Waimea Canyon: Kauai's Grand Canyon
On the drier west side of the island is the Waimea Canyon State Park (1,866 acres) and the Koke's State Park (4,345 acres) that include the Waimea Canyon of Kauai. This is reportedly the largest canyon of its kind in the Pacific Ocean. The canyon is 10 miles long, 1 mile wide, and more than 3,500-feet deep. Carved thousands of years ago by rivers and floods that flowed from Mount Waialeale's summit, there are today numerous drive outs where one can stop the car, and walk to the edge for a stunning view. There is plenty of hiking and geological appreciation, but we didn't have time for that on this trip. I understand that the state park also includes Alakai swamp, which we also didn't visit. But, I wish we had done all these things. This is an excellent activity for Kauai that many people probably miss due to the effort to get there. There are no gas stations along the 40 mile long Waimea Canyon Road. At beach level, the air is often quite warm but by the time one gets to elevation of the ranger station it can be quite cool, so even if your hot at the beach, don't forget to bring long pants and a sweater. My photos here don't do the place justice really. We had a problem of a cloudy haze and it seemed like I was always shooting into the sun, so I hope these images at least give you an idea of what the place is like.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Hiking and Walking
- National/State Park
Visit the Kauai Coffee Company
Kauai Coffee Company is Hawaii's largest coffee grower. Near here, over 150 years ago, Hawaii's first commercial coffee plantation was planted. Here you can shop for many, many different types of coffee...some of them you can only find at this plantation. Also, there are 3 stations set up where you can sample different flavors and also watch a video of the history of the plantation. Tours are also available. I recommend the Hazelnut coffee!Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge (1)
Kilauea Point was the highlight of my first visit to Kaua'i. I was so completely mesmerized by the flight of the seabirds, so effortless in taking to the air, that I even thought, "I wouldn't mind being here on the last day of my life; and as I expire, my soul would become a bird and take off and mingle with other birds, before flying off to the Pacific...." So I made Kilauea the first stop on my second trip to the island, only to find that the refuge was closed because it was Presidents' Day. The refuge is closed on federal holidays.
Not to worry. There are parking spaces adjacent to the gate of the refuge and a view gallery for the peninsula with the lighthouse and the little cove east of it. This is actually a good spot for viewing birds, especially red-footed boobies that nest on the eastern wall of the cove. Quite a few people were there when I arrived, and a refuge volunteer was pointing things out to us. We saw a Hawaiian monk seal lying in the cove (a rare animal, only about twenty of them are present in all of the Hawaiian islands). Humpback whales were active offshore, and one made a spectacular breach.Related to:
- Whale Watching
Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge (2)
Of course, if you arrive here and find the refuge closed, you should definitely come back. This place can get crowded, but it's definitely worth it. The lighthouse peninsula is an exhilarating and refreshing place to experience the sea, and watching these seabirds fly does good to one's soul. On my return visit, I got to see most of the birds the refuge is known for - boobies, nene, Laysan albatrosses, great frigatebirds, white- and red-tailed tropicbirds (the red-tail was a first for me). Whales were active all over the ocean again, and this time, one was doing tail-slapping and delighting us visitors.
The refuge is home to four bird species which nest here - nene (Hawaiian goose), Laysan albatross, red-footed booby and wedge-tailed shearwater (the last, a spring-to-fall resident, had not arrived yet when I visited). The place also puts effort into preservation of endangered plant species, especially the alula, a cliff plant under peril because of apparent extinction of the insect species that would pollinate it.Related to:
- Whale Watching
Kamukila Hawaiian Village
Kamukila Hawaiian Village is small theme village actually, in fact you can see how a Polynesian village looks like with thatched huts and some native craft making (you see demonstrations of them). There’s a small guided tour and it doesn’t take more than 30’. The entrance fee is only $5 ($3 for children) and they are open 9.00 to 16.30 Monday to Saturday. It is really nothing really special, I have to say that I found it kind of boring except the funny legend they told us about the name Kamukila which is a lizard that was supposed to gather every precious stone in the island and that explains why you can’t find any of them in our days in Kaua’i. :) By the way, this village used in the movie Outbreak.
The guys that run the place offer canoe rides which is a good reason to visit the place. There different things to choose from like
-Canoe ride to Secretfalls for $30 (45’ the guided paddle to trail or 3 hours selfguided hike to waterfall),
-Canoe ride to Swimming Hole for $20 (1 hour guided paddle and swim),
-Canoe ride to Fern Grotto for $20 (1 hour guided paddle and walk).
