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Planning a visit to Kauai? We regularly add news and information about events, activities, and places to see on The Garden Isle.

About The Author

Sheila Heathcote has lived in Hawaii since 1986. She's a published author on the topic of Kauai and the owner of Hale O Nanakai Bed & Breakfast.

Kauai's Sights, Activities, & Events


Friday Night is Art ( and Music, and Food, and ..) Night in Hanapepe, Kauai


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!


Kauai's Ha'upu Mountain, Alekoko Fishpond & Huliea River - A Hidden Playground

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!


Captain Na Pali Adventures boat tour, Waimea, Kauai -- Don't miss this trip!


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.


Enjoy the Rainforest - Koke'e State Park Kauai --Pihea/Alakai Trail

 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!


Kauai's Waimea Canyon - the Gem of the Pacific

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.


Kauai's Best Beach -- 'Anini Beach


"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"




Ocean Safety -- A Priority for Kauai's Beaches


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!!


Kukuiolono Golf Course, Kalaheo, Kauai, Hawaii

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.



Nounou Mountan - Kauai's Sleeping Giant

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!


Kauai's Hindu Monestary

Below the etheral mists of Mt. Wai'ale'ale,the wettest spot on earth, located on Kauai, Hawaii, rests a sancturay unlike any other. This Hindu Monestary of the Tamil Saiva tradition of Sri Lanka and South India lies at the foot of an extinct volcano and encompases 376 acres of gardens, groves , glens, pools and waterfalls.

 In addition to being a cloistered home and theological seminary for two dozen monks from six different parts of the globe, there is a Kadavul Temple, guarded by a 16-ton granite statue of Nandi the Bull. This temple currently houses the world's largest Sivalingam crystal, which will be placed in the Iraivan Temple currently under construction further down in the valley. The stones of the new white granite Iraivan Temple, massive in size and topped by gold-leafed domes, sre individually being carved by hand 10,000 miles away in India and shipped to Kauai, where Indian workers are constructing the building.

Formal guided tours of the temples and sacred grounds are conducted once per week. Call 1-888-735-1619 for reservations, or for self-guided daily tours, the upper grounds are open daily from 9 am to noon. Link to



Kauai's Endangered Monk Seals

The Hawaiian Monk Seal is the most endangered marine mammal located entirely within U.S. waters.   On Kauai a network of volunteers help guard and protect these seals, while providing information to beach goers and visitors. To learn more see http://www.kauaimonkseal.com

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, sealers, shipwrecked crews, feather hunters and guano diggers killed or so disturbed Hawaiian Monk Seals that their numbers greatly diminished. Military activity during and after World War II disturbed the seals once again. By the mid-1970s, beach counts indicated that there were less than half the number of Hawaiian Monk Seals than were counted in 1957 and 1958.

At birth, the Hawaiian Monk Seals pup is approximately  3 feet long and weighs between 25 and 30 pounds. In the ensuing six weeks, it will grow close to 200 pounds. A pup usually begins swimming with its mother from day one. In larger breeding populations, pups may be exchanged between nursing mothers, where more than one mom/pup pair are in close proximity.

After the six-week nursing period, the mother weans the pup abruptly, abandoning it to resume her own feeding. The weanling pup will generally remain at its birth beach for a month or two. It will slowly begin to range farther out to sea and eventually learn to feed on its own.

Eels, lobsters, octopi, small reef and bottom fish are prey for the Hawaiian Monk Seal. Most of their feeding occurs at depths between 245-300 ft. These seals have occasionally been known to dive as deep as 1640 ft. Newborn seals, or pups, feed only on mother’s milk from birth to about six weeks of age. Nursing mothers do not usually eat during the six-week period.


A National Tropical Botanical Garden in Kauai, Hawaii 

      National Tropical Botanical Gardens(NTBG) is located in a verdant valley on the South Shore of Kauai. Riots of colorful heliconias, ginger and other colorful tropical flowers aremingled with some of the world's most exotic trees and plants. The original owners of the Allerton Garden section of NTBG consisted of an architect and an artist. Together they fashioned entire outdoor "rooms" with flowers, plants and trees.    nother section of NTBG is dedicated to Native Hawaiian "canoe plants" or items that the first Hawaiian settlers brought from the Marquesa Islands aboard their huge outrigger canoes. Coconut palms, taro, banana and mango plants are remmnants of the first Hawaiian's food stuffs.

Several daily tours are available by contacting the NTBG visitor's center at Spouting Horn, Poipu, including self-guided, walking and guided tram excursions. Be sure to check out Lawai Beach, where Fantasy Island was filmed, and the massive banyan tree used as a prop by Steven Speilberg in the hit movie "Jurrasic Park".

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