Kauai's Sights, Activities, & Events
Just above Waimea Canyon is one the world's most beautiful spots -- Koke'e State Park. With an abundance of hiking trails, scenic lookouts, recreational opportunities (camping, hunting, fishing and picnicking), lodging, food and information, Koke'e is a "must-see" for anyone visiting the island of Kauai.
For visitors, the road leads to spectaular lookouts over breath-taking Kalalau Valley (as seen in the photo to the right). The Pihea Trail traverses the rim of Kalalau into the Alakai Swamp where endemic birds and flowers abound.
The Kaluapuhi Trail is an easy trek near the first lookout that leads back toward the trailhead for Awa'awa'puhi Trail -- the longest day hike in Kokee. Awa'awa'puhi descends the forested palis to provide spectacular views of the rugged Na Pali coastline below.
Wildlife, like goats, deer and boar, live in these woods and are often hunted by locals in order to feed their families.
Local hunters, however, are closely regulated by the Dept. of Land and Natural Resources and do not hunt on or near hiking trails.
Information about Koke'e's natural history can be obtained from the Koke'e Museum, located in the Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow. Beautiful local crafts and interesting books about Kauai are also available here.
Notice all the chickens waiting for a handout? Bird lovers from lower areas of Kauai have been known to bring their unwanted chickens and roosters to Koke'e where they get special treatment by the tourists! Hungry chickens and visitors can also find sustenance at the Koke'e Lodge, where a favorite menu item is the Portuguese Bean Soup. The Lodge stocks a lots of souvenirs and T-shirts, and administers the state rental cabins .
For information go to http://www.kokee.org or call (808) 335-9975 for weather conditions on the mountain and a schedule of upcoming events.
For information about renting a cabin please see http://thelodgeatkokee.net or call (808) 335-6062
To camp, hunt or fish, go to http://www.hawaiistateparks.org/
Arriving on the island of Kauai, one may, or may not, soon be aware of the abundance of barnyard fowl roaming around the island seemingly at will. There are many stories about the origins and proliferation of Kauai's chicken population -- and most of the stories are true.
The beautifully plumed roosters and multi-colored, spotted hens are descendants of the original "canoe fowl" brought to Hawaii by the first Polynesian voyagers to be used for food and eggs. The 'Moa" (Hawaiian for chicken or rooster) have survived to this day, and have strengthened their genetic make-up by co-mingling with traditional, white barnyard fowl that were originally housed in pens and chicken coops throughout the island. When various hurricanes made landfall on or near Kauai (4 since the 1950s) and blew down the chicken coops, the new, intermingled chicken species thrived.
Other Hawaiian Islands have escaped this chicken profusion because early sugar growers introduced mongoose to all the islands EXCEPT Kauai. They believed that mongoose would keep the Polynesian rat from decimating the sugar crop. However, the growers overlooked the fact that mongoose -- natural rat killers -- are daytime animals, and rats are nocturnal, so the two never engaged in battle. Mongoose also eat bird -- and chicken -- eggs , thereby greatly reducing bird populations on all islands but Kauai. So the next time a rooster crows at daybreak, you can thank the eco-minded plantation bosses from Kauai who kept the nasty mongoose away from the Garden Isle. Thankfully, a lack of mongoose also allowed native and endemic bird species proliferate on Kauai.
Na Pali - the Cliffs in Hawaiian - is one of the most beautiful and remote areas on Kaua‘i. The strenuous eleven-mile Kalalau Trail winds along this rugged coastline, providing the only land access to legendary Kalalau Valley. The trail and facilities are rugged; some eroded areas are very narrow over cliffs that are hundreds of feet high.
Commencing at Ke'e Beach , located at the most northern end of Kauai, the Kalalau Trail may be hiked in increments and divided up into shorter hikes for those wishing only a day trip.
