Planning a trip to Poipu, Kauai, and unfamiliar with the best Poipu activities and attractions? You are not alone!
As someone who has spent ample time exploring Poipu and all it has to offer, I have written this article on the 12 best things do in Poipu to show you exactly how to plan your visit to Poipu.
In this article, I will share my insider knowledge and travel tips on the top things to do in Poipu, Kauai. Whether you are looking for outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, or some well-deserved relaxation time, you will find the answer in this Kauai travel guide.
Now it is time to explain all the amazing things to do in Poipu to fill your precious time in Kauai. Plus, I will provide some ideas for activities near to Poipu that you may consider adding to your Kauai itinerary if you want to explore more of Kauai.
One of the most important parts of planning your travel to Kauai is choosing where you will stay on the island. Therefore, you will also find information regarding the best Poipu lodging in this article.
Planning a Trip to Poipu – At a Glance
Best Things to Do in Poipu HI
Here are 12 of the best things to do in South Kauai to assist you in planning your dream vacation.
- Explore the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail
- Eat and Drink
- Relax on Play on Poipu Beaches
- Drive through the Tree Tunnel
- Enjoy a Traditional Luau Show
- Witness the Spouting Horn
- Visit the Botanical Gardens
- Look for Wildlife
- Walk the Koloa Heritage Trail
- Go for a Spot of Shopping
- Enter the Makauwahi Cave Reserve
- Play a Round of Golf
Now it is time to explain each one in turn.
1. Explore the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail
The views along the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail are impressive and this walk is easily one of the best things to do in Poipu.
The coastal hiking trail goes from the far side of Grand Hyatt Kauai on Shipwreck Beach to the other end of the Poipu Bay Golf Course. The hike is out and back; therefore, you can turn around at any point to return to the start.
Park at Shipwreck Beach for free. The car park has a decent amount of space, as well as some spots along the road approaching the parking lot.
The trail starts along a sandy path to the left of the car park and then goes up a slight incline to get to the rocky coastline.
At first, the path may seem difficult to find because there is no clearly defined route. Thus, the best option is to hug the coastline and walk along the rocks. You can also walk slightly more inland through bushes and trees, and on the sand.
Even with the breeze from the sea, it can get extremely hot during this walk. As a result, make sure you have a baseball cap to cover your head, plenty of water to drink, and that you wear sunscreen (reef-safe is required in Hawaii).
I walked the Maha’ulepu Coastal Trail during my visit to Kauai in winter and it started to rain just as we finished hiking over 6km there and back.
Note: the trail is longer than 6km round-trip; however, we decided to finish as the trail reached the golf course.
2. Eat and Drink
If you have read my article on the best places to eat in Kauai, you will know that there are numerous exceptional choices on where to eat in Poipu.
Kauai is not known for its nightlife or late nights – you can thank the early rising roosters for that. Therefore, some of the best things to do in Poipu at night is to indulge in a delicious meal and some cocktails.
Do not forget to take the Aloha Spirit Shuttle (tip-based service) to get from your local hotel to a restaurant in Poipu.
Learn more information on Kauai for first-timers in my Kauai travel blog here.
As promised, here are some of the best restaurants in Poipu.
- Beach House – stunning sunset view and the best Mai Tai in Poipu
- Brennecke’s Beach Broiler – a great spot to dine and then go looking for turtles on the beach
- Tidepools – located in the stunning Grand Hyatt Kauai grounds with a romantic atmosphere
- Keoki’s Paradise – Hawaii themed restaurant with a fun pina colada cocktail served in a whole pineapple
- Eating House 1849 – renowned restaurant in Kauai by chef Roy Yamaguchi.
- Puka Dog Hawaiian Style Hot Dogs – unique hotdogs served with your choice of sauce, relish, mustard, and sausage.
3. Relax or Play on Poipu Beaches
It is no secret that some of the best Poipu attractions are its beaches.
The best beach in Poipu is Poipu Beach Park because it has great facilities and swimmable water.
