 hours to the North and vice versa. Therefore people find themselves looking for hikes in specific regions. This blog post should give you four suggestions of hikes on the north shore of Kauai. Some are long and some are short, but they are all in the right vicinity to attempt while staying in the northern suburbs like Hanalei or Princeville.
BEST HIKES ON THE NORTH SHORE OF KAUAI
Hanakapiai Falls Trail
Hanakapiai Falls Trail is one of the most popular hikes on Kauai. It leads you to the first part of the Kalalau Trail towards Hanakpiai Beach before heading inwards along the Hankapiai Stream towards the booming 300ft+ Hankapiai Waterfall in the depths of the jungle. The Hanakpiai Falls Trail is 4 miles in and 4 miles out. However, many hikers stop at the beach and turn back, opting to hike only to the beach and not the falls. This makes the journey only 2 miles in and 2 miles out.
The trail begins with an incline and it never really lets you relax from that point onwards. Slippery mud, boulders and tree roots are just a few of the obstacles you will encounter on the winding path that switches back and forth as it leads you along the Na Pali coast. The Hanakapiai Falls Trail isn’t a stroll in the park.
My favorite part of the stretch from Ke’e Beach to Hankapiai Beach is the red rock path and how it contrasts dramatically with the striking blue of the Pacific Ocean far below. When you add the vivid greens from the jungle and the deep sky blue into this scene you have vibrant palette painting an incredible scene replicated in few places around the world.
Finally, we had arrived at the waterfall. It is a 300ft booming shower that seems to fall out of the sky into the emerald pool below. The water was freezing but most of us jumped in for a dip. I explored a small ledge to the left of the ledge, where I was able to snap some photos with an awesome perspective of the amphitheater. This is my a truly magical spot and one of the best waterfalls on Kauai and my favorite north shore hike on Kauai.
CLICK HERE to read the full blog post about the Hanakapiai Falls Trail
The Kalalau trail is ultimately the most popular hike on Kauai. People come from all around the world to do the trail. I had planned to do the trail but high surf and bad weather stopped me from getting out there during the time period I had open during my one month in Kauai.
Here is what you can expect on this epic coastal trail along the Na Pali Coast:
Firstly you will need a Kalalau Trail Permit, which you can book by clicking here. Make sure you book well in advance as they are often booked out of permits over 4 months ahead of time. Rangers do patrol the area and keeping the numbers set helps to ensure the safety of hikers and the preservation of the region.
The trail is a challenging 11- mile, the coastal trail along the Na Pali Coast. You can hike the first 2 miles to Hanakapiai Falls without a permit but any further than that you will need the permit. The trail ends at the secluded Kalalau Beach, which sits below Kalalau Valley. It is one of the most special spots on Kauai. Make sure you stay for one or two nights if you plan on camping here so you can truly enjoy the beach rather than hiking in and be hiking straight back out the next morning as it is a full-day hike.
Several parts of this trail are quite dangerous and many hikers have fallen into trouble over the years. It is a trail for experienced hikers in a good physical condition. However, it is also renowned as the best hike on the north shore of Kauai and the entire island so it’s not one to miss.
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 trail continues much further but it actually becomes the Hihimanu Ridge Trail. If you are just looking for an easy hike on Kauai, head back once you reach the bench as it intensifies after this point.
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.
View full blog post: OKOLEHAO TRAIL IN HANALEI ON KAUAI
Hihimanu Ridge Hike
The Hihimanu Ridge Hike begins the same as the Okolehao hike. You continue up past the bench where the Okolehao trail finishes. From here the trail gets steeper, more slippery and involves a series of rope segments. There were over 40 different segments of the hike that required ropes to help you up the muddy trail. In many sections of the hike, the foliage was incredibly thick, I should have brought a machete!
As the top nears you reach the Twin Peaks, it looks very similar to the Olomana Hike on Oahu. At the summit after several hours of hiking, there is a small leveled out platform. Tibetan flags were strung beneath the two trees and you had an epic view into the valleys on either side. I could see the Hanalei river flowing on my left and waterfalls pouring down the ridges on my right. Helicopters whizzed below me, not knowing I had the ultimate view!
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