About Kauai – The Garden Island
Kauai offers everything you could ever imagine paradise to be. There are incredible cliffs, canyons, and 50 miles of incredible beaches. Kauai also offers various small towns that can give you a unique cultural experience that surpasses those found at typical tourist areas. Because there is so much to explore, Kauai is called Hawaii’s Island of Discovery.
Kauai Tour and Activity Information
Kauai has loads of tours and activities to keep you busy. We have chosen the most popular and compiled a listing for your convenience.
The island of Kauai, also called the “Garden Isle,” is Hawaii’s fourth largest island, and it is also the oldest and the furthest north. Valleys, mountains, cliffs, waterfalls, rainforests, rivers, and beaches characterize it. What makes Kauai even more unique is that some of it can only be accessed by boat or by air! All of these unique sights make it possible for visitors to experience some of the best snorkeling, hiking, and zip-lining that Hawaii has to offer. There’s a reason Hawaii’s Kauai is called the “Garden Isle.” Located 100 miles northwest of Oahu, Kauai is a lush volcanic island full of jagged cliffs and scenic beaches. How is such dramatic natural beauty possible? Chalk it up to six million years of geological history, and one of the most inviting climates in the world!
The Napali Coast
The Napali Coast on Kauai’s north side is one of the most scenic areas in the world. Accessible only by land via the 11-mile-long Kalalau Trail, the Napali Coast presents a formidable challenge even to the experienced hiker, who will encounter several valleys along the way to a beach hideaway. If that is too demanding for your tastes, there are still plenty of other options by which you may explore the region, from guided kayaking excursions and summer boat tours, to air adventures over Waimea Canyon.
Getting to the Napali Coast is an adventure in and of itself. The sole mode of land access is the Kalalau Trail, which winds 11 miles from Kee Beach through several valleys before culminating at the remote Kalalau Beach. It’ll take you the better part of a day to do the entire hike, but it’s well worth it. Meanwhile, kayaking trips offer tremendous viewing opportunities, for you’ll find yourself passing under the shadows of the cliffs for hours. By contrast, for something a bit lower impact, you can take a boat or helicopter tour over the turbulent waters north of Kauai, and simply let the region’s splendor unfurl before your eyes.
If beaches are more your cup of tea, then you’ll love Kauai’s white sands and pristine waters. Poipu Beach Park, which is sometimes visited by monk seals, is among the island’s most popular beaches in which to sunbathe, swim, or even surf. Several other locations are ideal for snorkeling, such as Anini Beach Park and Kee Beach on the north shore, and Lydgate Beach Park to the east. More seasoned surfers may want to hit Hanalei Bay or Kalapaki Beach.
Finally, visitors will want to make sure they take a trip on the peaceful Wailua River. Flowing down from Mt. Waialeale, the river takes travelers past Opaekaa Falls and Wailua Falls, and is an ideal place for kayaking or canoeing.
Kauai’s place in modern history began in 1810 when the island officially became a part of the Kingdom of Hawaii under Kamehameha the Great. Kauai, in fact, was the very last of the independent chiefdoms to bow a knee to the conquering king. Soon after, in the 1830’s, the Town of Koloa opened the island’s first sugar mill, leading to more than a century of sugar exporting, which led Hawaii to prominence and economic strength. Although sugar is still grown here at one century-old plantation, most of the island’s fertile lands are currently used for ranching. Meanwhile, the biggest industry by far is tourism; Kauai welcomes well over a million visitors each year!
Making the island an especially attractive destination is its picture-perfect weather. No matter the time of year, Kauai offers a tropical escape that’s hard to top. Average daily ground temperatures range from the upper-60’s during the winter, to the mid-80’s during the summer…though proximity to water and elevation have combined to create seven microclimates that can often be considerably cooler or hotter than the average. Meanwhile, the waters are an inviting 70-to-80-degrees throughout the year. Perhaps best of all, Kauai experiences year-round sun. While it’s true that the island can get rainy at times, most of those wet spells occur in the evenings and are short-lived.
Things to do on Kauai
So what exactly is there to do on Kauai? Well, for starters, no trip to Hawaii is complete without a stop at the beaches. And, boy, does Kauai have beaches—50 miles’ worth, in fact! On the north shore of the island, visitors can spend an afternoon on Hanalei Bay. This pristine crescent-shaped strip of sand is an awesome place to lounge and soak in the sun, or to get active by going for a jaunt in the water. On the other side of the island are the inviting waves of Poipu Beach. The waters here are crystal clear, making them perfect for an underwater snorkeling discovery tour. While on it, you just might spot the humuhumunukunukuapuaa (say that ten times fast!), Hawaii’s state fish. But even if you want to stay above the ocean surface, you’re in luck. Poipu Beach boasts opportunities to view a number of rare animals, including 500-pound monk seals, green sea turtles, and in the winter and early spring, humpback whales. Suffice it to say, don’t leave your binoculars at home!
Another must-see along the Kauai coastline are its jagged cliffs. The finest ones are located on the Napali Coast, which is situated in dramatic fashion on the north shore of the island. For 17 miles, these natural pillars dominate the skies, offering unparalleled sightseeing and photography opportunities—of the cliffs and of the Pacific Ocean, respectively. Like most places in Kauai, the Napali Coast is bursting with foliage, creating a dramatic effect. And further enhancing a visit here are the waterfalls and valleys that break up the otherwise monolithic, 4,000-ft.-tall cliffs.
Meanwhile, on the eastern side of Kauai is the place they call the “Coconut Coast,” due to its many coconut palm trees. Here you can visit pristine Wailua River State Park, and even go kayaking or canoeing along its 20-mile-long river that will wind you past seven ancient temples. The park is also home to two of Kauai’s most famous waterfalls, Opaekaa Falls and Wailua Falls. The former is an 150-ft.-tall cascade that flows throughout the year, much of the time in a double stream, while the latter surpasses 170-ft. in height and is famous for its being featured on the credits of the TV program, Fantasy Island.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that Kauai is simply about nature and the outdoors. In fact, the island is full of human history and small towns that are worth exploring. Kapaa, located on the east coast of Kauai in the historic Puna District, is the island’s largest city. It offers plenty of hotel accommodations and restaurants, not to mention a killer view of Nounou Mountain, known as the “Sleeping Giant.” To the west is the quaint community of Hanapepe, which is a vibrant town full of art and culture. Art galleries and studios complement the boutiques and restaurants in making Hanapepe an excellent place to window shop. Finally, pass through the legendary Tree Tunnel on Maluhia Road and head to Old Koloa Town in southern Kauai. Here you can find a history center, local ice cream, and the Koloa Heritage Trail, which will transport you to a number of significant sites.
As you can tell, Kauai is an ideal vacation destination any time of year. Hoping to escape the gloom and doom of a midwestern winter? Kauai’s got heat and sun aplenty. Looking for historical villages and quaint towns? Kauai’s got dozens of ’em. Seeking world-class accommodations with out-of-this-world views? Again, Kauai’s got it down! And that’s not even getting into the endless supply of cliffs, beaches, and outdoor activities for which the island has become renowned.
So take a plane out into the Pacific, and don’t forget your camera, shorts, and sun block. Kauai’s array of attractions promise to captivate you for days on end!