My Favourite Hawaiian Island
Kaua’i, the Garden Isle runs a much slower pace than its sister islands. The island is breathtaking and lush, full of natural sites and serene beaches that rival the other islands. Below are my top 10 reasons to visit Kaua’i.
The Kalalau trail that skirts the cliffs of the Na Pali coast is one of the most popular hikes in all of Hawaii. Then there’s Waimea Canyon, with numerous jungle-shrouded hikes descending the canyon walls to arrive at waterfalls that crash into swimmable pools. Like any other trail in Hawaii, the path will take you somewhere you won’t regret going.
While I’ve successfully hiked a part of the trail many times, there is an active threat of flash flooding that has claimed many tourists lives. I didn’t take this threat seriously until I myself was caught in rising waters that separated my boyfriend and I. Seeing an accumulation of tourists at both parts of the crossing, I saw an escape to the other side. An agile and (somewhat) fit 23-year-old runner, I jumped across large boulders amid a treacherous current against the advice of onlookers. I called for my boyfriend to follow me across but he hesitated. The water had rose too much in the following 5 minutes after my crossing. He was caught overnight and had to be airlifted the following morning, he recounted the overnight like a scene from “Lord of the Flies”. See the news article here. I ended up getting a ride back to the Grand Hyatt with a woman who had lost her husband and two daughters in the flood.
2. Na Pali Coast
Kauai is the oldest of the 8 major islands. Erosion has made the terrain incredibly steep and large portions of the island are inaccessible, so a helicopter tour is the best way to see the whole island. I took a zodiac tour around the Na Pali coast to some remote beaches and saw sleeping reef sharks. I would highly recommend taking a sunset dinner cruise or catamaran trip.
Tunnels is known as a snorkeling and diving beach, and it doesn’t disappoint. The waters are full of sea turtles and brightly-colored fish. Divers can explore underwater caves formed by lava tubes. Beware of high surf in the winter months and a sneaky rip tide–the beach is lifeguarded, so check with the guards for any swimming precautions. Bring an underwater camera!
White sand beaches abound on the island. The Princeville Hotel beach at Hanalei Bay is great for swimming and snorkeling. From this beach, you can also hop aboard a traditional Hawaiian canoe and head out for a sunset sail. The shorelines stretch almost three kilometers from the mouth of Hanalei River to Waikoko Reef so you never feel crowded. Kalihiwai Beach is great for surfing and Anini Beach has wonderful family-friendly appeal.
5. Shave Ice
A signature treat throughout the Hawaiian Islands is shaved ice, which is made by shaving a block of ice with an ultra-sharp blade. This produces ice as thin as frozen powder, which is then saturated with exotically flavored sweet syrups ranging from old-fashioned strawberry to sweet Japanese azuki bean-flavor. Check out Wishing Well Shave Ice at the east end of Hanalei or Joe-Jo’s Clubhouse in Waimea. If you’re in the mood for something decadent, ask for a rainbow shave ice atop macadamia nut ice cream.
6. Hanalei Bay
Hanalei Bay is simply beautiful. It’s a peaceful, two-mile-long beach, perfect for swimming in the summer and boasts world-class surf in the winter. Hanalei Town borders the bay and several resorts are close by. It’s on the way to the Na Pali coast and is a great place to unwind after a hike. If clouds interrupt your beach day, take a walk through the picturesque town and grab a teriyaki burger.
7. Waimea Canyon
Despite being the rainiest island, one of Kauai’s most stunning attractions is a red rock, mile-wide chasm called Waimea Canyon. Called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” the canyon is 14 miles long and over 3,600 feet deep. The red lava rock glows as the sun hits it, and after a heavy rain, waterfalls crash down the sides of the canyon walls and into the red Waimea River. Throw some hiking shoes and extra water in the car, there’s plenty of hiking trails for the beginner to the more adventurous.
8. Polihale Beach
This beach is the perfect place to wrap up a trip to Kauai. Remote and largely unpopulated, Polihale is only accessible by dirt road (not a good idea to drive there without a 4-wheel-drive vehicle). The 17-mile-long beach faces west and provides the most beautiful sunsets on all of Kauai. Find a secluded place to camp and feel like you have the entire Garden Island to yourself.
We got a flat tire on the drive back and had to fix the flat in direct sun and extreme heat. Make sure you’re prepared for the unexpected. This part of the island gets the most sunlight and is not safe for swimming.
9. Poipu Beach
Poipu beach on Kauai’s south shore is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and often makes various top 10 lists. An incredible white sand crescent beach awaits the weary traveler. This is Hawaii at its finest: manageable number of fellow beachgoers, crescent beach, gentle trade winds, and the smell of salt water in the air.
From the west-facing sandy beaches of Poipu where you can watch the sun plunge directly into the Pacific, to the more easterly Hanalei Bay where you can watch the sunset rays reflected off the spectacular cliffs of the Na Pali coast, Kaua’i’s sunsets are unparalleled. My favourite place to watch the sunset is Ke’e beach.