Today we will explore the south and the west of Kauai. You can look forward to a bunch of different highlights. So make yourself comfortable and enjoy reading.
Wailua River and surroundings
The Wailua River is the only river on the Hawaiian Islands, where ships can be used. If you are more of an active person you can book a guided canoe tour. For all of you that think this is too strenuous there are boat rides that go upstream to the Fern Grotto. During this ride you will have comments about the river and it’s surroundings.
The Fern Grotto is remarkable because of the Ferns that grow on the ceiling and which are due to gravity hanging from it. What you won’t see and what you even can’t reach with your canoe are the Wailua Falls. Therefore I would suggest to spend a day hiking in Wailua State Park. Apart from a tropical rainforest you can explore quite a few sacred places of the ancient Hawaiians. The Kamokila Hawaiian Village is a good starting point to explore this natural preserve. Beginning with a temple and ending with huts where the Polynesian people lived before the Europeans came, there is a whole village to explore and you will get a good impression of life in the old days. There is a nature trail that explains everything. Once you have visited the village you can go on a tour with an Outrigger Canoe, hiking or swimming. As mentioned before Kauai is called the Garden Isle and most attractions have a nature theme.
Lihue, the capital of Kauai
Leaving Wailua you will soon arrive in Lihue. The town itself is not very interesting. Hanamaulu Bay offers a swimmable beach, but the airport is rather close here. Kalapaki Beach is also a swimmable beach and apart from a few shops and bars you will find the Kauai Beach Marriott here. The hotel is not very inviting seen from the outside, but the interior is just beautiful. The most remarkable part of the hotel is the large pool in form of a hibiscus flower.
An excursion into the world of legends
From the Nawiliwili Harbor, where you can sometimes see cruise ships, you will access the Huleia National Wildlife Refuge. Part of this Park is the Alekoko Fish Pond. The old Polynesians have a legend concerning this pond. Long before the Polynesians there were people living on the islands: the Menehune. These small people grew only to be 2,5ft. high, but possessed supernatural strenghts. They are very shy and so there aren’t many people that have actually seen them. When the chief of the Polynesians decided to built this new pond he went to the Menehune and asked them for help. They agreed to bulit it in one night, but insisted that no one would watch them doing it. The chief gladly accepted and so on the next full moon the Menehune started their task. A Hawaiian prince and his princess had a date the very same night and when they heard the noise of the construction going on they decided to sneak to the site and watch. Of course they were found and the Menehune ended their work instantly. The pond was only finished many years later by Asian plantation workers. As for the two lovers, they were punished by being transformed into rocks which can still be seen in the hills next to the pond.
When we continue we will reach Kilohana Plantation. The name of it translates to „Place not to be missed“. The plantation home can be visited and offers a good sight into the life of the rich that were living here in the old days. A part of the house is nowadays the home of one of the best restaurants on Kauai. Gaylords at Kilohana offers fine dining at its best with ingredients from Hawaii. If you are lucky enough to get a table in the courtyard you will certainly pass a memorable meal. On the grounds you can also explore a few stores, especially the Koloa Rum Company Store is not to be missed. This the only distillery on the islands that produces rum which actually tastes very good. But the highlight of the plantation is the historical train that runs around the grounds. During the ride you will get more interesting information about the work life on a plantation. If you want to go to a luau I can recommend Kalamaku. Every tuesday and friday night you can experience a great show. Not as authentic as others, but very professionell.
To reach our next stop it takes only a short drive. Koloa is a small historic village where the plantation workers used to live. You can see one of the oldest sugar mills in Hawaii. The houses are home to a few souvenir shops and galleries. It’s worth a short stroll.
Kauai’s southern coast, Poipu
Poipu on the southern coast is a resort town with a broad selection of mostly luxurious hotels and beautiful beaches. A bit inland there are two small shopping malls. On Mondays and Thursdays afternoon your shopping spree at the Poipu Shopping Village will be accompangied by a free live Hula show. On Wednesdays the Shops at Kukui’ula offer a Culinary Market with live-cooking and tasting. On Friday nights you can listen to Hawaiian musicians playing here. I want to point one shop at Kukui’ula: Lappert’s Hawaii sells very tasty ice cream made of Hawaiian ingredients. Delicious…….
