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Kauai hiking stories and trail descriptions.

Explore Kauai – The Garden Island

Kauai Hawaii Kalalau Valley

Imagine a place where worries vanish in the trade winds, warm saltwater laps the shores of golden sand, and rain-forests are home to our earth’s rarest plants and birds. Your adventure begins at the edge of a lost world. Thousands of miles from any significant land mass, the tiny tropical island of Kauai has kept herself charmed, mysterious and unconquered. You will experience her secrets as you dive into the beauty Kauai has to offer. From the moment you step off the plane the balmy trade winds will remind you, “You’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Adventure, romance or pure relaxation? Kauai has it all. Your only worries are how to fit it all in. Kick off your shoes, slip into your casual wear and throw your cares to the wind. It’s all good!

Kauai’s raw interior, rugged Napali Coast and the countless miles of remote white sand beaches are a bit on the wild side. But exploring her untamed allure is where the fun begins. While activities like tow-in surfing 40 foot monster waves do exist, there are other activities for the mere mortal traveler that will give you an equal dose of adrenaline.

Hanalei BayOn the North Shore the roads narrow, life slows down and it’s apparent why Kauai is nicknamed the “Garden Island”. Waterfalls cascade a thousand feet from emerald green mountains to manicured taro fields on the valley floor. These are your first signs that you are now entering the “laid back life on the other side of the bridge.” The beautiful & quaint little surf town of Hanalei is full of water-sport shops, eclectic boutiques and local flair. You will find plenty to see and explore whether in the village or in the water of the magical Hanalei Bay, a year round hub of water sports.

Book a kayak or a SUP (stand up paddle board) and make your way through the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge. You will be skimming the calm water amongst a myriad of wildlife and hanging trees that frame the banks of the Hanalei River. If this is too tame then just paddle back down the river and test your skills surfing the Bay. Either way you will surely work up an appetite. So…head back to the village where your choices range from take-out to sit down dining and enjoy a fruit infused Mai Tai, while planning the next activity.

Leaving Hanalei in your rear-view mirror the next eight miles of winding road will pique your curiosity and divert your attention. Keep your eyes on the road. This last stretch of roadway will take a while as the pace of life slows down even more the further north you go. That is unless you are in the water!

The horseshoe shaped, coral fringed reef of Tunnels Beach, is a popular destination for snorkelers who want to explore the underwater world of sea caves and exotic tropical reef fish. But the outside breaks, beyond the calm of the protected lagoon, should be left to the experienced. This is also a great spot for to see the locals as they race the winds across the ocean’s surface with their gravity defying kite surfing.

Kauai Vacation GuideThe end of the road at Ke’e Beach marks the beginning of the famous Napali Coast, where the true outdoor adventure begins. You can explore the Napali by foot as you traverse a portion or the complete 11 mile (one way) hike. The valleys of Hanakapiai, Hanakoa and Kalalau will take you back in time. As you traverse the trail built hundreds of years ago you will experience what some believe to be the closest thing to the Garden of Eden. It is hard to fathom that at one time 20,000 Hawaiians used this trail as their super highway into the valleys of Hanakoa and Kalalau.

During summer months adventure seekers choose the ultimate kayak trip, referred to as the Mount Everest of Kayak excursions. The trip begins at the North end of Hanalei Bay where you will paddle beyond the verdant valleys of Hanakoa and Kalalau, past the famous arch of Honopu, and into the sapphire blue waters of the open ceiling sea cave. Paddle the coast with the likes of the playful spinner dolphins, giant sea turtles and the rare Hawaiian Monk Seal. The trip will take an entire day with a stop half way for lunch and swim at Milolii, where you can explore the beach and the remains of an ancient Hawaiian Fishing Village. Polihale, on the west side of the island is the final destination, where the cliffs of the Napali meet the the sand dunes of Kauai’s longest stretch of beach.Na Pali Coast Tours

Seventeen miles off the coast of Kauai’s West Side lies the Forbidden Island of Niihau, known for its Hawaiian speaking community and rare shell leis. Explore the waters of Niihua and Lehua aboard the 65 foot power catamaran Holo Holo. Day trips include sightseeing off the Napali Coast, free diving off Niihau where visibility tops 100 feet the relax on deck enjoying a glass of wine and gourmet deli style lunch. For a closer look at the Forbidden Island of Niihau, privately owned by the Robinson family, book a custom adventure trip aboard their private helicopter to hunt wild boar and feral sheep. The tour includes the outfitting of weapons, personal guide, as well as refreshments and lunch.

