27 Incredible Things to do in Lihue, Kauai

Are you planning a trip to Kauai and want to know some fun Kauai activities to add to your itinerary? Find out the best things to do in Lihue, the capital of Kauai.
This list of the best fun things to do in Lihue Hawaii contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

The best way to explore a new place is by getting out and about. And there’s no better place for this than Kauai, Hawaii.

This island has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world with so many things to do that it can be hard to know where to start!

I’m going to share 27 of my favorite places in Lihue, which is where the Kauai airport is located.

Think of this as your ultimate guidebook before you go travel to Lihue, Kauai. Whether you spend your entire time in Lihue, or are just passing through on your way to/from the airport, you’ll find some fun things to add to your Kauai itinerary.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s get started!

Want to skip all the planning and just access my detailed Kauai Itinerary complete with daily schedules, kid-friendly activities, and travel hacks? Click the button below.

Get your copy of this Kauai travel guide for families by top Hawaii blog Hawaii Travel with Kids

Lihue Kauai FAQs

What side of the island is Lihue on?

Lihue is on the East Shore of Kauai and is right next to the town of Hanamaulu (to the North) and Puhi (to the West). Because there is only one highway on Kauai and it doesn’t go through the Na Pali Coast, Lihue is the most centrally located town on Kauai.

Is Lihue safe?

I’ve always felt safe in Lihue. It feels very small town and a lot of places close down early, so there aren’t usually a lot of people roaming the streets at night. When it comes to safety in Hawaii, I always suggest travelers use common sense. Don’t leave valuables in your car and trust your gut.

What is there to do in Lihue at night?

The most popular thing to do in Lihue at night is attend a luau. There are several to choose from, but our favorites are the Smith Family Luau and Luau Kalamaku. You can also listen to live music at many Lihue restaurants. Or you can catch a movie at the local theater. And watching the sunset from a beach is one of the best things to do in Lihue for free.

Best Things to do in Lihue

1. Relax at Kalapaki Beach

Out of all the beaches in Lihue, Kalapaki is by far my favorite. This beach is a popular spot for sports like swimming, body surfing and surfing because waves are usually gentle enough to enjoy with your kids.

The clear water will rejuvenate you so we highly recommend that you visit this place once during your stay at Lihue! Plus, you can grab food at Duke’s Barefoot Bar which is just steps from the beach.

2. Take a Na Pali Coast Helicopter Tour

Tired of your view from the ground? Look down at Kauai’s diverse terrain on a new Eurocopter Eco-Star helicopter and see for yourself.

Aerial view of Manawaiopuna Falls and landscape of Kauai from a helicopter flight.

Soar over Mt. Waialeale, Waiapuna Waterfalls, Waimea Canyon, Jurassic Falls, and be in awe of the emerald spires of Na Pali Coast to get an unforgettable perspective you’ll love!

This 50 minute flight with two-way radio communication and viewing glass is perfect for those who want more than just a look around or as gift that will last them forever. Check latest rates and more information.

3. Check Out an Independent Toy Shop

If you’re heading to Kauai with kids, it can be helpful to know where the toy stores are.

We like to shop local, so we geeked out when we found Beachrail. They have a huge selection of model trains (new and vintage), airplane kits, animal figurines, and so much more.

For families with younger kids, definitely head to Small Fry Kauai for the cutest locally made wooden toys and adorable kids books.

4. Kayak the Wailua River

Explore the natural beauty of Kauai with a combo hiking and kayaking adventure on the Wailua River. This was actually a filming location for the new Disney movie Jungle Cruise!

Wailua River is perfect for kayaking and leads to several Kauai waterfalls.
Kayaking the Wailua River. Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

Enjoy a leisurely paddle down this sacred river surrounded by lush tropical scenery, then disembark for an easy nature hike to enjoy refreshment at one of many wondrous waterfalls in Hawaii’s Garden Isle.

Refuel during your day-long journey through paradise before taking time out from adventuring to dip into refreshing pools below cascading falls that serve as great spots for swimming or sunbathing while soaking up some relaxation amidst serene surroundings! Check latest rates and more information.

5. Taste a Plate Lunch at Mark’s Place

If you’re looking for an authentic Hawaiian plate lunch, definitely make a stop at Mark’s Place. Their food is incredible!

It’s located in the industrial district of Puhi and it’s tucked away from the main road, but it’s totally worth it. It’s by far one of the best places to eat in Lihue.

We like their loco moco and beef stew the best. Plus, they have a nice assortment of baked goods and you can get Spam musubi there. You can eat your food at one of their picnic tables or take it to a local beach or back to your hotel.

