We arrived in Kauai on the 4th of August just after 12 noon and left on the 11th of August very early in the morning. We had about 7.5 days to explore the island which was sufficient enough for us. We had time to explore many of its attractions at a comfortable pace, picnic at a few beautiful beaches where we lazed for hours and waited for the sun to set.
Kauai was the fourth largest island among the eight main islands of the Hawaiian Archipelago. It was the oldest and northernmost among them. Kauai was sometimes called the “Garden Island” draped in emerald valleys, sharp mountain spires and jagged cliffs aged by time and elements.
Must see & nice to see
Napali Coast sited on the northwest part of the island was definitely a must see, it could be seen from lookouts located inland which was the way we saw it. The second alternative would be to view it from the sea, looking inward to the coast from a boat or a plane. There were also visitors that hiked two days along the northern coast till they reached Napali coast. The Napali Coast landscape was awesome, its mountain formation looked so primitively wild and it uniqueness was stunning.
On Kauai there were many beaches/bays and for us the best beach was Hanalei Beach (near Hanalei Pier). It was the best place for watching sunset and the sun set right into the middle of the ocean.
Among the several towns and villages on the island we like Hanalei and Old Koloa town, both towns were quaint and it was delightful to explore them.
We did one hike on the island. We trekked up “Sleeping Giant” but but only managed to reach its “chest” before turning back. The view of the coast and ocean from the “chest” level was lovely and enough.
Flying from Oahu to Kauai
It was an 11am flight from Oahu to Kauai and we flew by Hawaiian Airlines. We got to the airport (Daniel K. Inouye International Airport) at 9 am, walked up to the ticketing kiosk station to print out our luggages tags and boarding tickets. The process was pretty easy, there were airline staff standing nearby to “provide” quick assistance. After handing in our check-in luggage we queued for the usual “body and hand carrier” inspection and entered the departure hall.
We ate our breakfast at “The Plumeria Lounge”, it was the only lounge on the domestic departure side that accepted “Priority Pass”. The food selection was not fantastic but sufficient for a simple and light breakfast.
Our plane flew out of Oahu on time and about 45 minutes later we touched down at Kauai – Lihue Airport. Lihue Airport certainly looked more “quaint” and prettier than Honolulu airport that looked more commercial like.
Just outside Lihue Airport we boarded a mini-van that transfered us to Avis Rental outlet just a km away. The rental charges that include “$0” access CDW was USD$399 for seven days. This time we got a red car! It was a Kia, a sedan with plentiful of space. The car again was not spotless or scratchless when we picked it up. But since it had a “$0” excess CDW we were not particular about the scratches. Once ready we were off to our “stay” which was 1.5 km from the airport.
The top highlights of Kauai were stops/sights on the route to Na Pali Kona Forest Reserve sited on the northwestern part of the island. From our hotel (on the east side of the island) we drove westward for about 38 km to reach Waimea town and then another 30 km northward till the end of the road.
Along this 68 kilometers there were many stops comprising of two waterfalls, six lookouts and one town, Waimea. There was one Hanapepe Valley Lookout before Waimea town and after that there were Kekaha Lookout, Waimea Ditch, Red Dirt Waterfalls, Waimean Canyon Lookout, Waipo’o Falls, Pu’u Hinahina Lookout and finally Pu’u O Kila Lookout which was the best.
Hanapepe Valley Lookout
We visited Hanapepe Valley Lookout twice, the first time was in the evening after we visited the southern coast of Kauai. The second visit was in the mid morning on our way to Na Pali Kona Forest Reserve. We felt that the evening view of Hanapepe Valley was better than the mid-morning view.
At the lookout we saw a gigantic deep valley. The valley was lushfully green, there were some exposed cliff walls and they were “red” in color! Even the ground where I stood was covered in “red” dirt.