Kauai Atv and Waterfall TourAs you meander along Kauai’s roadways you will only touch the surface of Kauai’s hidden treasures. Eighty percent of Kauai is inaccessible by car, but that doesn’t mean you can’t explore further by Helicopter, ATV, horseback or by foot along miles of hiking trails Kauai has to offer. Kauai is an outdoor paradise waiting to be discovered. Need help planning? Kauai.com offers a free concierge service to help plan. Kauai Activities and Things to Do.

E Komo Mai ( Welcome)

For information on booking Kauai Tours visit us on Kauai.com or  call 1-800-652-8248 or Local 808 VACATION

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Free Fun Things to Do on Kauai

Kauai free things to do

The top activities to do on Kauai definitely include the Na Pali Boat Tours, a Kauai Helicopter Tour, ATV Tours, Zip-line Tours, and a traditional Hawaiian luau, but there are a few family fun things to do on Kauai you might find to be a nice way to pass a couple hours of your vacation time.

Hula Shows – Most visitors to Kauai include a luau in their top to do list. If hula dancing and Hawaiian music are on your list, here is a chance to get a little preview. If you just can’t get enough of the melodic beat and swaying of hips check out one of the following free Hula shows around the island.

Grand Hyatt Kauai – Torch Lighting Ceremony on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from 6:15, Keiki Hula Show on Tuesday 6:30-8:00pm For Information call: 808 742-1234

Poipu Shopping Village – Tahitian and Hula Dancing Thursday and Thursdays at 5:00pm. For Information Call: 808 742-2831

Harbor Mall Lihue – Hawaiian Entertainment and Hula on Wednesdays at 12:15 pmFor Information Call: 808 245-6255

Coconut Marketplace – Wailua Hula Show on Wednesdays at 5:00 pm and Saturdays at 1:00 pm Call: 808 822-3641

Farmers Markets- Weekly farmers markets island wide sell locally grown produce, exotic tropical fruits and flowers as well as locally made products.

Hanapepe Art Night – Enjoy exploring the many galleries demonstration , performances and local cuisine as you stroll the streets of historic Hanapepe Town. Every Friday night Hanapepe Town comes alive with local artist, musicians and ethnic eats. Every Friday Evening from 6:00-9:00 pm.

Historic Walking Tour of Waimea – Free walking tour of Waimea Town every Monday. Lei Making Workshop Every Friday. Reservation required. Contact the West Kauai Technology Center at 808 338-1322.

88 Shrines at Lawai International Center – Short video and story telling by Lynn Murumoto on the second and last Saturday of the month. Tour Times 10:00 am -12:00pm and 2:00pm call 808 639-4300 Donations Accepted.

Old Town Kapaa First Saturday of the month Art Walk

Free live music, artist, tasty food and entertainment every 1st Saturday of the month in downtown Kapaa. 5:30 -8:30

Kauai Museum – Free guided tours with the cost of admission. 10:30 am on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Ohana Saturdays – Free admission the first Saturday of the month.

Lydgate State Park – A favorite or generations of locals and their keiki, this east side park (Leho Rd access in Wailua) fronts two wonderful boulder enclosed swimming areas that allow freshwater and fish in and that are well protected from ocean waves. The water is calm and clear and perfect for beginning swimmers and snorkelers with bathrooms, picnic areas, a playground and lifeguards right there as well. The area is also part of an extensive network of archaeological sites in what was a historically significant part of Kauai for Hawaiians. Be prepared for lots of kids and a fun time at the beach!

Geo-caching What is Geo-caching? Geo-caching is a free real-world outdoor treasure hunt. Players try to locate hidden containers, called Geo-caches, using a smartphone or GPS and can then share their experiences online. There are several hidden treasures all over the island. The best guidelines to follow are Geo caches that are on public property and easy and safe terrain.

And Almost Free…

Kauai Plantation Railway – The Kilohana Plantation Estate is a where you will find an an authentic narrow gauge railway tour that chugs along on a 40 minute ride through almost 100 acres of sugar cane, pineapple, banana, papaya, hardwood trees, tropical flowers and coffee. This fairly new attraction recreates the time of the plantations and is highly informative about Kauai agriculture past, present, and future. Train tours run daily. The train leaves the Depot at 10 & 11 am, 12 Noon, 1 & 2 pm, and 5:30 on Tuesdays and Fridays. Next door, the 16,000 sq ft managers home is open daily with galleries and a courtyard restaurant.

