Kauai is Hawaii's fourth largest island and is sometimes called the "Garden Isle," which is an entirely accurate description. The oldest and northernmost island in the Hawaiian chain is draped in emerald valleys, sharp mountain spires and jagged cliffs, aged by time and the elements. Centuries of growth have formed tropical rainforests, forking rivers and cascading waterfalls. Some parts of Kauai are only accessible by sea or air, revealing views beyond your imagination.
Beyond Kauai's dramatic beauty, the island is home to a variety of outdoor activities. Kayak the Wailua River. Snorkel on Poipu Beach. Hike the trails of Kokee State Park. Even go ziplining above Kauai's lush valleys. But it is the island's laid-back atmosphere and rich culture found in its small towns and along its one-lane bridges that make it truly timeless.
Kauai's main airport is Lihue Airport (LIH) in southeastern Lihue. Many airlines now offer non-stop service to Kauai. There is also the option of flying into Honolulu International Airport (HNL) on Oahu first and then heading to Kauai on a short, 25-minute flight.
Lihue is the government and commercial center of the island as well as a cultural and historical area. This may be the most traveled town on Kauai since its home to Kauai's main airport (the Lihue Airport) and Nawiliwili Harbor, the island's major commercial shipping center and cruise ship port.
Kalapaki Beach is the home of the Marriott Kauai's Beach Club and the Kauai Lagoons Golf Club. Bodysurfing, windsurfing and swimming make Kalapaki a popular destination. Ninini Beach is home to an automated lighthouse, operating since 1897. And just north of Lihue, don't forget to stop at the Wailua Falls lookout for an amazing waterfall view.
Kauai's dramatic North Shore is an enchanting setting full of rugged mountains, lush taro fields, heavenly beaches and spectacular sea cliffs.
Visit lovely Hanalei Town, home to stretches of green taro fields alongside colorful shops, galleries and restaurants. You'll also find some of Kauai's best beaches here including Lumahai Beach, the setting for the film "South Pacific," and Kee Beach, ideal for sunbathing. You can also learn about native plants and see scenic ocean views at Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens or at the 17-acre Limahuli Gardens, part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden.
But the most stunning feature of Kauai's North Shore is the magnificent Napali Coast. This 17-mile stretch of coastline is lined with cliffs up to 3,000-foot tall, accented with lush green valleys, cascading waterfalls and sea caves. Inaccessible by car, you can hike or take an air or boat tour to view this breathtaking natural wonder.
The North Shore is also home to the upscale resort area of Princeville where you can indulge in world-class hospitality and play at some of Kauai's premier golf courses.
East Side (Coconut Coast):
Kauai's East Side is sometimes referred to as the Coconut Coast for the groves of coconut palms that grow in its resort areas. Amongst the clusters of coconut trees you'll find historic places, amazing beaches and memorable attractions.
In Wailua, you'll find a variety of sightseeing opportunities and outdoor activities. Kayak the Wailua River in Wailua River State Park, take a boat ride to the Fern Grotto, or take photos at Opaekaa Falls. Don't forget to try and spot the Sleeping Giant in the Nounou Mountains or take a hike up this scenic ridge. Sacred places like Polihau Heiau, the large lava-rock temple of Kauai's last king, Kaumualii, can also be found on the East Side. And be sure to visit Kapaa Town to discover fine Hawaiian craft pieces, aloha-print shirts, jewelry and art.
But the golden beaches of the Coconut Coast may be the area's biggest draw. Unwind at Anahola Beach Park, whale watch at Donkey Beach or watch the surfers at Kealia Beach to the north. Lydgate Beach Park in Wailua has two lava rock enclosed ocean pools that are perfect places for families and first-time snorkelers.