Kaua`i Hawaii, the "Garden Isle" --The name alone to those who know this small but memorable island conjures up images of majestic beauty, romance and sacred Hawaiian legends...
The eldest in the volcanic chain of Hawaii's visited islands, Kaua`i rose from the sea more than 5 million years ago.
Kaua`i's youngest volcanic rocks date back 520,000 years.
Erosion, Mother Nature's sculpting tool, has created miles of steepled, verdant cliffs on the Na Pali Coast; and the rugged Southwestern-like Waimea Canyon, as well as more beaches per mile than any of the other Hawaiian Islands.
Thanks to Kaua`i's endless summer climate and the waters of Mount Waialeale, the Garden Isle is perpetually in bloom.
While Kaua`i is the smallest of the main Hawaiian Islands, don't be fooled. Kaua`i offers an exciting blend of fun activities and cultural exploration, along with some of the most incredible vistas found on Earth (such as the Na Pali and Kaua`i's miniature Grand Canyon, Waimea).
If you have not yet experienced the delights of Kaua`i, or you would just like to get better acquainted, read on...
- Kaua`i is the northernmost of the main Hawaiian Islands.
- Kauai County encompasses the islands of Kaua‘i, Ni‘ihau and uninhabited Lehua and Ka‘ula. Ni‘ihau (68.5 square miles) is often called the "Forbidden Isle" because it is privately owned with access only by permission.
- Each Hawaiian island has its own flower or lei. Kauai's is the Mokihana, a green, berry with the fragrance of anise that is plucked by lei makers from in the tropical rainforests of Kauai and the Big Island.
- Meaning of "Kaua`i" According to the legend of Hawai`iloa (the Polynesian navigator attributed with discovery of the Hawaiian Islands), the island of Kaua`i was named after a favorite son. The name quite possibly translates to "place around the neck", referring to how a loving father would carry a child.
- Kauai has one main road and lots of traffic. To keep your vacation relaxed, plan to stay off the roads between 7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. (when most locals are going to and from work).
- Kaua`i Population: 50,000.
- Kaua`i's land mass totals only 550 square miles, making it the smallest of Hawaii's main islands.
- Lihue Airport services non-stop flights from the U.S. mainland to Kaua`i as well as inter-island flights.
- Historical Tidbit: Kaua`i was the only island of the four main islands not to be conquered by King Kamehameha. Kaua`i's ruler, Kaumuali`i, resisted for years. And when Kamehameha later sent an entire armada, an island storm stopped the army. Kaua`i, along with little sister Ni`ihau, later entered Kamehameha's unified Hawaiian Islands in 1810 of its own accord without bloodshed.
- Chakra: Kauai, second to the top of the inhabited Hawaiian islands, is associated with the 6th chakra or third eye associated with awareness and psychic and intuitive abilities.
- In Kauai mythology, the menehune, a race of magical little people, built fish ponds, walls and other structures while Kauaians slept.
- Movies filmed on Kauai: The mesmerizing beauty of the Garden Isle has been featured in nearly 100 Hollywood movies and televisions shows, including the Elvis classic, Blue Hawaii, the timeless musical South Pacific, Disney's Lilo & Stitch, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, Six Days Seven Nights (Harrison Ford). Also, the long running television series Gilligan's Island was largely filmed here ( hence the song of the same name by the late and great Braddah IZ: Israel Kamakawawiole). .
- Blue Hawaii's famous setting, the Coco Palms Resort closed in 1992 due to severe damage by Hurricane Iniki. As of this posting, redevelopment is hoped for, but not yet underway. Blue Hawaii Weddings are still performed at the famous lagoons and chapel.
Kaua`i is home to one of the wettest spots on Earth. Mount Waialeale, rising up to 5,148 in the center of the island, experiences an annual average rainfall of 460 inches. As a result, Kaua`i has literally thousands of enchanting waterfalls.
Rainfall on Kaua`i as on the other islands, varies by region. However, thanks to Kaua`i's small size, you only need drive a few minutes to experience different weather! Rainfall ranges from 20 to 30 annual inches on Kaua`i's leeward side
(west) to 60 to 90 inches on the windward north shore.
The average temperature on Kaua`i of a perfect 75 degrees that changes very little from region to region (with the exception of the cooler, high elevations), season to season and night to day.
The Na Pali Coast State Park, also called the Napali Coast, tops the list of Kauai's scenic wonders. This is Hawaii's premier wilderness experience. The castle-like, verdant cliffs overlooking miles of amazing coastline can be explored by foot, sea or air.
Read more about the Napali Coast and the various ways to experience its wonder and mystery. .
Kauai offers miles of soft sand beaches, from family beach parks to top
snorkeling and surfing spots. Unlike the other main islands, you can even find shells on Kauai beaches, as well as endangered Hawaiian monk seals. For my list of favorite Kauai beaches, a beach safety video and more, check out Coconut Roads' Best Kauai Beaches.
