Top 5 Kauai Scenic Spots
Top 5 Kauai Scenic Spots
Verdant valleys, epic cliffs, plunging waterfalls, and majestic canyons are just a few of the features you'll find on Kauai. You might almost get used to the stunning green mountains that jut out of the land as you drive from place to place—almost. There are countless places to safely stop and take in the view; here are some of our favorites. Just don't forget a camera.
Hanalei Valley Overlook
On the way to Hanalei (about 1,000 yards west of the Princeville Shopping Center), this pull-off provides views of the Hanalei River winding its way through wet loi (taro patches) framed by jagged green mountains. If you're staying on the North Shore, don't just stop here once. The colors will change over the course of a day, or with the weather.
At the end of the road on the North Shore, Kee Beach is as close as you can get to the fabled cliffs of Bali Hai. Surrounded by palm and almond trees, this stretch of white-sand beach is a great spot for viewing sunsets. The Kalalau Trail begins here; if you're up for a somewhat vigorous uphill hike, the first quarter-mile or so of the trail takes you to views of both Kee and the misty cliffs of Napali. Warning: Depending on time of year, parking and amenities are at a premium.
Albatrosses, great frigate birds, and nene are just a few species among the thousands of seabirds that nest along the cliffs surrounding the Kilauea Lighthouse. This is the northernmost point on Kauai—in fact, it's the northernmost point in the main Hawaiian Islands. You'll get sweeping views of the North Shore here. If you hang around for a little while in winter, you're almost sure to see a whale pass by. Spinner dolphins are often below to further amuse you.
It would be tough to visit Kauai without seeing a waterfall; after rain it seems like every mountain is laced with white streaks of water. Opaekaa is one of our favorites because it's always running, rain or shine. Water from the mighty Wailua River falls more than 100 feet in a lush green setting. The lookout to the left before you reach the parking lot for the waterfall overlook takes in the scenic Wailua River Valley all the way down to the ocean.
The oft-used term "breathtaking" does not do justice to your first glimpse of Waimea Canyon (sometimes called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific). Narrow waterfalls tumble thousands of feet to streams that cut through the rust-color volcanic soil. There are plenty of spots along Route 550 to stop and stare at the canyon's awesome beauty—we recommend using the designated lookouts; they have parking and restrooms. Impressive vistas don't stop at the rim of the canyon. Continue on to the end of the road to Kalalau Lookout for a view through the clouds of otherworldly Kalalau Valley; it’s one of Kauai’s most identifiable icons.
Carnival Cruises. They call them "fun ships" for a reason—Carnival is all about keeping you busy and showing you a good time, both onboard and onshore. Great for families, Carnival always plans plenty of kid-friendly activities, and their children's program rates high with the little critics. Carnival offers itineraries starting in Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Honolulu. Their ships stop on Maui (Kahului), the Big Island (Kailua-Kona and Hilo), Oahu, and Kauai. 888/227–6482. www.carnival.com.
Holland America. The grande dame of cruise lines, Holland America has a reputation for service and elegance. Holland America's Hawaii cruises leave from and return to San Diego with a brief stop at Ensenada. In Hawaii, the ship ties up at port in Maui (Lahaina), the Big Island (Hilo and Kona), Oahu, and Kauai (Nawiliwili). Holland America also offers longer itineraries (30-plus days) that include Hawaii, Tahiti, and the Marquesas, and depart from or return to San Diego, Seattle, or Vancouver. 877/932–4259. www.hollandamerica.com.
Princess Cruises. Princess strives to offer affordable luxury. Their prices start out a little higher, but you get more bells and whistles (affordable balcony rooms, nicer decor, more restaurants to choose from, personalized service). It's not the best line for small children, but they do a great job of keeping teenagers occupied. Grand Princess, Sapphire Princess, and Star Princess sail from Los Angeles on a 14-day round-trip voyage with calls at Hilo on the Big Island, Honolulu, Kauai, and Lahaina on Maui, plus Ensenada, Mexico. There are also 15-day cruises out of San Francisco. In addition, the line offers longer cruises—up to 29 days—that include stops in Hawaii and the South Pacific. 800/774–6237. www.princess.com.
American Safari Cruises. Except for the summer months when its yachts cruise Alaska, American Safari Cruises offers round-trip, eight-day, seven-night interisland cruises departing from Lahaina, Maui. The Safari Explorer accommodates only 36 passengers; its smaller size allows it to dock at Molokai and Lanai in addition to a stop on the Big Island. The cruise is all-inclusive, with shore excursions, water activities, and even a massage included as part of the deal. More adventurous, less inclusive interisland cruises are offered on a 76-passenger boat. HI. www.innerseasdiscoveries.com.
Norwegian Cruise Lines. Norwegian is the only major operator to offer interisland cruises in Hawaii. Pride of America sails year-round and offers seven-day itineraries within the Islands stopping on Maui (overnight), Oahu, the Big Island (Hilo), and overnighting on Kauai. The ship has a vintage Americana theme and a big family focus with lots of connecting staterooms and suites. 800/327–7030. www.ncl.com.
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