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 for 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.
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 like these below. 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
BEST HIKES ON THE NORTH SHORE OF KAUAI
Hanakapiai Falls Trail
Hanakapiai Falls Trail is one of the most popular hikes on the North Shore of 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 4.5 miles in and 4.5 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 Hanakapiai Falls Trail isn’t one of the easiest hikes on the island but it’s worth it and definitely one of the best waterfall hikes on Kauai.
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 a vibrant palette painting an incredible scene replicated in a few places around the world.
The 300ft waterfall, which seems to fall out of the sky, pours down into the emerald pool below. The water was freezing but most of us jumped in for a dip.
- Distance: 11 miles out and back
- Duration: 4 hours
- Incline: 800m
Read the full blog post: 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. I’ll be back to do this one for sure.
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 (one-way), coastal trail along the Na Pali Coast. You can hike the first 4.5 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 good physical condition.
- Distance: 22 miles out and back
- Duration: 2 days
- Incline: 2000m
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.
The Okolehao Trail is on the north shore of Kauai near the town of Hanalei. It’s a 5-mile hike that I’ll never forget. That’s because it isn’t signposted very well and I ended up hiking much, much farther than the end of the trail.
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.
The Okolehao trail is an out and back trail so you hike 2.5 miles in and then return down the same track 2.5 miles back. However, the mile markers seem to end after mile 1.75. This led to some confusion. I ended up hiking all the way up Hihimanu Ridge to Twin Peaks. This is one of the best hikes on Kauai if you are looking for a physical challenge.
- Distance: 2.8 miles out and back
- Duration: 2 hours
- Incline: 280m
Read the full blog post: Okolehao Trail
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, which looks very similar to the Olomana Hike, which is one of the best hikes 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. Helicopter tours 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 a luxury pick, one is a family choice, the other is a value selection. For more accommodation recommendations you can check my favorites in the Kauai Where to Stay Guide.
Kauai Shores Hotel – Luxury (but value also): A luxury feels 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.
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 has the LARGEST pool on all of Kauai with beautiful, natural-style landscaping throughout the pool areas.
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.
Hilton Garden Inn – Value Pick: The Hilton Garden Inn is your number one choice if you are on a budget but still need comfort. The Hilton has a beautiful pool, has private beach access and hot tubs so you are still getting an awesome value and the resort experience.
HOLD UP! Are you sure you’re ready to start hiking and traveling? GET INSURED FIRST!
If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. Don’t wait for an accident to happen, Get insured. I fractured an ankle halfway through a multi-day trek and had THOUSANDS covered by insurance claim.
I’ve been using World Nomads and SafetyWing for the past 6 years. I’ve made successful claims with both and found them professional, helpful, and reliable but most importantly.. cheap! I trust them both. World Nomads is great for travel up to two months and SafetyWing is perfect for long-term travel.
To find out why I choose World Nomads and SafetyWing, check out my review: Best (Cheap) Travel Insurance or get a quote below.