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Kauai Sightseeing

Kauai's scenery varies dramatically from one part of the island to another. Most visitors to Kauai rent cars because the public bus service is not the best and the distances between sights make relying on taxis very expensive.

Waimea Canyon   Known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.  Flying in a helicopter overhead, this looks like a red gash in an otherwise green setting.  Run-off from Mt. Waialeale is credited with forming the canyon over eons of time.  The canyon is 3,500 feet deep, two miles wide, and 10 miles long.  There are spectacular views of Kauai's south and west shores and of the canyon itself as you drive up to Waimea Canyon Lookout.  There are several points where you can clearly see the island of Ni'ihau as you drive and on clear days it is visible from the lookout. 

Kokee State Park  Continue on Waimea Canyon Drive past the lookout to drive through Kokee State Park which is a 4,435 acre wilderness area.  Along the way you will come to Kokee Museum where you can see information about the canyon.  Kokee Lodge is next door where you can have lunch if you like.  Continuing on, you will come to Kalalau Lookout.  This is interesting and impressive, but be sure to continue on to Pu'u o Kila Lookout at the end of the road.  You look down on the Na Pali Coast and have a choice of several hiking trails.

Tree Tunnel   A thick canopy of eucalyptus trees called swamp mahogany trees almost a mile long covers the road as you drive from Lihue to Poipu.  The overhanging branches of the trees were severely damaged by the hurricanes in 1982 and 1992 but they have recovered enough to again merit the name "tree tunnel."

Spouting Horn  A waterspout where incoming ocean swells flow into an ancient lava tube, shooting water high into the air.  As you enter Poipu, turn right on Lawai Road and follow it to the end..

Kauai Museum  Very interesting if you like history, culture, geology, and the ecology of the island.  There is a display called "The Story of Kauai."  Located on Rice Street in Lihue.

Wailua Falls  Gorgeous, 80-foot natural twin cascades on Highway 583 which were made famous in the TV series Fantasy Island.  Although it is frowned on, it is possible to hike to the top of the falls.  

Smith's Tropical Paradise  A 30-acre expanse of jungle, exotic foliage, tropical birds, and lagoons.

Fern Grotto  Cruise up the Wailua River on a flat-bottomed boat from Wailua Marina on the east coast.  At the end of the river is the Fern Grotto which is a fern draped cave.  The Fern Grotto is nice but don't have high expectations or you will be disappointed.  We enjoyed the river trip and entertainment on the boat as much as the Fern Grotto itself.  We were told the Fern Grotto was more of an attraction before hurricane Iwa struck in 1982.

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge  This is the northernmost point of the seven main Hawaiian Islands.  Moku'ae'ae Island is a bird sanctuary located just offshore.  The refuge is considered one of the best places in the Hawaiian islands to view Laysan albatrosses, red-footed boobies, brown boobies, wedge-tailed shearwaters, and great frigatebirds. There is a picturesque lighthouse built in 1913 on the site and there are spectacular views of velvety green sea cliffs.  The view from the bluffs make this a worthwhile stop.  Turn right just past mile marker 23 on highway 56.  

Hanalei Valley
Hanalei Valley Overlook
Hanalei Valley Overlook This overlook always gives a chance to take a classic picture.  Vistas of patchwork taro fields below (which is a staple plant of the Hawaiian diet) and a 900-acre endangered-waterfowl refuge.

Hanalei  The site of the Waioli Mission founded by Christian missionaries in 1837.  Many small shops and restaurants line the highway through town.

Na Pali Coast  Ke'e Beach is where the road ends and the Na Pali Coast begins on the North Shore.  The area provided a natural defense for early Polynesian settlers.  It is a 14-mile stretch of vertical cliffs and steep, deep green valleys, and rugged gorges with some beautiful beaches bordering the ocean.  To view the entire coast requires visitors to take a helicopter ride or a boat ride along the shoreline. 

If you are interested in hiking, the 11 mile Kalalau Trail begins at Ke'e Beach.  Hiking the entire round trip will require you to backpack and spend at least one night (probably more) on the trail.  But, the first two miles of the trail is a moderate hike to Hanakapi'ai Beach and will take the average person 3 - 4 hours for the round trip.  Some of the trail is easy hiking but there are a number of very rocky places and a few springs create muddy areas.  If it is raining, or has rained recently, the trail can be dangerous because it will be very muddy and slippery and the hike will take longer.  If you would like a longer hike, you can turn inland at Hanakapi'ai Beach and hike another two miles one-way to Hanakapi'ai Falls.  We've hiked from Ke'e Beach to Hanakapi'ai Falls and back in a little more than six hours.

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