Be warned – the seabed is extremely rocky.
I cut my feet from standing on the sharp rocks and then cut my knees on those rocks attempting to swim over the shallow water to avoid the foot pain. So, if you want to swim at Poipu you should wear some water shoes.
Poipu Beach has toilets and showers. Plus, the beach is guarded by a lifeguard. There is a large parking lot for access to Poipu and it is only a short distance from many food outlets.
Kauai is known for its rough sea conditions, rip currents and winter ocean swells. Consequently, you must pick your beach carefully according to how you want to spend your time at the beach.
Shipwreck Beach is another well-known beach in Poipu due to its location in front of the Grand Hyatt Kauai hotel. Even though the waves are too large for children to swim in, it is a pleasant spot to spend a few hours – enjoying the stunning scenery and soft sand.
There are also restrooms, which is handy given it is the starting location for the Maha’ulepu Coastal Trail. You can purchase food from Grand Hyatt Kauai’s food kiosks or restaurants serving lunch.
Some of the other best beaches in Poipu worth checking out include Lawa’i Beach, which is next to Beach House Restaurant and Brennecke’s Beach, a great spot for looking for turtles. You could also check out Kiahuna Beach, the beach in front of the Sheraton hotel.
Remember to check out some of the Poipu beach activities, such as surfing, snorkelling, and scuba-diving.
4. Drive through the Tree Tunnel
You will find the impressive Tree Tunnel on the drive from the direction of Lihue to Koloa.
Maluhia Road is lined with over 500 Eucalyptus Trees that were imported from Australia – from Scotsman Walter McBryde in 1911 as a gift to the Koloa community.
Make sure you track your location on your phone to see when you are about to approach the Tree Tunnel to have your camera ready.
It is not advisable to get out of the car to take a photo of the Tree Tunnel; therefore, you should capture your picture from the safety of your car.
5. Enjoy a Traditional Luau Show
A luau is a traditional Hawaiian show accompanied by a buffet serving local dishes. At a luau, you will see the well-known hula dance and Hawaiian fire eaters.
You can drink the local favourite cocktail, a Mai Tai, and you will try Kauai delicacies such as Poi (root vegetable), kalua pork and other dishes served with pineapple.
There are several options for luau shows in or near Poipu. For example, there are Luaus at several hotels in Poipu and further afield.
Grand Hyatt Kauai’s Luau offers a convenient luau show for those staying at the hotel or those within walking-distance. It serves unlimited drinks and has a large buffet spread. The luau is in the hotel’s private courtyard, but during extreme weather conditions, it moves into the conference room.
The Aulii Luau at Sheraton Kauai presents an oceanfront luau right on Poipu Beach.
If you are happy to travel a little further, there is the popular Luau Kalamaku, approximately a 20-minute drive from the Poipu area.
If you want to use the open bar before the show, you can add the shared transportation option when booking your tickets.
When choosing a luau, also be aware that some shows take place only on certain days of the week. So, make sure you have space in your Kauai itinerary, particularly if you are visiting Kauai for 3 days.
6. Witness the Spouting Horn
The Spouting Horn is a unique sight in Kauai. It is a blowhorn spout that sprays seawater high into the air through the blowhole when the waves crash against it.
It is a simple location to find in Poipu – you can either follow the signs or use a map on your phone. It is free to visit the Spouting Horn Park.
Additionally, there is plenty of free parking for your visit to the Spouting Horn. Even if the car park gets busy, many people only stop here for roughly 10 minutes at a time, so it should clear soon enough.
I would recommend that you visit Spouting Horn in the morning or evening because the light in the middle of the day is too harsh, and it is difficult to take a well-lit picture or video at this time.
7. Visit the Botanical Gardens
The National Tropical Botanical Gardens encompass several gardens in Kauai, as well as in Maui and Miami. Allerton Garden & McBryde Gardens are the two gardens in Kauai located in Poipu.
These two Poipu botanical gardens can be visited as self-guided or with a guided tour one at a time.