Kekaha Lookout & Waimea Ditch
After we passed Hanapepe Valley lookout we continued our drive westward for about 15 km and reached Waimea town. The town looked pretty unexciting so we did not stop to explore but turn right onto road 550 to drive on toward Na Pali Kona Forest Reserve. Soon we arrived at Kehala Lookout, parked our car at a small set-in by the side of the road and came down for some photo shoots.
At another set-in down the road was another view of the valley and this time we saw a river (Waimea Ditch) meandering through it.
Red Dirt Waterfalls
A few kilometers down the same road we reached “Red Dirt Waterfalls”. It was not the typical waterfalls that we were familiar with, it was more of a stream flowing over uneven, incline ground. It uniqueness was the “red” ground terrain where it flowed through.
Waimea Canyon Lookout
From “Red Dirt” falls to Waimea Canyon Lookout was another 9.5 km. This was a much larger lookout with proper parking and viewing platform. The view was fantastic. The colors of the canyon was fascinating, there was a mixture of red, brown and green colours. The canyon was huge and deep and the ground had these sharp smaller hills looking like gigantic “horn” poking out of the valley floor. Waimea Canyon was also know as “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. It might not be as huge as the Grand Canyon but it was very majestic.
Parking a Waimea Canyon Lookout was not free, it was USD$5. We were told that the same parking ticket can be used at the other carparks of the next few lookouts.
Puu Hinahina Lookout & Waipo Falls
The nice weather did not stay on, the sky turned cloudy and misty and a drizzle started. We continued our drive to the next destination, Puu Hinahina Lookout. Just before the lookout was Waipo Falls. It was a narrow falls and the water cascading down the cliff looked like two white threads from afar. The sight was not “great” at all.
Lucky for us the drizzle was short-lived, so by the time we reached Pu’u Hinahina Lookout the drizzle had stopped. Though there was no rain at where we stood we could see rain falling in sheets in the distance. These sheets of rain had altered the view of the valley. It colored the many layers of mountains and we could see the profile of each mountain one behind the other stretching far into the distance.
Kalalau Lookout & Pu’u O Kila Lookout
Finally we arrived at Kalalau Lookout and the view was pretty overwhelming. It was a stretch of green rigged mountains curving down to a lush green valley ending out to the sea. Unfortunately due to the rain earlier in the day, the air was misty so the Napali Coast was shielded under a “blurry” blanket of water vapour.
From Kalalau Lookout we drove to the last lookout, “Pu’u O Kila Lookout” and was rewarded with a clear view of the same Napali Coast. Both the lookouts provided an inland view of the Napali Coast and the view at Pu’u O Kila Lookout was on a higher plane.
The Napali Coast could be viewed from the sea too and that would have to be done via a boat cruise (with the right weather) or a helicopter ride. There were also visitors that trekked for two days over dangerous ground from the northern side of the island to Napali Coast. We were happy to see Napali Coast from the inland lookouts.
The south coast of Kauai was dotted with many interesting attractions, there were towns (Old Koala Town, Eleele Town with Hanapepe Swinging Bridge), shopping village (Poipu Shopping Village), beaches (Kalapaki Beach, Poipu Beach, Glass Beach, Kekaha Beach), blowholes (Spouting Horn), Coffee plantation (Kauai Coffee Company), pond (Menehune Fishpond Overlook) and a tree tunnel (Tree Tunnel to Old Koalo Town). It took us about two and a half days to visit all the 12 attractions.
The furthest attraction was Polihale State Park located at the westernmost end of the south coast which we did not manage to visit. We gave up after a horibbly bumpy ride on unsealed road near the last stretch. After 30 minutes of rough ride we decided to turn back. Got enough of all the knocks! The longer we “bumped” in would mean the longer we had to “bump” out.
Kalapaki Beach was the nearest beach to our stay at just 2 km away. It had a bay which was partially protected from the open ocean by a large break wall and was very popular with surfers. Surrounding the bay were villas and Kauai Marriott Beach Resort sat directly just in front of it. We parked our car directly on a road that run along the beach near Nawiliwili Park and had a great time watching the surfers riding the waves.
