Kaua’i, Hawai’i

Welcome to Kaua’i, the Garden Isle of Hawaii. Relax during this tour of the Royal Coconut Coast in the east, the North Shore, some of my favorite sites around Līhue and finish up in the south. Anytime you see a beach where you want to stay awhile, just let me know.

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1 Gentle Waves along Royal Coconut Coast on Kaua’i, Hawaii

Aloha! Welcome to the Island of Kaua’i, the fourth largest of the Hawaiian archipelago with over 550 square miles of wonderful scenery. Popular places to visit are the beaches along the Royal Coconut (east) Coast like this one near Wailuā. Or try the south shore for the most sun or the west side which is the driest and warmest. And the north is famous for its incredibly beauty. I hope you spend a week here because you will have your work cut out for you while you enjoy all of this natural beauty.

Lydgate Beach Park Nalu Rd, Kapaa, HI 96746

2 Surf and Sand on Wailuā Beach near Wailuā on Kaua’i, Hawaii

Wailuā Beach on the west side of Kaua’i is where the Polynesians first landed in Hawaii around 400 AD. 1600 years later, it is popular among kite and surf boarders because of its consistent surf and high winds. But as inviting as it looks, it also has strong currents so swimming is not advised. But there is plenty of sand to enjoy a day in the sun near the mouth of the Wailuā River.

Kuamoo Rd & HI-56, Kapaa, HI 96746

3 Wailuā River Valley near Wailuā on Kaua’i, Hawaii

If this gorgeous scene of the Wailuā River Valley seems familiar it is because several movies have been filmed here, including Raiders of the Lost Arch and Jurassic Park. In the lower right corner is Kamokila Hawaiian Village, a four-acre park that reconstructs ancient Hawaiian life. It is also famous for being the set for the movie Outbreak.

5517 Kuamoo Rd Kapaa, HI 96746

4 Tourist Boat Cruising on Wailuā River near Wailuā on Kaua’i, Hawaii

This sightseeing boat is cruising along the Wailuā River in Kaua’i. The river is formed in the Wai’ale’ale Mountain which has an elevation of over 5,000 feet. From there it flows for twenty miles from the center of the island until it empties into the Pacific Ocean near the town of Wailuā on the east coast. Another popular way to experience the longest navigable river in Hawaii is by kayak or stand-up paddleboard.

5517 Kuamoo Rd Kapaa, HI 96746

5 ‘Ōpaeka’a Falls and Lush Vegetation near Wailuā on Kaua’i, Hawaii

After your eyes have soaked in all of the beauty of the ‘Ōpaeka’a Falls, you’ll begin to notice it is surrounded by lush, green vegetation. That is because nearby is one of the wettest places on earth with an annual rainfall of over 30 feet! That assures that the water cascades over this cliff all year. In Hawaiian, the name means “rolling shrimp” because years ago they were plentiful and always tumbled over this falls.

Opaeka'a Falls, Kuamoo Road, Wailua Homesteads, HI 96746

6 Close Up of ‘Ōpaeka’a Falls near Wailuā on Kaua’i, Hawaii

A popular site on the Island of Kaua’i is watching the ‘Ōpaeka’a Falls cascade 151 feet over a lava-formed cliff. These roaring twin currents are 40 feet wide. They can safely be enjoyed from an overlook on Kuamo’o Road near the town of Wailuā. Resist the temptation to take one of the hidden trails to the pool below. The paths are not maintained by the Wailuā River State Park. Several tourists have died when they ignored the warning signs.

Opaeka'a Falls, Kuamoo Road, Wailua Homesteads, HI 96746

7 Kīlauea Point near Kīlauea on Kaua’i, Hawaii

Waves pound, crash and swirl against Kīlauea Point, a peninsula on the northern coast of Kaua’i in Hawaii. This steep, rocky bluff is a haven for huge colonies of migratory seabirds including the Hawaiian goose and albatross. The Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge also has an active plant management program to protect endangered species of native vegetation.

3716 Kilauea Rd, Kilauea, HI 96754

8 Kīlauea Light near Kīlauea on Kaua’i, Hawaii

Standing proudly on a steep, rocky bluff on Kaua’i is the Kīlauea Light. It was built in 1913 and, together with the keeper, the lighthouse faithfully protected sea navigation along the Hawaiian island’s northern coastline until it was automated over sixty years later. The 52 foot, concrete lighthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. It is now part of the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.

3500 Kilauea Rd, Kilauea, HI 96754

9 Nēnē Hawaiian Goose near Kīlauea on Kaua’i, Hawaii

The nēnē or Hawaiian goose is the state’s bird yet is only found on four of the eight Hawaiian Islands. The goose almost became extinct during the 1950s when only 30 birds remained. Thanks to aggressive conservation efforts, the population significantly increased. Today, there are about 2,000 Hawaiian geese in the wild so they are still considered endangered. The bird’s black head crest and body feathers resemble a Canadian goose. The neck has distinctive diagonal stripes.

