Kauai is the Hawaiian island treasured for its lush tropical greenery and sparkling sand beaches. Visitors to the island are in awe of its postcard-perfect beauty, as well as its diversity of cultures, activities, shopping and dining. Verdant rainforests, impressive golf courses, vibrant scenery, friendly faces, blissful breezes, navigable rivers and striking waterfalls are just a few of Kauai's spectacular offerings. Exploring Kauai is to unearth secrets more than five million years old and the world's greatest natural wonders. Walk along beaches where the ocean marries the coastline in a heavenly match; watch with wonder as dolphins and whales swim in their natural habitat; and observe the panoramic beauty of Kauai's remarkable vistas. Where else in the world can you discover an island that truly bestows everything on its guests: soft, refreshing coolness atop a mountain; brief, misty rain showers; an arid desert; and the ever-smiling warmth of the sun?
A quick glance at a map gives little clue to the unfolding wonder and diverse scenery that Kauai has to offer. From tranquil forests, interrupted by the occasional calls of native birds, to the steep green ramparts of the Na Pali Coast, to the beaches and towns that dot the shore - Kauai deserves leisurely exploration. With essentially one road, you can take time to get acquainted with the island's geography. Along the way, you'll discover natural beauty, historic byways and very contemporary luxuries. Take your beach towel, hiking shoes, sunglasses and a picnic lunch, and follow the signs to the amazing sights. Don't forget your camera!
NORTH SHORE: A gathering of stunning vistas, historic sites and quaint towns. North Kauai is perched between mountains and sea. This quiet stretch of road, stitched together by one-lane bridges, leads to the Hawaiian Islands northernmost point; to tranquil Hanalei, and beyond, at its end, to the cliffs and idyllic beaches of the Na Pali Coast.
HANALEI: The grandeur of Kauai's North Shore is revealed from picture-perfect Hanalei Valley Lookout. The small, peaceful town of Hanalei is filled with colorful shops, restaurants and unique art galleries. Lumahai Beach is where Mitzi Gaynor "washed that man right out of my hair" in Hollywood's memorable musical, South Pacific. Or pack a picnic and venture out to Hanalei Bay, which Dr. Beach named America's Best Beach in 2009. On Sunday, listen to Hawaiian hymns at Waioli Huiia Church. And after a busy day, relax under a luminous Hanalei Bay sunset.
EAST SIDE: Known as the Royal Coconut Coast, East Kauai was once the home of royalty. With its tumbling waterfalls, palm-fringed river and beautiful beaches, it's easy to see why this place was chosen. Explore the Wailua River's meandering waters, play on the golden sands of the East Side beaches and stop for a meal and stroll in the town of Kapaa.
LIHUE: Lihue is the island's government hub and airport gateway, but it also captures the unique spirit of Kauai. Beautifully preserved traditional fishponds, plantations and museums offer a glimpse into a rich and treasured past; while pristine beaches, exquisite golf courses, a cruise ship harbor and plenty of shopping extend a very present-day welcome.
SOUTH SHORE: Once the main port of entry to Kauai, the island's south shore includes the 10-mile Koloa Heritage Trail - an ideal place to examine relics of local history. Take in the recurring drama of the Spouting Horn; keep an eye out for rare monk seals; enjoy the sunny beauty of Poipu Beach; visit two of Kauai's impressive botanical gardens; play a round of golf. There's so much to do on Kauai's sunny side.
WEST SIDE: Kauai's West Side is defined by nature and scenery on a grand scale. From the laid-back and historic town of Waimea to the enormous drama of Waimea Canyon, this stretch of shore, road and parkland includes some of the island's most memorable sights and stunning panoramas.
WAIMEA CANYON: This massive canyon known as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific," provides stunning views of Kauai's lush valley and tropical forest canopies. There are numerous lookouts if sightseeing by car, as well as over 40 miles of hiking trails.
NA PALI COAST: Spectacular, drama, challenge, beauty. These words begin to describe the Na Pali Coast of Kauai, but miss the epic proportions, the stunning colors of land and water, the historic importance, the remote isolation and the magic. Iconic green-clad ramparts overlooking uninterrupted views of the Pacific soar more than 3,000 feet above the turquoise sea. White sandy coves sit undisturbed in their rocky shelter. This is a place of awe and wonder.
FILM LOCATIONS: Jurassic Park I, II and III; Pirates of the Caribbean; Avatar; King Kong; Raiders of the Lost Ark; Tropic Thunder; The Descendants and South Pacific, to name a few, were all filmed on Kauai. Is it any wonder? With the dramatic backdrop of towering mountains and cascading waterfalls in an almost primal setting, it makes any screenplay come to life.
Nicknamed "The Garden Isle," Kauai is covered with green mountainsides, carved with dramatic cliffs and canyons, and drenched with enchantment. The northernmost and oldest of the Hawaiian islands is a place that is shared among those who celebrate the incredible natural beauty of this remarkable place. Enjoy Kauai's easy pace, whether you're kayaking down Hawaii's only navigable rivers, riding a zipline over the treetops, or sipping a Mai Tai on a sunset sail. Allow the island's unique charm to tantalize and enrich every moment of your vacation. An emerald treasure, Kauai is your special island to explore, discover and appreciate.
If you plan on going past Hanalei to see more of the North Shore's spectacular scenery, hike the Kalalau Trail, etc. you will need to obtain a pass to do so. You can click "Haena Park Reservations" in the "More Resources " section at the bottom of this page for complete details. Reservations can be made up to 30 days in advance.
Seeing waterfalls on Kauai is always a great experience. Two of the easiest ones to see are Wailua Falls and Opaekaa Falls. Both are near the Wailua River on the east side of the island. There are parking spaces right by Wailua Falls, as well as a large parking area from which you can view Opaekaa Falls. In addition, there's a Wailua River Valley overlook right across the road.
Farmers' markets are always fun and one of the best on Kauai is the Kauai Culinary Market that is held at The Shops at Kukuliula every Wednesday from 3:30 PM to 6:00 PM. Not only do you have the opportunity to enjoy some great food and great music, there are many other local products you can purchase, which is a good way to support the local farmers and small business owners.
Kauai Information from the
Hawaii Tourism Authority
Additional Kauai Information
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