What to Do in Princeville, Kauai
Kauai isn’t your ordinary tropical getaway. Lush, rural, and laid back, Kauai is for no-fuss, adventurous travelers, or those looking to get away from the crowds and experience a travel destination that retains its authenticity whilst still having plenty of luxurious touches.
Kauai has two principal regions: the south shore and the north shore. Sunnier and drier, the south is the island’s touristy side where many people choose to stay. In contrast, the north is greener, packed with lush mountains, jungle-fringed beaches, and hidden waterfalls.
As rural and rustic as the north shore is, it never lacks luxury. Princeville, the region’s chief resort community, has some of the most lavish accommodation on this side of Kauai, but remains laid back and lowkey.
Princeville attractions are varied and unique. The town offers adventure for those looking for a bit of adrenaline rush and relaxation for those seeking serenity.
Still uncertain what to do in Princeville? There is a lot, but we’ve narrowed the list down to our top ten picks.
Where is Princeville?
The 9,000-acre resort town of Princeville lies in the northernmost tip of Kauai, about 45 minutes from Lihue, the island’s capital. The sleepy community of Kalihiwai borders Princeville to the east and the hip neighborhood of Hanalei to the west.
Its northern end sits on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, where you’ll find stunning views of the boundless blue sea, fringed on one side by a reddish-gold sandy coast, towering verdant cliffs and dense emerald rainforests. Due to the lush vegetation and exotic scenery, Princeville and its surrounding areas have been featured in numerous films, including Jurassic Park, George of the Jungle, and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The Top 10 Things to Do in Princeville
Relax in Princeville Botanical Gardens
Tucked between fertile river valleys, the Princeville Botanical Gardens is an 8-acre family-run garden with a vast collection of diverse florae. Using sustainable practices and organic fertilizers, it grows native and ‘canoe’ species (those brought by Polynesian settlers centuries ago), potent medicinal herbs, fruit-bearing trees, rare and endangered flowers, and economic plants from across the globe.
A stroll on the grounds will take you to lawns full of fascinating plants and lush orchards, where you can sample delicious fruits plucked fresh from the trees. The Princeville Botanical Gardens also has onsite beehives that produce some of the best local honey in Hawaii.
The garden also grows its own cacao trees and produces its own chocolate, so if you have a sweet tooth, you will love the chocolate tasting.
A guided tour is available around the gardens four times a week. The entire trail is over a mile and the terrain is partly uneven and steep, making it unsuitable for participants with mobility issues or those who will tire easily after a walk.
Shop at Princeville Center
Shopping on Kauai is a great experience, particularly in this popular town. Nestled between sea-cliffs, a cattle ranch, and ancient taro fields, the Princeville Center boasts dozens of shops, stores, boutiques, and eateries against a backdrop of gorgeous tropical scenery.
The Princeville Center is your one-stop shop for a vacation. It sells anything - from votive candles and tropical soaps to handcrafted jewelry and speciality wines. For basic needs, the shopping center has a grocery store, as well as a bank, a post office, and a gas station.
Princeville Center promotes locally owned stores that cater to an island lifestyle. For that reason alone, it’s definitely worth exploring.
Admire the Views from Hanalei Valley Lookout
The scenic Hanalei Valley Lookout is perhaps the most photographed viewpoint in Kauai’s north shore. The sweeping panoramas from the top include the entire Hanalei landscape showcasing sights of the flowing river, the two-mile Hanalei Bay, the otherworldly Nāmolokama Mountain with waterfalls carved out on its rocky walls, and the valley plush with native flora and patchwork of ancient taro fields.
For the most incredible views, visit the overlook at sunrise or sunset, when the sun casts ethereal hues over the expanse of land below.
The outlook is in the southeastern side of Princeville, about four minutes away from the town center. Turn as you descend the hill from Princeville towards the Hanalei Bridge to access the viewpoint. You can leave your car in the small space designated for parking. Pose for photos and admire the breathtaking scenery but be cautious of vehicles coming around the bend.
Play a Game at Makai Golf Club
Makai Golf Club is the recipient of several prestigious awards, including Golf Digest’s Top 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses in America, Golfweek’s Top Three Best Courses in Hawaii, and National Geographic Traveler’s Top Five Great Golf Settings. It features an 18-hole course, six of which directly overlook the Pacific Ocean, seemingly endless greenery, surrounding misty mountains, and splendid views of the Na Pali Coast and Hanalei Bay,
You don’t have to be a golfer to enjoy Makai Golf Club. You can go on a sunset tour of the grounds, enjoy a game of disc golf, join a sunrise yoga session, play tennis on its spacious court, or indulge in local gastronomic delights at its in-house restaurant Makai Grill. It also hosts music and art festivals as well as banquets and weddings.
Spot Island Wildlife at Anini Beach
Anini Beach is a fantastic place in Kauai to see wildlife, particularly sea turtles. These gentle creatures gather on the secluded shore to eat, rest, take shelter from the open sea or hide from their natural predators. On a good day, you might spot hundreds of the species.
Local marine biologists have observed fewer turtles come to the area as more tourists visit over the years, so when you visit, be sure to respect the wildlife. Keep your distance and do not disturb these endangered animals, no matter how adorable they look.
Buy Souvenirs at Princeville Night Market
One of our favorite Princeville activities is hunting for rare and unusual souvenirs at the night market. The event happens every second of the month and features over 40 local artisans selling handmade jewelry, organic skincare, wood carvings, paintings, pottery, apparel, and delicacies. There is also live music and entertainment.
This family-friendly outdoor event starts at 4 pm and ends at 8 pm. Come hungry and sample the delicious fare sold at the food trucks or enjoy the local cuisine served at the restaurants.
Snorkel at Tunnels Beach
Kauai is home to fascinating marine life, and Tunnels Beach is one of the best places to explore its bountiful waters. Its expansive reef features colorful corals, deep tunnels, and small sea caverns that house various types of tropical fish, turtles, and the rare Hawaiian monk seal.
Backed by ironwood trees and jagged mountains, this crescent-shaped, golden sand beach is as stunning on land as it is underwater. If snorkeling isn't right up your alley, you can spend a sunny day relaxing on the sand, admiring the scenery and staying to watch the brilliant sunsets.
Tunnels Beach is also a popular surfing and windsurfing site, particularly in winter when the waves are massive. During surfing season, the ocean swarms with experienced surfers catching giant waves beyond the outer reef and making a go for the famous water tunnels which gave the beach its name.
You’ll find Tunnels Beach in Wainiha, a small community nestled between Hanalei and Ha'ena. It is about nine miles west of Princeville and two miles east of the famous Kalalau Trail, so whilst not exactly in the town itself, makes a good place to visit for the day if you're based around here. The parking area often fills after 9 am, so be sure to arrive early morning or late afternoon to secure a spot.
Kauai’s north shore is the perfect destination for those who love an excellent blend of leisure and adventure. The resort area of Princeville is the poster child of idyllic island life and echoes the vibe of Old Hawaii, but it is also fresh and vibrant. With its flourishing gardens and secret coves, bustling markets and pristine beaches, Princeville truly deserves a spot on every traveler’s bucket list.
If you’re planning a trip to Princeville in Kauai and are looking for luxury holiday accommodation, Pure Kauai offers a wide range of outstanding properties. Get in touch with our team to find out more and start planning your dream vacation.