You could spend a great deal of your life and your savings traveling the world to find that perfect vacation getaway. Kauai is synonymous with beauty and this tiny island in the Pacific has been voted by National Geographic as one of the Top 50 Places in the World to Live and Play. After exploring Kauai you may just forget about the rest of the world. I am often asked, “What are the best things to do on Kauai?” so here are my top picks for your Kauai getaway.
The Napali Coast is a fifteen mile coastline that stretches the from the north end of the island at Kee beach to the west side at Polihale beach. The Napali coast is accessible only by boat with the exception of the 12 mile stretch of coastline along the Kalalau Trail. This remarkable coast carved out by years of erosion is made up of sheer sea cliffs rising sharply out of the ocean to heights of 4,000 feet, hanging valleys, sea caves, and cascading waterfalls that make their way to the ocean from thousands of feet above.
The Kalalau Trail provides the only land access to the Napali Coast on Kauai. The Kalalau Trail begins at Kee Beach in Haena and ending after a challenging 11 miles at Kalalau Beach. The 11-mile trail is graded but almost never level as it crisscrosses above towering sea cliffs and through lush valleys, dropping to sea level on the beaches of Hanakapiai and Kalalau. A similar foot trail linked earlier Hawaiian settlements along the coastline originally built in the late 1800s, portions of the trail were rebuilt in the 1930s.
Don your hiking shoes and trek the first two miles into Hanakapiai Beach, kayak the coast during the calm of the summer months or book a boat trip to experience one of the many wonders of Kauai.
Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge started in 1985 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is marked by its towering lighthouse. The ocean cliffs and tall grassy slopes of a dormant volcano provide a protective breeding ground for many Hawaiian seabirds. It is also one of the few locations where you can observe the Brown Booby, Red-footed Booby, Albatross, Wedge-tailed Shear-water amongst other Kauai wildlife in their natural habitat. The coastal front also provides a safe haven for the Hawaiian monk seals, green turtles, and the humpback whale.
Waimea Canyon State Park is the largest canyon in the Pacific and will undoubtedly capture your gaze, with its 10 mile long stretch at a mile wide and measuring more than 3,500 feet deep. The history of Kauai can be seen in the walls and crags of the canyon as you explore the more than 45 miles of trails. This is truly a remarkable sight, offering numerous scenic overlooks and photo opportunities. Surrounding the Waimea Canyon is the Kokee State Park which occupies 4,345 acres of land. Norfolk pines, Koa hardwoods, native plants and wildlife are just a small fraction of what you will see here.My favorite way to explore the canyon and the Kokee State Park is to hit the trails. There are dozens of hiking trails for every level of expertise. My favorite hike is the Pihea Alakai Boardwalk Trail is a must do while visiting Kauai. This hike is a challenging yet rewarding hike that will take you to the edge of one of the most spectacular valleys and on a clear day vistas of Hanalei Bay and as far as the Kilauea Light House.
State operated cabins are available year-round with advance reservations. Waimea Canyon hiking maps can be found at the Kokee Natural History Museum.
The Wailua Falls are one of Kauai’s little secrets known not only for its flowing beauty, but also ease of access. This 140 foot waterfall appears on many postcards, print and media collections and was used as the opening scene for the 1970’s Television series Fantasy Island. The Wailua falls are located off Maalo Road or Hwy 583and is easily accessed. These easy to photograph falls will involve no hiking. The size and appearance of the falls is determined by the amount of rainfall further up the mountains.
Hanalei Valley and the North Shore
Hanalei Valley is one of the most beautiful and lush places in all Hawaii and some argue the world. Hanalei is surrounded by majestic mountains and countless cascading waterfalls that drain into the lush valley, taro fields, and rivers below. If that doesn’t bring you to your senses then perhaps Hanalei Bay with its perfect swimming waves and soft white sand may entice you. You will also want to spend some time on the Hanalei Bay and explore the eight mile scenic drive from the town of Hanalei to the end of the road at Kee Beach.
Polihale Beach is the longest stretch of white sand beach in Hawaii. Located at the end of an old dirt cane haul road off the last stretch of highway on the West Side. This is a favorite and beautiful beach for long walks, amazing sunsets and camping with the proper permits. Ocean conditions can be dangerous especially during winter months and high swells. Polihale is exposed to open ocean with no protective reefs and no lifeguard.
Mahaulepu Heritage Trail
As part of a special dedicated stretch of coastline The Mahaulepu Coastal Trail is a beautiful hike along the last stretch of accessible coastline. The hike takes you from the south east corner of Shipwreck Beach and The Grand Hyatt Kauai. along sand-dune cliffs, limestone formations, Kiawe trees, and rocky inlets to Mahaulepu Beach. There are dozens of great spots for tide-pool exploration, learning about marine life and spotting the rare Hawaiian sea turtles and the endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal. This area has amazing rock formations and numerous amount of blow holes along the coastal trail. Children enjoy throwing sand or leaves into the blow holes and await the rush of and haunting sound that fills the air.
Along with all these the natural wonders there are numerous activities and fun things to do. So experience Kauai for yourself and create your own Best of Kauai List.