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If you’re headed to Kauai, then spending a few days in Kapa’a is a great idea. As the largest settlement on the island, there are a lot of things to do in Kapa’a. Not only is there a charming town center filled with quaint shops and restaurants, but its close proximity to beaches, rivers, and mountains also makes it an ideal destination for nature lovers.
When planning a trip to Kapa’a, there are some activities that you won’t want to miss. We’ll share a couple of our favorites, along with what to expect during your visit, to make your time on Kauai as memorable as possible!
If you’re heading to Kauai be sure to take advantage of these great planning resources:
– Our Kauai Travel Guide has everything you need to know about the island for your trip.
– We’ll help you decide when to plan your trip to Kauai.
– No matter what part of the island you want to visit, our Where to Stay database has you covered.
– See more than beaches with the best activities and tours Kauai has to offer.
Where is Kapa’a and What is it Known For?
Located on the eastern coast of Kauai, Kapa’a is the largest and most populated part of the island. If you’re flying into Lihui Airport, then Kapa’a town is just a short 15 to 20-minute drive up the coast.
Near the coast is Kapa’a Town, a laid-back area filled with restaurants, shops, art galleries, and water sports rentals. It’s a great place to grab food or pick up a few souvenirs to take back home.
But if you prefer more scenic attractions, then you’ll be happy to know that Kapa’a is centrally located next to many outdoor sights. You can spend the day at the beach (Kapa’a Beach or Waipouli Beach are within walking distance from town), explore the tranquil Wailua River, or admire the emerald-green peaks of the surrounding mountains.
In Kapa’a you’re roughly equidistant from the north and south shores of the island, so be sure to make trips to see all that Kauai has to offer. We’ve already covered Things to Do in Hanalei and Things to Do in Poipu.
Is Kapa’a Walkable?
If you want to be centrally located next to shops and restaurants, Kapa’a Town is a great place to stay. The entire town center is extremely walkable, so you’re never too far away from the action. The golden sand beaches are also just a block from town if you prefer to spend your time by the water.
If you want to get outside of town, there’s also the 8-mile-long Kauai Coast Path. Commonly used by cyclers and joggers, this water-front trail is a scenic way to travel up and down the coast.
Though you could spend a day or two on foot here, we always recommend renting a car on Kauai. Not only will it make getting around Kapa’a easier, but it will also give you the opportunity to see other things around the island like Waimea Canyon, Poipu, and the north shore.
Can You Swim in the Ocean in Kapa’a?
To be honest, the beaches in Kapa’a Town aren’t the greatest. While they are beautiful and great for exploring, the ocean conditions are rough and not always suitable for swimming.
However, there are some excellent swimming beaches just outside of town if you’re willing to walk or drive. A 10-minute walk south of Kapa’a Town takes you to Fuji Beach (it’s also called Baby Beach). There are some small tidepools and shallow reef-protected swimming areas for families or inexperienced swimmers.
Another good option is Kealia Beach, which is a 35-minute walk or 3-minute drive from town. Head to the northern part of the coast, where the breakwater offers a calm, protected area for swimming. The south is a little more rugged, although it’s a popular option for surfers and bodyboarders.
Check out more great beaches on Kauai:
The 10 Best Beaches on Kauai: stunning spots you don’t want to miss!
9 Best Beaches on Kauai for Swimming
The Best Beaches in Poipu (Directions + Parking Information Included!)
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We’ll share 4 can’t-miss activities on each island, a map with the main sights in town, & famous local grindz (eats)!
The 9 Best Things to Do in Kapa’a
As the largest town on the island, Kapa’a has something for all types of travelers. Nature lovers will enjoy the pristine landscapes, while adventure enthusiasts can take advantage of the numerous outdoor activities in the area. And more laid-back travelers will have a lot to discover in town (there are lots of delicious eateries and fun shops to check out!).
If you have more time to explore Kauai, you can also head to Lihue, which is just a 15-minute drive south. From the palm-fringed beaches to the fascinating cultural attractions, there are tons of fun things to see here as well.
1. Kayak the Wailua River
A kayaking trip down the Wailua River (the only navigable river in the entire state of Hawaii) is a fun and leisurely way to see the island’s breathtaking landscapes. You’ll paddle 2-miles upstream with the picturesque backdrop of lush rainforests and verdant hillsides with your knowledgable tour guide leading the way.
But kayaking is only the first part! After docking on the shores of North Fork, you’ll embark on a .75 mile hike to Uluwehi Falls (also known as Secret Falls), a stunning 120-foot waterfall. You’ll spend some time here swimming in the pools and admiring the scenery before the return hike and kayak trip. There is a total of 1.5 miles of hiking and 4 miles of kayaking.
The tour is family-friendly (kids need to be at least five years old), although it can be a bit strenuous since it’s roughly 5-hours long. If you want to see the Wailua River without kayaking, you could take a cruise boat to Fern Grotto, a lava rock grotto surrounded by delicate hanging ferns.
2. Bike the Kauai Coastal Path
Stretching for 8 miles along the eastern coast of Kauai is the beautiful Kauai Coastal Path. The flat, paved trail boasts dramatic views of the ocean, as well as the cliffs, beaches, and lava rock coves, making it one of the most scenic parts of the island.
If you’re renting bikes and starting in Kapa’a, you can either head north up to Ahihi Point or south towards Lydgate Beach Park. There are several picnic areas along the way to stop for lunch, as well as interpretive signs to learn more about the area.