Kilauea Mini Golf – The good folks from Anaina Hou have recently finished up a miniature golf course and botanical garden just a minute or so past Kilauea Town on the north shore. Its 18 holes of fun runs through gardens representing different eras of Hawaiian culture and we can tell you its truly a unique experience for our little island. It’s open every day from 11:00am – 9:00 pm and costs $15 for ages 11 and up, $10 for ages 5-10, and is free for 4 and under. You also have to love the fact that it’s right next to Banana Joe’s fruit and smoothie stand where you can enjoy something tasty after your game!

Hiking On Kauai

Kokee Alakai Swamp Trail

Kauai is the fourth largest of the eight main islands of the Hawaiian Island chain.  With just over 550 square miles of land, and with the Hawaiian Islands surrounded by more water than any other archipelago it’s interesting to discover that Kauai is a premier hiking location with well over 120 miles of established trails which range from completely easy, to supremely difficult.

Kalalau Trail before Hanakapiai

There are 56 established, well-known hiking trials on Kauai, only 10 of which are official State Park Trails. Kauai’s trails range in lengths and vary in difficulty levels, from rankings of 1 (less than a half mile of flat, easily walkable dry ground) to difficulties of 10 – like Kauai’s famous Kalalau Trail which is considered one of the top ten toughest hiking trails in world.

The diverse landscape and micro climates make Kauai a hiker’s dream, as each hike on the island has its own unique destination sights, terrain, ecosystems, and landscape views. This diversity alone is worth a visit to Kauai, as there is no other place in such a compact area that can offer this sort of variety.

The fact that much of Kauai’s interior is inaccessible by any other means, besides by foot-trek, is another compelling reason to take up a pack and hike on in. Aside from the air tours, which do offer breathtaking from-above views of the steepest cliff, hiking in by foot is the only way to get closer look of much of island’s untouched and pristine inner sanctuaries. Kauai’s tallest peak Mount Kawaikini looms over 5300 feet above the surrounding beaches, and is teeming with hidden waterfalls, valleys, swamps and dense rain forests.

Alakai Swamp Trail Pihea

Alakai Swamp Trail Pihea

Alakai swamp – the highest elevated swamp in the world – is of particular interest. Here, the plant life has dwarfed, though these miniaturized versions of many of Hawaii’s trees and shrubs maintain full-size blooms.  The views from the trail’s famous boardwalk region are truly beyond description, and can really only be fully experienced in person.  Then again, that’s what many people say about the Kalalau Trail, and the Trail to Waipo’o Falls, and the Awa’awapuhi Grand LoopTrail, and the …

Well, you get the picture – or at least you will, when you hike Kauai!

A Garden Walk of Historical Artifacts on Kauai

lonos-spoon

One of the many historical artifacts on display at Kukuiolono Park

If you have an interest in Hawaiian artifacts, a trip to the museum might be your plan, but what if you could take a leisurely walk through a garden of treasures without paying admission? In the quaint town of Kalaheo, you can do just this. Located strategically at the top of the hill in Kalaheo, overlooking the ocean, is the former estate of the late Walter McBryde also know as Kukui o Lono. The site itself has a lot of history.

Kukui o Lono translates to the torch of the god Lono and is originally the site of an ancient Hawaiian Heiau. The torch was a fire that was lit on the hill to safely guide fisherman and other canoes that were out at sea. The fire could be seen for miles.

It was here that McBryde built his estate in 1908. McBryde was the founder of the Kauai Fruit and land company and an advocator for the sugar planters. He is also known for establishing the first homesteading endeavor in Hawaii. He landscaped the acreage around his home and made it available for recreational use. The area was dedicated as park shortly thereafter. His estate was actually deeded in a trust and passed on to the people of Kauai to enjoy “regardless of race, color, or creed”.

When you enter the gates of the park, drive up the hill and park in the first lot that you see. To your left you will see a spectacular ocean view and the nine-hole golf course that is a favorite spot for the locals. To the right you will see the Japanese garden that was built by the Japanese workers. Between the two, you will see a small sign with the words, “Hawaiiana Exhibit”.

