As we sat in the shuttle bus, waiting to be transported from the airport to downtown Waikiki, the driver asked passengers about their travel destinations. When we told him that we were flying to ‘Kauai’, he responded, “Ah, the most beautiful island in Hawaii and – the most boring”.
If by boring, he meant that Kauai is not known for its exciting night life or great shopping opportunities, his comment is worth considering. However, if you are a traveller who enjoys stunning natural beauty, white sand beaches, challenging walking trails, exceptional tropical gardens, whale watching, kayaking or snorkeling, you won’t be bored.
Kauai is not a big island (33 miles by 25) and has a population of 67,000. The high cliffs on the eastern side prevent access from the sea and the mountainous terrain compels most of the population to live near the coastline in the north, west and south. The island is one of the wettest places on earth and centuries of rainfall probably account for the formation of the incredible cliffs and canyons. Rainfall is also responsible for the tropical lushness and the name ‘Garden Isle’.
It is easy to forget that Kauai is part of a modern state because a visitor quickly senses the island’s connection to, and respect for, its ancient Hawaiian past. This traditional culture is felt in the gentle pace of life and in the residents’ appreciation for their profoundly beautiful land. Thirty percent of Kauai is protected as state parks and nature reserves; by law, no building is taller than a coconut tree; and, the many bridges on the road to the Kalalau Trial are single lane and likely to stay that way.
Kauai offers the visitor many adventures and beautiful sites. My three favourites were the Na Pali Coast, Waimea Canyon and the Allerton Botanical Garden. The Kalalau Trail takes the hiker high above the Na Pali Coast for eleven miles of demanding but exhilarating hiking. Few manage more than the four-mile round-trip to Hanakapi’ai Beach but the incredible views and sense of accomplishment are the rewards for those who tackle even that much.
The other way to experience the Na Pali Coast is from the sea. We took a ride in a catamaran and enjoyed sailing by whales, dolphins and giant turtles as well as the remarkably stunning cliffs.
Route 555 takes you along the Waimea Canyon – a smaller version of the Grand Canyon – to Koke’e State Park where you will experience more breath–taking views of the coastline. And when you decide to look for another visually interesting but less stimulating experience, a visit to one of the three botanical gardens is an excellent choice.
Kauai has a wide selection of hotels and resorts but we decided to rent an apartment for the first four nights in a rural community near Kapa’a which gave us easy driving access to the northern part of the island. For the next seven nights, we stayed in a condo apartment, by the sea, in the southern town of Poipu – a pleasant, popular area with more tourists and sunshine. However, if I ever were to return to Kauai, I would rent a place on the north shore, an area that was particularly appealing to the Canadian in me.
It is not an exaggeration to call Kauai a tropical paradise and if you need further proof, just go to the movies. When Hollywood looked for a paradise to film South Pacific, Jurassic Park, The Descendants and at least two dozen other popular movies, they found it on this lovely and, in my opinion, not at all boring tropical island.
By Barbara Reinhardus
Photo credits Barbara Reinhardus
© Riding the buses 2013