Kauai is an island in the mid-Pacific, part of the Hawaiian archipelago. It’s nicknamed “the Garden Isle” thanks to the tropical rainforest covering much of its surface. The dramatic cliffs and pinnacles of its Na Pali Coast have served as backdrop for major Hollywood films, while 10-mile-long Waimea Canyon and the Nounou Trails traversing the Sleeping Giant ridge are hiking destinations.
Area: 552 mi²
Population: 65,689 (2008)
Island group: Hawaiian Islands
Here are top 10 things you should try and feel when visiting this beautiful eden:
1. Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Park
Travelers insist that visiting the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” is a must. This 10-mile-long, mile-wide, and approximately 3,500-feet deep gorge can accomodate both low-impact workouts (taking a winding drive through the canyon and making a few lookout stops along the way) or high-octane adventures (you can also hike down one of the verdant trails). You’ll find the Waimea Canyon along Highway 550 in the town of the same name. The gorge spreads across Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State parks.
2. Na Pali Coast boat tour
Na Pali, or “the cliffs,” is a 15-mile expanse of rocky, steep, but oh-so-gorgeous coastline that stretches along Kauai’s northwest shore. Travelers agree there’s no better way to experience Kauai’s natural beauty and exciting terrain than at Na Pali, so you should make plans to marvel at it — either on foot, from the water, or from up above.
The Na Pali Coast is hands down, one of the most beautiful places in all the world. Sea caves, whales, dolphins, monk seals, pristine water, secluded beaches, waterfalls… it’s all here on Kauai’s Na Pali Coast for you to experience.
3. Kalalau Trail
Many people come to Kauai with high hopes of backpacking through Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast. And many people also end up chickening out once faced with the 11-mile hike through red mud, rocky inclines, and raging streams. Experienced hikers from Yelp.com and IgoUgo.com to TripAdvisor and Virtual Tourist all report the same: If you have the time — and the stamina — then make Kalalau Trail one of your must-dos. The north shore scenery is rugged, the paths are challenging, but the overall experience is very rewarding.
Kalapaki Beach, often overlooked by tourists, is a relatively quiet local hangout. This stretch of shoreline draws resident surfers because of its hospitable tides. The waters are also good for swimming, as the beach is sheltered by points and breakwaters at Nawiliwili Bay.
5. Learn to surf at Po’ipu Beach
Po’ipu’s perfection is both its greatest asset and largest flaw. On the one hand, you won’t find another beach on Kauai that appeals to everyone quite like Po’ipu. Snorkeling, swimming, boogie boarding, and surfing are all popular here, but so is lazing about on the warm golden sand. The downside to Po’ipu’s popularity is there’s very little chance for privacy here, especially in the peak travel season. If you want to face fewer crowds, plan your trip to Kauai and this beach for the spring or fall. You can also visit Kalapaki, which is located on Kauai’s south coast as well.
6. Hanalei Bay
So few northern Kauai beaches are safe for swimming; the choice few are coveted by locals and tourists alike. Such is the case with crescent-shaped, 2-mile-long Hanalei. The summertime water is calm enough for laps; the winter season sees some wave action. Several hotels are located right on Hanalei’s shore, but public access points also dot the area. Visitors particularly suggest Hanalei Beach Park or Wai’oli Beach Park, as both have changing rooms, showers, picnic tables, and grills.
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