If you follow the short path to the top of the hill you are in for a treat. Here is one of the largest collections of large stones carved and collected by Hawaiians. Some are marked and some are not. There are many tales about the rocks in this collection, some of which make perfect sense. Other explanations of the stones are little more obscure since their origin is uncertain.

Feather Cloak Rock

Pohaku hunaahuula

The bronze plaque reads, “Pohaku hunaahuula, The hiding place of the chief’s feather cloak. The stone was brought from Brydeswood. Apparently in a warfare capturing a chief and his feather cloak was equivalent to ‘pulling down the standard’ and winning a battle. To avoid capture and loss of an engagement, it is related that when a chief named Kukona and his men were being hard pressed, the chief hid his feather cloak under the stone and draped sweet potato vines over it to camouflage it.” The tall stone behind this one is the Pohaku loa (translated tall stone, where prayers to the fishing god were offered).

Hawaiian Salt Making Stone

Hawaiian Salt Making Stone

A large rock with a flat surface and center divider was used by the Hawaiians to make salt. You will   also see rocks in this collections with tree molds in them that are similar to ones found on the Big Island. They were formed when the lava poured onto the trees millions of years ago. Another interesting artifact that you will see is the fishing stone. This stone was apparently used by fisherman to store their fingerlings for the night to keep the catch alive. The next day they would be moved to the mountains for replenishing the stock in a nearby stream. The rounded stone that you will see is called a game stone and was used by the Hawaiians for bowling type games.

Hawaiian Rock Game

Hawaiian Stone Game

There is a very unique stone here that was found by a Hawaiian family and it is called Kauai Iki. It is a stone that is shaped like the island of Kauai. When describing this stone, the author of The Story of Koloa posed an interesting question: How would the family know what the island was shaped like if they had not seen the island from the air, nor from a map? Nevertheless, the rock is shaped like the island of Kauai.

Take time to enjoy the entire park. There are walking paths that take you through an ironwood forest, another that takes you out to the pavilion where the original “torch” was lit. If you are lucky enough to be visiting during whale season, it is likely that you will see the spouts and other characteristic behaviors of the Humpback Whales from this vantage point. Look around and you may see a whaler’s try pot where whale blubber was boiled into oil. From here you can enjoy the walk back to the parking lot. Before leaving, make sure to take the time to walk the recently renovated Japanese Gardens.

For more info about Kukui o Lono Park, check out Kauai.com. For more information about the history of Koloa, Kalaheo, Lawai and the South Shore of Kauai, check out the reference used in this article written by Donald Donahue, entitled, The Story of Koloa, A Kauai Plantation Town.

What to Do with 7 Days on Kauai?

What to do on Kauai? If you have to ask yourself this question it is probably your first visit to Kauai. The Garden Island offers some of the most diverse landscapes on the planet, a nature lovers paradise with white sand beaches, countless hiking trails, waterfalls and an endless list of things to do and discover. Here is a sample itinerary with some of my favorite Kauai sites and activities.

Day 1: Arriving and Getting Settled

Kauai itinerary day1After settling into your hotel or vacation rental, head for the beach. On the South Side Poipu Beach Park is a great choice to get your feet wet, try a little snorkeling and watch the sunset. Lydgate Beach Park if you are staying on the East Side,  Hanalei Bay or Anini Beach on the North Shore.

Day one is a great day to book your Kauai luau.  No need to do any thinking. Just sit back enjoy the rhythm of the islands, the dance of the Hula and the taste of Polynesia while sipping a Hawaiian Mai Tai.


 

 

Day 2: Kauai  a Bird’s Eye View and Touring the North Shore

Kauai Itinerary Day 2A helicopter tour is a spectacular way to see the eighty percent of Kauai’s interior that is otherwise not accessible. Book this early then head out to the North Shore. (Flights take off from Lihue or Princeville airport) Drive all the way to the end of the road to Ke’e Beach. Plan to hike a little on the famous Kalalau Trail in Napali Coast State Park — bring hiking shoes or closed-toe tennis shoes. A half-hour on the trail will give you an idea of the spectacular coastline. The hearty may want to hike all the way to Hanakapiai Falls, a 3-hour trip one-way. After your hike, snorkel a bit at Ke’e Beach. Head back into the town of Hanalei for lunch, take it to-go and head down to Hanalei Bay to have lunch. On your way back south head to the Kilauea Lighthouse for a spectacular view and some wildlife spotting.

