Kauai is called the Garden Island because of its beautiful green landscape, stunning canyons and paradise beaches. You’ll want to be outside exploring the winding rivers and lush jungle for much of your trip, so we’ve rounded up the best places to discover before you leave, and where to get delicious food in between.
See the Waimea Canyon
Mark Twain nicknamed it the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’ and it’s always at the top of every Kauai visitor’s list, as it should be. The Waimea Canyon is a must-see for any trip to the island, whether you decide to hike it, drive it, or see it by air. A beautiful ravine of cascading reds, greens and browns created by centuries of volcanic flow, many feel that it is more breathtakingly colourful than the Grand Canyon. Be sure to stop at the different lookouts along the canyon, especially the Pu’u Ka Pele Lookout with its amazing views of Waipo’o Falls.
Visit Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge
Kauai is often called the Garden Island and there’s nowhere it earns this name quite so much as at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. The lush green slopes of the extinct volcano descend to rugged ocean cliffs, which look out over the frothing, blue Pacific. Rare seabirds live in the foliage and can be seen dive bombing the historic Kilauea Lighthouse. Expect to see Laysan albatrosses in the air and Hawaiian monk seals in the water below. Be sure to put on your walking shoes, because the Lighthouse is fascinating and offers some of the best views around.
Go on a Film Tour
Well over 100 films and TV shows have been shot on the island, and a film tour is a great way to make sure you don’t miss any of the set locations of your favourites. Indiana Jones, Lost, Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean have all used the island for filming at some time or another. Some of the tours available on the island have buses equipped with televisions so you can see the scenes that were filmed in Kauai before you visit the location. Many of the tour guides also talk about the history, geography and culture of the island, so it’s well worth booking a place.
Tour Kauai’s Hindu Monastery
Kauai Hindu Monastery is absolutely beautiful and it feels very special to be allowed to tour such a spiritual place. It is only open to the public one day a week between 9am and midday, so be sure to arrive in plenty of time. Information panels can be found throughout, with interesting titbits about both the monastery itself and the Hindu religion. Visitors are allowed to worship at the traditional 9am temple ceremony, which is a really special experience, or you can just meditate under the banyan tree and absorb the peacefulness of the temple. Modest clothing is required, so bear this in mind as you won’t be able to enter in shorts or tank tops.
Boat Up the Wailua River
Wailua River Valley has been used in several films and a boat trip down the river is a must for visitors to Kauai. There are trips that take you along the river with a guide, who points out areas of interest and indigenous wildlife, and tells stories of the river. After half an hour on the water, guests disembark to see the beautiful Fern Grotto, where entertainers perform the Hawaiian Wedding Song. Weddings at the Fern Grotto are a long local tradition and several are still performed there each week.
Discover the Past at Kilohana Plantation
Kilohana Plantation gives you a glimpse into Kauai’s agricultural past, with the historic Gaylord Wilcox mansion and sugar train Plantation railway. The mansion is now home to the Gaylord’s at Kilohana restaurant, one of the top eateries on the island and well worth a visit after a day sightseeing. Take a ride on the Kauai Plantation Railway, which recreates the sugar trains which once crisscrossed the island when sugar production was important to the island’s economy. You’ll travel through the 70-acre plantation and learn about the exotic crops and history of tropical agriculture on Kauai.
Eat Poke at Ishiara Market
Poke is set to become the next big food trend, so make sure that you try the real thing whilst you’re visiting Kauai and one of the best places to get it is at Ishihara Market. Poke is a sort of Hawaiian version of sashimi, with cubed raw fish served in a marinade with rice and veggies. It’s absolutely delicious and beautifully refreshing on a hot day. Choose from all different fish and vegetables to shape your yummy Hawaiian treat to suit your tastes.
Find Your Favourite Shave Ice
Shave Ice is a staple of Kauai island life and everyone has a different opinion about where does the best. This snowy, fruit-flavoured ice is the ideal pick-me-up at any time of day, so you’ll get plenty of chance to try different places during your visit. It comes in all different flavours, some more bizarre than others, and you can jazz it up with all kinds of syrups and toppings. Find your favourite and join in the arguments about where does the best version.