Segment One: Ke'e Beach to Hanakapai Beach: approximately 2 miles of rainforest hiking. Please do not swim at Hanakapai Beach! Very treacherous currents carry people away every year. OPEN
Segment Two: Hanakapai Beach to Hanakapai Falls - an additional mile makes this a great day hike when combined with Segment One. Swimming in the waterfall pool is recommended! OPEN
Segment Three: Ke'e Beach to Hanakoa Campground - Roughly half way to Kalalau Valley, this area is located on a stream covered by an extensive jungle canopy. Permits required to camp here. CLOSED
Segment Four: Ke'e Beach to Kalalau Valley: A long, arduous 12-mile hike through very rough and muddy jungle terrain interspersed by miles of dry, sun-blasted, exposed and sometimes crumbling cliffsides. CLOSED
The Kalalau Trail is currently CLOSED for hiking, EXCEPT the trail from Kee Beach to Hanakapai Falls. This 8 mile round trip trek will give you a satisfactory taste of the Kalalau Trail without the hassle of a two day hike, lugging heavy back packs and having to get camping permits.
Questions? Call the DLNR for more info: (808) 274-3444
The Kalalau Trail will be closed from Sept. 7 to Nov. 7. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources will close Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park on the North Shore from Hanakapi‘ai to Kalalau Valley for a multi-faceted improvement effort that includes a rockfall mitigation project above the Ho‘ole‘a waterfall and shoreline sea cave areas.
“This unprecedented closure will provide us the opportunity to address a variety of long-overdue, critical public safety and natural and cultural resource management issues, as we pursue our commitment to improving one of the most popular wilderness camping areas in the world,” said Laura Thielen, DLNR chair.
HISTORIC WAIMEA WALKING TOUR Date: Every Monday Time: 9:30 a.m.
Place: West Kauai Technology & Visitors Center, Waimea
Take a 90-minute walking tour and experience "A Glimpse of the Historic Waimea". Best known as the place English explorer Capt. James Cook first landed in Hawaii. Missionaries established schools, rice and sugar growers changed the landscape and historic buildings were rebuilt after Hurricane Iniki. Enrich your historical knowledge about the town that was once a major population to ruling chiefs. Be sure to wear light clothing and comfortable walking shoes. Free. Call: (808) 338-1332. (Photo at Rt. - Capt. James Cook)
WALKING TOUR - OLD WAIMEA SUGAR PLANTATION
Date: Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday
Time: 9:00 a.m. (Approx. 90 min. tours)
Volunteers lead you back in time through Waimea Plantation Cottages, a vacation resort of restored plantation houses, and the neighboring Waimea Sugar Co. "camp" of houses dating to the turn of the century. (Photo at Lt. - Old Mill)
Learn about the immigrants that came from all over the world to build the sugar industry. Waimea Mill Sugar Company (1884-1969) was a family operation and was for many years the smallest sugar plantation in the Hawaiian Islands. Selected by Travel Holiday Magazine as one of the 25 Best Kept Secrets in Hawaii March 1998. Tours are limited to 12 people.
Reservations (808) 335-2824. For other information or special group tours call (808) 337-1005.
Kalaheo Yoga, Kauai’s premier comprehensive yoga studio. Located on the South Shore of the beautiful garden island of Kauai, our studio is close to the resort areas of Poipu and Koloa. We offer a full schedule of classes honoring a variety of yoga traditions. Our studio provides instruction for beginning students, who have never tried yoga before, to experienced students, who wish to deepen their yoga practice. Our instructors are dedicated to sharing the yoga journey, through safe and precise instruction in each of the yoga traditions.
We encourage everyone to experience the benefits of yoga. The postures in yoga are a series of stretching and strengthening exercises performed in coordination with the breath. Through these postures you will develop strength and flexibility, gain discipline and self-control by cultivating awareness. You will balance the mind and emotions while reducing pain and stress.
For class schedule click http://kalaheoyoga.com/KalaheoYogaSchedule.pdf
On any Friday night, as the sun sinks down in the western sky, Hanapepe Town brings out the tinsel and glitter, baubles and treasure chests. Artists and musicians, lei makers, pie vendors, and an eclectic assortment of camp followers paint their faces and their canvases – of a hundred different mediums – to welcome the public to their weekly street fair. It may be “off the beaten track” but Hanapepe Town – and the raving “Friday Night NOT JUST Art Night” -- is a weekly attraction that cannot be missed.