Day 3: Discover the Napali Coast

Kauai Napali Seven Day ItineraryThe Napali Coast is one of the top attractions and must see places on Kauai This spectacular 17 mile coastline will leave you in awe as your eyes wander from sea level toward the hanging valleys and razor back ridges thousands of feet above the ocean. Experience the exhilarating adventure of a Kauai dolphin and whale watching adventure while relaxing in the sun and soak up the beauty as your captain and crew guide you along secluded beaches of Kauai and the spectacular Napali coast. For those who seek the most exhilarating day on the water book an adventure to the forbidden island of Niihau, where you will explore the Na Pali Coast and the islands of Niihau and Lehua offshore from Kauai’s West Side.

Day 4: Visit the West Side 

Kauai Itinerary Day 4Get an early start watch the sunrise if youare on the east side and set off for a day of exploring  the laid back and historical towns of Hanapepe, Waimea and Kekaha.  The scenic drive up the winding roads to Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park, will give you ample opportunities to stop at the scenic lookouts, take photos and take in the this amazing beauty of the canyons and scenic overlooks into the valleys of the Napali Coast.

Bird lovers, nature enthusiasts, hikers, and sightseers will love wandering around this park. Be sure to stop by the Kokee Natural History Museum and have lunch at the Kokee Lodge that is open till 4:00. Make sure to drive to the end of Hwy. 550 and enjoy the breathtaking lookout into Kalalau Valley.


Day 5: Explore Kauai’s Jungle Interior

Kauai Itinerary Seven Days

Most of Kauai’s lush interior is not accessible by car. There are many fun and exciting ways to explore this part of the island. Paddle into the lush jungle along the Huleia or the Wailua River, hike to a waterfall and enjoy a picnic lunch on a kayak tour or Tubing Adventure Tour.

If  you are looking for a bit more speed, booking an ATV tour is a surefire way to have fun. Ride through the forest and private ranch land while you explore breathtaking views of the Huleia River and many movie locations – Jurassic Park, Raiders of The Lost Ark, Pirates of the Caribbean and the spectacular view into Kipu Kai as seen on The Descendants. Other fun tours to explore Kauai’s interior are the zipline tours and the tubing adventure.


Day Six: Explore Your Kauai 

By now you have seen most of Kauai, either by land, air or sea. Now you can pick your favorite side of the island and explore more Kauai attractions, hikes and  beaches .  If you are feeling like doing nothing but relaxing, just stay put at your resort or vacation rental and enjoy a good book and some Hawaiian sunshine.

Day 7: Kauai Favorites and Souvenirs

Time to get pampered and shop for souvenirs. If you choose to be pampered there are many spa choices on island. An amazing experience not to miss out on is a traditional Hawaiian Lomi Lomi or hot stone massage.

For the shopping enthusiast check out some of the favorite local boutiques. The Kauai Museum is filled with many historical treasures as well as a beautiful gift shop with many unique Kauai made products.  Check out the Kilohana Plantation shops and train tour. If you haven’t already discovered shave ice then definitely make this a mission to try one before you leave.

Ideas for gifts to bring home:
Hawaiian chocolate-covered macadamia nuts
Dried Fruit
100% Kauai coffee
Ukulele
Local Jewelry & Art

Best Things To Do On Kauai

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.

Hiking the Napali Coast

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

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 and Kokee State Park

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.

Wailua FallsWalua Falls Kauai

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 BeachPolihale Kauai

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.

An Unexpected Kauai Souvenir

Waimea Canyon Kauai DogMy husband and I visited Kauai for a week during March/April of 2011. What a beautiful island! We traveled all over, trying to see as much as we could. There were so many highlights to our trip.  We started the week with a quick trip to the Humane Society (to give a donation and buy a shirt) and a helicopter ride with Blue Hawaiian. What a great way to see the whole Island, especially a bird’s eye view of Waimea  Canyon and the Napali Coast.

We knew after the helicopter ride that we HAD to go out to Waimea Canyon. So, the next day we headed up there.  We stopped briefly in the town of Waimea to find something to eat.  There had been a guy outside the store with some really skinny (too skinny) dog.  We thought it was funny when the dog paid no attention to the employees trying to shoo him back outside. We felt bad for him and bought some food for him. When we headed outside, the guy was still there so we talked to him while we fed the dog a little bit. Turns out the guy was hiking up in the canyon when he found the dog wandering around. The dog had some nasty cuts on his leg and clearly hadn’t had much to eat in quite awhile. Since the guy was only using the bus to get around, he didn’t really know what to do about the dog.

