Kauai has long been thought of as an ideal spot to stop and catch your breath. Nicknamed “The Garden Isle,” even its mountainous interior stretches are lush. Tropical flowers and endless shades of green mingle with waterfalls and define the scenery, until you reach the coast where blue waves and soft sand take over. Kauai boasts more than 50 miles of beaches – that’s more beach per coastline mile than all the other Hawaiian Islands. But since many of Kauai’s memorable sights are only accessible by sea or air, exploring has a way of igniting your sense of adventure.
Stretching 17 miles on Kauai’s North Shore, the towering cliffs and cascading waterfalls of the Nāpali Coast offer picture-perfect panoramas, even on a rainy day. As you make your way along the coast, chances are good you’ll come across Hawaiian Spinner dolphins and if you’re really lucky, maybe even a humpback whale. Capt Andy’s offers tours that also allow time for snorkeling (watch for turtles) and sailing. Bring layers, you can always change on board if the weather changes. The Nāpali Coast is not accessible by car. The only way to see it is by boat, an 11 mile hike or by air.
Up, Up & Away
For a bird’s-eye view, hop aboard Island Helicopters. Hour long flights take you on an adventure above locales such as Manawaiopuna Falls (better known as Jurassic Falls), Waimea Canyon, the Hanapēpē Valley, and the Nāpali Coast. If you plan it right you can book a seat on the Jurassic Falls Helicopter Landing Adventure. You’ll see all of Kauai’s sights, plus land at the falls and have about a half-hour to explore on the ground. The landings are limited and typically only happen five days a week. If you can, wear dark colored clothing on your flight, as light colors can reflect off the helicopter windows and show up in pictures. It’s also not a bad idea to book your helicopter flight at the start of your time in Kauai, so that if weather causes any glitches, there’s time to reschedule.
See it like Superman
If you like to feel the wind in your face when you gain altitude, Kauai’s longest zipline is waiting at Koloa Zipline. In about four hours, you’ll race above lush foliage and be rewarded with water views as you fly along eight ziplines. Guides are serious about safety, but have a spirited, fun way of putting even the most nervous fliers at ease. Feeling really adventuresome? On certain zips, guides will let you fly Superman style or even upside down. Cameras are fine, just make sure you can strap them to you securely. Closed toe shoes are a must, and because of the fit of the harness, most women find pants more comfortable than shorts.
Paddle, Picnic & Waterfall Plunge
Kauai has the only navigable rivers in Hawaii, and on any given day you’ll see hundreds of colorful kayaks floating down the Wailua River. Kayak Kauai combines a scenic four mile round-trip paddle with a lush two mile round-trip hike to what could be considered the ultimate picnic site. Pick the perfect rock to sit on and enjoy a sandwich with a front row view of Uluwehi waterfall, or if you just can’t wait, save your lunch for later and jump right in. But be sure to stash your munchies in the waterproof backpacks Kayak Kauai provides, as chickens wander around the falls and won’t hesitate to help themselves. Wear your bathing suit and good walking shoes that can get wet (no flip flops). A towel, sunscreen, bug spray and a waterproof camera are also a good idea. Some kayaking experience is a plus, but not essential. The hike is flat and kid-friendly.
Miles of kayaking can make for some sore muscles, but they’re no match for the staff at the Anara Spa at Grand Hyatt Kauai. The 45,000 square foot spa is the largest on the island. With a focus on the soothing power of nature, treatments like massages and facials incorporate local products and Hawaiian traditions whenever possible. Separate facilities for men and women feature a steam room, sauna, and whirlpool. In addition to an open-air fitness studio, the main courtyard has a 25-yard lap pool. All appointments include the use of all the spa’s facilities for the day, so whether it’s to enjoy the sauna or just some sunshine, plan on lingering longer.
Where to stay in Kauai