6. Go Mountain Tubing

Kauai’s mountain tubing adventure is one of the most popular things to do in Kauai. This family-friendly activity is frequently sold out weeks in advance.

Find out what it's like to go mountain tubing on Kauai by top Hawaii blog Hawaii Travel with Kids. Image of a man and woman floating down a sugar cane canal on Kauai.
Floating down a sugar cane canal at Mt. Waialeale on Kauai. Photo credit: Kauai Backcountry Adventures

You’ll be zooming down miles of irrigation canals on your inner tube float trip through Old Lihue Sugar Plantation ditches as you look at some dramatic waterfalls along the way. It’s one of the best Hawaii hidden gems.

Kids as young as 5 years old can participate, which makes this an awesome thing to do on Kauai with kids. Check latest rates and more information.

Click to see our full Kauai Mountain Tubing review.

7. Explore the Kauai Museum

Kauai Museum is a place of history, discovery and experience. The museum reflects the heritage and artistic achievements of indigenous people from Kauai & Ni’ihau Islands.

Walk through time in paradise as you explore early days life on these islands or learn about when Captain Cook first landed in Waimea 1778!

Plus, the Kauai Museum has a really cool gift shop and they often host cultural events throughout the year. I think this is one of the most underrated Lihue attractions. Check latest rates and more information.

8. Take a Train Ride

Families of younger kids will definitely want to set aside time to ride the Kilohana Plantation Train. It’s one of our favorite Lihue tourist attractions and we do it almost every trip.

Image of a green train at Kilohana Plantation on Kauai.
Kilohana Plantation Railway on Kauai.

It does a little loop around this historic plantation and you’ll get to see all kinds of tropical fruit along the way. The really cool part is that you’ll even have the opportunity to get off the train and feed animals during this Lihue tour.

And if you time it right, you can combine this train ride with Luau Kalamaku.

What’s extra cool is that Kilohana Plantation was featured in the 2021 Disney movie Jungle Cruise!

9. Taste The Best Malasadas in Hawaii

The Kauai Bakery was recently awarded the title of “Best Malasadas in Hawaii.”

Named the best malasadas in Hawaii, Kauai Bakery offers an assortment of filled malasadas. Image of a takeout container filled with malasada donuts.
An assortment of malasadas from the Kauai Bakery. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Malasadas are Portuguese donuts that have been a staple in Hawaii for decades. They look like giant donut holes and you can even order them filled with all kinds of tropical fruit and cream fillings. Although it’s hard to beat the classic ones with just sugar and cinnamon.

Not only are the malasadas super tasty, but the bakery itself is pretty Instagrammable.

10. Take a Scenic Flight Over Kauai

Fly with one of the safest air tours in Hawaii. Expert plane pilots take you over stunning scenery, flying low and slow for best viewing!

Their most popular Kauai tour encompasses the entire Garden Island aboard a six passenger GA-8 Airvan with air conditioned cabin, and a tow-say noise reduction headsets.

The aircraft is very spacious (there are no “middle” seats) and every seat has a large bubble window specifically designed for sightseeing and photography – so everyone can enjoy the view!

Some of the sights you’ll see include the majestic Waimea Canyon, Na Pali Coast, Wailua River, Kapaa, Mt. Waialeale, Hanalei Valley, and Poipu. Check latest rates and more information.

11. Go Shopping

Kauai offers an array of shopping opportunities for the tourist, from small shops and country stores to larger retail malls. And there are lots of great places for shopping in Lihue Hawaii.

Make sure you take some time out of your vacation (or even do a day trip) to get lost in Kauai’s many local products including Aloha wear, jewelry made by Hawaiian artisans and much more!

The largest mall on Kauai is the Kukui Grove Center. There’s also a Hilo Hattie store where you can find matching Hawaiian outfits for your family.

12. See Wailua Falls

One of the most popular Kauai waterfalls is Wailua Falls because it’s easily accessible and often featured in magazines. It’s one of the top spots for sightseeing in Lihue.

Top 11 Best Kauai Waterfalls you Should Visit featured by top Hawaii travel blog, Hawaii Travel with Kids: Wailua Falls is one of the best Kauai waterfalls and a top Kauai attraction
Wailua Falls on Kauai.

The falls are also famous for being a symbol of Kauai’s beautiful landscape, having been featured in the opening credits of the classic TV show Fantasy Island!

There’s a large parking lot and it’s a quick stop to snap a selfie in front of this beautiful Kauai waterfall. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, there’s also a hike down to the bottom of the falls.

13. Go to a Luau

Celebrate the Hawaiian tradition with Smith’s Tropical Paradise Luau at their family garden in Wailua, featuring a delicious luau buffet feast!

