Aloha fellow adventurers!
I recently embarked on a memorable journey with my boyfriend to celebrate our anniversary. We wanted something extraordinary, so we set our sights on Kauai, Hawaii’s oldest and largely undeveloped island! What could be better than exploring its lush paradise and hidden gems?
After tireless research (I’m talking hours of online scrolling and chats with travel agencies), we discovered the charming city of Kapaa. Trust me when I say it was everything we hoped for – stunning beaches, exhilarating hikes, captivating gardens, mesmerizing waterfalls, and unique local art shops.
Now let me spare you the same time-consuming process that I went through; as someone who has truly experienced the best of Kapaa, I’ve compiled a list of must-see attractions in this enchanting haven. Each activity is handpicked based on the overall experience, ease of access, and value for money – did I mention many are free?!
Warning: Prepare yourself for an unforgettable adventure that’ll make your friends green with envy!
So grab your sunscreen and shades because it’s time to unravel the top 4 things to do in magical Kapaa! Ready?
Let’s dive right in!
#1. Sleeping Giant (Nounou Mountain) – Great Hike with a View
The legend says a giant was tricked into eating rocks, then fell asleep right at this spot. Looking from afar, that’s exactly what it looks like. It is a great intermediate trail and about a 2-mile hike to the top. It’s my number one pick because it’s full of native plants, animals, and birds. At the top of the trail is a beautiful area for taking pictures and having a picnic. Yet it takes only about 2 hours and is relatively safe (compared to the other much more challenging trails in the area).
We did this trail in the morning. The hike and the natural beauty got my heart pumping. The sounds in this beautiful forest are similar to a jungle. I appreciated the switchbacks on the trail, which made the climb less steep and offered some pleasant resting spots. Do bring a lot of water.
Since we packed food, we spent some time at the picnic area taking pictures and just soaking up the beauty and sun. It was clean and not crowded at all. Then we made another half-mile hike to enjoy the three-sixty view of the area. As predicted, it was beautiful in all directions.
We took the west route (Lokelani Rd), which is said to have fewer climbing and cliff areas. You can do this trail with older kids. Dogs are welcome too. Even though this is one of the easiest trails in the area, keep in mind that you must be prepared. Wear good shoes, sunscreen, and head protection and prepare for some mud too.
Here’s why it’s my number 1 pick:
- You can enjoy the hike even if you are a beginner or intermediate hiker.
- This can be a pleasant family and dog hike.
- There is a wide variety of plants and birds to see on the way.
- The view from the top of the giant is stunning and great for taking pictures.
- It’s the safest trail in the area.
#2. Kauai’s Hindu Monastery (Kauai Aadheenam) – The Peaceful Oasis
This is a close second for me. The monastery is beautiful, and there are monks living and practicing here, so it is not just a tourist attraction. The outside grounds are stunning, overlooking the Wailua River and filled with large tropical trees all around. Everything is clean and well kept.
The monastery is open to the public, but we made sure to make a reservation, so we could enter the temple and join one of the meditation ceremonies (we are not religious, but found this a worthwhile opportunity to reflect!) The ceremony lasted for about an hour. The temple was also filled with intricate details and art. My favorite was the granite sculpture of their six-faced deity.
However, keep in mind that there are actual monks living and practicing here. It is their home, so be respectful. There is a dress code (so bring a change of clothing in the car – as we did!) It is no shorts, no tank tops, and cover your legs fully.
There is a great gift shop so you can take home some good luck items and unique gifts for your friends. We enjoyed supporting and visiting very much.
I ranked Kauai’s Hindu Monastery second because:
- You can visit alone, as a couple or with a family.
- The monastery grounds are beautiful to explore and spend time walking around.
- You can join one of the ceremonies and meditate in the temple if you make reservations ahead (once-in-a-lifetime experience!)
- It’s a fascinating way to experience the local religion and practices.
- The architecture and sculptures are amazing.
#3. Na ‘Aina Kai (“Lands by the Sea”) – Best Botanical Gardens and Sculpture Park
This botanical garden is over 240 acres of exotic plants, art installations, sculptures, and other cultural details. It is about a 13-mile drive from the center of Kapaa, and it’s worth the short drive. There are about ten different tours you can take, including the gardens, forest, and beach. There is also a children’s garden.
