Kauai, the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands, is known as the Garden Island and as soon as you arrive, it’s easy to see why.
The island is one of the wettest places on earth, averaging 440 inches of rainfall annually. It has a very diverse landscape, with everything from caves to waterfalls and steep canyons to river valleys. This diverse landscape is host to micro-ecosystems where you can find 145 endangered species of plants and a dozen endangered exotic birds, some of which can only be found on Kauai.
We were only in Hawaii for a week, celebrating my aunt’s 70th birthday, and being ambitious, we decided to visit two islands, meaning we really had to decide what we wanted to see in each place and make the most of our days.
We rented a 3-bedroom condo on the beach in Kauai-Kailani, and walking along it, coffee in hand, watching the waves crash in was a perfect way to start each day.
At the top of our list of things to do here was attend a luau. We chose Smith’s Tropical Paradise Garden Luau, a family-run luau and tropical garden that has been around for over 60 years.
This is the same luau my grandma attended 30 years ago, making it an extra special stop for her daughters and granddaughters! We enjoyed a boat ride to the Fern Grotto and then wandered around the lush tropical gardens before enjoying a traditional Hawaiian feast followed by the evening show.
(More about that here)
The easiest way to explore Kauai is by renting a car and driving around. It was easy to navigate our way around the island, making stops along the way and enjoying the beautiful landscape..
Located on the Northernmost point of the island is Kilauea Point National Park Wildlife Refuge– home to a variety of nesting seabirds and also a migration stop for humpback whales in the winter.
You can get a great view down to the Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse and surrounding cove from the lookout above or you can head down below and walk around the grounds ($10 entrance fee for those 16+).
Hanalei Bay is a two-mile-long crescent-shaped bay in the cool town of Hanalei. The vibe here was great and I’d definitely love to come spend more time here. The beach and surrounding area were paradise—so beautiful it was hard to leave! The beach felt like it went on for miles, filled with people enjoying a beautiful day swimming and surfing with Hanalei’s misty green mountains located at the end.
The historic Hanalei Pier was built in 1892 and is a favourite spot among locals. The pier became world famous when it was featured in the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein film, South Pacific.
As we drove along, we stopped to check out waterfalls. Wailau was up first. Located just north of Lihuʻe at the south end of the Wailau River, it’s easily seen from the side of the road. Here, the water shoots right out of the rock.
Next up was Ōpaekaʻa Falls. You could only see it from a distance, but this 151-foot-tall waterfall cascades down into a hidden pool below.
“Ōpaekaʻa” means “rolling shrimp,” which were once abundant in the stream. The site has picnic tables and restrooms and across the street is the Wailau Heritage Trail lookout, and what a stunning view it was, with the river curving around a huge green hill in the middle.
Like other stops along the way, this one had a number of chickens. There are SOOO many chickens and roosters strutting around this island like they own the place. While on our tour at the Fern Grotto, we learned it was because during the last hurricane here, they all escaped their cages and have been running wild and multiplying ever since!
Kauai is known for its coffee and as a coffee lover, we had to make a stop at the Kauai Coffee Company.
We did a self-guided tour around the grounds, learning all about how the coffee beans are grown and then did a free sampling of some of their coffee varieties. The white chocolate macadamia nut was my favourite!
On Kauai’s South shore near the town of Poʻipu, we stopped at one of the island’s most photographed sites- the Spouting Horn blowhole.
Here, the water channels into a lava tube and releases a huge spout of water that can reach 50 feet in the air- an impressive sight!
I ended our time on Kauai by finally getting the ahi tuna poke bowl I’d been craving before heading to catch our flight.
I could have happily spent a month exploring this lush island, but with only 3 nights, we packed in what we could and I made a promise that I’d be back to see the rest, especially to take a helicopter ride over the Napali Coast and explore Waimea Canyon.