Poipu has pristine beaches, where you can at least most of the time take a swim. But on certain days the currents are too strong for doing it. You have the choice between several bays. Baby Beach is suitable for kids, while Brennecke’s Beach is best for body surfing. The most popular are Poipu Beach and Shipwreck Beach. But only Poipu Beach has a lifeguard on duty. On this beach I had an encounter with a Hawaiian Monk Seal, although I first realized that a bunch of people were tying ropes and therefore cutting off a part of the beach. The conservation of flora and fauna is very important to Hawaiians and a lot of them engage in volunteering. Oh, and I found the seal most impressive.
A bit further west you will find another spouting horn. As I have told you before you will find these along the coast of the islands. When the tide is high the water is pressed through them and builds fountains.
An impressive natural sight: the Napali Coast
From Poipu we continue to Ele’ele and Hanapepe. The drive leads us through coffee plantations that have replaced the pineapple and sugar cane fields. Hawaiian coffee tastes, due to the volcanic soil, different as any other coffees. It has less acidity, but a very intense taste. My favorite is still the Kona coffee, but I will tell you more about it, when I am writing about the island of Hawaii, also known as the Big Island.
Hanapepe is the starting point for excursions to one of the most beautiful regions of Kauai, the Napali Coast. This stretch of the coast can only be reached by water or from the air but is for me one of the most stunning coast lines on this planet. I recommend that you book a snorkeling tour to explore it. You’ll have to get up rather early in the morning, but you will be part of an awesome tour. When leaving Hanapepe your catamaran will be guided by dolphins. Apparently the best time to watch those highly intelligent animals is early morning. I am always enraptured by their games. Aboard the ship you will be served breakfast which you can relish in peace, since it’ll take some time before you reach the northern coast. At the turning point you will get a climpse of Ni’ihau, the forbidden island, which can be visited by invitation only. It used to be a plantation, but today it is protected by the owners and they aim to preserve the original Hawaiian culture. On your way back you should have your camera ready. You will have the sun in your back and the perfect light for some great shots of the colorful cliffs. At different locations you can see waterfalls tumbling over high cliffs into the ocean, while on other stretches you will see romantic beaches inviting you for a swim. In my first part of the Kauai excursion I wrote about the Kalalau Trail that runs along this coast. At some point the captain will anchor and you’ll be snorkeling. I never was a big friend of this sport, since all my attempts ended with a feeling that I drank half the ocean. But after the instruction by the crew aboard this catamaran, I was able to snorkel and was delighted. The underwater world off the Hawaiian coast is colorful and offers a broad variety. And if you are lucky you might even swim with a honu (turtle). The best to describe all this is to show you pictures. So here you go:
From Hanapepe we continue a bit further west to Waimea. There is not much to be told about this small town unless you are lookign for a romantic hideaway. The Waimea Plantation Cottages used to be a plantation and the small houses for the employees were turned into vacation homes. On the grounds you will also find a small black beach without lifeguard and in it’s natural state. Something else wouldn’t fit here.
THE highlight of Kauai: Waimea Canyon
One more reason why you should go to Waimea. This is the starting point for our grande finale of our tour around the island. The road is climbing the mountains and will lead you to the rim of Waimea Canyon. It is the second largest in the US and is also called the Grand Caynon of the Pacific. It is about 10 miles long and up to 3000 feet deep. In contrast to it’s big brother you will see apart from colorful stones a lot of green, since due to the precipitation there are plants growing in niches and on ledges.
Hiking in Waimea Canyon
There are two different trails you can take to explore the canyon. The short Ililau Trail is a nature path with lots of information about the formation of the canyon plus the flora and fauna of this area. If you hike the Kukui Trail you will descend along the western side about 2000 feet towards the ground. There you can camp overnight, but you will have to get a permission in the park. Since it can get very hot in the canyon you should start your tour early in the morning. And please keep in mind that you will have to climb those 2000 feet again. You will be rewarded with pure nature and fantastic views. And don’t forget to take enough water. There are no possibilities to buy anything on your way.
If you don’t want to make the descend, there are more trails to be found that’ll bring you to the top of the cliffs of the Napali Coast. And in this part of Kauai you will realize why this island is called the Garden Island.
Before I close my post for today, one more tip. If you like helicopter flights this is the place to treat you to one. This way you will see all this beauty from above. A truly unforgettable event.
Did I give you enough reasons to go to Kauai? Have you been there before and have more recommendations for first timers? I am looking forward to your comments.
Mahalo nui loa for your attention.