Menehune Fishpond Overlook
We chanced upon Menuhune Fishpond Overlook accidentally. We were on our way to Poipu Beach after Kalapaki Beach and rather than took the fastest road we decided to drive along the coast as far as we could, that was when we came upon the lookout.
Menehune Fish Pond Lookout was also known as Alekoko Scenic Overlook. The pond got its name from a legend that depicted a small race of people known as Menehune. The Menehune built these ponds about 1000 year ago which were used to trap fish to feed Hawaiian royalty. Large stones were used to create walls 900 feet across and five feet high and its construction was completed overnight as according to the legend.
In the present day, this area was designated as the Huleia National Wildlife Refuge and was a protected and beautiful home to many endemic water birds. It was a very pleasant and serene place, lushfully green as the rocks were covered in mangroves and moss.
Tree tunnel to OLD Koloa Town
The road that led into the Old Koloa town was a “tree tunnel” road (Maliuhi Road) lined with eucalyptus trees on both sides. These tall trees and their branches formed a canopy over the road. This tree tunnel were the result of a gift to the community from Pineapple Baron Walter Mc Bryde in 1911, he planted 500 trees along this stretch of road.
The tree tunnel stretched about 1.5 km, not too long. If it was not for its fame as a Kauai attraction we would have drive though it without a second glance. Nothing great or fantastic about the tree tunnel, it was not specially beautiful or wild or memorable.
OLD Koloa Town
Unlike Oahu there was no highrises and skyscrappers in Kauai. It had several old and quaint towns and Old Koloa town was one of them. This old town was a previous sugar canes plantation today it was a charming town with shops, cafes, souvenir shops. The buildings were single storied, with glass windows showing the wares/products within. It was very pleasant and relaxing to stroll down the pavement fronting the houses.
We found a store and went in to get some “bites” and “gulps”. The cafe was “Koloa Mills Ice Cream and coffee”. We picked up some pastries and coffee to go along.
Poipu Beach & Poipu shopping village
Poipu Beach was 3.5 km south of Old Koloa Town. It was a beautiful beach, with a lovely bay. We were at the bay near sunset time, unfortunately the sky was overcast so we did not see a great sunset.
At the beach there was only one cafe/restaurant, Brennecke’s Beach Broiler which looked nice, but with limited food selection. We drove over to Poipu Shopping Village in search of dinner.
The shopping village had many shops and restaurants, but at 7pm in the evening most of them were already closed. There were a couple of restaurants offering food and “hula dancing girls” but all their tables were filled so we had to move on. Finally we found a pizza restaurant and had a lovely pizza for dinner.
Spouting Horn was just a short distance from Old Koloa Town about 5.5 km away. We were pretty impressed with the blowhole. We thought it would be similar to the “one” in Oahu which hardly “blow”. Spouting Horn certainly spouted often and “high”.
Apparently when the waves rolled in, they were forced under the lava shelf and rushed through an opening in the rocky coast. At times the water spout sprayed up some 15 meters into the air!
Along the south coast was another interesting beach. It was definitely a “less visited” destination and there was no visitor but us two. The place was pretty deserted and slightly hard to find. There was no clear road sign and when we were near we drove passed some “industrial factories” which made us wondered if we were on the right road and we should turn back. Fortunately we drove on, following the directions of our car GPS to “Glass Beach” ( co-ordinates: 21.898037, -159.584010 ) and found it!
The beach looked pretty ordinary until we scoped up the “sand” at a certain patch of the beach. The “sand” was a mixture of colorful “glass beads”. Some of the larger pieces looked like broken glasses from a bottle/jar/container. Luckily most of these “broken glasses” had smoothen edges so it was quite safe to walk on them.
These “glass sand” were sea glass which were glasses from bottles, flasks, windshieds windows etc. They had been broken up and smoothened by moving ocean and time and somehow deposited here. We read that it took the ocean about 10 to 30 years to create these glass fragments and some looked like glass beads.