By day the wide and sun drenched Main Street is cloaked in dazzling hot pink bougainvillea and brightly painted shop fronts – a modern addition to an important and historic town that had its heyday in the early 20th century. Behind the modern trappings rest the ghosts of the old Hawaiian west -- weathered storefronts, a feed and grain depot, a general store with a flapping screen door.
Many of these old structures are now on the National Register of Historic Places. Look for the plaques marking these antique buildings, including the circa-1926 Chang Building, which was once a bakery, then a pool hall and which now houses the Banana Patch Studio. Stagger into the previous century when you stroll on the swinging footbridge across the Hanapepe River, and take a moment of silence to remember the 1924 labor strike that left 20 disgruntled sugar cane workers dead. Hanapepe Cafe in the old Igawa Drug Store building still features its '50s soda fountain, but now is a fine-dining vegetarian venue that is only open for dinner on Friday night.
Modern day Hanapepe has numerous art galleries, mobile food vendors and offbeat boutiques strung like a lei along Hanapepe Road, a loop embracing the town in the southwest corner of Kauai. Translucent bowls and platters crafted from Hawaiian woods are proudly displayed from crystal clear windows lit by almond-colored spotlights, and sharks teeth and seashell bangles erupt from sand-filled jewelry boxes. Under the starry blanket of the black velvet night, musicians play music – ranging from classical to 50s Rock-a-Billy – alongside scarves and sarongs hanging from bamboo poles.
Every Friday the town’s entrepreneurs host Art Night beginning at 6 p.m. For more information call Ed or Cynthia at the Talk Story Book Store (located in the historic Yoshiura Store) at (808) 335-6469 or just stop in and peruse their millions of amazing books and talk story in person.
To order Monster Tacos ahead call Heather at (808) 635-6116. The Blackened Ahi Taco is one menu item that you will wish you could take home to all your friends!
The Ha'upu Mountain Range is a remnant of one of Kauai's largest volcanic eruptions and consists of resistant lava exposed into its present dragon-backed shape by erosion. This beautiful range serves as the backdrop for activities at Mahau'lepu and Kipu Kai on the island's South coastline.
Snaking along the interior area of the range is the Huliea River, one of Hawaii's few navigable rivers and location for the boat scenes in the Speilberg blockbuster, "The Lost World". Kayaking this beautiful stretch of river is a treat and a challenge. At the Nawiliwili end of the river lies the Alekoko, or Meneheune Fishpond, situated in the Huliea National Wildlife Refuge.
Built more than 1000 years ago by an ancient tribe of Polynesians called Meneheune that disappeared, or were conquered by later tribes, the is constructed from a stone wall more than 900 feet long. Fishponds throughout the ancient Hawaiian kingdom served as the breeding ground and incubator for prized fish for the King.
Travel further up the river and rope swings can be seen dangling froma sturdy old tree. These diversion provides fun and a break from paddling. Reaching the top of the river -- where it gets too shallow to continue paddling -- are trails that wind through the dense jungle. It may be muddy and mosquito-infested but the canopied forest is an emerald hide-a-way.
Kipu Falls is also located in this vicinity. Although popular with visitors and locals alike, there are many accidents and drownings at Kipu Falls each year. This is likely due to extreme flash floods in winter months that carry debris and huge rocks into the pool below the falls where they lie hidden until an unsuspecting jumper encounters the obstacle. Please be careful!
Sliding under the crystalline teardrops of a hanging valley waterfall; being so close to dolphins and turtles that you can practically lean over the side of the boat to touch them; and circling around in a lava rock cave where the water reflects on the cave walls like rainbow-misted prisms ---these are a few things that you definitely won't get on a big “cattle"-maran....