-You can also have your own kayak all day for $35 (don’t forget to bring your own lunch).Related to:
- Theme Park Trips
If you havent been tired of hiking in Kauai (so many choices) there is a small one at the north side of Princeville! We drove at the end of Punahele Road (you will find it on the right hand after driving down 2 km on the main road). There’s no free parking area but hopefully we didnt get any fee and I noticed many other rental cars there too. Dont forget to take a bottle of water with you, a hat, your bathing clothes of course and definitely wear good shoes (some people with slippers are looking for trouble) because the hike isnt long but it’s not the easiest in some parts.
First you have to go down a muddy path (pic 1) for 10 minutes. There are some nice parts with small waterfalls (pic 2) here and there and after some small or big natural steps (avoid the hike if you have problems with your knees) you will reach the shore. Now you have to walk on the rocks (pic 3) you see on your left hand for about 5 minutes! There are many signs that warns you about treacherous spots which means unexpected big waves can cause serious injuries or drownings because you can easily be knocked off the rocks. I dont want to scare you but there are even life-buoy for those that are already on the sea! (pic 4)
After a while you will finally see the natural swimming pool (pic 5), actually there are more than one. If the waves aint too big watch your step and go inside. The waves splash over the rocks which is weird and nice at the same time. Some books say that there are sea turtles but we didnt see any of them. On your way back pay attention again, I noticed some people that are tired of the sun and just walk fast to their cars.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
One morning we drove north. We turned right between 22 and 23 mile and we approached Kilauea town, actually the area with stores (pic 2) and cafes so we had our breakfast there. It used to be another plantation town, a big sugar company had its base here at the end of 19th century and closed down in 1971. We drove a bit more to reach the Kilauea National Wilflife Refuge. Before the entrance there is a lookout spot where you can stop for a while and take some nice pics of the historic lighthouse (pic 1). It was built in 1913 and had the largest clamshell lens in the world.
To see the lighthouse from close distance (and get inside) you have to drive a bit down the road, park (for free) and pay the entrance fee ($5). Some visitors think that they will walk in the park but you will be allowed only to walk the path that will take you to the Kilauea Point Historic Lighthouse. Some tourists dont like that (and feel cheated) but we have to respect (and understand) that this is a refuge of wildlife and yes they need to be protected. So some signs (pic 3) are there for you and not the birds because they can’t read :) With good lenses and cameras you can admire the rare birds though, like the five species of sea birds. The view from the area around the Lighthouse is great anyway, you can check the small island (pic 4) that houses many of them or the Kaapea (Secret) beach (pic 5) on north shore. With binoculars you may see whales and dolphins at the ocean. There is also a small info kiosk with many photos and displays and a souvenir store with some nice books also. The refuge is open daily 10.00 to 16.00 and some days they offer small guided hike to Crater Hill. We missed that because of the breakfast earlier :(
On our way back we stopped at the end of Kolo road to check the Christ Memorial Episcopal church. It was built in 1941 with lava stone walls but the cemetery next to it dates from the end of 19th century when a Hawaiian Congregational church was here.
It was time to reach Kuhio Highway again which you will understand is the highway that you will drive most of your time in this island as it covers a looong way.
Directions:drive north on Kuhio Highway. Kilauea town is at the right hand after mile 23. Lighthouse is at the end of Kilauea RoadRelated to:
- National/State Park
- Whale Watching
The first thing I remember from Kapaa town is the colorful front walls of the several stores. It used to be one of the previous century plantation towns (till 1960) but now is more focused on tourism. There are many stores to rent a surf board here or book other tours and even pubs for you that prefer to live during the night (but you’ll miss the real attractions in Kauai). It seems most of the tourists choosing the east side are here. Just a few miles before Kapaa you will see rows of coconut trees, the place is called Royal Coconut Coast (pic 1). Our hotel was located near here where the Coconut Market Place also located.
There are several beaches near Kappa. There is a scenic view stop just north of Kapaa (pic 2). It is the spot where the Kapa’a beach is and as you can see in the picture there is a path for bicycles and joggers. The Kapa’a beach park is located next to the town’s center, a 1.3km long beach with picnic shelters and bathrooms.
Further north you can swim at Kealia beach (pic 3). It means salt land and there are many small areas of salt because of the waves. It is a 1.2km sandy beach with no facilities at all. The high waves didnt allow us to enjoy it much but the bodyboarders seemed to have fun there.
We continued drive north to Anahola for the Anahola beach park. It is located at the town of Anahola, a 1km long beach with many facilities like picnic tables, bathrooms, lifeguard etc I have read that it gets packed the locals but what we found was a deserted beach.
