Destination Guide: Kauai, Hawaii

Notable cities: Princeville, Kapaa


The Hawaiian island of Kauai is aptly nicknamed the Garden Isle, due to the lush vegetation that can be found on most parts of the island. It’s the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands and it is located west of Oahu.
Soon after flying into Lihue Airport, you will find that this tropical island will easily check all boxes on your travel wish list. Relax on the beach, go out on the water, hike in the mountains or fly over the cliffs. Wherever your plans take you, you will have an enjoyable vacation while staying at one of Global Discovery Vacations’ comfortable accommodations.

Must see attractions

Na Pali Coast
During your stay on Kauai you will quickly notice that nature dictates how you will travel. If you are exploring the town of Princeville for example, you will have to drive clockwise to get to the south side of the island. “The End of the Road” is a real thing here. The main reason for this beautiful inconvenience is the Na Pali Coast.

Even though there is a Na Pali Coast State Park, don’t expect to drive up and just soak up the sights, for this natural treasure can be seen by air, water or on foot. Although there is no one right way of viewing the dramatic cliffs, the options vary greatly in the amount of effort and cost associated.

A truly spectacular way of viewing all the nooks and crannies of the valleys and cliffs (not to mention the bonus views of the ocean and its beaches) is to take a helicopter tour. After you have spent some time on the island you will soon realize that “helicopter tourism” is a massive industry on this island and you will be spoiled for choice. Main considerations will be whether you prefer a private tour over a shared flight and if you prefer to have the doors on or off. Whichever option you pick, make sure to hold on to your (not recommended) hats and (highly recommended) cameras.

It's easy to forget that you are in a helicopter with a view like this.

It’s easy to forget that you are in a helicopter with a view like this.

Another fun way to get to the Na Pali Coast is by boat. Tour companies cater to your every need by offering different vessels, lunches and boarding times. Usually the ocean is calmer in the morning, but for those who are in charge of taking pictures, the light is generally better later in the day. Traveling by boat has the added benefit of seeing dolphins, sea turtles and whales, depending on the season.

Ocean life and coast line will compete for your attention.

Ocean life and coast line will compete for your attention.

Last but not least, there is the option to hike the Na Pali Coast. The Kalalau Trail starts at the end of the road and is 11 miles long. If you have hiked before, forget all you know, because this hike is something else. Only few people traverse the whole trail, which would require a camping permit. Make sure you are well rested and properly hydrated however many miles you take on. Start early in the day if you can and keep a close eye on the weather. Most people enjoy the first two miles of the trail and turn around. This will still allow you to get plenty breathtaking views of the coastline.

Well-deserved view from the Kalalau Trail.

Well-deserved view from the Kalalau Trail.

Kilauea Light House
On the north side of the island stands the Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Lighthouse. In honor of the late Senator, this monument has been renamed after him in 2013. The surrounding area of this monument is recognized as a national wildlife refuge where you can spot seabirds and shorebirds, monk seals and migrating humpback whales.

Kilauea Point

Kilauea Point

Waimea Canyon

Visit this canyon to get a good idea of how Kauai’s landscape has been carved out over millions of years. The dramatic effects of lava flows and extreme rainfall made Waimea Canyon what it is today. Passing clouds provide different views of the gorge at every occasion. Be sure to stop at one of the various lookout points on the way to Waimea Canyon State Park.

Kauai’s bountiful vegetation is there for a reason: one of the wettest spots on earth can be found near the canyon at the summit of Mount Waialeale. Beachgoers fear not, because this certainly does not hold true for the entire island.

Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon

Also try…

  • Beaches
    Going to the beach seems like an obvious thing to do while on a tropical island such as Kauai, but don’t forget that there are roughly 60 beaches on this island. In all fairness, most of these beaches can’t easily be reached or even found, but at least 25 of them will keep you entertained during your stay. For example, the Lydgate State Park is only three miles away from the Pono Kai Resort and you will find two enclosed “ocean pools” that are created by huge lava rocks. Overall a great choice for beginning snorkelers, families with children or for swimming laps!

    This lovely beach is right outside the Pono Kai resort.

    This lovely beach is right outside the Pono Kai resort.

  • Opaekaa Falls
    On the east side of the island, between Kapaa and Lihue, you will find these easily accessible waterfalls. The falls are named after the rolling shrimp that used to “roll down” to the water below.
Opaekaa Falls.

Opaekaa Falls.

  • Wailua River
    Kauai is the only island in the state that has navigable rivers, so here’s your chance to switch gears and enjoy some freshwater. Popular activities on this 20-mile-long river include cruises and kayaking.
  • Spouting Horn
    According to Hawaiian folklore there is a giant lizard trapped in this blowhole. When the surf comes in, the water is forced through a gap in the lava shelf and spouts in the air. The howling and moaning serve as a reminder of the trapped reptile. When the surf is high, this is a fun place to seek out.
Spouting Horn

Spouting Horn

  • Sleeping Giant
    The Nounou Mountain is better known by its popular name “Sleeping Giant”. This mountain range thanks its nickname to another Hawaiian legend. Unlike Gulliver on Lilliput, this giant never quite recovered from its after-dinner nap. At the end of the two-mile hike to the summit (the head of the giant) there are beautiful views to be had of Kauai’s East Coast. Just try not to wake the giant as you are taking pictures.
Tread carefully as the giant is still asleep.

Tread carefully as the giant is still asleep.

Travel tips/Trivia

  • Roosters
    In addition to being called the “Garden Isle,” Kauai could have easily been nicknamed “Rooster Isle” or “Chicken Isle”. Be prepared for that chicken crossing the road and sharing the beach with you. With all these roosters you might think that an alarm clock is unnecessary on the island, but these feathered friends are not exactly known for their Swiss accuracy. The origin of these feral chickens is heavily debated, but their large population is due to the lack of natural predators. In case you are wondering: Lava rocks are said to be less tough than these wild birds.
Try to tell that rooster that he is not the State Bird...

Try to tell that rooster that he is not the State Bird…

  • Red Dirt
    Many of Kauai’s trails are covered in red dirt. The oxidized iron content of the soil gives it its distinct tint. The dirt can leave some serious stains, so if you prefer a slightly more official souvenir then visit one of the shops that sell actual “red dirt shirts”.
  • Keep it low
    Kauai has an official law that states that no building on the island can be higher than a palm tree.
  • Coffee & TV
    Attention coffee and movie fans, because the Garden Isle is home to the largest coffee plantation in the United States and has been featured in more than 60 blockbuster movies and TV shows, such as “Jurassic Park,” “King Kong,” “Indiana Jones” and “Fantasy Island”.

Suggested Resorts

Member Feedback

Ray originally hails from The Hague, Netherlands and one day showed up at Global Discovery Vacations’ doorstep. When he is not traveling or writing, you might find him engaged in playing ping pong, swimming or planting tulips.