And, when the boat tour's name -- Captain Na Pali Adventures -- has "adventures" in the title, you can be sure that the ride will be a memorable one. Big wave surfer and all-around expert waterman Joe Clark -- better known as THE "Captain Na Pali" -- handles this mid-sized Zodiac like a Lamborghini, easing the curves, out-running breaking waves, and skating over huge aqua swells, much to the delight of passengers who squeal and whoop with every wave-propelled launch into thin air.
The price is right, the lunch is yummy and the snorkeling is epic. Joe's narration of the history and features of the Na Pali Coast combines history, legend and local lore delivered in a humorous and attention-grabbing travelogue.
Don't miss this tour. Leaves Waimea below the famous Canyon (miles closer to the scenic Na Pali coast) so you cut out the extra 45 minutes of mundane scenery -- and rough water between Pt. Allen and Waimea. www.captainnapali.com (808) 338-9818
Joe Clark has lived in Hawaii for most of his life on both the islands of Maui and Kauai. He is originally from Los Angeles, California. Joe is an excellent resource for activities in the Waimea - Kekaha areas of Kauai, as well as for his knowledge about Waimea Canyon and Koke'e State Parks.
Summertime in the Rainforest is one of the most spectacular experiences available to anyone who encounters the island of Kauai. An array of endangered plants and endemic flowers are in fragrant blocom and the rare native birds -- whose curved bills evolved to drain the nectar from these specialized flowers -- are dazzling the forest canopy with their vibrant green, red and yellow feathers.
At left: Vantage point from Pihea Peak on the Pihea - Alaka’i Trail. Spectacular views of Kalalau Valley and the Na Pali Coast
How to get there: From Koke’e Museum, turn left on Hwy 550 and drive 3.8 miles to the end of the road at Pu’u o Kila Lookout.
Trail Length: Pihea Peak is reached 1.3 miles beyond Pu’u o Kila Lookout. This portion of Pihea Trail traces the back edge of Kalalau Valley with extraordinary views into this huge valley and out to sea. It connects with the Alaka’i Swamp Trail; round trip to Kilohana overlook is 8.6 miles. Pihea Trail is 3.7 miles one way down to Kawaikoi Stream, and Alaka’i Swamp Trail is 3.5 miles from “Camp Sloggett” Road to Kilohana overlook.
Trail Description: Pihea Trail provides great views of Kalalau Valley along the rim, good territory for watching native forest birds and a look at a native rainforest. Clay soils that are slippery when wet and a climb of several hundred feet in elevation make this trail challenging. At 1.2 miles, a steep fork left leads to Pihea Peak. At 1.6 miles, a section of boardwalk has been constructed. Continuing to the right at the Alaka’i Trail junction on the boardwalk leads to Lehua Maka Noe, a small bog. Turning left on the Alaka’i Trail, the boardwalk continues downhill towards Kawaikoi Stream. After crossing Kawaikoi Stream, the trail goes up a ridge then across very boggy and foggy forestlands to Kilohana overlook on the rim of Wainiha Valley, with great views of Kaua’i's north shore (weather permitting).
As Dennis Kamakahi, a famous Hawaiian songwriter noted, if you come to a lookout and there is no visibility because the Koke'e mist is draping the view, be patient! Just wait for 10 minutes or so and see what happens. The mist often blows through and away the minute the tour busses leave!
For more trail information go to: http://www.kokee.org/kokee-state-park/trails Remember to bring camera, water, and a light rain poncho. Wear rugged footwear and expect a little mud. THERE ARE NO TRAIL SIGN IN & SIGN OUT STATION IN KOKE'E OR WAIMEA PARKS. Hike with caution and DO NOT wander from trails and boardwalks both for your own safety and the well-being of the beautiful, rare plants. Thank goodness there are no snakes in Hawaii and few mosquitos in Koke'e. Have fun and enjoy!
Waimea Canyon, also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, is a large canyon, approximately ten miles (16 km) long and up to 3,000 feet (900 m) deep, located on the western side of Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands. The canyon was formed by a deep incision of the Waimea River arising from the extreme rainfall on the island's central peak, Mt. Wai'ale'ale, among the wettest places on earth.
