When I first thought about traveling to Hawaii, I wanted to spend time in a place rich in nature with few tourist spots. Kauai seems to offer plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in gorgeous scenery and tranquil landscapes. It exceeded my expectations. Hiking trails, relaxing on the beach, and playing miniature his golf meant being surrounded by vibrant colors and a soothing breeze. There are many opportunities to enjoy Kauai’s natural beauty in many ways.
1. Waimea Canyon Hike
Drive along State Highway 550 into Waimea Canyon for spectacular views. Of course, stop at the lookout to take photos of the iconic Hawaiian waterfalls. However, if you want a closer look at the spectacular colors of the canyon walls or plan on a moderately challenging 2-3 hour hike, venture into the canyon along the Waimea Canyon Trail. The forest was so thick along the first part of the road that I thought I had taken a wrong turn and decided to turn back. But a little further on, you reach a stone outcrop with a vast canyon in front of you. After scrambling over slightly treacherous rocks, a small pool of cool water awaits at the base of a 10-foot-tall waterfall. Waimea Canyon lives up to its nickname, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.
Pro tip: Visitors to Waimea Canyon State Park must pay parking and admission fees. Carry enough water and snacks for the trail.
2. Pihea Trail
At the end of Route 550, walk along the ridge and look out over the lush vegetation of Corky State Park on your right. On the other side of the Na Pali Coast lies the 2-mile-wide Kalalau Valley, with sparkling azure waters beyond. The Pihaa Trail is supposed to be easy, but after trekking through Waimea Canyon, it’s a little more challenging with slightly undulating terrain. It rained lightly during the drive, but my family decided to try the trail anyway. Every time I stopped by the observatory, the number of rainbows increased. Finally, a brilliant 270-degree double rainbow encircled the ridge.
Pro tip: Plan a day to do both of these hikes. After hiking the canyon, stop by the Pihaa Trail at the Cokey Lodge Cafe and Lodge to refresh and rejuvenate. You can also check out the Kokee Natural History Museum and spend time with the roaming wild chickens.
3. Secret Garden at the end of the Waikoa Loop Trail
When you start the Wai Koa Loop Trail from the Kauai North Shore Dog Park, you may have no idea what lies ahead. A wide, flat dirt path first traverses a large forest of clean rows of mahogany. Two miles (2 miles) downhill into a small, quiet valley that looks like a scene from a fairy movie. Gorgeous red flowers sparkle among the different shades of green plants and grass. Cross the creek on a wooden bridge to a wide stone waterfall built in 1880 to feed sugar cane plantations. A bamboo stand sets the backdrop for a 10-foot tall Buddha statue. This trail provides a haven from which to enjoy the beauty of Kauai.
pro tips: The Wai Koa Loop Trail has a trailhead at Anaina Hau Community Park, which is currently closed. There is a trailhead at the end of the dog park parking lot.
4. Snow Park Community Park
For a more vigorous activity, try your putting skills with mini golf at Annainaina Howe Community Park. I have tried many miniature golf courses with my daughter, but this one is by far the most fascinating. A course full of plants. Courses are open Wednesday through Sunday from 10am to 4pm. Reservations are recommended, but walk-ins are welcome until 3pm, subject to availability.
Pro tip: Give the gift of Hawaiian ice to your well-played game.
5. McBride Garden
McBride Gardens, located in the Rawai Valley on Kauai’s south side, offers guided tours and free roaming of 50 acres. Our diverse collection of tropical plants and trees includes the largest collection of species endemic to Hawaii. Buses transport visitors to the coastal gardens on narrated rides. Your visit may involve long walks exploring different areas of the park, as well as research visits to some of the unique plants.
Pro tip: Time your walk by checking when the shuttle bus returns.
6. Smith Family Garden and Luau
A Hawaiian luau may seem cliche, but it’s still something to experience and provides a great introduction to the culture of the island. making and continuing a multi-generational business. Arrive at the Smith Family Gardens as early as possible for your luau, allowing plenty of time to stroll among the bamboo and fruit trees and along the pond. Kalua pigs can then be roasted on the ground and presented in a short ceremony. As darkness falls, dancers in traditional costumes entertain the audience with drums and flames.
Pro tip: The Smith family also offers river cruises to Fern Grotto. Stories and songs entertain you as the open-air boat glides across the smooth waters. You can also learn hula dance.
7. Lydgate Beach Park
Lydgate State Park on Kauai’s eastern side offers space for swimmers, surfers and picnickers. My favorite part was the calm waters protected by a semicircle of rocks. I enjoyed relaxing in the shallow water and sometimes stepping into the deeper water. There are various fish in the pool, and you can do snorkeling leisurely. With parking and restrooms available, this beach is an easy activity to spend the day.
8. Grove Farm Sugar Plantation Museum
One of Hawaii’s first sugar cane plantations replaced the Kukui Grove on the eastern side of Kauai in 1854. That’s why the place was called Grove Farm. William Norton Wilcox later purchased the plantation and handed it over to his family. You can explore the grounds to learn about the history and enjoy the surrounding gardens. Guided tours last approximately 2 hours and include the main house and attached cottages.
Pro tip: Groups are small and can fill up quickly, so book your tour early. Tours are available Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM.
9. Kilohana Farm Rail Tour
Travel along the 2.5-mile railroad track through the 105-acre Kilohana Plantation and admire lush orchards of bananas, pineapples, mangoes and papaya. Relax in the gentle breeze on a historic open-air train as the conductor tells you funny stories. In the fields, the train makes a temporary stop so you can feed wild boars, goats and donkeys. You can also dine in the Kilohana Courtyard at Plantation House by Gaylord.
10. Na Pali Coast
Jump into the water for even more spectacular views of Kauai. Several tour companies offer raft, yacht and motorboat tours from Hanalei Bay on Kauai’s north shore. The boat crew of my choice narrated the trip along the Na Pali Coast. They sailed far enough from the coast to look up at striking cliffs of varying shades of green. Afterwards they took us to a cove where we took close-up photos of the swirling water and waterfalls.We stopped at a calm bay for lunch and snorkeling. I’m not a great swimmer, so I rested on the boat and watched other people. The crystal clear aquamarine water made it possible to see schools of fish and even a few sea turtles from above. The driver then revved up the engine for an exciting and bumpy ride back to the bay.
11. Bike to the market
Ke Ala Hele Makalae (“Coastal Road”) stretches along Kauai’s east coast, providing wide, flat lanes for scenic biking. Since I was staying south of the road, I rented a bike from Kauai Cycles on the Kuhio Highway and headed to Moanakai Road. . If you’re staying along the North Coast, there’s also a bike rental shop at the northern end.
Kauai lives up to its nickname of the “Garden Island”. You can easily fill a week with a variety of activities that immerse you in the island’s natural beauty. Waterfalls, tropical landscapes, unique flowers and interesting culture await.
For more information on traveling to Kauai, check out the following articles: