Kauai, The Garden Isle

Like the other Hawaiian Islands, Kauai is the top of an enormous volcanic mountain rising from the Pacific Ocean floor. It was formed by a single volcano about 5 million years ago, and is the oldest of the large Hawaiian Islands.

Kauai lies 33 miles northwest of Oahu across the rugged Kauai Channel, which helped protect the island from invaders, including Kamehameha I, who never managed to conquer it. Kauai’s King Kaumualii, facing continued threats of invasion, joined the Kingdom of Hawaii without bloodshed in 1810, ceding the island to the Kingdom upon his death.

At the island’s center is the wettest place on earth – 5,148-foot Mt. Waialeale, with an average rainfall exceeding 480 inches annually. This prolific precipitation creates the headwaters for Hawaii’s richest river system, the Waimea, Hanapepe, Wailua, and Hanalei. These rivers have created Kauai’s most striking geographic features, except for its world-renowned Na Pali Coast.

Waimea Town, once the capital of Kauai on the island’s southwest side, was the first place in Hawaii visited by British explorer Captain James Cook in 1778. It’s located at the mouth of the Waimea River, whose flow helped form one of the most scenic canyons in the world, the 3000-foot-deep Waimea Canyo, often called “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Waimea Canyon State Park encompasses 1,866 acres and is a popular tourist attraction offering a wilderness area with numerous hiking trails. Here, bicycle tours are a popular activity for Kauai visitors.

This canyon is protected at higher elevations as Kokee State Park.

Traveling east, counter-clockwise around the island, Hanapepe at the river’s mouth, is a vintage Hawaii village with wooden sidewalks. At nearby Port Allen, the small boat harbor is a departure point for sport fishing, scuba diving and excursions up the Na Pali Coast.

Poipu is the sunny jewel of the south side of Kauai, a vacation community of hotels, condominiums and shops built along white-sand beaches. Two miles inland, historic Koloa Town, is a charming 19th-century plantation town, home of Hawaii’s first successful sugar mill.

Lihue on the southeast coast is the county seat of Kauai, the site of Nauwiliwili Harbor, and Lihue Airport, departure point for sightseeing air tours. Here, the island’s two main highways meet – Kuhio heading north and Kaumualii heading south – so it’s impossible to go anywhere on Kauai without passing through Lihue. The Huleia River feeds the nearby Menehune Fishpond and is flanked upstream by the Huleia National Wildlife Refuge.

Wailua on the east side of the island is a coastal town at the mouth of the Wailua River, the only navigable river in the state. Wailua and nearby Kapaa are a center of activity for locals and visitors. Boat tours access 80-foot Wailua Falls which feeds into the river, and the Fern Grotto, a fern covered, lava rock natural amphitheater that enhances the acoustics of the live music, with traditional themes performed here. The area is managed by the state of Hawaii as Wailua River State Park.

Hanalei Bay on the north side of the island boasts two miles of tranquil beach against a backdrop of glorious green mountains. In the summer, the glassy bay offers excellent sailing, kayaking and swimming. The bay is also home to the famous Princeville Resort and the Hanalei Curl, a breaking wave known throughout the surfing community. A number of tour boats use Hanalei Bay as a launch point for excursions down the Na Pali Coast.

The Na Pali Coast on the island’s northwest side is Kauai’s most famous attraction and arguably the most spectacular, primitive coastline in the world. It extends from Ke’e Beach on the south and runs 16 miles to Polihale State Park on the north. Na Pali Coast State Park encompasses 6,175 acres of land located in the center of this rugged and spectacular coastline. Its Kalalau Trail is a don’t-miss trek for avid hikers. A wonderful variety of sunset cruises, sightseeing sails, and snorkeling tours are available, including one to the shores of Niihau.

Niihau, 17 miles west of Kauai, is the smallest of the inhabited Hawaiian Islands. Also known as the “Forbidden Isle,” it has long been accessible only to relatives of the island’s owners, the Robinson family.

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Source by Terry Reim

Camping in Kauai – State and Private Campgrounds

Kauai has four campgrounds located in its state parks. Two of these, both located in upland forest meadows are easily accessible by car, one, on a beach, is best reached by four-wheel, and the fourth is a backpacker’s campground at the end of the Na Pali’s 11-mile trail.

Koke`e State Park – Mosquito Free, Upland Camping on Kauai

Two campgrounds are found here in Koke`e State Park’s cool and misty uplands just a few miles from the desert dry Waimea Canyon. Many of the State Park’s numerous hiking trails begin near the campgrounds and meander through fragrant cedar and eucalyptus forests, under ancient koa and towering redwoods and past fragrant blossoms and succulent fruit.

It’s not what you might expect from a tropical vacation, but it is a very beautiful rainforest and for those interested in Hawaii’s flora and fauna very intriguing. The area is steeped in legend and also home to one of the island’s most magnificent vistas that opens up to the Na Pali. And an extra bonus – the mosquitos don’t care much for the coolness, so you will rarely see one, but you will see lots of colorful birds that also appreciate the mosquito free climes.

