Kauai, also known as the Garden Isle, is the greenest of the Hawaiian Islands. Mount Waialeale on Kauai is one of the wettest places on earth. The high rainfall is the reason why this island has so many beautiful valleys, canyons and waterfalls. We visited Kauai in April 2012 and put together our top 5 things to do on Kauai, enjoy!
1. Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Park
Drive to Waimea and take the Waimea Canyon Drive. It is recommended to first drive all the way up to the Kalalau lookout in Koke’e State Park. It is very often cloudy and wet up there but in the morning you will have the best chance to get a good view. Go to the Koke’e museum where you can get a hiking map for a small donation and updated information on which trails are opened. Some beautiful hiking trails are the Awa’awapuhi trail which leads you through the Awa’awapuhi valley to a beautiful lookout over the coast, the Alakai Swamp trail which leads you through swamps and wet forest to the Wainiha Pali rim and the Pihea trail which leads you along the rim of Kalalau Valley.
Afterwards drive back to the Waimea Canyon. This Canyon also called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific is definitely one of the highlights on Kauai. Hike one of the shorter trails around the canyon or to one of the lookouts.
Once back in Waimea, make sure to stop in the Shrimp Station. It is not a real restaurant and only has a few tables in front of the station but the shrimps are delicious and very decently priced.
2. Wailua River Valley area
Explore this beautiful river by kayak or boat. The beautiful and romantic Fern Grotto, which can only be reached by boat, is an unique experience. When you are lucky they might even be playing traditional Hawaiian music in the Grotto.
In this area you can also admire two easily accessible falls, the Wailua Falls and the Opaekaa Falls. Visit the Wailua Falls early morning as you will have a good chance to see a rainbow and take a stunning picture of the falls. Also the Opaekaa Falls will provide you with great photo opportunities.
3. Na Pali Coast State Park
This famous and stunning coastline starts at Ke’e Beach and goes till Polihale State Park. It is impossible to visit the Na Pali Coast by car but you can admire breathtaking views on the coastline by taking a boat, kayak or air tour.
The best way to explore the Na Pali Coast is by hiking the Kalalau Trail, the only Trail on the Na Pali Coast. If you want to complete the trail from Ke’e Beach to Kalalau Valley you will need a camping permit. Most people hike the trail till Hanakapiai beach after which you can continue hiking to the Hanakapiai falls. The Hanakapiai falls are the perfect place to eat your lunch and have a swim. This hike makes a great day trip, make sure to bring enough food and water.
4. Hanalei Beach and Pier
Hanalei Beach is a a great place. You can take surfing lessons, a boat tour or just go for a swim while admiring the impressive cliffs. The parking lot is located next to the old Pier. Every evening the locals gather together here to have a drink and when you’re lucky maybe even to play a bit of music. Make sure to take some drinks with you.
A popular place to have dinner in this area is the Postcards Cafe in Hanalei which has some very good fresh fish dishes. It is recommended that you make a reservation as otherwise you might end up waiting more than an hour.
5. Kilauea Lighthouse
The Kilauea Lighthouse definitely is a very picturesque photo spot. You can learn a lot about the birds and wildlife on Kauai in this refuge. From December to April it is also the perfect place to spot whales. The refuge opens at 10 am and entrance fee is USD 5. It is definitely worth a visit but to be honest the best photo spot for the Lighthouse is just before you enter on the parking lot.
I really enjoyed our stay on Kauai and the stunning views from the coastline. It sometimes reminded me of the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Both coastlines are magnificent, very impressive and still very different.