Keep in mind the path is shared with pedestrians, so make sure to be considerate to your fellow joggers and walkers!
3. Visit the Kamoa Ukulele Company
You don’t have to be a musician to appreciate a visit to the Kamoa Ukulele Company! Located in the heart of downtown Kapa’a, this shop is arguably one of the best places to buy a traditional stringed ukulele.
The employees are super friendly and knowledgeable, regardless of whether you’re a pro or a beginner. They also offer lessons, which can be a great introduction if you’ve never played before. So if you’re in town, make sure to stop by the Kamoa Ukulele Company to learn more about Hawaii’s most famous instrument.
4. Enjoy a Delicious Meal at Pono Market
No trip to Kapa’a would be complete without a visit to Pono Market. With a central location in the middle of the town, this deli-style eatery is one of the best places to grab breakfast or lunch. When you step inside, you’ll find a wide array of traditional Hawaiian dishes, from Kalua Pork and Chicken Lau Lau to Spicy Ahi Poke and Cucumber Kimchee. Entrees change each day, so it’s a good excuse to come back at different times during your trip!
This is a to-go place, so there aren’t any seats to dine inside. However, you can take your food to the beach to enjoy a scenic picnic by the water! Pono Market is only open during the weekdays from 6 AM to 2 PM, so make sure to come early to beat the rush (they are closed on Saturdays and Sundays).
5. Treat Yourself to Wailua Shave Ice
Shave ice is one of those iconic treats that you have to get at least once during your trip to Hawai’i. And while there are plenty of places to choose from on the island, we love Wailua Shave Ice near Waipouli Beach.
The quality of the shave ice here is top-notch with unique flavors you won’t find anywhere else. We highly recommend the Lava Flow (pineapple juice, haupia foam, strawberry puree) or the Almond Joy (coconut milk, chocolate sauce, roasted coconut flakes, almonds). You can also add vanilla ice cream, a snowcap, or li hing mui (ground plum) powder.
In addition to the shave ice, they also serve tropical smoothies as well as acai bowls.
6. Hike the Sleeping Giant Trailhead
With rolling hills and towering mountain peaks, it’s easy to see why Kauai is one of the best islands for hiking. And if you’re in Kapa’a, then you’ll be just a short drive away from one of the most iconic treks around – the Sleeping Giant Trailhead!
The Sleeping Giant (otherwise known as Nounou Mountain) can be found on the western ridge of Wailua and Kapaʻa in the Nounou Forest Reserve. It gets its name because if you look closely, you’ll see that the outline of the mountain looks like a man lying on his side!
The trail to the summit is approximately 1.6 miles. But while it’s not particularly long, it is steep, as you’ll need to ascend up 1,000 feet to the top. On top of that, the terrain can be a bit uneven and rocky, so make sure you wear a durable pair of hiking boots.
But the effort is 100% worth it once you see the view from the top! From here, you can enjoy a 360-degree view of the ocean, Wailua River, and miles of lush rainforests and valleys.
7. Spend the Evening at the Smith Family Garden Luau
Going to a Luau is one of those quintessential Hawaiian activities. And while many are hit and miss, there is one really good one not far from Kapa’a Town, and that’s the Smith Family Garden Luau. Situated on 30 acres of grounds near the Wailua River, the luau is the perfect setting for an evening of Hawaiian festivities.
Start the luau with a tram tour of the property before watching the traditional Imu ceremony of the roasted pig. Then, enjoy a gourmet buffet feast (kalua pork, beef teriyaki, and lomi salmon are just a few dishes on the menu) while you watch the Rhythm of Aloha Show. If the menu isn’t appealing, you can skip the buffet and just attend the show.
With live music, hula dancing, and even an erupting volcano, it’s one of the best experiences to immerse yourself in Polynesian culture!
More nearby activities you’ll love:
Mountain Tubing Adventure
Helicopter Tour of the Napali Coast (doors on or off!)
Kauai Farm-to-Table Dinner in a Regenerative Food Forest
8. Indulge in Musubi
If you’ve never had musubi before, you’re missing out! Cheap, flavorful, and delicious, this classic Hawaiian snack is a favorite amongst locals and tourists alike. It consists of a slice of baked SPAM on top of rice and wrapped inside nori (a piece of seaweed).
The Musubi Truck in downtown Kapa’a is a popular food truck that specializes in musubi. Go for the original or opt for one of their unique concoctions like deep-fried musubi, miso chicken musubi, or kalbi beef musubi. They also have an array of non-musubi-based dishes, including chicken katsu and poke.
We also love the vibe of the place, as it’s a food truck with an outdoor seating area! That way, you can enjoy your meal while you soak up the warm Hawaii sun.
9. Food Trucks
And speaking of food trucks, the Musubi Truck isn’t the only place in Kapa’a to eat. You can also head up the road to find a couple more tasty stops. In the parking lot of a strip mall sits the Mokihana Coffee by Small Town. This food truck serves amazing coffee as well as some savory items like bagels and sandwiches.
But if you have a hankering for something sweet, then you’re in luck. The Holey Grail food truck is located in the same parking lot next to Mokihana Coffee. Here, you can pick up some hot, fresh taro donuts in a variety of unique flavors! They rotate seasonally but some of their iconic flavors use ingredients with passionfruit, truffle honey, and chai.
And it doesn’t stop there. If you live to eat, the Kauai food truck scene is where it’s at, and lucky you, we have a Kauai Food Truck Guide!
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