Geologically the canyon is carved into the tholeiitic and post-shield calc-alkailne lavas of the canyon basalt. The lavas of the canyon provide evidence for massive faulting and collapse in the early history of the island. The west side of the canyon is all thin, west-dipping lavas of the Napali Member, while the east side is very thick, flat-lying lavas of the Olokele and Makaweli Members. The two sides are separated by an enormous fault along which a large part of the island moved downwards in a big collapse.
The canyon has a unique geologic history—it was formed not only by the steady process of erosion, but also by a catastrophic collapse of the volcano that created Kauaʻi.
Like the other Hawaiian islands, Kauaʻi is the top of an enormous volcano rising from the ocean floor. With lava flows dated to about 5 million years ago, Kauaʻi is the oldest of the large Hawaiian islands. Roughly 4 million years ago, while Kauaʻi was still erupting almost continuously, a portion of the island collapsed. This collapse formed a depression, which then filled with lava flows.
In the time since, rainwater from the slopes of Mount Waiʻaleʻale have eroded Waimea Canyon along one edge of the collapse. The cliffs on the west side of the canyon are composed of thin lava flows that ran down the surface of the Kauaʻi volcano. On the other side of the canyon, the cliff walls are built from thick lava flows that pooled in the depression. Over time, the exposed basalt has weathered from its original black to bright red.
Waimea Canyon State Park encompasses 1,866 acres (7.5 km²) and is a popular tourist attraction on the island. It provides a wilderness area with numerous hiking trails. It can be accessed from Waimea on Hawaiʻi state road 550, which is 18 miles long and leads up to Koke'e State Park. The island of Niihau, only a short distance west of Kauai at that point, can be clearly seen from the highway.
"Snuggling under pachwork fields, anticipating night,
The day succumbs to darkness, to contemplate starlight
The night descends on silken clouds, the moon can rest upon
And silver waves dance fervently, to hearken streaks of dawn"
'Anini Beach, the jewel of Kauai's North Shore, is a brilliant turquoise shallow and protected area that lies inside the fringing reef. Ideal for swimming and snorkeling, 'Anini's shoreline is also littered with the miniscule shells that comprise the valuable Niihau shell leis -- "momi" and "kahelelani" -- tiny as grains of rice, and extremely delicate.
An array of tropical and endemic fish shimmer below the crystalline water and provide a colorful dance below the water's surface as they dart and peak out from behind living coral formations.
Kayaking, windsurfing, kite surfing and stand-up paddleboarding are ideal water sports for those so inclined, and provide spectacular spectator sports and colorful photo ops for land lubbers.
"Restless dawn, it comes upon
In lighter violet hues
Beckoning the sunlight
To dance in golden shoes"
Huge surf, big waves, barrels and pounders -- these Hawaiian Islands are known for some of the largest waves in the world. World Cup competitions in surfing and windsurfing are annual events; the best big wave surfers and sailors either grew up on local shores or they hone their skills in the islands. Local kids on Kauai are often placed by surfer-parents on their first surfboard when they just are old enough to walk. No wonder surf legends like Laird Hamilton and Andy Irons are the best in the world!! Their legs work better on the water than on the land!
As beautiful as these green bearded monsters can be -- huge surf can be dangerous and even deadly. A few safety tips, however, can keep malahini (newcomers) and visitors safe on Kauai's beaches. First of all -- we recommend using beaches where there are lifeguards. On Kauai these include Kekaha Beach, Salt Pond, Poipu Beach, Lydgate Park, Kealia Beach, and Hanalei Bay.
If, however, you decide to visit a beach without a life guard, then follow a couple of simple tips: if no one else is in the water then there is a reason. IF IN DOUBT -- STAY OUT! Never turn your back on the shore break. Be especially careful of beaches that slope steeply into the ocean -- these types of slopes, coupled with even minimal shore break can be spine crunchers and neck breakers. Don't enter the water in the only spot where the waves AREN'T breaking -- this is where the RIP current lives, and it will be happy to suck you right out into deeper water.
