Kauai, known as the Garden Isle due to its lush foliage, abundant flowers, and white-sand beaches, is a nature lover’s playground. Kauai also tends to have more rainfall than Hawaii’s other islands, not that it deters many from spending the day at the beach, and the rain tends to result in some pretty fantastic rainbows. This tropical paradise has many unique facets for visitors of all ages to explore.
1. Visit Jurassic Falls. Several helicopter tour operations transport guests to the base of 400-foot Manawaiopuna Falls, made famous by the movie Jurassic Park. Most trips tour the rest of the island as well offering rich views of the sea cliffs and Mt. Wai’ale’ale, which can only be seen from the air. A great idea for serious photographers.
2. The Zip Trek Nui Loa is a 1,800-foot zip course above the forest canopy. Tandem lines soar past the Ha’upu Mountains and over trees for a quarter mile, which takes roughly a minute-and-a-half (but well worth it!).
3. Take a hike. The Kalalau trail is one of the more popular trails with fewer visitors and a challenging climb. The trailhead lies at the end of the road on the North Shore. After just two miles you’ll arrive at scenic Hanakapiai Beach. From there you have three choices: continue on to Kalalau (for serious backpackers only), ford the stream and turn inland to Hanakapiai Falls (another more strenuous two-mile trek to a spectacular 300-foot waterfall), or head back the way you came. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes that you’re not afraid to get dirty (no matter how careful you are). Better yet, bring an old pair of sneakers and toss them before heading home.
4. Explore Waimea Canyon. Ten miles long, two miles wide, and 3,600 feet deep, Mark Twain nicknamed it the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Revel in the deep reds, greens, and browns, each created by a different volcanic flow. Waimea Canyon borders Koke’e State Park which spans over 4,000 acres with about 45 hiking trails.
5. Ride the Kauai Plantation Railway. Learn about plantation life, Kauai agriculture, and modern-day commercial farming as you explore nearly 100 acres on a wooden narrow-gauge train. The 30-minute journey tours fields of sugar, pineapple, banana, papaya, coffee, and tropical flowers.
6. Explore the Wailua River Valley either by boat or kayak – a must for any first-time visitor planning to travel to Kauai. The valley has been used in such films as Outbreak and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Boat trips take you to the recently restored Fern Grotto, and kayaks can take you even further on Hawaii’s only navigable river.
7. Tour the Napali Coast, one of the most awe-inspiring sights you will ever see. Na Pali Coast State Park is a 22-mile stretch of volcanic cliffs. You can view the coast from a distance but the best way to see it is by helicopter or boat.
8. Visit Limahuli Garden and Preserve, featuring 1,000 acres of botanical gardens covering three distinct ecological zones on Kauai’s wet north shore. Both guided and self-guided tours are offered over a ¾-mile walk on a loop trail.
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