My husband and I decided we could take the time to head back to the Humane Society to drop the dog off. So, after a detour to take care of the dog, we headed back to the Canyon. What an amazing sight! And we had pretty good weather while we were up there, making for some good photo opportunities.

The next day we did an ATV tour with Kipu Ranch Adventures.  What a kick that was!  We had a nice small group and two great guides. It was a little drizzly so we had some nice mud puddles to ride through (my socks are still stained red).  After the tour we thought we’d take a quick trip back to the Humane Society, hoping they had found the owners of the dog we had taken there the day before. No such luck, but at least he was now being taken care of, given food to eat, and had a nice warm place to sleep.

The rest of the week was spent checking out different areas of the island, spending some time on the beaches, and going to the Humane Society every day to play with the dog. As you can probably guess by now, we were completely suckered in by his goofy, long face and he has become our favorite souvenir ever. Through a lot of help and hard work by the wonderful people at the Humane Society we were able to bring Enzo (as we named him) home with us at the end of the week. He is now happily ensconced in our home back in Washington State along with his siblings (3 other dogs and 5 cats)!  Definitely our favorite souvenir! We can’t wait to come back and visit Kauai again, but next time we won’t be coming home with a critter (probably).Kauai Dog Enzo

Aloha,
Joe and Kerry Klein

Hiking Kauai’s Alakai Swamp

Boardwalk Stairs along Alakai Swamp Trail

Hiking on Kauai is one of the best activities you can do with your family. And one of our family favorites is the Pihea Trail Kilohana Lookout. So to end the year we set off to Kokee with friends and family to do just that, Hike into the mist and the bogs of the world’s highest rainforest, The Alakai Swamp and Wilderness Preserve.

Pihea Kilohana Trail Crossing

Crossroads Pihea and Alakai Swamp Trail

The Pihea Trail can be reached from Pu`u o Kila at the end of Highway 550 or if you have access to a four wheel drive you can start from Mohihi Road Camp 10. The 3 1/2 miles into Kilohana Lookout is a combination of trails, wooden boardwalks, river crossing and hundreds of wooden steps up and down, (two-hundred seventy is our count one way). Rain panchos, warm jacket, ample water and a picnic lunch is recommended for the list of what to bring. Some of the kids in our group chose bare-feet as their preferred footwear, but good hiking boots are suggested. The weather report called for blue skies, but it is always best to go prepared for anything.

Wrapped in our warmest gear (sweatshirt and cheap plastic ponchos) with temperatures dropping into the high 50’s, this was as close to a winter wonderland that our Kauai keiki would experience this Christmas season. Clear skies were needed to  view the North Shore and Hanalei Bay at the end of the trail, but secretly the idea of the thick clouds hovering over the bogs and boardwalks of the swamp is what I was looking forward to. Where else on Kauai can you hear, ” I’m walking through the clouds!”

Ohia Blossom Kokee Kauai

Ohia Blossom

Kokee Moss

Moss along trail

Thick moss in every shade of green covers the branches and trunks of the trees, vibrant red blossoms of the ohia trees, and the songs of the ‘elepaio, an endangered bird that is endemic to Kauai, are all part of the magic this hike offers.  As we headed further into the forest of rare plants and birds the skies would tease us with moments of warm and  blue and then quickly shroud us in a blanket of mist.

Kokee Ferns KAuai

Laua`e FErn

Alakai Rainbow Kauai

Rainbow over Alakai Swamo

For years this was a trail for hunters and scientist who braved the muck and soggy bogs for a view of Kilohana. It is hard to imagine how this trail was traversed by Queen Emma in 1871. With a wish to see Kilohana and the Hanalei Valley, Queen Emma valiantly rode by horseback from Waimea into the muggy rainforest. At the edge of the swamp she dismounted her horse and preceded to hike the remainder of the way to the vista on a makeshift boardwalk of moss covered logs and ferns.On a clear day at the end of the trail one is rewarded with views of Wainiha Valley, Hanalei Bay and and occasionally even beyond Kilauea Lighthouse. Today would not be one of those clear days, but each time we visit the heart of Kauai we are reminded how diverse, wild, beautiful and special a place we live. For more Kauai hiking information check out Kauai.com/hikesAlakai Pihea Trail