Other main attractions of Kaua`i include:
- ·Waimea Canyon Kauai: Mark Twain dubbed it the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific," and the name stuck - for good reason as you will see here.
- ·Koke‘e State Park: Located in Northwestern Kauai near Waimea Canyon, this 4,325 acre park features majestic koa trees, the cozy Koke`e Lodge, hiking trails, birdwatching, and last but not least Kalalau Lookout providing a view over the Na Pali to the ocean 4,000 feet below.
- Fern Grotto: The boat tour that takes up the Wailua River to this natural amphitheatre seems a bit touristy but is a "must do," especially for honeymooners. The family run boat cruises take you up the Wailua River to the Grotto. The "Hawaiian Wedding Song" is performed in the natural amphitheatre, where moist ferns hang down from the ceiling and walls.
- Wailua Falls: If you've seen the 70s television series, Fantasy Island, you've seen these falls as they are featured in the opening credits. A 4-mile, scenic drive out of Lihue, the parking area near the top of Wailua Falls, provides an exciting view of the twin falls that cascading in tiers approximately 100 feet into a large pool. The extremely slippery trail to the pool is kapu (off limits). I made the trek once when I was much younger. We saw wild parrots and a couple of women far above appeared to be taking pictures of my male hiking partner skinny dipping. Another danger of hiking down there – besides the potential viewing of skinny dippers - is that if one swims to close to the falls, the powerful hydraulics can drown even the best of swimmers. Best to enjoy from the top!
- ·National Tropical Botanical Garden: The only tropical botanical garden in the U.S. to be chartered by Congress, public tours are given at three garden sites on the island: McBryde, Allerton and Limahuli gardens.
- ·Hanalei: The focus of the famous Hawaiian song, "Hanalei Moon," this is a lovely pastoral valley of taro patches that can be viewed from the Kuhio Lookout on Kauai's North Shore near Princeville.
- Lumahai Beach. Looking down from the road up above, we knew we'd found the setting for the "Nurses' Beach" when we saw written in the sand - South Pacific. Picturesque and romantic, but the waters are treacherous.
- Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge: One of Kauai's most visited sites, the Lighthouse receives more than half a million visitors per year. The Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and National Marine Sanctuary are a birdwatcher's and whale watcher's paradise.
As if viewing Kauai's splendid attractions and hiking the Garden Isle's scenic trails wasn't enough, you'll find an abundance of additional activities on Kauai. And remember, on the Garden Isle it's summer year round, and you don't have to drive far to get anywhere.
Snorkeling in the underwater gardens of the Garden Isle is an unforgettable experience that can be enjoyed be people of all ages and swimming abilities.
To see why, read my article and check out a Hawaiian Reef video Snorkeling Kauai
Scuba Diving Kauai
Kauai isn't as popular for diving as some of the other islands, but the island does offer pristine sites teeming with colorful marine life, as well as underwater caves. You can even take a scuba diving tours to Ni'ihau, the "Forbidden Isle" and view the majestic sea arches and endangered monk seals (please only view at a distance.). Kauai's best dive spots are in the calmer waters of the South shore where visibility averages 50 feet.
Ocean Kayaking & Wailua River Kayaking
Kauai is a sea kayak paddler's paradise. And kayaking on a peaceful rivers of the Garden Isle has its own pleasure. Surf over to Coconut Roads' Kayak Kauai for the rest of the article.
Kauai Horseback Riding
Whether you're a green rider or a paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy), Kauai has a horseback riding tour for you. To learn more, read "Horseback Riding in Kauai." Giddy up!
Hawaiian Luau, Kauai Style
Kauai, steeped in ancient myth and enchanting beauty, is the perfect setting for luau. Read about two of the most popular and best Kauai luau.
Hawaii Golf Vacations
More Things to do on Kauai
Learn more about Kauai's culture by attending cultural and art festivals. These are frequently found at shopping villages, community centers and hotels.
If after a day of outdoor adventures or relaxing on a beach, you're ready to go out on the town, the resorts and the Coconut Marketplace in Kapaa (near the North Shore.) are the best spots for nightlife. Also in Kapa'a, check out Charo's (the queen of coochi coochi makes her home on Kauai).
Beautiful resorts are concentrated at Princeville on the North Shore, Poipu on the South Shore and along East (windward) Kaua`i's Coconut Coast. Time shares and condos are preferred by many visitors.
You can also stay in cabins at Koke`e or go camping. I don't recommend staying at just any campground on Kauai but some such as Anini Beach Campground at one of Kauai's best snorkeling beaches and the YMCA's Camp Slogett in upcountry Koke`e are very nice. You'll find these and other Kauai campgrounds detailed in my Kauai Eco Travel on a Budget Guide.
Geology and Geography of Kauai
Visiting Kauai - The Garden Isle is a really nice island to visit. It's small so it doesn't take long to get from place to place, and yet its regions are very different from another. The people are friendly and keep things neat and tidy. The beaches are pristine, and the gardens enchanting.
Learn how ecotourists and simply budget savvy visitors vacation on