Kauai is Hawaii’s fourth largest island and is sometimes called the “Garden Isle,” which is an entirely accurate description. The oldest and northernmost island in the Hawaiian chain is draped in emerald valleys, sharp mountain spires and jagged cliffs, aged by time and the elements. Centuries of growth have formed tropical rainforests, forking rivers and cascading waterfalls. Some parts of Kauai are only accessible by sea or air, revealing views beyond your imagination. Beyond Kauai’s dramatic beauty, the island is home to a variety of outdoor activities. Kayak the Wailua River, snorkel on Poipu Beach, hike the trails of Kokee State Park. Even go ziplining above Kauai’s lush valleys. But it is the island’s laid-back atmosphere and rich culture found in its small towns and along its one-lane bridges that make it truly timeless.
From the soaring cliffs of the Napali Coast to the vast chasms of Waimea Canyon, Kauai embraces the senses like no other destination. Explore the island via land, sea or air to experience settings you’ve only dreamed about. Discover 50-miles of heavenly beaches from Poipu Beach to Hanalei Bay. Explore charming and historic small towns like Hanapepe and Koloa where no building is taller than a coconut tree. With so much to experience, “Hawaii’s Island of Discovery” is begging to be explored.
Kauai's dramatic North Shore is an enchanting setting full of rugged mountains, lush taro fields, heavenly beaches and spectacular sea cliffs. You’ll be amazed at how much beauty can be found in just one area of Kauai. Begin your journey on the island’s northernmost point. Historic Kilauea Lighthouse is a wildlife sanctuary and a scenic spot for whale watching. Visit lovely Hanalei Town, home to stretches of green taro fields alongside colorful shops, galleries and restaurants. You’ll also find some of Kauai’s best beaches here, including Lumahai Beach, the setting for the film “South Pacific,” and Kee Beach, ideal for sunbathing. You can also learn about native plants and see scenic ocean views at Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens or at the 17-acre Limahuli Garden and Preserve, part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden. But the most stunning feature of Kauai's North Shore is the magnificent Napali Coast. This 17-mile stretch of coastline is lined with cliffs up to 3,000-feet high, accented with lush green valleys, cascading waterfalls and sea caves. Inaccessible by car, you can hike or take an air or boat tour to view this breathtaking natural wonder. The North Shore is also home to the upscale resort area of Princeville where you can indulge in world-class hospitality and play at some of Kauai’s premier golf courses. You can also find other accommodations here ranging from historic bed and breakfasts to rental homes allowing everyone the opportunity to experience the beauty of Kauai’s North Shore.
Kauai's East Side is sometimes referred to as the Coconut Coast for the groves of coconut palms that grow in its resort areas. The most populated district on the island, about 16,000 of the island's 62,000 residents reside in the Wailua/Kapaa area. Amongst the clusters of coconut trees you’ll find historic places, amazing beaches and memorable attractions.
In Wailua, you’ll find a variety of sightseeing opportunities and outdoor activities. Kayak the Wailua River in Wailua River State Park, take a boat ride to the Fern Grotto, or take photos at Opaekaa Falls. Don’t forget to try and spot the Sleeping Giant in the Nounou Mountains or take a hike up this scenic ridge. Sacred places like Polihau Heiau, the large lava-rock temple of Kauai’s last king, Kaumualii, can also be found on the East Side. And be sure to visit Kapaa Town to discover fine Hawaiian craft pieces, aloha-print shirts, jewelry and art.
But the golden beaches of the Coconut Coast may be the area’s biggest draw. Unwind at Anahola Beach Park, whale watch at Donkey Beach or watch the surfers at Kealia Beach to the north. Lydgate Beach Park in Wailua has two lava rock enclosed ocean pools that are perfect places for families and first-time snorkelers. Fun in the sun awaits you on the Coconut Coast.
Lihue is the government and commercial center of the island as well as a cultural and historical area. This may be the most traveled town on Kauai since it is home to Kauai’s main airport (the Lihue Airport) and Nawiliwili Harbor, the island's major commercial shipping center and cruise ship port.
Lihue has a variety of beaches and natural wonders to explore. Kalapaki Beach is the home of the Marriott Kauai's Beach Club and the Kauai Lagoons Golf Club. Bodysurfing, windsurfing and swimming make Kalapaki a popular destination. Ninini Beach is home to an automated lighthouse, operating since 1897. And just north of Lihue, don’t forget to stop at the Wailua Falls lookout for an amazing waterfall view.
The Lihue area also has numerous historical spots including Alekoko (Menehune Fishpond), a roughly 1000-year old aquaculture reservoir; Kilohana, an historic plantation estate; and both the historic Kauai Museum and Grove Farm Homestead Museum. Lihue is your gateway to adventure on Kauai.
The sunny South Shore of Kauai is home to historic Old Koloa Town and the resort area of Poipu. This is an area of activity and historic attractions. Whether you’re playing on a championship golf course or exploring the Koloa Heritage Trail to learn more about Kauai’s history, there’s something for everyone on the South Shore.
A good place to start is spending the day at Poipu Beach Park, which was once named one of America’s best beaches. Nearby Spouting Horn features a blowhole that releases a spout of water up to 20 feet or more into the air. See why Kauai is nicknamed “The Garden Isle” at two of the five gardens that comprise the National Tropical Botanical Garden: McBryde Garden, featuring 259-acres of gardens and world’s largest collection of Hawaiian plants, and Allerton Garden, an 80-acre gem with sophisticated garden design and the giant Moreton Bay Figs made famous in the film “Jurassic Park.” You’ll even find the Kauai Coffee Company coffee farm tour just a few miles west of Poipu. Discover a variety of activities and attractions on Kauai’s South Shore.
Go west and get off the beaten path on Kauai. The West Side is home to a few of Kauai’s most historic places and scenic wonders, the most famous of which is the breathtaking Waimea Canyon, the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.”
But there is even more to explore. Head north beyond the gorges and cliffs of Waimea Canyon and visit Kokee State Park where you’ll find yet another amazing view from the Kalalau Lookout. The two small towns of Waimea and Hanapepe also grace the West Side. In 1778, Captain Cook first landed in the Hawaiian Islands here at Waimea Bay. Today, a statue of Cook stands in Waimea Town commemorating this event. Hanapepe is the art capital of Kauai with galleries, shops and eateries lining small town Hanapepe Road.
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