The temperature typically dips into the 40s at night up here at 3,600 feet, so bring or rent warm sleeping bags (or stay in one of the well heated cabins, cottages or YWCA hostel). The temperatures are quite pleasant in the daytime, and you will likely only want a lightweight rain jacket.

Koke`e State Park Campground

The State Park campground is situated in a long meadow bordered by tall evergreens. The Koke`e Natural History Museum and main office of the privately run Koke`e Lodge (with a restaurant/bar) also are right here. Like most of Hawaii’s State Park camp sites, it’s only $5 per tent site for the night. Camping permits can be booked up to a year in advance. If you’re not OK with getting up early though, this may not be the place for you – the resident roosters crow at dawn.

Camp Sloggett

The other campground in Koke`e State Park is Camp Sloggett, named after the family who donated this to the YWCA in 1938. This includes the tent sites (with showers and restrooms), a charming 1925 built lodge along with the bunkhouse (hostel) and beautiful grounds, all maintained by the Kauai YWCA. This is a fun place to stay – you’ll feel like your back at summer camp! There’s a historical fire pit with seats for 40 and lots of activities.

The campground’s rates are significantly higher than the Koke`e State Campground: $10 per person opposed to $5 per site, but this is a really fun and nice place for families, while the Koke`e State Park campground and private cabins mainly attract hunters and backpackers.

Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park

This is backcountry camping for experienced backpackers and hikers. It is set on the Na Pali’s stunning rugged coastline at the 11-mile turn around point for the Kalalau Trail. Camping fee: $10, and instead of per site as with the other two, it’s per person on the Na Pali.

Camping on the Beach at Kauai’s Polihale State Park

This Polihale State Park campground is located on a strikingly gorgeous white sand beach on the sun drenched west side of the island near where the Na Pali Coast ends. It is an extension of Barking Sands Beach and has huge sand dunes, as tall as 100 feet in places.

The downsides to this campground: you need to traverse about 5 miles on a pot hole ridden dirt road. Most don’t go here without 4-wheel drive.

The other downside is that this is not a safe swimming beach due to its treacherous currents. There is the possibility of swimming in Queen’s Bath, a rock lined pool on the south end, but Queen’s Bath is only safe when the surf is small or the ocean is calm. Otherwise it is very dangerous. And there’s no lifeguard at this beach.

On the upside: the setting is as mentioned awesome and you’ll have romantic sunsets, views of the Na Pali, shore fishing (when it’s calm), restrooms, picnic shelters, camping areas, outdoor showers and drinking water. Camp sites here are $5 per night.

Camping Kauai can be a really fun way to save money and meet locals and other visiting campers, if you enjoy camping. And if you do, there could be just the perfect campground for you on the Garden Isle.

Source by Cindy Blankenship

What to Do on Kauai, Hawaii

Are you planning a vacation to Kauai, Hawaii? Here’s my favorite things to do on Kauai to help you with your itinerary planning.

Na Pali Coast Boat Tour – Wow, the Na Pali Coast is phenomenal, and it’s one of your best chances in all of Hawaii to see dolphins come right up to your boat and try to bow-ride or frolic with you, in my opinion. This is a must-do, must see.

Used to be that the zodiac rafts were the best way to see the Na Pali coast (in my opinion) because they were fast and low to the water – you could touch the dolphins – they got that close. However, these days the zodiacs have to take the long way around the coast so you might be better off taking a catamaran that gets to leave right from the north shore. I like Na Pali Catamaran.

Waimea Canyon – The Waimea Canyon is really cool for a couple of reasons. 1. it looks 100% out of place. what is a canyon doing in Hawaii? 2. It’s so incredibly colorful that it’s is amazing to behold. Really a wonder of Hawaii.

Helicopter Tours – Kauai is pretty spectacular, and there are a few places you just can’t see without flying in to them. Some helicopter tour companies will drop you down next to humongous waterfalls (as seen in many movies)

Sunset Sail or Dolphin/Snorkel/Whale Sail – Definitely consider a boat tour. Head down to Poipu for a sunset sail for sure.

North Shore Beach Adventures – The North Shore offers a couple of hidden beaches, like Hidden Beach or Anini Beach. I always recommend the Kauai Revealed guidebook to help you find all of these and other hidden gems.

Source by Lisa Weber

About Us

Established in 1971, we are a family owned and operated Na Pali Sailing Catamaran Company from Hanalei Bay located only 5 minutes North of Na Pali. Our departures from Kauai's North Shore allow true sailing opportunities along the Na Pali Coast. We offer Hanalei's only sailing tours and take no more than 15-17 passengers per trip.

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Our Hanalei Bay departures from Kauai’s North Shore allow true sailing along the NaPali Coast.
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