From an eye-popping coastline to a colossal canyon…from ancient cultures to cool coastal vibes, if ever there were an island where all things bloom, surely it is Kauai. It once took mariners months to reach her shores, but today, the Hawaiian island of Kauai is just a six-hour flight from mainland USA, or a half-hour flight from Honolulu. Kauai is the tip of a giant volcano, which rose from the Pacific floor over 5 million years ago.
The waves brought coconuts. The birds brought seed, and the mountains, rain. By the time the legendary Polynesian navigator Hawai’iloa arrived, Kauai was a veritable garden, ready to nourish all with her spiritual essence, her Mana. On today’s Kauai, no building can be taller than a coconut tree, a symbol of her people’s deep and ongoing respect for the island. Begin your Kauai adventure on the North Shore, and you’ll soon see why Kauai is known as The Garden island. From Hanalei Valley Lookout, gaze down at one of the lushest valleys on the planet, where the heart-shaped leaves of taro rise from a patchwork of flooded fields.
A half-hour drive away at Limahuli Gardens and Reserve, follow trails through forests and terraces, and gain a deeper appreciation of Kauai’s unique botany and ancient farming techniques. Down by the water, soak up the soulful vibes in Hanalie. Chill out with a shave ice, or enjoy the simple pleasure of a freshly cut coconut at the weekly farmers market. Rising high above the North Shore is historic Kilauea Lighthouse, a welcome sight to early sailors and anxious aviatorsafter their long journeys across the vast Pacific. After soaking up Kauai’s northern vibes head east, and cruise down the Royal Coconut Coast, to Kapa’a. Nestled at the base of Sleeping Giant Mountain, Kapa’a is the perfect place to experience the aromas and rhythms of traditional Hawaiian life.
Kapa’a is also blessed with some of the islands most accessible waterfalls. Breathe in the mists of Wailua Falls, one of the many popular film locations which dot the island. Just to the south is Lihue, Kauai’s capital. Despite being the island’s commercial heart, historic and cultural roots run deep here. Step though the lava-stone entrance of the Kauai Museum, and immerse yourself in the rich history of the island and her peoples. Then take a ride through the Kilohana Planation, home to a mansion that for decades was the heart of Kauai’s social and diplomatic life.
After exploring the East Coast, follow Highway 520 through the Tree Tunnel, the cool gateway to Kauai’s South Shore. For an old-school slice of Island life, hang out at Hanapepe, whose swinging bridge has been swaying under the footsteps of local taro farmers for over a century. Then at Waimea, stock up on fresh provisions, just as Captain James Cook did when he first stepped ashore on what would be his final epic voyage. Cook only explored the lower reaches of the Waimea River, but if he’d ventured further he would have been the first European to have witnessed the grandeur of one of Hawaii’s greatest treasures, Waimea Canyon . After taking in the views of Waimea Canyon, continue north for views of one of the planet’s most spectacular shores, the Na Pali Coast.
To truly appreciate Na Pali, take to the water and gaze up at the towering cliffs that have been stunning mariners into silence for centuriescliffs which rise from the Pacific floor and cradle a garden like no other on earth. The waves brought coconuts to Kauai. The birds brought seed, and the mountains rain. Welcome to the Garden Island, where the only thing missing, is you.