Our first visit to the Island of Kauai (the oldest of the islands) was in the late 90’s and it immediately became our favorite place to visit. If a pristine, authentic island experience is what you’re seeking, Kauai has to be on your list of places to see.
Kauai is made up of five distinct areas: West Side, North Shore, East Side (Coconut Coast), Lihue and the South Shore. Each region offers its own brand of attractions ranging from fresh water rivers to cascading waterfalls. If hiking in massive canyons or along sheer walls of emerald green rain forests sounds appealing, Kauai has it all.
West Side Kauai:
The opportunities to explore abound on the west side. One great place to spend time is in the Waimea Canyon (commonly called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific) area. The canyon stretches over 14 miles
and is 1 mile wide and over 3600 feet deep. The main lookout offers fantastic views of the islands interior valleys, cliffs and towering buttes. There are numerous trails, well suited for both beginner and seasoned hikers.
At the end of the canyon road you’ll find Kokee State Park. The park encompasses over 4300 acres and sits on a plateau 3000 to 4000 feet above sea level. The park is covered in forest, wild flowers and over 45 acres of hiking trails offering outstanding views of the valley as it reaches out to the sea.
The towns of Waimea and Hanapepe offer opportunities to dine and shop while exploring some of Hawaii’s early history.
Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) Tor Johnson
North Shore Kauai:
This dramatic area is defined by pristine beaches, waterfalls, mountains, sea cliffs, quaint towns as well as luxury resort towns and lush taro fields.
If hiking is a favorite pastime then the 17 mile Napali area is your ticket. Trails that wind along mountains reaching 3000 feet into the air offer spectacular
views of the coastline, emerald valleys and cascading waterfalls. This area is accessible only by foot, boat or air.
The town of Hanalei is a great place to spend the afternoon browsing shops dining and enjoying beautiful beaches. The town has a wonderful history and the watching a sunset on Hanalei Bay will create a memory for a lifetime.
The Kilauea Lighthouse and surrounding area sits 200 feet above sea level and is a perfect spot for pictures. From December through May you may catch a glimpse of migrating humpback whales. The 52 foot lighthouse was built in 1913 and is a favorite visitor attraction.
If you like luxuries resorts and enjoy premier golf courses, the Princeville area is a must to see. Princeville at Hanalei still retains the peace and beauty of ancient days, when Hawaiians farmed in the green valley below. Named ‘Princeville’ in 1860 in honor of Hawaii's crown prince, Prince Albert, this one of a kind, Ocean View Resort has been home to Sugar Plantations and Cattle Ranches.
East Side Kauai:
This area is often referred to as the “Coconut Coast” because of the number of groves intermixed with the numerous resorts. A large portion of the population of the island can be found in this area.
There are numerous beaches (Anahola, Donkey, Kealia, and Lydgate) that offer surfing and snorkeling as well as safe family swimming. Lydgate Beach Park hosts two lava rock enclosed pools that are ideal for beginning snorkelers and families.
The town of Kapaa offers great shopping opportunities with the Kinipopo, Wailua and Coconut Marketplace shopping centers. Fine dining is available throughout the town when your shopping day is completed.
Attractions include the Fern Grotto, Nounou Mountain (Sleeping Giant), Opaekaa waterfalls and the Wailua River.
This area is home to the government and commercial districts of Kauai. Lihue is probably the most traveled town on Kauai as it is home to the airport and seaport for cruise ships.
Take some time to visit the historic and cultural areas of the city for a complete overview of life on the island. There are great resorts and golf courses in Lihue as well as beaches for body surfing, windsurfing and swimming.
Lihue is home to many historical points of interest including the Alekoko (Menehune Fishpond) a 1000 year old aquaculture reservoir. Be sure to check out the Kilohana Estate and Grove Farm Homestead for a look back into the history of the plantation era of Kauai.
Wailua Falls is an 80 foot high waterfall and is easily accessible for pictures and is located just north of Lihue.
South Shore Kauai:
The south shore area is known for its predictable sunshine. With fantastic resorts and golf courses the south shore has always been our favorite destination. Photo By: Hawaii Tourism Japan (HTJ)
The Poipu Beach Park area is a great place to spend the day. Its beach was once listed as “Americas Best Beach” and offers a variety of water activities and dining opportunities. A great place to start a walk in either direction makes this a convenient location from which to start your discovery day.
Old Koloa Town is a fun place to spend some time while in the area. It’s both historic and picturesque and its first sugar mill (1835) set the standard for commercial sugar production across the islands. It was the sugar industry that brought the immigrants that now make up the multicultural population of the islands.
The town has maintained much of its charm by utilizing the original plantation buildings for the current stores and shops. Pick up a great cup of coffee or and ice cream cone and go explore the Koloa Heritage Trail for an in-depth view into the past.