Get a detailed review of Smith's Tropical Paradise, one of the best Kauai luaus, by top Hawaii blog Hawaii Travel with Kids. Image of a group of Tahitian dancers at Smith Family Luau on Kauai.
Smith’s Tropical Paradise on Kauai. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

This event includes authentic performances from Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa (exciting Fire knife dance), Philippines and Japan.

Already have dinner plans? You can still book the luau “Show Only” for those who would like to only attend this inspiring performance about Aloha. Check latest rates and more information.

Click to see my full Smith Family Luau review.

14. Have Breakfast at the Tip Top Café

For the best breakfast in Lihue that will take you back in time, head to the Tip Top Café. This is a great place to get homemade pancakes topped with fresh pineapple or bananas, macadamia nuts, and even guava jam. They also make a great loco moco.

This is everything you need from an old school Kauai diner. I mean, they’ve been in business for more than 100 years for a reason!

15. Learn How to Surf

Take a surf lesson in Kauai with the help of an expert guide. The small group lessons will have you surfing waves like pro in no time!

Find out where to book Kauai surfing lessons for kids recommended by top Hawaii blog Hawaii Travel with Kids. Image of a father and young sons going surfing at the beach.
Try learning how to surf on Kauai.

Whether visiting Kauai by plane or cruise ship, Kalapaki Bay is conveniently located close to both locations.

Children 10 years old and above can participate and all guests must know how to swim for safety reasons. Swimsuits, towel and sunscreen are required items needed to bring but don’t forget your camera as this experience may be one worth sharing on social media! Check latest rates and more information.

16.  Go Golfing

For a golf enthusiast, Kauai is the perfect place to visit. The island has some of the world’s best courses and visitors can play beautiful resort or affordable independent courses where they are surrounded by lava rocks while mountain ranges frame their view.

There are nine courses at seven locations on this tropical gem, so you don’t have to worry about getting bored with your game! In Lihue, try the Puakea Public Golf Course, Wailua Municipal Golf Course, or Ocean Course at Hokuala.

17. Try Hamura Saimin

Hamura Saimin is Kauai’s most famous noodle restaurant. They are best known for their saimin and lilikoi chiffon pies. And it’s a total mix of tourists mixed with locals here!

Hamura makes their own noodles nearby at the family factory, where they also make broth from shrimp, chicken, pork and scallops. It’s conveniently located near Lihue airport so be sure to stop by before or after your trip to Kauai

18. Check Out The Grove Farm Homestead Museum

The Grove Farm Homestead and Sugar Plantation in Lihue is a fascinating example of Hawaii’s past. The 100-acre historic site provides visitors with an experience that includes life over one hundred years ago, when Kauai was booming and the plantation era had its origins on this island.

Visitors can visit the gracious old Wilcox home or wander through lush tropical gardens and rolling green lawns to enjoy what it may have been like for those living during this period.

I think this is one of the coolest tourist attractions in Lihue for history buffs.

19. Visit a Farmer’s Market

One of the best ways to shop local is to support Kauai’s farmers. There are three farmers markets in Lihue, Kauai: Kukui Grove’s small market every Monday at 3 p.m., the County sponsored larger one on Fridays starting at 3 p.m and Vidinha Stadium at 9:30 a.m. Sunday mornings for those who can’t make it to Friday’s event!

Many of these Kauai farmers markets offer free samples of fruit, plus there are usually yummy baked goods!

20. See Fern Grotto

Embark on a two-mile round trip river boat cruise along the Wailua River and enjoy views of Kauai that are breathtaking!

Fern Grotto is a popular Kauai attraction and one of the top things to do in Lihue Kauai. Image of two women taking a photo of Fern Grotto.
Fern Grotto on Kauai. Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Daeja Fallas

The Wailua River is known as “the only navigable river” in all Hawaii, and its fresh water comes from Mount Waialeale. Along with this “wettest spot one Earth” land lies fertile soil which was once sacred to ancient Hawaiians.

Climb aboard Smith’s Fern Grotto Cruise for an experience you won’t soon forget. You’ll explore beautiful vistas while listening Hawaiian songs and stories told by a tour guide. Check latest rates and more information.

See what we thought of our Fern Grotto boat tour.

21. Enjoy a Kauai Food Tour

This Downtown Lihue Tour showcases the agricultural connection to food on the island. Featured local tastings from restaurants who source their produce and meats locally! The tour includes tasting fresh fish, burgers, fruits and vegetables.

They start off with some Hawaiian infused Mexican food then they continue their culinary romp through town of Lihue where guests taste farm-to-table restaurant cuisine, meet local chefs and visit Kauai’s best brewery.

This is a unique opportunity for visitors to explore what it means when you say “Kauai eats!” This is one of the top tours in Lihue worth checking out. Check latest rates and more information.