Kauai Coffee Company
Hawaii was famous for its coffee and every island seemed to have its own special brand of coffee. In Kauai we picked to visit Kauai Coffee Company as “Kauai Coffee” seemed to be the most “famous” brand on the island.
We entered the main “shop” which had a display of old pictures and old “coffee equipments” like pots, grinders, etc etc. It was “interesting” to see these exhibits and to gain some understanding of the “coffee drinking” behaviours of the past. Beside these exhibits, we got to see the plantation process of growing coffee via a video presentation. On site was also saw a “life demonstration” of coffee bean roasting.
There were different types of coffee bean on sale but before making purchases we got to try out the different coffee, some stronger, some milder, some with macadamia nut favour and some with vanilla favour.
Kauai Coffee Company also offered two type of plantation visit. One was a “lorry ride” into the plantation at US$60 per adult and the other was a walking tour at no charges. The weather was pretty hot so we decided not to participate in any of the plantation tour. Besides, the video presentation of the coffee bean growing process was already very informative so a visit to the plantation was not necessary for us.
Hanapepe Swinging Bridge
Hanapepe Swinging Bridge was situated in Eleele town which was next to Hanapepe town. We drove into Eleele town in search of the bridge. The town was a very quiet with a few shops and cafes. We parked our car easily and followed some signboards that lead us to Hanapepe Swinging Bridge.
It was a wooden suspended bridge over a lovely river. The bridge apparently swang and rocked during scary time (monsoon time). It was definitely not swinging while we were there.
Kekaha Beach was a wide “golden” beach. The place was empty except for us and a couple of cars running on the beach. It was tempting to drive onto the beach but we thought not to take the risk of being stuck in the sand, no insurance would cover the damages!
The weather was very hot and we found relieve from the heat in a “beach shed/pavillion”. It was relaxing to hide under the shade and looked out at the amazing wide stretch of golden sand, the turquoise water, the blue sky and the white cloud. The sea looked pretty calm and we did not spot any surfers in the water.
North side of Kauai
We went to the north side of Kauai twice, the first time we visited Kilaueau Lighthouse, Hanalei Town and spent the evening watching the setting sun on Hanalei Beach.
The second time we visited Princeville, we attempted to visit Queen’s Bath unfortunately unsuccessful. We went on to Hanalei Valley Lookout and spent the evening at Anini Beach watching the sun set.
When we were in the north we kept a watch out for affordable boat cruise to Napali Coast but the weather was not “suitable” so we did not take up any boat trip.
One of the attractions in north was the ‘Queen’s Bath” which was a natural small lagoon created by lava rocks meeting the sea. On the map we saw that Queen’s Bath was along the coast of Princeville. So our plan was to park our car somewhere in Princeville and go in search of a path to the coast to get to Queen’s Bath.
Unfortunately when we were at Princeville we found that there was nowhere to park our car as “No Parking” signs were everywhere on the public road. The coast was also cut off by private golf course, resorts and villas! So after making a couple of loops we left without visiting “Queen’s Bath!
Kilauea Lighthouse was built at the tip of a lava peninsula. The lava peninsula was totally covered by “greens” so the only hints that it was formed from lava was its black base near the water level. We did not walk up to the light house, instead we walked further from it to capture a photo of the lighthouse standing at the tip of the cape.
The lighthouse area was also a wildlife refuge and was open Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 am to 4:00pm, closed on Sunday and Monday and all federal holidays. Admission was $10.00 per person. Children 15 and under are free.
From Kilaueau Lighthouse was about 15 km and a 20 minutes drive to Hanalei town/village. Hanalei Town was a quaint looking town. It was charming with many shops, stalls, restaurant and cafe.
We found Coffee House where we had our cafe latte and cakes. It was great to relax and watch the “village – going – on”.
Sunset at Hanalei Beach
We were at Hanalei Beach to view the sunset. We were there at 4.30 pm and stayed for 3 hours till the sun set and the sky turned dark. Parking was not a problem, we parked our car at a carpark near Hanalei Pier. I was contented to find a nice spot of the beach, lie down and wait for the sun to set.
