Kauai, Hawaii
Kauai’s Na Pali Coast
Published March/April 2015

Kauai

Mountains, valleys, forests, rivers, waterfalls — enjoy this island’s natural beauty for an affordable and memorable experience

BYBeverly Burmeier
Lush foliage in thick native forests and a proliferation of rainbow-hued blossoms surrounding streets and gardens are hallmarks of Kauai. No wonder this tropical paradise is called the Garden Isle of Hawaii. But it’s also called the Island of Discovery, an apt moniker because its geographic diversity provides options to discover landscapes as varied as sparkling beaches, mountains and valleys, forests and rivers, and soaring cliffs along the jagged coastline.
 
The oldest and fourth largest of the Hawaiian Islands, Kauai was formed from volcanic eruptions 5 million years ago. Thousands of years without eruptions have allowed the island to grow into a verdant haven with a unique topography among the islands. Its beauty is available for everyone to enjoy. Visitors, whether first-time or repeat, continue to discover fascinating and free, or inexpensive, ways to appreciate Kauai. 
 
Now, immerse yourself in the best Mother Nature has to offer.
 
Behold the Grand Canyon of the Pacific
Splashed with a kaleidoscope of colors, Waimea Canyon is a sightseer’s paradise. As the indisputable main attraction of the island, the canyon measures 1 mile wide, 10 miles long, and more than 3,500 feet deep. The 4,345-acre upland forest at the top of Kauai has numerous lookouts from which to admire brilliant crimson rocks and emerald trees.
 
Interspersed are 45 public trails of varying difficulty levels. If you’re adventurous, hike into the crater, a corridor of sumptuous plant life and multicolored rock formations. Take a jacket as temperatures can be 20 degrees cooler deep in the canyon. Or venture to Waipo’o Falls, another popular trek that takes about three hours round trip.
 
Enjoy a picnic at the uppermost point overlooking the valley in Koke’e State Park. Kalalau Lookout is a photographer’s dream with stunning views of the once-cultivated valley. 
 
Hike in Rainforests or Lush Valleys
While there are plenty of easy hiking paths throughout Kauai’s spacious wilderness, serious hikers will want to tackle at least part of the 11-mile Kalalua Trail along the majestic Na Pali Coast. Because of frequent rainfall, the skimpy trail may be damp and slippery, so good hiking shoes are a must. Views from steep cliff-side promontories are simply spectacular, but hold on to your hat as the winds can be ferocious.
 
Try one of the easiest and most accessible mountain hikes on Nounou Mountain, also known as the Sleeping Giant, and learn about myths and legends of the giant’s adventures and how he fell asleep. Three main trails eventually converge into one, the shortest being at the west entrance.  
 
Kayak on Hawaii’s Only Navigable River
Rent a kayak and paddle along Wailua River beside flourishing foliage to the famous amphitheater called Fern Grotto. Long feathery ferns hang upside down from the roof of the cave where musical performances take advantage of the grotto’s excellent acoustics. Continue on foot to Secret Falls (Uluwehi Falls), a cool spot for a refreshing dip in the waterfall’s pool. Once a sacred place reserved for kings and high chiefs of Hawaii, this splendid landscape can be accessed either on your own or with a guide. Not up to paddling and hiking? A riverboat takes non-kayakers up the river. 
 
On Kauai’s north shore, kayak to the sliver of beach made famous by the movie South Pacific. Paddle through ocean waves to the Blue Lagoon, a protected golden-sand beach, and snorkel at Hanalei Bay reef.
Manawaiopuna Falls, also known  as "Jurassic Park" Falls
Manawaiopuna Falls, also known as "Jurassic Park" Falls
If You Go
While there are many free things to do on the island, the following are amazing sights you’ll want to experience that are worth paying for. 
 
Boat cruise along the Na Pali Coast: Catamarans and Zodiacs leaving Port Allen follow 4,000-foot-high cliffs along the jagged mountainous coastline that has been featured in movies such as Jurassic Park, King Kong, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Peaked ridges, towering cliffs, sea caves, and green valleys will keep your camera clicking on popular dinner cruises. Visit: napali.com  
 
National Tropical Botanical Garden: Three gardens make up the series. Allerton Garden is a natural showcase for tropical plants like giant ficus trees. Thousands of rare and endangered tropical species are found in the expansive McBryde Garden. Check out cultural practices at Limahuli Garden on the north shore. Visit: tours.ntbg.org  
 
Kauai Coffee Estate: Just past Kalaheo you’ll find the largest producer of coffee in the Hawaiian Islands. Take a self-guided walking tour, including the live coffee tree maze, or participate in a coffee tasting in the visitor center. Visit: kauaicoffee.com 
 
 
For More Information
To learn more about about Hawaiian vacations, visit AAA.com, or call your local AAA Travel agent toll-free at 1-888-870-9367.
 
 
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