22. Ride in an Outrigger Canoe

Canoe surfing is a sport that has been practiced in Hawaii for centuries. It combines the fun and thrill of canoeing with catching waves on boards.

Best suited for kids at least 6 years sold, this activity can be found at Kalapaki Beach. This is also where you’ll find skilled watermen who are happy to guide beginners through their first time out! Check latest rates and more information.

23. Visit Opaekaa Falls

On the way to Opaekaa Falls, a scenic lookout awaits visitors with an excellent view of this cascading waterfall. The convenient stop offers access to picnic tables and restrooms for those who wish not only enjoy its beauty but also take in all it has on offer.

Opaekaa Falls is one of the best Kauai waterfalls worth visiting and one of the most popular things to do in Lihue Kauai. Image of a cascading waterfall on Kauai.
Opaekaa Falls on Kauai.

This 151-foot tall 40 foot wide cascade is easily one of Kauai’s most accessible major waterfalls that can be enjoyed from some incredible views. The waterfall’s name “Opaekaa” was named after rolling shrimp abundant here once upon time.

And head across the street where another great vantage point reveals more natural wonders such as Wailua River valley below and interior plains beyond – both equally stunning! This is one of the top things to see in Lihue!

24. Try Hula Pie at Duke’s

One of the most famous desserts in Hawaii is Hula Pie that can only be found at a few restaurants in the islands. Thankfully, there’s a Duke’s at Kalapaki Beach.

Hula Pie is made with a scrumptious chocolate cookie crust and our favorite macadamia nut ice cream topped off by decadent, hot fudge. The dessert comes complete with whipped cream to give it that extra soft texture. The portions are massive and it’s meant for sharing.

25. Go Ziplining

Soar over lush valleys and pristine rainforests in the heart of the Garden Isle on this Kauai Backcountry zipline! This is one of the top things to do near Lihue!

Ziplining on Kauai is one of the best things to do in Lihue for people who love adventure. Image of a woman ziplining in Kauai.
Ziplining on Kauai. Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

Take a 4-wheel drive through a private sugar cane plantation, zip 7 lines descending a mountain side, and swim in an invigorating stream. Your zipline adventure begins with fun excursion into nature’s most magnificent sites by way of your trusted four-wheeler.

Along the tour you’ll be offered up some interesting information about this favorite island paradise: its history, culture, natural beauties – all before submerging yourself at one of many refreshing swimming holes to cool off from that hot Kauai sun! Check latest rates and more information.

26. Taste Koloa Rum at Kilohana Plantation

The Koloa Rum Company Tasting Room, which is right next to their store, offers daily scheduled tastings of its award-winning rum every half-hour so that you can taste history come alive with smooth Hawaiian flavor.

Spirits from this company are made from only one thing: Hawaii’s sugarcane. Distilled twice in copper pot stills for an unmatched softness on your tongue; it will make any traveler want to take home some memories we all know as “The Spirit of Aloha.”

27. Learn Samoan Fire Knife Dancing

Samoan fire knife dancing is a centuries-old cultural tradition that entails the wielding of flaming torches and whirling with them in complex, creative movements for long periods.

Learn how to do Samoan fire dancing from a pro! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

For participants to master this ancient art form on their own takes years of rigorous training– but lucky for you they’ve condensed it into one day!

In their interactive lesson, professional instructors will lead dancers through basic techniques before unleashing live demonstrations by trained professionals who are well versed in all aspects – from choreography to coordination.

You’ll also have ample opportunity during breaks between lessons to explore your newfound skills with an authentic Samoan fire blade; what better way could there be? Check latest rates and more information.

Click to see our full review of this awesome Kauai experience!

We hope you enjoyed our list of the best things to do in Lihue Hawaii. If you are staying just a few days or a full week, we’re sure that there’s something here for everyone!

Be sure to book your tours before heading out on an adventure abroad and be ready for some exciting adventures. You won’t regret it!

Where to Stay in Lihue

Now that you know what to do in Lihue, let’s talk about accommodations. There are tons of options places to stay in Lihue.

Our top pick is the Royal Sonesta Kauai (formerly the Kauai Marriott). Here, you’ll find a massive swimming pool, on-site restaurants, and it’s right on Kalapaki Beach.

There’s also the Timbers Kauai Ocean Club which offers 5-star accommodations for families looking for multi-bedroom suites.

And the Kauai Beach Resort & Spa has 4 swimming pools and it’s located near Lydgate State Beach Park, an awesome beach for families.

Looking for more things to do on Kauai? Find out the best Kauai luaus, cool things to do in Poipu, and where to see the best Kauai sunset.