After mile 14 we tried to see the King Kong’s profile on the mountain but still when I look at my pic 4 I try to understand where he is :) Just a bit north from there, after mile 15, you can also see the Hole In The Mountain spot, where depending the time of the day you can see the sunrays go through it It used to be bigger and more obvious.
There is always traffic betwen Lihue and Kapaa so use the bypass road after mile 6 on Kuhio Highway.Related to:
Smith’s tropical PARADISE
Smith’s Tropical Paradise is a nice theme garden where you can walk around the 1,5 km long pathway and enjoy the 30 acres of gardens and small or big lagoons. We loved some beautiful corners here, like some small bridges, some colorful flowers and the numerous birds. Of course, the most funny were the roosters that were running behind us all the time. I also noticed some small recreated huts like in several ethnic villages like the Fillipino village (pic 3) and some weird ones like the head from the Easter island (pic4)
The Gardens are open 8.30-16.00 daily. The entrance fee is $6($3 for children). They provide you with a small simple map to know where you are although it’s very difficult to get lost and there are signs that show the way (according to the map route).
Some days(Monday, Wednesday, Friday) you can join their Lu’au with traditional dance and food but you have to pay $78 for this so I can’t tell you if it’s worth it. The leaflet says that you can go at 17.00 stroll around for an hour and at 18.00 watch the programe which includes the Imu ceremony, Kalua pig steam roasted to an exotic succulence in an authentic earth oven!
What surprises me is that we saw only one pig in the park, oh oh, it seems they kill one every time :)Related to:
- National/State Park
Ha’ena beach and some dry and wet Caves
As you keep driving up north the 560 highway you will notice many locals relaxing at the noumerous big or small beaches along the way. We prefered to stop at Ha’ena Beach Park(pics 1-2) that has many facilities like bathroooms, picnic tables, huge parking area etc We enjoyed some shaved ice from the lunch wagon(pic 3) that also serves beverages, chips and sandwiches. Some prices are: one flavor shaved ice costs $3, 2 flavors $3.50), sandwiches ($4.50-7), water ($1.5), coconut juices ($5). For us it was more interesting to taste the banana bread of the lady near by. For $5 it was one of best I ever tried. I regret we didnt buy more.
Of course the reason we came up here was the Dry Cave that is located opposite the beach. It is called Manihiholo (the head fisherman of Menehune people) cave with a wide entrance (pic 4) but nothing really interesting to see here. Less than a mile north are located the two wet caves, Waikapala’e and Waikanaloa. We found them very dark and the water cold, very cold...
In case you dont have a map with you have in mind that you are just a few meters away from the end of the road! :)Related to:
Exiting the Princeville we stopped at the Hanalei Valley Overlook. Pic 1 shows a familiar image of Kauai because every book and postcard includes this one. It’s really beautiful to look down the gorgeous valley and the Hanalei river splitting the numerous green fields and mountains around it. The hawaian people have grown taro in the valley for many centuries If you want to see the Hanalei town there is another viewpoint just a kilometer north from the right side of the road.
Dont miss the Historic Hanalei bridge (pic 4), now old and rusty but beautifully standing there. It was built in 1912, one among 7 onelane bridges on the 560 Highway. Watch out and respect the rule which is the first car on the bridge has priority and the same cars with the cars that follow.
After eating something light at the beautifully located Dolphin restaurant (check my restaurant tip) we walked a bit along the river and getting jealous of those in the river (pic 2) we visited the Wai’oli Hui’ia church (pic 3) in Hanalei town. It is a green wooden building that was built in 1912, The bell tower houses the original mission church bell. Right next to the church is the Wai’oli Mission Hall that was built in 1841 from the first missionaries that arrived in Hanalei. By the way, the town of Hanalei is small enough but seemed a lively surf town with many restaurants along the main road. Check again if you have gas at your car and continue along the 560 highway, a scenic route with green on left side and the ocean at your right hand (pic 5).
Betwen Anini beach and Hanalei bay you can visit the 11,000 acres of Princeville. First you will see the fountain (pic 1) and then you will start drive at the almost empty wide roads (pic 2) with trees on both sides. We started to wonder how much the residents of the houses (pic 3) pay here and then I’ve read that it’s a place for really rich people here. There are also time share complexes, golf courses and two luxury hotels. At the end of the main road is the Princeville hotel that overlooks Hanalei bay (pic 4). It was built in 1985 and if luxury is your style the goldcrowned columns will do the job. For me Kauai is so beautiful that there’s no need for something more than wood and stone but they say the sunset is beautiful from the resort.
Their shopping center is probably useful for you too on your way further north on the island because you can get supplies from the super market, money from the bank and you can fill you car at the gas station which is the last one on the north shore (but also the most expensive one).
