Kauai is the northernmost of Hawaii’s major islands which make up a volcanic archipelago in the Central Pacific. Known as ‘the Garden Island’, it is covered by tropical lush greenery due to its abundant rainfall. Because it is the oldest of the islands, formed more than six million years ago, it has been changed the most by erosion which has created some spectacular natural wonders such as Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali Coast. The island is less developed and more laid back than some of the other Hawaiian Islands. This makes it popular with visitors and Hawaiians alike. It is also home to more white sandy beaches than any other major island in Hawaii..
The north and east coasts of Kauai are on the windward side of the island, where the winds blow onto the shore and deposit the most rain. These are the most lush and tropical sides of the island. By contrast, the south and west sides are sunnier and drier.
West Kauai is littered with spectacular natural wonders. Waimea Canyon, which has been likened to the Grand Canyon, is the main draw. At over 16 km (10 mi) long and an awe-inspiring 1.098 m (3.600 ft) deep, it is enormous. Carved over hundreds of thousands of years by runoff from Mount Waialeale, the canyon shows millions of years of geological history. The colours of its rocks rival that of its Arizona counterpart, except that Waimea Canyon also has touches of green. Also on the western side of the island is Kalalau Valley. Don’t miss the views into the valley at sunset when the walls reflect beautiful shades of pink, orange, red and grey.
On the sunny south side of the island is the National Tropical Botanical Garden, home to a wide collection of colourful tropical plants. Nearby is Spouting Horn, named after the howling geyser effect created when water rushes into a series of natural lava tubes.
In the north is Hanalei Bay, a spectacular crescent of sandy beach at the foot of a sheer cliff. The town has good restaurants and shops, making this a great place for chilling out on the beach. Further west, the Na Pali coast is known for its lush valleys, enormous jagged cliffs towering above the ocean, lava tubes and caves, and its unspoilt, pristine beaches. The Na Pali coast State Park was formed to protect the Kalalau Valley, where overgrown gorges drop dramatically into the sea 1.219 m (4.000 ft) below. The park is a wonderful place for hiking or kayaking, and a helicopter ride over the awe-inspiring scenery is a truly memorable experience.
Population: 58.303 (2000)
When to go: January, or September to November.
How to get there: Fly from Honolulu, California or Arizona.
Highlights: The beaches around Poipu, near the southern tip of the island, are perfect for snorkelling and diving.
The Huleia National Wildlife Refuge –for native wild birds and animals.
Wailua Falls – this 60 m (173 ft) waterfall has three spouts of water. In ancient times, Hawaiian men would jump from the top of the falls to prove their manhood.
The Na Pali coast – the scenery is spectacular here and the best way to explore is by hiring a 4 wheel drive. Alternatively, book a helicopter ride over the coast for a view from above.
The Kauai Museum – located in the old part of Lihue, it features the history, geography and culture of the island.
You should know: Large parts of Jurrassic Park, Fantasy Island, Raiders of the Lost Ark, the original King Kong and 6 Days and 7 Nights were filmed here.