We reserved the Formal Gardens & Wild Forest Garden tour, which lasted about three hours and cost us $110. This riding tour is in a covered open-air car, so it is great for those not prepared to walk (it was a super-hot day for us, so I appreciated the ride!) Some other tours are cheaper, and there is a self-guided tour so you can freely explore.
The guide was super friendly and great at explaining the area’s history. Also very knowledgeable about the plants and sculptures. There were about 30 bronze sculptures to stop and see. There is a wonderful lagoon filled with water lilies and koi fish. We enjoyed the spice garden especially, and there was a seaside view during part of the tour.
There were only 6 people on our tour, with plenty of opportunities to ask questions. It was easy to hear and see everything. My boyfriend loved the hands-on experience because the guide passed along a lot of things for us to touch, smell, and even taste (we picked our apple to eat right off the tree!).
I loved this tour, and you will too because:
- There are many different things to see (gardens, lagoon, beach, statues!)
- You can touch, smell and taste just about everything.
- The tour is not crowded, and there are riding and walking options.
- There is a kid’s garden, which is super safe and fun for families.
- It’s a place to consider for weddings – several venues including beach and garden.
#4. Ho’olalaea Waterfall (Opaeka’a Falls) – Free Thing to do in Kapaa (Do Not Miss the Waterfall)
You can visit this beautiful waterfall in your car. It’s perfect for those that don’t hike or want a relaxing afternoon with an amazing view. After parking, you can get nice views of the waterfall on two different levels. It’s a short walk to some beautiful river views as well.
There is a beautiful winding road to enjoy on the way to this site.
It’s a perfect free activity.
We brought some snacks and drinks and enjoyed about an hour sitting in the foliage, enjoying the waterfall in the distance. If you are looking for something off the beaten path without many tourists, this is it. Don’t underestimate the view of the river as well! Both areas make gorgeous pictures.
It is a beautiful area with a jungle feel. You should visit it because:
- This is a calm tourist-free area to enjoy.
- The waterfall is beautiful and can be seen from several different places.
- There is a beautiful view of the river as well.
- You can take gorgeous pictures here.
- This site is free and offers lots of parking.
Kapaa is a great travel destination. It’s suitable for couples and families looking for an adventure and wanting to experience authentic Hawaii. It’s also a top destination for nature lovers, with many famous hikes available.
Visitors can enjoy several botanical gardens and many nature tours (from walking to helicopter rides!). You can always find something to do or relax on the beaches.
If you are looking for a family-friendly hike, visit the Sleeping Giant! Want an authentic Hindu experience? Visit Kauai’s Hindu Monastery. Want a relaxing trip through the botanical gardens? You must visit Na ‘Aina Kai!
This place has something for every nature lover!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):
What is Kapaa known for?
Kapaa is a small charming town full of art and culture. It is known for its beautiful white sand beaches, one-of-a-kind hiking trails, and small roadside shops. I would recommend visiting Kapaa for its stunning botanical gardens and Hindu monastery.
Is Kapaa Hawaii nice?
Yes. Kapaa is a nice safe place to visit. It is not overcrowded with tourists and is rich in content. There is much to do here, including visiting the beaches, waterfalls, hiking trails, and botanical gardens. It’s a perfect place for those looking to get off the beaten path and explore some of the best jungle areas in Hawaii.
Is Kapaa beach swimmable?
Yes. This beach is a local favorite without a lot of tourists. There is a pleasant sandy strip leading into the water. It is possible to swim at the beach, but sometimes there are waves. It’s a great place to bring food and music for a relaxing afternoon. The sun does not set on this beach, so it is cooler in the afternoon (for those not looking for a lot of Sun!)
What is there to do in old Kapaa Town?
Old Kapaa Town has great places to eat and small eclectic shops. It is a great place to do souvenir shopping and soak up the local culture. The Coconut Market is great for locally made crafts, including jewelry and antiques.
Last Updated on March 30, 2023 by Brigitte