Kauai

Even a nickname like "The Garden Island" fails to do justice to Kauai's beauty. Verdant trees grow canopies over the few roads, and brooding mountains are framed by long, sandy beaches, coral reefs, and sheer sea cliffs. Pristine trade winds moderate warm daily temperatures while offering comfort for deep, refreshing sleep through gentle nights.

The main road tracing Kauai's perimeter takes you past much more scenery than would seem possible on one small island. Chiseled mountains, thundering waterfalls, misty hillsides, dreamy beaches, lush vegetation, and small towns make up the physical landscape. Perhaps the most stunning piece of scenery is a place no road will take you—breathtakingly beautiful Napali Coast, which runs along the northwest side of the island.

For adventure seekers, Kauai offers everything from difficult hikes to helicopter tours. The island has top-notch spas and golf courses, and its beaches are known to be some of the most beautiful in the world. Even after you've spent days lazing around drinking mai tais or kayaking your way down a river, there's still plenty to do, as well as see: plantation villages, a historic lighthouse, wildlife refuges, a fern grotto, a colorful canyon, and deep rivers are all easily explored.

While exploring the island, try to take advantage of the many roadside scenic overlooks and pull over to take in the constantly changing view. Don't try to pack too much into one day. Kauai is small, but travel is slow. The island's sights are divided into four geographic areas, in clockwise order: the North Shore, the East Side, the South Shore, and the West Side.

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  • 1. Alekoko (Menehune) Fishpond

    Archaeological Site/Ruins

    No one knows just who built this intricate aquaculture structure in the Huleia River. Legend attributes it to the Menehune, a mythical—or real...Read More

  • 2. Kauai Museum

    Museum/Gallery

    Maintaining a stately presence on Rice Street, the historic museum building is easy to find. It features a permanent display, "The Story of...Read More

  • 3. Poliahu Heiau

    Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    Storyboards near this ancient heiau (sacred site) recount the significance of the many sacred structures found along the Wailua River. It...Read More

  • 4. Aliomanu Beach

    Beach–Sight

    This narrow beach is lined with homes, most of them set back a bit and screened with vegetation that blocks access along the sand in a number...Read More

  • 5. Anahola Beach Park

    Beach–Sight

    Anahola is part of the Hawaiian Homelands on Kauai, so Anahola Beach Park is definitely a locals' hangout, especially for families with small...Read More

  • 6. Baby Beach

    Beach–Sight

    There aren't many safe swimming beaches on Kauai's East Side; however, this one usually ranks highly with parents because there's a narrow,...Read More

  • 7. Donkey Beach

    Beach–Sight

    This beach gets its unusual name from the former Lihue Plantation Company, which once kept a herd of mules and donkeys in the pasture adjacent...Read More

  • 8. Fern Grotto

    Geological Site

    The Fern Grotto has a long history on Kauai, and though it's really not much to look at, visitors seem to like it. Perhaps it's the serenity...Read More

  • 9. Grove Farm Homestead

    Museum/Gallery

    Guided tours of this carefully restored 80-acre country estate offer a fascinating and authentic look at how upper-class Caucasians experienced...Read More

  • 10. Kalapaki Beach

    Beach–Sight

    Five minutes south of the airport in Lihue, you'll find this wide, sandy-bottom beach fronting the Kauai Marriott. This beach is almost always...Read More

  • 11. Kamokila Hawaiian Village

    Town/Village

    The village is dramatically ensconced at the base of a steep, long, winding road right down to the Wailua River. In the days of King Kaumualii...Read More

  • 12. Keahua Forestry Arboretum

    Garden/Arboretum

    Tree-lined and grassy, this is a perfect spot for a picnic—and there are lots of picnic tables scattered throughout the parklike setting. A...Read More

  • 13. Kealia Beach

    Beach–Sight

    A half mile long and adjacent to the highway heading north out of Kapaa, Kealia Beach attracts body boarders and surfers year-round. It's a...Read More

  • 14. Kealia Scenic Viewpoint

    Viewpoint/Scenic Overlook

    This ocean overlook is perfect for spotting whales during their winter migration. In fact, on three Saturdays in winter, the Hawaiian Islands...Read More

  • 15. Kilohana Plantation

    Museum/Gallery

    This estate dates back to 1850, shortly after the "Great Mahele"—the division of land by the Hawaiian people. Plantation manager Albert Spencer...Read More

  • 16. Lydgate State Park

    Beach–Sight

    This is by far the best family beach park on Kauai. The waters off the beach are protected by a hand-built breakwater, creating two boulder...Read More

  • 17. Opaekaa Falls

    Viewpoint/Scenic Overlook

    The mighty Wailua River produces many dramatic waterfalls, and Opaekaa (pronounced oh-pie-kah-ah) is one of the best. It plunges hundreds of...Read More

  • 18. Sleeping Giant

    Viewpoint/Scenic Overlook

    Although its true name is Nounou, this landmark mountain ridge is better known as the Sleeping Giant because of its resemblance to a very large...Read More

  • 19. Smith's Tropical Paradise

    Garden/Arboretum

    Nestled next to Wailua Marina along the mighty Wailua River, this 30-acre botanical and cultural garden offers a glimpse of exotic foliage,...Read More

  • 20. Spalding Monument

    Viewpoint/Scenic Overlook

    The Colonel Zephaniah Spalding monument commemorates the Civil War veteran who purchased this splendid property overlooking an area from Anahola...Read More

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