Garden Island Adventures
This article was written by Heidi Seifkas and was featured in our March issue of Home By Design magazine. To visit the original Home By Design article, click here.
Kauai, the oldest of the eight main Hawaiian Islands, is the most lush and topographically diverse. Because of abundant rainfall at its Mount Waialeale, thousands of years of topsoil, and ideal growing conditions, it has been coined the Garden Island. From taro and ginger to guava, mangos, and avocados, Kauai’s bounty is not only stunning, but also tasty. Whether it is your first visit or a repeat trip, make sure to experience island time, refueling from your adventures with local fruits, savory treats and drinks. The Garden Island welcomes you—e komo mai.
In 1869, American explorer John Welsey Powell called Waimea Canyon “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Although it is a bold claim, no visit to Kauai is complete without a drive to Waimea Canyon and into Kokee State Park. The colorful canyon, waterfalls, hiking trails, and vistas are worth a full day of sightseeing. As you go up in elevation, be prepared for cooler temperatures, rain, and even the change in vegetation. In Kokee, you will experience eucalyptus, koa, and redwoods (versus the iconic palm trees of Poipu and Hanalei). To stretch your legs from your drive, take a day hike on the Awaawapuhi Trail or picnic at the postcard-famous Kalalau Lookout.
This untapped, pristine seventeen-mile coastline is the crowning jewel of Kauai. Because there are no roads on the Napali Coast, the only ways to experience its grandeur and beauty are on foot via the Hanakapiai Trail, by kayak or tour boat, or via helicopter tour. Regardless of which method you use to discover the Napali, you won’t be disappointed with majestic waterfalls, dramatic cliffs, and the contrast of the red dirt, vegetation, and the powerful, aquamarine surf. Feeling adventurous? The Hanakapiai Trail is a shorter version of the world-famous Kalalau Trail, which is an eleven-mile, one-way trek to a Kalalau Valley and its secluded beach. (Plan ahead: permits are required to camp at Kalalau.)
National Botanical Gardens.
Home to three of the five National Botanical Gardens in the United States, Kauai is the epitome of a plant-lover’s paradise as well as a great outdoor classroom for curious, lifelong learners. Located on the North Shore, the Limahuli Garden and Preserve is home to dozens of endangered plants and birds found nowhere else on earth. You can book a tour to witness many native and culturally significant species such as kalo (taro root) all within an authentic terraced Hawaiian landscape.
In the Lawai Valley on the South Shore are the McBryde and Allerton Gardens. These two adjacent gardens showcase the best of Hawaii’s flora. The McBryde prides itself on the largest conservation collection of native Hawaiian flora. From palms and flowering trees to countless orchids, most visitors are mesmerized by the display of masterpieces. Likewise, the Allerton Garden features a delightful combination of nature’s artwork with additional historical designs and artistic touches. Book a tour to walk amongst towering rainforest trees, a grove of swaying golden bamboo, and a plethora of tropical fruit and flowering trees.
To experience Kauai to the fullest, adventure beyond where a car can take you (if able). Hike one of the many trails to smell and sample the gauvas, lilikoi (passion fruit), and wild ginger. Rent a kayak and paddle the Wailua River to be humbled by the valley’s steep walls, fern grotto, and short hike to Secret Falls. On your way through Kapaa and the Wailua River area, take time to admire the beauty of the river valley, Opaekaa Falls, and various heiaus (ceremonial and religious structures), including Poliahu heiau, right across the road from Opaekaa Falls.
Keep It Local.
After a long hike or day at the beach, get a taste of real local grindz. Some of the most popular savory treats are poke bowls, kalua pork plate lunch, shave ice, and huli huli chicken. Wash your meal down with a cold one from the local breweries: Kauai Beer Company in Lihue and Kauai Island Brewing Company in Port Allen (touted as the world’s westernmost brewery).
Make sure to experience Kauai on island time. Live aloha (a way of being not only kind and respectful but also in the moment) and enjoy the richest of this special aina (land).
When to Go:
Temperatures year round are warm during the day (mid-70s) and cooler at night (low 60s). Winter months bring surfing waves and humpback whales, while summer months bring calmer seas.
How to Get There:
Fly direct from the West Coast of Canada and US mainland into Lihue (LIH). If island hopping or connecting, flights from Honolulu, Oahu (HNL) are under an hour.
What to Say:
Hawaiian is a phonetic language; so even though the words can be very long with many syllables, it is rather easy to pronounce. To assist in pronunciation, you will notice diacritical marks such as the ‘okina (‘), a glottal stop or break, or the kahakō (¯), which indicates meaning or an elongated sound. Special characters are often omitted in print and online articles for formatting and search purposes. When on Kauai, observe Hawaiian names and words and let knowledge of the language enhance your experience.