3716 Kilauea Rd Kilauea, HI 96754

10 Ascension of Christ Stained Glass Window in Kīlauea on Kaua’i, Hawaii

The Christ Memorial Episcopal Church in Kīlauea was founded in 1888 by an English bishop but it wasn’t until 1941 that a small, lava stone church was consecrated. Surrounding it is a graveyard with parishioners who died since the late 19th century. Inside are ten exquisite stained glass windows with images of Christ’s life from birth until this one of the ascension. They were crafted in England in 1935.

Kilauea Rd & Kolo Rd, Kilauea, HI 96754

11 Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge near Princeville on Kaua’i, Hawaii

These wetlands are just part of the 917 acres of the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge near Princeville in northern Kaua’i. This valley is irrigated by the Hanalei River in order to provide food, habitat and a sanctuary for five species of endangered water birds. In addition, there are more than forty types of other birds that call this area home.

5-4280 Kuhio Hwy, Princeville, HI 96722

12 Hanalei Valley Lookout near Princeville on Kaua’i, Hawaii

When visiting Kaua’i, rent a car and drive north along the Kūhiō Highway. You will be rewarded with countless gorgeous views of lush valleys and the Pacific Ocean coastline while also crossing over seven, rusty, one-way bridges. A typical example is this scenery from the Hanalei Valley Lookout. Behind the green pasture is the Hanalei Bay formed by the plunging cliff of the Namolokama Mountain.

5-4280 Kuhio Hwy, Princeville, HI 96722

13 Rocky Shore on Nāpali Coast near Princeville in Kaua’i, Hawaii

While all of the beaches along the Nāpali Coast are picturesque, some are protected by bays, inlets and reefs while others are on rocky points that jet out into the ocean. Depending on the season and wind conditions, any of these beaches can be great for swimming and water sports or dangerous because of strong currents and rip tides. It is best to read the postings at a local lifeguard station before taking the plunge.

3565 Kaweonui Rd, Princeville, HI 96722

14 Ha’ena Beach Park near Princeville on Kaua’i, Hawaii

Ha’ena Beach Park has beautiful sand on the Nāpali Coast plus it has over five acres of land that includes a picnic area, basic facilities and camping spaces. You will see many backpackers here who love to explore the Kalalau Trail, the Makana Peak and the nearby wet and dry caves.

4997 Weke Rd, Hanalei, HI 96714

15 Hanalei Beach along Kūhiō Highway near Princeville on Kaua’i, Hawaii

From Princeville to the end of the Kūhiō Highway at the northern edge of Kaua’i are over a dozen beaches to pick from when deciding how you want to relax along the Pacific Ocean. A few offer amenities, restrooms and lifeguards while others offer only pretty scenery and an occasional palm tree for shade. This one is Hanalei Beach. In 2009, it was proclaimed to be America’s Best Beach by Dr. Beach.

55785A Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei, HI 96714

16 Wailua Falls near Lihue on Kaua’i, Hawaii

If you enjoy seeing waterfalls, then it is worth the short drive north of Lihue to see the splendid Wailua Falls. This dramatic view is available for free from a lookout next to the parking lot at the end of Ma’alo Road. It is delightful to watch the roaring water plunge 80 feet into the Wailua River. The best time for your visit is in the morning when the sun sparkles off the water.

Wailua Falls, Maalo Rd, Kapaa, HI 96746

17 Wailua Falls with Rainbow near Lihue on Kaua’i, Hawaii

Remember in the Fantasy Island TV show when Tattoo would ring a bell and shout, “Da Plane! Da Plane!” Part of those opening credits featured Wailua Falls on the island of Kaua’i. These twin streams cascade 80 feet into a basin while creating splendid rainbows that dance among the rising mist. Ironically, after the show was cancelled, that plane was seized in a raid of cocaine smugglers.

Wailua Falls, Maalo Rd, Kapaa, HI 96746

18 Old Wagon Wheel against Wooden Fence near Lihue on Kaua’i, Hawaii

If you take a drive through remote parts of Kaua’i you might see Hawaiian cowboys, called a paniolo, working the cattle ranches. The tradition started in 1798 when Captain George Vancouver gave King Kamehameha I a few longhorns. He released them into the wild and soon thousands of wild cows roamed the island. In 1832, Mexican horsemen were recruited to teach ranching skills to the locals. They learned their lessons well because today Kaua’i has a thriving beef cattle industry.

