Kaua’i, The Garden Isle, is aptly named. It is the oldest of the main Hawaiian island chain. It is largely undeveloped and has a country-like feel outside of the touristy hotel areas. Kaua’i is famous for its magnificent scenic attractions, primarily the Na Pali coast, Waimea Canyon, and Hanalei Valley. The island also has gorgeous white-sand beaches, though many are unsafe for swimming during the winter months.
The main tourist & hotel areas are Po’ipu Beach and Princeville. But Kaua’i also has many rental condos, B&Bs, and lovely small hotels all over the island.
Kaua’i boasts Na Pali, which means “the cliffs”. They are spectacular, looming over the Pacific Ocean, graced with secret waterfalls and deep valleys. Na Pali covers a large portion of the northern coast of the island. You can enjoy the sights and sounds of Na Pali in numerous ways:
- Drive to Na Pali Lookouts. Na Pali means “the cliffs”. You can drive to two scenic lookout points. Drive to the second and final lookout point to do the Pihea hike, a short and easy hike with views, birds, and native plant life. The Pihea hike is accessible from the second Kalalau lookout (Pu’u O Kila) in Koke’e State Park. The drive through Kokee State Park is also very pretty.
- Take a helicopter or boat tour to view Na Pali from the water – if you are up for this and can afford it, it is not to be missed. Because the cliffs are largely inaccessible, the best way to view Na Pali is by water or air. Tours leave from both the Northshore and the south; the best are from the northshore, but weather and time of year will largely determine from where you can depart.
- Hike part (4 miles round-trip) or all (22 miles round-trip) of the well-traveled Kalalau Trail. You’ll get unparalleled views of Na Pali along the trail. Even the shorter hike is strenuous, but is well worth it.
Note: If you hike the Kalalau Trail, be aware that hiking in Hawai’i is probably a lot harder than what you’re used to, even if you are an experienced and fit hiker. The Kalalau trail is narrow, steep, muddy, rocky, and rooty. You will likely need twice as much water as you think you will. Protection from the strong tropical sun is critical. Be sure to consult a hiking guide, such as Stuart Ball’s guides, before attempting this hike.
Additional highlights of Kaua’i:
- Scenic drive to northshore, with stops in Hanalei town and Ke’e Beach, at the end of the highway/gateway to Na Pali coast hiking trails
- Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of Hawai’i. You can stop at scenic lookouts for Waimea Canyon on the way to the Na Pali Lookouts. Hikes in Waimea Canyon are also possible for the more adventurous.
- Poipu Beach Park – pleasant and central place for a picnic and swimming
- A kayaking trip on the Wailua River
- Snorkeling at Tunnels Beach
- Visiting other beaches – there are many to choose from.