From where I sat, I could see two young girls having fun, doing acrobatic jumps into the sea. So fun so full of energy! I was definitely the “lazy” type of holiday maker, I enjoyed lying down on the sand, stretching out my legs and slowly “feasting” on the beautiful scenery all around me.
It was a beautiful sunset experience at Hanalei beach/pier. It was amazing seeing the sky over the sea turned golden, turned orange, turned red, turned purple, turned blue, then dark blue then black.
Princeville resort and Princeville center
Princeville had a resort section and a small shopping center. The resort section had golf course, hotels, resorts, villas etc etc. The ground, the beach and the coast were pretty much private to customers that stayed in the accommodations at Princeville. There was no parking allowed on the street and parking lots that we saw were all marked “private” so we pretty much have to “cruise” through the estate road without coming down from the car to explore.
Luckily our next two locations had parkings. The first was Hanalei Valley Lookout which was just along the highway a 600m from the round-about (Neptune Fountain location) that led into Princeville. It has a view of farmlands and hills/mountains beyond. Nothing fantastic.
Opposite the highway of Hanalei Valley Lookout was Princeville center, a shopping center with shops, supermarkets, cafes and restaurant. The place was not very crowded and many of the cafes were closed. This place was not as quaint or charming as the shops in Hanalei town which was just 5 km westward.
Sunset at Hanalei Beach/Pier
On another evening at the north side we spent our sunset “timing” at Anini Beach. Anini Beach was not far east of Hanalei Beach about 15 km by car.
Parking at Anini Beach was easy and was free. We found a shady place under some huge trees with low lying overhanging branches and set out our picnic chairs, The sun was pretty hot and without these shades it would be quite impossible to relax on the beach.
Anini Beach was definitely more secluded than Hanalei Beach but was not as pretty for sunset watching. For a while we wondered if we would be able to see the sun setting over the sea horizon as its setting location was too near the coastal land. Luckily it set just on the right side of the land.
There were about 10 attractions on the east side of Kauai that we had picked to visit. Two falls (Wailau Falls, Opaekaa Falls), a reservoir (Wailau Reservoir), three beaches (Wailau Beach, Kaiakea Point Lookout, Paliku Beach), two towns (Coconut Market Place, Old Kapaa town) and a hiking trail to Sleeping Giant Nose.
Wailua falls & opaekaa Falls
The two falls were both located in Wailua State Park. Wailua Falls was the better “looking” one. Opaekaa Falls was a bit “lacking” in water. There was a path that lead down to the base of Wailua Falls. We were told by the locals that the path was tricky and steep so we did not attempt to go down to the base of the falls.
Both the falls were pretty near to the roads so there was not much walking needed to see them. On the maps the falls were quite close to each other probably about 2 to 3 km apart, but there was no direct route between the two falls and the round about road to get from one falls to the other was about 17 km.
Near Opaekka Falls was a lookout which gave a gorgeous view of the Wailua River State Park. There was also a Fern Grotto which was on private land. To get to it one had to take a private boat trip up river which cost USD30 per person. There were both positive and negative reviews on the cruise/fern grotto, they ranged from “enjoyable trip” to a “rip-off”.
Wailua Reservoir was not a planned destination. When we were about to leave Opaekka Falls and while looking at google map we noticed a reservoir nearby. We drove to the reservoir and found that it was also a “fishing place”. There was a gate across the road that run next to the reservoir and a local told us that it was fine to swing open the gate and drive in.
The reservoir was a lovely surprise, the entire environment was so peaceful and serene. The reservoir was so still that it beautifully mirrored the green landscape around it.
“Sleeping Giant” was the name of a mountain. We guessed the mountain was given that name because its profile looked like “sleeping giant”? We planned to hike up the mountain using its shorter east trail (2.8 km).
We reached the carpark (cor-ordinates: 22.061366, -159.346614) of the east trail head at about 10.00 am in the morning and there were already many cars parked.
