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Kauai, Hawaii

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Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know … ?

  • The westernmost inhabited spot in the U.S. is on Kauai.
  • Kauai has Hawaii’s only navigable rivers.
  • “South Pacific” (1958) is among the more than 60 films and TV shows with scenes shot on Kauai.
  • Only 10% of Kauai’s landscape is accessible by road.
  • Nineteenth century Portuguese immigrants brought the ukulele to Hawaii.

The Napali spectacle

Kauai, Hawaii’s northernmost island, is characterized by craggy mountains, deep canyons, extended coastal beaches — and the color green. Its encircling waters are home to coral reefs and the marine life that entice snorkelers and scuba divers to come in for a closer look. Visitors watch for whales while on sightseeing boat tours or even from the beaches. Wildlife lovers may also see the rare and endangered Hawaiian monk seal; these seals like the beaches, too.

The most striking of Kauai’s landscape features are the 3,500-foot-deep Waimea Canyon, called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and the spectacular Napali Coast. The latter’s green cliffs stand more than 3,000 feet above the ocean and drop off into protected valleys and behind sandy coves, enchanting in their pristine isolation. Napali Coast is reachable only by air, water or foot, and visitors choose their means of access based on personal style and preference.

Tourists also explore the island’s history with visits to an ancient heiau (temple), early settler’s homes and plantations, and the Kauai Museum. Further, they encounter modern iterations of Hawaiian culture at luaus — for food and hula performances; ukulele concerts, and several festivals that are fun, entertaining and even enlightening.

Kauai’s tourist centers are in pockets on its north, east and south sides, leaving most of the island essentially rural, with few roads and relatively untouched — just the kind of environment that appeals to nature lovers. Besides, height restrictions prevent buildings from towering over the coconut trees, another boon to the landscape.

Tourism promoters, pointing to the large waves hitting Kauai’s shores, urge visitors to swim only where there are lifeguards. They warn divers and snorkelers to check ocean conditions to avoid unmanageable currents. Napali Coast is only available to kayakers and snorkelers in summer. Divers, snorkelers and ocean kayakers should go out with guides.

Further, the sun can be intense. The best advice says use sunscreen, a hat and abundant drinking water; also, avoid sunbathing at midday. With the right precautions, the island is enjoyable and invigorating any time of year.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Take advantage of more than 20 miles in hiking trails in the grand Waimea Canyon. Or, cycle down the 3,500-foot-deep canyon as part of a tour.
  • Hike to the beach on the Napali Coast. A strenuous 11 miles, it takes trekkers across five valleys. With a permit, camp en route or at the beach.
  • Attend the autumn Kauai Mokihana Festival, which has a range of elements, including hula dance competitions, other contests, crafts and workshops. For a little more atmosphere, also visit the Hauola Place of Refuge in Lydgate State Park. Hawaiian ancestors would flea to this sacred spot for sanctuary as needed.
  • If an experienced diver, make the east or west coasts your playground. If less experienced or needing scuba lessons, head to the north or south shores. Or, check out the surfing at Hanalei Bay or Poipu Beach.
  • Make an appointment to tour one of the taro farms in the Hanalei area.
  • Go where you did not expect to go while driving an ATV. Choose your ATV tour for its adventurous side or its scenic off-road routes.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Kayak on one of Kauai’s rivers. Or, sign on for a guided kayak tour on the Napali Coast (only in summer).
  • Learn about life for early western settlers in Hawaii. Tour the 1837 Waioli Mission House at Hanalei. Board the Kauai Plantation Railway for a train tour through Kilohana Plantation, a working plantation raising a diverse range of crops. On the other hand, the Grove Farm Homestead at Lihue, a former sugar plantation, is a museum.
  • Join a guided horseback riding tour on the bluffs, across sugarcane fields, near secluded beaches and more. Tours range from 90 minutes to five hours.
  • Walk or cycle the 10-mile Koloa Heritage Trail, which has 14 stops highlighting scenery and history.
  • Take to the skies in an air tour (helicopter or fixed wing) over the Napali Coast.
  • Float down the waterways of Kauai’s interior on a guided mountain tubing adventure. Alternatively, several operators offer snorkeling tours. Make a choice.

Things to do for Authentics

  • On the south shore, look for humpback whales offshore. At Poipu Beach, look for but keep your distance from the endangered Hawaiian monk seals sometimes seen sunbathing on the shore.
  • Join a guided tour to a variety of film locations and hear some of the backstories associated with various film productions.
  • Take a boat tour for a look at the dramatic Napali Coast, which looks much as it would have looked to those approaching by sea centuries ago.
  • Study the landscape from the golf course.
  • Relax. Find a beach for swimming and sunbathing. Find a spa to collect some pampering.
  • Relish things Hawaiian. Listen to Hawaiian music and chants and watch hula dancers at a luau, a traditional feast. Attend a ukulele concert in Hanalei. Also, shop for goods labeled Kauai Made.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau at www.gohawaii.com and click on the Kauai button.