The oldest among the Hawaiian Islands, Kaua‘i boasts a topography of sharp peaks and steep bluffs. This unique landscapes makes the isle quite a unique place to experience. On your next visit, here are 5 of our top "must see" stops.
1. Nāpali Coast
A single photo in a 1960 National Geographic article on Hawai‘i unveiled a lush valley shielded by 3,000-foot cliffs to a generation hungry for just such a place. The caption read: “Nāpali’s towering cliffs wall a Shangri-la valley accessible only by sea … Junglelike glens tucked amid the ridges offer an unspoiled world for the adventurous.” Indeed, the haunting, spiked peaks snake down Kaua‘i’s north coast for 16 colorful miles. Inaccessible by vehicle, Nāpali is seen by ocean craft, air or on foot.
2. Wailua River and Fern Grotto
Flowing from the crater of Mount Wai‘ale‘ale, the Wailua River is sacred to Native Hawaiians and it was once kapu (taboo) for anyone except for royalty to enter. Nowadays, the river can be explored by kayak or via a cruise aboard an open-air boat. Most boat excursions end at Fern Grotto, which is known primarily as the most romantic spot on the island. This natural lava-rock grotto is lush with hanging ferns and tropical foliage, cooled by the mists of a waterfall. In this serene setting, the grotto acts like a natural amphitheater.
3. Kīlauea Point Wildlife Sanctuary
The dramatic backdrop of steep cliffs plunging to the ocean is one of the best places across the Hawaiian Islands to view wildlife. Perched upon Kaua‘i’s northernmost point, the Daniel K. Inouye Kīlauea Point Lighthouse at Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge once guided merchant ships crossing the ocean from Asia. Built in 1913, it was fitted with the largest lens of its time, and is now one of the island’s most scenic and popular destinations. At the end of Kīlauea Road.
4. Waimea Canyon
Hailed as “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” this geological wonder spans 14 miles long, one mile wide and more than 3,600-feet deep. The main road, Waimea Canyon Drive, leads to a lower lookout point and the main Waimea Canyon Overlook, which offers unobstructed views of Kaua‘i’s dramatic interior. The road continues into the mountains and ends at Kōke‘e State Park, the launching point of numerous trails to traverse for beginners and seasoned hikers alike.
5. Hanalei Valley
Kalo, taro, is not just a food staple, it’s also beautiful to behold, with large, heart-shaped leaves called lū‘au leaves. A postcard-perfect view on Kaua‘i’s north shore takes in a patchwork of lo‘i, taro fields, from an overlook on Highway 56. Native Hawaiians cultivated kalo for centuries, and today most of Hawai‘i’s poi comes from Hanalei Valley. Several hundred acres within this valley are a protected wildlife refuge where native bird populations thrive. Be sure to visit Waipā, a place so sacred that its very name means “a prayer to the gods.”
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Reprinted from the Outrigger Journey 2016-2017 in-room book.