Nicknamed the Garden Isle, Kauai is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The island sits near the top of the Hawaiian Island chain and is known for its natural beauty, as well as its uncrowded beaches and tranquil rainforests. In recent years, Kauai has become a haven for Hollywood movie makers. It has served as the backdrop for numerous blockbusters, including Disney's Lilo and Stitch and Jurassic Park, yet it still retains its laid-back atmosphere.
Top Attractions on Kauai
Whether you are planning a romantic honeymoon, or you are simply looking to unplug from the chaos that is your everyday life, a trip to Kauai is one you will remember for years to come. The island paradise is second to none when it comes to natural gems. To make the most of your journey to this magnificent tropical oasis consider visiting the following popular attractions:
Hanalei Bay is located on the lush north shore of Kauai. The area is dotted with small, seaside restaurants and remote beach houses. Take time to drive the nine-mile stretch from Haena Beach Park to Hanalei. The road takes you over 10 picturesque bridges and through flowing taro fields. Glimpses of the wild and rugged beach reward you around every turn. Don't worry if you can't look at everything the first time through, as the only way back is to turn around and retrace your path.
Poipu is a must-visit beach on Kauai's southern coastline. The popular stretch of sand boasts the best weather on the island, as well as massive beachfront condos and sprawling luxury hotels. Visit the Spouting Horn while you are strolling the beach. The unique lava formation causes the surf to erupt from the lava rocks like a geyser at high tide. The beach is also the ideal place to enjoy a spectacular sunset with a cocktail.
No trip to Kauai would be complete without visiting Wailua River and the Fern Grotto. Located between the cities of Poipu and Princeville, the fern covered cave drips with foliage and wild tropical flowers. Riverboats carry passengers to the grotto while drivers tell Hawaiian folk stories and serenade visitors with traditional ukulele music. At the mouth of the river is the venerable Coco Palms Resort, immortalized in the Elvis movie, Blue Hawaii, and site of a nightly torch lighting ceremony.
Na Pali Coast
Not all of Kauai is developed and full of tourists. The steep cliffs of the Na Pali Coast, located on the northwest side of Kauai, offer visitors a truly unique Hawaii travel experience. No roads traverse this area. The only way in is by helicopter, boat, or on foot. Hiking enthusiasts are attracted to the challenging terrain, but the area is definitely best suited for physically fit visitors. Tenacious backpackers are rewarded at the end of the 11-mile Kalalau trail with the sparkling white sand of Kalalau Beach, accessible only by trail or by boat. Less adventurous visitors can enjoy the dense foliage, tropical flowers, and abundant waterfalls of the area by taking a helicopter tour. You can even have the driver drop you off on a secluded beach for a romantic picnic for two.
Known as Hawaii's "Grand Canyon," Waimea Canyon is smaller, though almost as dramatic and colorful as its big brother in Arizona. This 10-mile long, 3657-foot deep slash is a favorite of visitors and locals alike. It's surrounded by tropical Waimea and Kohee State parks, both filled with miles of hiking trails suitable for all skill levels as well as a multitude of scenic vistas. The area is also a great place to enjoy a picnic lunch or a romantic overnight stay in one of the park's rustic cabins.
Take a trip back in time by traveling to the Menehune Fishpond located on the southeast corner of Kauai. The site is the stuff of Hawaiian legends. It is said that a group of Hawaii's "wee people" were challenged to construct the fishpond in one night. The area is now surrounded by Mangrove trees and offers a quiet retreat for those looking to escape the daily hustle and bustle of life.
You can't fly all the way to Kauai without experiencing an authentic Hawaiian luau. Smith's Tropical Paradise Luau, located in the Wailua River State Park is one of the best on the island. Dine on local favorites such as poi, kalua pig, lomi salmon and coconut haupia while sitting amongst indigenous flora and fauna found in the 30-acre botanical garden.
Kauai's nickname the Garden Isle is fitting since the area is one of the greenest spots on earth. However, the island's lush, verdant beauty comes as a direct result of the abundant rain it sees each year. Kauai averages 100 inches of rainfall a year, thanks in large part to Mount Waiʻaleʻale. Topping out at more than 5,000 feet in elevation, it is the rainiest place on the planet, averaging just over 460 inches of rain each year. If you plan to visit Kauai keep a raincoat handy, especially if you are exploring the east side or windward side of the island. If you are looking to work on your Hawaiian tan, then stay on the west side or leeward side of the island which sees more sun on any given day.