Alternatively, you could visit both gardens on one tour with a specialist guide. On this tour you will travel between the various locations on a small tour bus.
You will find the famous so-called Jurassic Park Trees (Moreton Bay fig trees) at Allerton Gardens.
8. Look for Wildlife
One of the best things to do in Poipu is to seek out the incredible wildlife frequently found on the south shore of Kauai. It is possible to see turtles and seals on the beaches of Poipu at dusk or dawn.
You may see turtles on the beach at sunset on Poipu Beach. There are chances of seeing Hawaiian monk seals on several Poipu Beaches.
I was lucky to see a monk seal resting on Shipwreck Beach one morning when I stayed at Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa. I went to the beach before breakfast in early January as the sun was rising and was surprised to see the seal.
Signs to mark a monk seal’s presence are left out on the beach for individuals to put up to warn other passers-by. You are advised not to go close to the seals.
In addition to seals and turtles in Poipu, humpback whales are frequently seen off the coast in Poipu during peak Kauai whale season, from November to March.
Wildlife watching on the beach and from the coastline is one of the best free things to do in Poipu.
Read about seeing humpback whales on a Na Pali Coast boat tour here.
9. Walk the Koloa Heritage Trail
The Koloa Heritage Trail in Kauai is a 10-mile (16 km) route around Koloa and Poipu.
During this self-guided walk or bike-ride, you will pass historical locations and those of key cultural importance to the region.
You will also see geological references, such as fossil beds and volcanic cones, and the Makawehi Lithified Cliffs.
Read this article from Go Hawaii to see an outline of the stops along the Koloa Heritage Trail.
Use this pdf document to learn detailed information about each stop and view the route map.
10. Go for a Spot of Shopping
Are you still looking for ideas on what to do in Poipu? You may want to pick up a new beach outfit or buy some souvenirs to take home with you.
There are plenty of places to go shopping in the Poipu area. For example, there is the Poipu Shopping Village and The Shops at Kukui‘ula.
In addition to the regular boutiques at The Shops at Kukuiula, every Wednesday from 3:30 PM to 6:00 PM, there is the Kauai Culinary Market.
There are plenty of fish markets if you have somewhere to cook your own food. Or, visit Monkeypod Jam to buy some local jams and preserves.
There are also some small stores in Old Koloa Town.
11. Enter the Makauwahi Cave Reserve
The Makauwahi Cave Reserve is located at the far end of the Maha ulepu Heritage Trail. Even if you decide not to walk the whole coastal trail, you can drive to this location to see the cave reserve.
If you want to enter the cave reserve, you must crawl on your hands and knees because the cave opening is low. It is possible to see part of the cave reserve without entering (for those unable to crawl).
Take a free guided tour of the cave reserve (seasonally may only be available on certain days of the week, so make sure you check this). Or book your own private tour including caves and other viewpoints along the way.
12. Play a Round of Golf
If you are an avid golfer, Poipu would be a great place to get your golf clubs out. Poipu Bay Golf Course is a former PGA grand slam course, and it offers 18 holes for visitors to enjoy.
The golf course has club rentals, so you will not miss out on the golf if you cannot manage to pack your own set. Additionally, Poipu Bay Golf Course has high-tech golf carts with GPS, wireless speakers, and details of the golf course.
Make sure you book your round in advance, 30 days before your preferred date of play.
Things to Do Near Poipu Kauai
Although this article focuses on things to do in Poipu, you may also be interested in Poipu activities within a reasonable driving distance.
Poipu is one of the best bases to visit the incredible Waimea Canyon and the rest of the lookout points in the valley. Even though the drive from Poipu to Waimea Canyon Lookout is around an hour-long, this is much closer than visiting from Princeville or Kapa’a area.
Furthermore, most Na Pali Coast boat tours depart from Eleele/Port Allen, which is approximately a 20-minute drive.
