The smooth water, the serene, tree-lined banks, the views of sacred valleys and mountains and the glimpses of sites that look familiar because you've seen on the big screen (think Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park and Tropic Thunder). Why is Kauai such a favorite of filmmakers? Beauty and adventure draw them in, and Kauai is brimming with both. But more than a scenic backdrop, Kauai is a leading player—alive, energetic, and bursting with opportunities for active, life-changing pursuits. Whether you’re in the air, in the water, or on the ground, you’ll find yourself immersed in intense visual drama and loads of adventure. Need more inspiration? Check out some of our favorite Kauai explorations:
IN THE AIR: What you can’t see on land is magical from the air. See why the ancients trekked up the river for days to honor their gods at their mountaintop altars. Lush rainforest clears suddenly, the clouds part, and the crater of Wai‘ale‘ale comes into view, yawning and streaked with waterfalls. A single shield volcano, Waialeale, lies at the center of the island it created and is spectacularly visible from the air. A plateau here, a ridgeline there, waterfalls and mountain pools scoring the precipices—take it all in with expert narration and state-of-the-art headphones. Kauai’s geology is tailor-made for air tours, making airplane and helicopter tours an island signature.
ZIPLINE THRILLS: Zipline tours combine multiple adventures and give you access to remote, hard-to-find areas and private ranch lands that are otherwise off-limits to the public. Hike, zip, have a waterfall picnic, and float in a mountain pool. Smell the flowers and feel the fresh mountain air in your hair as you zip over trees, ravines and bamboo forests. Take a leap off the 1,200-foot King Kong zipline before cooling off in an inner tube at a remote mountain swimming hole. Paddle up the Kalihi Wai Stream, climb ashore for a hike and zip near a mountain pool. Look for waterfalls while in mid-air; if you’re not zipping over one of them, you’ll see them curling down the cliffs above the Hanalei Valley.
WATER ADVENTURES: As the only island in Hawaii with navigable rivers, Kauai’s waterways spell adventure. These rivers are smooth, scenic portals to new worlds of exploration. Kayak rentals and guided tours are offered by outfitters who have thought of it all. Its miles of white-sand shoreline offer more beaches per mile than any other island in Hawaii, and that means ocean adventure. And it’s no accident that some of surfing’s most popular champions cut their teeth on the surf breaks of Kauai. Stand-up paddling and kite-surfing are also popular at various surf breaks on the island, and sailboards, along with surfboard rentals and instruction, are available at many beach activity stands.
UNDER THE SEA: Swimming, snorkeling, and underwater cathedrals - Kauai is brimming with sights and discoveries at the shore and in the water. There are at least 35 dive sites surrounding the island, many of them world-renowned. Head to the north shore, Keee Beach, to swim with the tropical fish in a protected lagoon. Makua Beach is a living aquarium renowned for its inner and outer reefs and dramatic underwater caverns and canyons.
SAIL ALONG: Some of the most extraordinary views of Kauai can be found from the ocean, from the catamarans, zodiacs, fishing vessels, and oceangoing charters available from longtime operators.
A BICYCLE FOR TWO: Feed your soul and venture off the beaten track. There’s nothing like seeing the island from a two-wheeler or all-terrain vehicle, whether on a downhill bicycle tour from Waimea Canyon or an ATV expedition through the island’s rugged interior.
SADDLE UP: Ranches and stables dotted throughout the island offer horseback riding in paradise: coastline, ranchland, waterfall jungle, and everything in between. Saddle up for a romantic ride across vast ranchlands in the lee of waterfall-lined cliffs, or head to a secluded waterfall for a picnic and jungle adventure.
TEE OFF IN PARADISE: Kauai is home to many acclaimed golf resorts and courses, which are regularly rated among the best in Hawaii and in some cases the world. Eight dazzling, diverse courses traverse stunning landscapes across the island. Streams, waterfalls, rock gardens, farmland, the well-preserved remnants of an old Hawaiian village, as well as glimpses of whales, sea turtles and monk seals are among the natural glories that can be experienced while playing golf on the Garden Isle.
Whether you fancy soaring over the treetops on a zipline or swinging in a hammock under a shady tree, Kauai has a little something for everyone to keep you coming back for more. Kayak the waterways. Stroll along a sandy beach or hike the mountains. Snorkel or scuba the underwater jungles – or do both! There’s no rush so stop along the way to get lost in nature, try some fresh-picked fruit and simply enjoy the adventures of Kauai.