Maalo Rd, Kapaa, HI 96746

19 Fallow Farm Field near Lihue on Kaua’i, Hawaii

Kaua’i was formed by volcanic activity over six million years ago. All of that rich lava, together with a tropical climate, has earned this Hawaiian island the nickname “Garden Isle.” Sugar cane is no longer the major industry like it was in the early 19th century. However, agriculture still plays a significant role in their economy. Crops include cacao, coffee, vanilla beans, mango, papaya, Macadamia nuts, star fruit and pineapple. What a perfect place to have a farm with the backdrop of the Makaleha Mountains.

Aii Reservoir Maalo Rd Lihue, Hawaii 96766

Sunset over Makaleha Mountains on Kaua’i, Hawaii

As beautiful as the days are on Kaua’i, the sunsets are also exquisite like this one over the Makaleha Mountains on the east side of the island. It peaks at 3,071 feet. Two larger summits on the island are Kawaikini, with an elevation over 5,200 feet, and Mount Wai’ale’ale, which is slightly shorter.

20 Tug Boat at Sunrise in Nāwiliwili Harbor near Lihue on Kaua’i, Hawaii

The entrance to Nāwiliwili Harbor is narrow and can be treacherous. Therefore, tug boats are out in the bay long before sunrise in order to help cruise ships and other large vessels steer safely into port. The airport is also located in Lihue so it is probable you will arrive and depart from Kaua’i’s second largest town.

3150 Waapa Rd, Lihue, HI 96766

21 Sunrise at Po’ipū Beach at Po’ipū on Kaua’i, Hawaii

There are two reasons to wake up early and walk on Po’ipū Beach along the southern coast of Kaua’i. One, the sunrises are spectacular. Two, if you are lucky, you will see humpback whales breaching offshore. But if you want to sleep late during your vacation, don’t worry because the sunsets are also very good at Po’ipū Beach Park. No wonder Dr. Beach ranked this the Best Beach in America in 2001.

Hoowili Rd & Hoone Rd, Koloa, HI 96756

22 Spouting Horn Beach Park near Po’ipū on Kaua’i, Hawaii

Near the resort community of Po’ipū is the Spouting Horn Beach Park. An ancient Hawaiian legend claims that a man named Liko was once threatened by a giant moo lizard. When he swam towards safety under the lava shelf, the sea creature became stuck beneath the water’s surface. To this day, the beast roars and blows water through the spouting horn on this beach.

4425 Lawai Rd Koloa, HI 96756

23 Spouting Horn Erupting near Po’ipū on Kaua’i, Hawaii

This blowhole at the Spouting Horn Beach Park is fun to watch. When the tide is high and the wind is right, ocean water rushes through an ancient lava tube before exploding with a roar up to 50 feet in the air. This natural spectacle can safely be viewed from a lookout but there are no guarantees that the rising mist won’t get you wet. There is one reason that the Hawaiian translation for Po’ipū means “crashing waves.”

4425 Lawai Rd Koloa, HI 96756

24 Strutting Wild Red Junglefowl in Po’ipū on Kaua’i, Hawaii

You might say that the island of Kaua’i is “strictly for the birds” because flocks of wild or feral chickens are running everywhere. The red junglefowl was introduced by the Polynesians hundreds of years ago. The mua have now proliferated to the point where they are a nuisance to the locals and a delight for the tourists. This rooster was crowing loudly and strutting proudly at sunrise at Lāwa’i Bay on the island’s southern tip near Po’ipū.

Ka Lae O Kaiwa, Lawai Rd, Koloa, HI 96756

25 Palm Trees on Salt Pond Beach near Hanapepe on Kaua’i, Hawaii

The southern shore of Kaua’i is lined with one gorgeous beach after another. Although they are in close proximity, each has its own distinct characteristics. So, my advice is to spend a day exploring each one before deciding your favorite. But that might be a hard decision. If you get confused, visit them all over again.

Kaalani Rd & Lokokai Rd, Eleele, HI 96705

26 Crooked Palm Tree on Salt Pond Beach near Hanapepe on Kaua’i, Hawaii

If you are looking for a beach with calm, gentle waves along the southwest coast of Kaua’i, then tote your swimsuit to Salt Pond Beach near Hanapepe. A reef protects the shoreline resulting in shallow and clear water. This creates ideal conditions for swimming and snorkeling for all ages. The sand is also lined with palm trees. They do not provide much protection from the sun but they do add to the tropical beauty.

Kaalani Rd & Lokokai Rd, Eleele, HI 96705

27 Waimea Canyon National Park near Waimea on Kaua’i, Hawaii

The nickname for this geological beauty is the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. The ten mile wide canyon was formed by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. That was followed by erosion from the Waimea River that flows down from Mount Wai’ale’ale, the island’s second tallest mountain at 5,148 feet and one of the world’s wettest places. The Hawaiian translation for Waimea is “reddish water.” Waimea Canyon National Park is located on the southwest side of Kaua’i.

State Hwy 550, Waimea, HI 96796