Trail was pretty obvious at the start and along the way we hiked through some pretty muddy patches. There was no official directional sign to the summit. We just had to trust the crudely drawn red arrows on rocks at cross-road. About 30 minutes later we and four other hikers found ourselves at a “dead” end, our route was blocked by huge fallen boulder. We probably had took a wrong turn. So it was back tracking till another path. Another 45 minutes later we arrived at a picnic area. We stopped to rest and enjoyed the beautiful view of the valley and beyond.
This picnic/rest area was located at Sleeping Giant “Chest”. We still had another 30 minutes of trekking to go to reach Sleeping Giant “Nose”. Unfortunately we had very little water left, we felt hot and tired and were definitely not in the mood to carry on. So we turned back.
Coconut Market Place
Coconut Market Place was a upmarket “shopping place”, there were shops, cafes and supermarkets. We went on a Tuesday when a “farmer market” was also in operation. The farmer market was set up in the carpark ground and ran on Tuesday and Thursday from 9 am to noon.
Most shops were close. We could not find a cafe to sit down for our coffee break. Out of desperation we bought our coffee and cake from a supermarket and settled down in its “dining” area for a coffee break. The coffee was okay but the cake was horrid!
OLd Kappa Market
We were on our way to Kaiakea Point when we crossed Old Kapaa town. There were many old shops, cafes and restaurants, they were mainly single and double storied and it was a busy town. So we parked our car by the side of the road and came down to explored. The shops were not as upmarket/new as those in Coconut Market Place but they looked more quaint and authentic. It looked like a great place to taste local food.
Wailua Beach was just before the turn off to Opaeka‘a Falls, it had a set-in just beside the highway where we could easily parked our car and came out to explore. The beach was quiet and we did not see surfers or visitors. The waves were coming in very strong and the breeze was lovely.
Kaiakea Point was a beautiful lookout. The contour of the coast looked “dramatic” and the colours of the landscape were vivid. Green lushful land meeting the tumultuous sea with white waves roaring in. The sky was stunningly blue with shining white clouds and greyish-blue mountain ranges far beyond.
In the sea we saw many stretches of black rocks poking out of the water surface and the waves were crashing into them. Surprising we saw many surfers riding the waves in the terribly rough sea. These brave surfers were having a good time in the sea, navigating their surf boards around the rocks as they maintained their balances.
Tree tunnel – Paliku Beach
We thought Paliku Beach sounded interesting as to get to the beach we had to go through a tree tunnel. We parked our car at a carpark ( co-ordinates: 22.116219, -159.300522 ) just next to the entrance of the tree tunnel.
After the tree tunnel was a short but steep slope down to the beach. Paliku Beach was a secluded beach, very lovely very private.
Our Accommodation in Kauai
Our stay for seven nights was at Kauai Palms Hotel, which we had booked directly from the hotel website. Our booking was for a “Deluxe room with One Double Bed, Kitchenette and AC” and it costed USD788.69 for seven nights which was a good price compared to the other accommodations on the island.
This hotel was also listed in booking.com which was my usual preferred platform. Unfortunately the listing on booking.com did not have “kitchenette” in its description which made the rooms offered directly but the hotel website more attractive to us.
The hotel was in a great location to explore Kauai. It was very near the airport which made checking in easy and checking out for a early “fly-out” very convienent. Though it was in the east it was somehow “centrally” located to explore the other parts of the island. Driving to the attractions in the north, south and west of the island was very convenient as they were all pretty equi-distance from our stay.
Our room was tight for two persons. There was no view from our window as it looked into the backyard of the hotel. The kitchenette was nice but it was a tight squeeze to sit down for a meal. The aircon was a OLD window unit that did not “blow” cold air when switched on and made too much noise.
For the price we paid, we supposed we could not expect a bigger room. Overall the hotel was simple, clean and “nice”. Unfortunately the aircon was a huge letdown for us. The weather was very hot and there was no breeze coming through our window, so whenever we were in our room we had to switch on the aircon but the noise it created soon gave us headache!