Pay attention to the specially-designed Hawaii Ocean Safety signs. A team of water safety experts and lifeguards developed these warnings through years of experience and they are easy to understand in any language.
Kauai, and all Hawaiian Islands experience varying degrees of surf and ocean conditions depending on the season. In the winter season -- North Shores are subject to huge waves generated by winter storms and areas of low pressure in the tumultuous ocean waters between Russia and Alaska. Wave heights of 30 to 50 feet are not uncommon on North Shore reefs in winter months. And, remember that Hawaiian wave measurements denote only the height of the wave face, when the actual back of the wave is TWICE as high!! Winter swells can impact north coast from September through May.
In summer months huge storms at sea below the equator and as far away as New Zealand generate large waves that pound Hawaii''s south shores. Generally south swells are not as large as winter North swells can be but they are still dangerous. Summer swell season runs from approximately June - October.
Enjoy the ocean responsibly. Keep yourself and your family safe and accident free while vacationing on our spectacular beaches. We love our visitors and want everyone to be safe!!
While golf is not my strong suite, visitors often ask where the locals play this sport. Located at the top of a majestic mountian rise, that overlooks Kauai island from Ha'upu Mountain in the east, to Niihau on the west, is Kukuiolono Golf Course. "Golf Course" doesn't cover half of the attractions available here! Once the private property, home, and gardens of sugar baron, Walter McBryde, this stunning upland area, consisting of 178 acres, is laced with jogging and walking paths, dotted with ancient "pohaku" or symbolic Hawaiian stones and other historic artifacts, and provides a place for family picnics in the pavillion, and weddings in the Japanese Garden.
Walter McBryde's father, Duncan, developed this land after leasing it from King Kamehameha III in 1860. Walter loved the area so much that he was buried near the 8th hole of the golf course. This public golf course was built in 1929, and later donated to the state by McBryde. It was only the second course to be built on Kauai, and is one of the oldest golf courses in Hawaii. Because of McBryde's generous gift to the people of Kauai, it is one of the most inexpensive, scenic, and challenging golf courses on Kauai. Greens fees are currently $9 per day, and visitors can also rent clubs and golf carts. Distractions to a golf game may include brisk trade winds that sometimes whip across this mountain top, numerous chickens, and breathtaking panoramic views.
Above the fallow cane fields on Kauai's East Side Kapa'a area, a massive mountain of lava rock shaped like a reclining giant overlooks one of the most breath-taking vistas on the Garden Island. "Sleeping Giant" (Nounou in Hawaiian) is one of Kauai's most accessible and least difficult hiking trails.
The trail can be accessed from three different locations. The East Trail starts at the end of Halelilo Road in the Kapa'a House Lots (behind Brick Oven Pizza's Kuhio Hwy - Rte 56 location). This is the quickest way to the top, at 1.75 miles of switchbacks both exposed and shaded by ironwood, guava and silk oak -- and the steepest!
The three mile Kuamo'o - Nounou Trail is marked by a trailhead sign on the right side of Kuamo'o Rd. past Opaeka Falls. It might be a bit longer, but the ascent is more gentle.
The West Trail (1.5 miles) originates along Kamalu Road (Route 581) and rises moderately. The rewards at the top of the Giant are well worth whatever trail one has taken to the top. Wear hiking boots and sun screen, bring plenty of water and don't forget the camera!
This hike is a great way to orient one's self to the layout of Kauai: to the south the dragon-backed sculpture of the Ha'upu Range (aka Black Mountain) guards Kipu Kai and Po'ipu; to the north, the Anahola Needle -- so named because it once had a hole in the tip of the peak -- overlooks the gateway to some of the best beaches in the world; and to the island's center, Mt. Wai'ale'ale, the wettest place on earth, and Kawaikini -- Kauai's tallest ancient volcano.
Take a swim at Lydgate Park to cool off after your trek!