Another interesting option for things to do near Poipu is to visit Kilohana Sugar Plantation & Grove Farm Museum. The museum is around 25 minutes from Poipu by car and offers walking guided tours of the sugar plantation museum.
For another water-based activity near to Poipu (approx. 30 mins from Poipu), you could arrange a kayaking tour to Secret Falls.
Where to Stay in Poipu Hawaii?
If you have not yet decided where you would like to stay in Kauai, read my article on the best side of Kauai to stay on. It lays out the advantages and disadvantages of the accommodation options in North, East, South and West Kauai.
For those who have already decided you want to stay in Poipu, at least for a portion of your time in Kauai, here are some hotel recommendations.
One of the main draws of staying in Poipu is the resort hotels, the gorgeous beaches, and the proximity to many excellent restaurants and must-do attractions.
The most iconic hotel in Poipu is the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa. There are plenty of things to do near Grand Hyatt Kauai, as you will have seen in this article. Plus there are plenty of Grand Hyatt Kauai activities offered each day at the resort.
For example, the large swimming pool with lazy river and slide, exploring the lush gardens, meeting the parrots, looking for seals on Shipwreck Beach, booking a spa appointment. Plus, there is a kid’s club for those with younger family members, including arts and crafts, games, hula lessons, and movies.
Even though it has a high price point, it is worth it. The hotel grounds are impeccably looked-after, the staff are attentive, and the beachfront location is ideal.
However, it must be stated, that if you are used to true 5-star hotels, you will not receive this same standard at practically all the 5-star hotels in Kauai, so adjust your expectations. Other resort hotels are also expensive, especially compared to what you may be used to paying outside of Kauai.
Here are my hotel recommendations for luxury lodging in Poipu Kauai.
|Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa $$$$
|Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu (Autograph Collection) $$$$
|Sheraton Kauai Resort $$$$
|The Lodge at Kukui’ula $$$$
|Ko’a Kea Resort on Po’ipu Beach $$$$
FAQ – Poipu Things to Do
What is Poipu known for?
Poipu is known for being the sunniest and warmest part of Kauai, even when the rest of the island may be experiencing rain.
It is also known for having beautiful beaches, including Poipu Beach, Shipwreck Beach, Lawa’i Beach, Brennecke’s Beach, and Kiahuna Beach.
Finally, Poipu is known and loved for its convenient location near to numerous outstanding restaurants and excellent shops.
Is Poipu worth visiting?
Poipu is worth visiting for many reasons, including its fantastic wildlife spotting opportunities (seals and turtles), beautiful coastal walks and beaches, plus its opportunities for surfing and snorkelling.
Not to mention the bountiful choice of restaurants, cafes, and shopping opportunities in Poipu.
Can you walk around Poipu?
Poipu is a walkable town on the sunny south shore of Kauai. If you stay at the Grand Hyatt Kauai, there are several restaurants off-property that are within walking vicinity. Plus, you can access some walking paths and beaches in Poipu.
There are also sections of Poipu that are safe for pedestrians to walk alongside the road. However, other parts of Poipu are too far to reach on foot, so access to a car is generally recommended when visiting Kauai.
Can you swim in Poipu?
Poipu Beach is one of the best swimmable beaches in Poipu due to the calm and sheltered water. There are also lifeguards on duty.
However, there are sharp rocks on part of the seabed at Poipu Beach, so you should be careful when swimming. It is best to wear water shoes when in the sea to protect your feet.
Are there turtles at Poipu Beach?
You may see green sea turtles in Poipu, including at Poipu Beach or Brennecke’s Beach.
They usually come out of the water to sleep when the beach is less busy, such as in the late afternoon and at sunset. You may even see them in the deeper parts of the water, for example at Lawai Beach.
Where is Mahaulepu Heritage Trail parking?
You can park at the Shipwreck Beach parking lot to access the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail. The free car park can fill up easily, so if there are no spots remaining, you can park along the road that leads to the Shipwreck car park.
There are public bathrooms at Shipwreck Beach if you need to use them before you start your hike.