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. Hanalei Bay

    Beach–Sight

    This 2-mile crescent beach cradles a wide bay in a setting that is quintessential Hawaii. The sea is on one side, and behind you are the mountains...Read More

  • 2. Poipu Beach Park

    Beach–Sight

    The most popular beach on the South Shore is Poipu Beach Park. During calm seas, the snorkeling and swimming are good, and when the surf's up...Read More

  • 3. Anini Beach Park

    Beach–Sight

    A great family park, Anini features one of the longest and widest fringing reefs in all Hawaii, creating a shallow lagoon that is good for snorkeling...Read More

  • 4. 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

  • 5. 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

  • 6. 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

  • 7. 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

  • 8. Kukuiula Small Boat Harbor

    Beach–Sight

    This is a great beach to sit and people-watch as diving and fishing boats, kayakers, and canoe paddlers head out to sea. Shore and throw-net...Read More

  • 9. 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

  • 10. 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

  • 11. Salt Pond Beach Park

    Beach–Sight

    A great family spot, Salt Pond Beach Park features a naturally made, shallow swimming pond behind a curling finger of rock where keiki (children...Read More

  • 12. 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

  • 13. Wailua Falls

    Body Of Water/Waterfall

    You may recognize this impressive cascade from the opening sequences of the Fantasy Island television series. Kauai has plenty of noteworthy...Read More

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