The list of amazing things to see and do on Kaua‘i is truly endless, but there are a handful of experiences that are so iconic and unique to Kaua‘i, so special, that they’re not to be missed and are sure to capture your heart in a way that will make you want to return to see them again and again.
THE NĀ PALI COAST By Air, Land, or sea, the ruggedly magnificent Nā Pali Coast is a natural wonder, by any measure. With its supernaturally sculpted cliffs and mountains, hidden white-sand beaches, verdant valleys, and cascading waterfalls, Nā Pali is stunningly beautiful—and totally unique as well. No wonder it sits atop the “must-see” list of almost every visitor to Kaua‘i! Explore it on land, via the Kalalau or Hanakapiai trails, by sea on a catamaran, fishing boat, or zodiac, or by air in a helicopter. Each offers a different but equally dazzling perspective on the wondrous coastline, and many visitors include the “Nā Pali trifecta” on the list of things they’d like to experience eventually—or even, if time permits, on a single trip.
MĀHĀʻULEPŪ HERITAGE TRAIL & BEACH Explore sea caves, hidden coves, ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs, and native plants along the breathtaking Māhāʻulepū Heritage Trail. Starting at Keoneloa Bay – best known as Shipwreck’s Beach, this easy walk alongside the ocean is just shy of four miles round-trip and ends at secluded Māhāʻulepū beach near Kawailoa Bay. If you’re an early riser, this trail is especially spectacular at sunrise. Don’t forget to bring lots of water and your swimsuits! As part of this adventure, we highly recommend that you take a tour of the Makauwahi Cave Preserve, located at the Māhāʻulepū end of the trail. Located in and around Hawai’i’s largest limestone cave is the richest fossil site in the islands, and a uniquely preserved, and active, archeological site. Visit www.cavereserve.org to view their most up-to-date tour schedule and more information about the reserve.
KAUA‘I’S NATIONAL TROPICAL BOTANICAL GARDENS | ALLERTON, MCBRYDE (SOUTH SHORE) & LIMAHULI (NORTH SHORE) Named one of the “50 Places of a Lifetime in America” by National Geographic Traveler, Allerton Garden is an exquisite masterpiece of landscape architecture that has been shaped over time by Hawai‘i’s Queen Emma, a sugar magnate, and most significantly an artist and architect. Take a guided tour through expertly crafted garden rooms that feature exotic plants, sculptures, and water features, and marvel at the towering roots of the famous Moreton Bay fig trees that have been featured in such films as Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean. McBryde Garden, located adjacent to Allerton Garden in the beautiful Lāwaʻi” Valley, is over 50 acres in size and is home to the world’s largest collection of native Hawaiian plants. A highlight of the McBryde Garden is their regenerative organic breadfruit orchard which celebrates one of the native Hawaiian’s most important canoe plants. Meander through the McBryde gardens on a self-led tour or take a guided tour of both the McBryde and Allerton gardens together.
One of the most biodiverse valleys in the Hawaiian Islands, Limahuli Garden and Preserve, located on the north shore, is home to dozens of endangered plants and birds found nowhere else on earth. Settled and farmed by Native Hawaiians for at least 1,500 years, Limahuli is one of the last easily accessible valleys with intact archeological complexes, native forest, pristine stream, and the presence of the descendants of the valley’s original inhabitants who cared for it. Book tours and view their special events at
www.Ntgb.org. (808) 742-2623 (Allerton & McBryde Gardens) | (808) 826-1053 (Limahuli Garden & Preserve)
WAIMEA CANYON & KOKE‘E STATE PARK Known as the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific,’ Waimea Canyon is approximately 10 miles long and, at points, up to 3,000 feet deep. For a quick peek at the canyon, stop at the lookout located on Highway 50, halfway between Kalaheo and Ele‘ele towns. For a more immersive experience, we highly recommend driving all the way up through Waimea Canyon State Park and stopping at the various lookouts along the way, each offering a different view of the ochre-colored canyon walls, and a few that feature spectacular waterfalls. At sunset, bathed in golden light, the canyon has an especially beautiful, ethereal feel to it. Located just beyond Waimea Canyon, Koke‘e State Park offers a forest rich in native plants, birds and over 45 miles of Kaua‘i’s best hiking trails. Follow the winding, well-maintained Waimea Canyon Dr. to the peak, at about 4,200 feet above sea level, and you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the Kalalau valley and a unique perspective of the Waimea Canyon. Check out the hiking section of this compendium for a list of our favorites, or stop by the Koke‘e Museum to pick up a hiking map and trail recommendations. Make it a weekend at one of their campsites or in one of their rustic cabins for rent. (808) 335-9975 | www.kokee.org
HANALEI BAY There’s something truly magnificent about this nearly two-mile, crescent shaped bay. Hanalei Bay is best known for its wide beach, sandy ocean bottom, its iconic pier, great surf, and breathtaking beauty. During the winter months (October – May), ocean swells can come up considerably offering spectacular surfing exhibitions by the many world champion surfers who call Hanalei home. During the summer months, the ocean is calm enough to welcome sailboats who anchor in the center of the bay, and small surf swells come through, offering fun, gentle waves for new and seasoned surfers alike. Surrounded by dramatic, lushly forested mountains, picturesque wetland taro fields, and a sleepy town filled with quaint shops and a wide array of restaurants and food trucks, you’ll need a full day to see and do everything in Hanalei. Be sure to stay for sunset, it’s the perfect way to end a spectacular day.
POLIHALE STATE PARK With its miles of white sand beaches, the great expanse of the sparkling blue Pacific Ocean, and the towering cliffs of the Nā Pali Coast, Polihale State Park is majestic, peaceful, and awe-inspiring. Getting there is a bit of an off-road adventure, best accessed only by vehicles with 4WD. Park at the top of the sand dunes (driving on the beach like the locals may seem fun, but the risk of getting stuck in the sand is high), and walk down to the beach – at Queen’s Pond for the best and safest swimming, and all the way to the right side of the beach if you’re looking for restrooms and showers. It’s hot on the island’s west-side, so be sure to come prepared with shade, food, and lots of cold water. In a place as remote as this, extra care must be taken when swimming – ocean currents can be strong and waves can be big, especially during the winter, so be sure to exercise extra caution when getting in the water. Stay for sunset, it’s spectacular in every way.