Running in Kauai: 5 Best Places to Get Those Miles In

Dramatic scenery and well-maintained trails make Kauai a runner’s dream come true. This gorgeous island offers plenty of options for runners of all levels. Whether you crave a short and sweet expedition or need to log some serious miles, you should have no trouble finding somewhere truly memorable to run. Trail runs tend to be the most scenic, although paved paths also abound.

We’ve highlighted a few of the best options from both categories below:

Kalalau Trail

People sitting in chairs at Ke'e Beach

Extending a full 11 miles between Kee Beach and Kalalau Beach, this trail is an excellent option for your long run. That being said, many people stick to the first two miles. Planning ahead is essential for either approach, as this trail calls for reservations and can also be difficult to access at times: you either need to score one of the limited parking vouchers or take the shuttle. Once you arrive, you can expect a true adventure, and, if you aren’t in amazing trail-running shape, you might find yourself walking a significant portion of the trail.

One of the most noteworthy spots on the trail is known as Crawler’s Ledge. This offers excellent views but can feel downright terrifying for those who struggle with heights. If there’s anywhere on the hike worth slowing down, this is it. The stream crossings can be even more treacherous, especially as they’ve been known to swell after storms. If you can tackle all this, however, you will emerge with the ultimate in bragging rights. Don’t forget to pack a swimsuit, as nothing caps off an amazing run quite like relaxing on the beach.

Alakai Swamp Trail

Photo Credit: @camlougreen

Traverse bogs and native rainforest as you run the Alakai Swamp Trail, which, at 3.5 miles one-way, is the perfect length for moderate to advanced runners. Many people prefer to meander this trail at a slower pace, however, as it is best known as a birdwatching haven. Rare species such as the puaiohi thrush can sometimes be spotted here, as can the honeycreeper known as the akekee. 

Even if you’re committed to running, you may eventually need to slow your pace and stick with a methodical hike, as much of the trail involves a boardwalk and can be extremely slippery. If you’re up for the adventure, however, you will quickly discover that this is a run like no other — and it’s absolutely worth the effort. Bring a change of clothes to change into after your trek, as you will almost certainly emerge wet and muddy.

Mahaulepu Heritage Trail

If you’d like a history lesson along with your run, be sure to hit up the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail. This coastal journey delivers stunning views, encompassing dramatic cliffs and coastal panoramas. Short and sweet, this is your best bet when you are unable to tackle Kauai’s longer treks but still want a solid sampling of what this island’s trail-running scene has to offer. 

Interesting sights along the way include Shipwreck Beach, limestone cliffs, and a sacred site known as Waiopili Heiau. Keep in mind that, as with many Kauai trails, the path can be wet or muddy at times. With the right footwear, however, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. The trail is generally moderate but there may be a need for scrambling at times — and the sandier areas may also cause you to exert more effort if your feet begin to sink. 

Ke Ala Hele Makalae

Not everybody is cut out for Kauai trail running, especially as many of the region’s paths tend to be wet and muddy. Thankfully, you can still enjoy lovely views as you run on paved routes. One of the best is easily the multi-use Ke Ala Hele Makalae. Often referred to as “the path that goes by the coast,” this trail is heavily used by cyclists but also attracts its fair share of walkers and joggers. There are two main segments, which, together, cover about 8 miles. As compared to the often rigorous trails highlighted above, this makes for a moderate or downright easy run.

While this trail is nowhere near strenuous enough to force you to stop, you almost certainly will pause at times to learn more as you read the educational displays. A variety of interpretive signs will clue you in on the cultural and historic significance of various sites, so you will feel as if you’ve visited the most gorgeous museum imaginable.

Lydgate Beach Park Multiuse Trail

Lydgate Beach Park is best known as a swimming and snorkeling hot spot, but there are also plenty of recreational activities to keep you entertained when both feet are firmly on dry land. Running is best enjoyed on the multi-use path, which forms a brief, but enjoyable loop extending just 1.7 miles.

This path is rarely crowded, so it’s an excellent option if you prefer solitude while you run. You may, however, share the path with cats or chickens at times — but both can make your run a lot more entertaining. Parking is a cinch (especially as compared to most other Kauai hiking and running trails) and picnic spots abound if you want to treat yourself after your run.

Eleele Nani Loop

This is by no means Kauai’s most scenic trail, but it’s certainly one of the easiest to tackle if you are training for shorter distances or committed to intervals. It’s paved and extends just over half a mile, so you can easily repeat the route as often as you need to create the perfect-length run. The park also has a small playground, so it’s worth visiting if you’re equipped with a jogging stroller and need a simple way to entice your young children to accompany you on your run. Afterward, hit up Longies Shave Ice for a treat.

There are many ways to explore Kauai and often, running produces the best views and the most endorphins. Commit to getting your miles in — and you may discover that your runner’s high amplifies the idyllic beauty of Kauai.