The Plantation of Princeville ownded by the scotsman foreign minister Robert Wyllie. He wanted to honor the visit of King Kamehameha in 1860 and names the area by the royal status of Kamehameha’ son Prince Albert. The prince died inthe age of four only but even today a festival is held in his memory every year in May with local dances and music.Related to:
- Luxury Travel
- Historical Travel
St Raphaels Church
St. Raphael’s church is the oldest catholic church in the island of Kauai. It was founded in 1841 by Robert Arsenius Walsh who did the first Mass on december 25 of the same year. Walsh established the parish two years after Catolics were granted religious freedom in Hawaii. of the first catholic missionaries that arrived in Hawai’i in 1827 but they forced to leave due to the earlier seeds of anticatholicism that the Protestant Missionaries had planted.
You can see the relics of the old church (pic 1) but the one that stands there today was build in 1854 (but it was blessed in 1856) and renovated in 1936. It is simply decorated inside (pics 2-3). There were no visitors inside and noone that could give me more info about the church but on our way out I noticed some simple leaflets that have some general historical info.
We walked a bit around and visited the small cemetery (pic 4) of the church where are buried some of the first Portuguese immigrants that settle on Kauai. The last burial in this cemetery occurred at about 1935Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Religious Travel
Old Town of Koloa and Poipu
The day we drove to the south of Kauai we passed through a Tunnel of Trees. From Lihue we took Kaumuli’i Highway(hw 50) and then turned left on highway 520(maluhia road) which is actually a highway covered with trees from both sides (pic 1). The double row of eucalyptus trees were planted by Alexander McBryde in 1911 and they cover about 1,5km along the road! It was great to see from helicopter too but I missed the photo from up there.
This road leads to Koloa (tall sugar cane) town, which had one of the first sugar plantations in the island, founded in 1835 and shut down only a few years before, in 1996. At Koloa’s main intersection is a brick chimney (pic 2), we parked to check it and read the sign that says that it is the Old Koloa Sugar Mill, a national historic landmark. It was built in 1841 and it was the the plantation’s third sugar mill. There is a monument (pic 3) in front of the park where the mill is. The bronze sculpture shows the life of the workers, from many different races that were there (japanase, filipinos, latins etc). Koloa town has not much for the visitor although its tourist oriented with several souvenir shores. The main road looks like it comes from the Old West with the wooden buildings and their falsefronts!
From Koloa you can continue south to Poipu, which is the main base for the majority of the visitors in Kauai. Here, we saw more hotels than anywhere else in the island. Buildings like the ones of Marriott or Sheraton hotels aren’t my piece of cake but there are some nice beaches like the ones at Mahaulepu coastline (you have to take the dirt road after Hyatt Regency). Further west at Lawai Road you can visit the Prince Kuhio Park where a moinument of Prince Kuhio stands or see the Spouting Horn blowhole, where the waves surge under a flat lava shelf though a lava tube, they can go up to 10meters but we didnt see them that high (they say during summer is more impressive.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Definitely one of the most expensive things to do in Kaua’i is to take a helicopter tour. You have to pay about $200 dollars depending on the company, the type of helicopter and where your seat will be. We tried the first class seat which is next to the pilot and we didn’t regret it, the ride was amazing and the reason is that in the island of Kauai doesn’t have roads in a big part (the majority of the island is mountainous) of it and only the helicopter can take you there. Check carefully many companies before you choose, we booked ours through a tour agent at the lobby of our hotel. She explained the advantages of every company (some have newer helicopters, some have bigger windows, some less noise, some bigger space etc).
Sunshine Company had a great service with free pickup from the hotel and the type of our helicopter is called Black Beauty (pic 1), officially the model is ASTAR 350FX, a 2008 model. I’ve read that it operates faster with less fuel burn so we felt less guilty about how bad is for the environment flying with a helicopter (or a plane etc). It was big enough for the two of us in the front and we had extra room for leg and arm, yes we were very satisfied but the people at the back weren’t so comfortable though (but they payed $50 less each)
All the helicopters depart from the Lihue airport, first they give you a safety demonstration and you return at the same spot after the ride. Our pilot (pic 2) were giving info all the way during our 50’ ride but we really didn’t really care about all these ancient kings and queens because the beauty in front of us was amazing. He drove us through Waimea Canyon, over the mountain through the fog, near the west coast, along Na Pali Coast, actually he covered almost the whole island.
2373 Ho'ohu Rd, Poipu, Hawaii, 96756, United States
Good for: Business
7083 Alamihi Rd., Hanalei, Hawaii, 96714, United States
Good for: Business
It was a great place, good location. However, Kauai Coast Resort business practice is desired to be...more
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