Visit the tropics without leaving the country – Hawaii hosts the tropical dreams of many. It’s a place where seasons are meaningless with year-around highs in the 70s and 80s and lows in the 60s. So, when the snow falls and the temperatures drop on the mainland, people rush to HI. One thing to keep in mind is that even if the overall climate is lovely, the changes in elevation and terrain will create microclimates. This is especially true on the island of Kauai as most of the attractions involve elevation changes. Be sure to check the forecasts before your trip.
In addition to being home to the U.S. Navy’s “Barking Sands” Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai is the oldest, geologically speaking, of the Hawaiian islands. It’s approximately 6 million years old. It’s known as the “Garden Isle” and for good reason. If you enjoy the outdoors and nature, then Kauai is the island you want to visit.
Say, “Aloha” to Mother Nature (Papahanaumoku).
Kauai is home to the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” at Waimea Canyon State Park. The canyon is 10 miles long, 3,000 feet deep, and 100% breathtaking. If you can pull your thoughts away from that beautiful sight, Kauai has more to offer. The highest point in the Makaleha Mountains is 3,215 feet. That’s approximately 6,000 feet of pure stunning nature, but you can’t see them both from the same spot. You’ll have to get out and explore if you want to see it all.
There are numerous of hiking trails on the island and Koke’e State Park has over a dozen of them. You can stop at the museum to get assistance identifying which trails would be best for your skill level and get trail conditions. The Lliau Nature Loop is perfect for beginners. It’s .25 miles and provides stunning views of Waimea Canyon and Wai’alae Canyon. Interested in a longer hike? Alaka’i Wilderness Preserve (inside the Koke’e) contains the Alaka’i Swamp Trail. You can hike amongst the clouds on this atmospheric misty 3.5-mile trail. It’s not technically a swamp, but you won’t question the name after you’ve been there. While you’re there, keep an eye out for the turn off for the Pu’u o Kila lookout. The views are stunning.
Want to rest your feet for a bit? Jump in your car and head out to the ‘Opaeka’a Falls. It’s a double-water fall that’s perfectly visible from the parking lot.
The Holo Holo Koloa Scenic Byway connects many attractions like Maluhia Road, which will have you driving under a gorgeous canopy of trees, Puhi (Spouting Horn), which is a jet of water created by a unique combination of waves and lava rock, and some of the National Tropical Botanical Gardens.
The National Tropical Botanical Gardens is a series of five gardens, and three of the gardens are on Kauai. McBryde Garden is 200-acre research and conservation garden while Allerton Botanical Garden is an 80-acre garden that’s extremely scenic and has been used for several movies and TV shows. Limahuli Garden and Preserve is a 17-acre garden, but only four acres are open to the public. This is a great choice if you’re looking for a smaller garden; in the 90s it was named the best natural botanical garden in the USA.
The Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens isn’t a part of the National Tropical Botanical Gardens but it should not be forgotten. This 240-acre garden is comprised of 13 gardens including a desert garden and a “Under the Rainbow” Children’s Garden. It’s perfect for the whole family!
Off the Beaten Path
Some people may consider Kauai off the beaten path as a whole, but there are some more remote attractions on this island of natural beauty. Na Pali Coast State Park is inaccessible by car. You can only reach it by hiking, helicopter, or water (kayak, paddleboard, or a charter tour).
Additionally, the Kalalu Trail is 22 miles (round trip) of you and nature. This is a multi-day hike meant for experienced hikers. You’ll need to plan for this hike and you’ll need permits. These permits will sellout months in advance, but your planning will be rewarded with camping at Kalalau Valley. This campsite is only accessible to hikers.
After you’ve seen all that Mother Nature has provided, you may want to take some time to appreciate what native Hawaiians have created and provided. The rich culture of Hawaii is on display at the Kauai Museum where you can learn about the people who populated the island. Visit one of the several farmer’s markets on the island to support local farmers and taste the best locally grown foods. Hanapepe Town Friday Art Night and Princeville’s Night Market (on Sunday) provide local food, music, and artisan wares. After all of that, you may need to revive yourself with some coffee. Kauai Coffee Company offers tours and coffee tasting.
If all of this has you feeling like you need some downtime, don’t worry, Kauai has you covered. The gorgeous beaches are perfect for relaxing, swimming, snorkeling, or diving.
Hawaii is more than beaches and leis. It’s a state that’s rich in natural beauty and home to a strong, proud people. Whether you want to take it easy or take it all in, there’s something for everyone on the island of Kauai. What are you waiting for? Book your vacation today, and check out our Vacation Planning Resource Center for information to guide you on your next trip!
- Lliau Nature Loop
- Waimea Canyon
- Makaleha Mountains
- The National Tropical Botanical Garden