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Island Hopping in Hawaii - Kauai

Feature by Lizzie Guilfoyle

KAUAI, or the “Garden Isle” as it’s known, is the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands. A hundred miles from Honolulu, it’s the only island that cannot be seen from any of the others. And it is very beautiful.

Formed by the now extinct volcano, Waialeale, which rises to a height of 5,240 feet in the centre of the island, Kauai owes its lushness to its rainfall which, in turn, has led to the formation of rivers. Fortunately, most rain falls in an inaccessible area encompassing Waialeale that, with an average of 471 inches a year, is the wettest place on earth. But it’s just one river, the Waimea, that is responsible for one of the island’s amazing natural wonders – Waimea Canyon.

Mark Twain once called it the Grand Canyon of the Pacific and although it’s nowhere near the size of its Arizona counterpart, it’s impressive nonetheless. Formed in much the same way as the Grand Canyon – by erosion – it differs in that the colours here are predominantly green and rust – the latter and a unique feature of Kauai, due to iron oxide in the soil. Viewed from the 3,400 feet lookout, it’s stunning; from a helicopter, awesome.

In fact, the entire hour-long flight was simply breathtaking and the only way to see parts of the island – Waialeale, for example. Almost as inaccessible for it can be reached by boat, is the beautiful Na Pali Coast where fluted cliffs, honed razor sharp by wind and water, rise sheer out of the turquoise sea. And Manawaipuna Falls deep in Hanapepe Valley, would otherwise be missed. This lovely cascade, you may remember, featured in the film Jurassic Park.

As a matter of interest, we were discreetly weighed prior to the flight, an exercise that secured me a seat next to the pilot and a bona fide bird’s eye view. And the ‘live’ commentary was interspersed with music, occasionally Hawaiian but more frequently with movie themes. And so it was that we took off to the strains of the Indiana Jones theme – happily as it turned out, not a portent of an Indy-style adventure!

As you would expect, Kauai has some lovely beaches – Ha’ena Beach, for example, made famous in the movie South Pacific. It is, however, the rugged cliffs of Ha’ena Beach that form the boundary between the parts of Kauai that are accessible by vehicle and those that can only be reached by foot or by sea. Also lovely is Hanalei Bay and a stroll on the old wooden pier which juts into its eastern side, is an absolute must.

Completely different and on Kauai’s south shore, is the natural phenomenon known as Spouting Horn. Here you can watch waves rushing under a ledge of lava before bursting through a small opening in the surface – sometimes as high as 50 feet. Just be ready with the camera…..

And no visit to Kauai would be complete without sampling the delights of a luau, an Hawaiian feast that features Kalua pig – a whole pig, gutted, packed with salt and placed in the middle of an imu, an oven of burning hot rocks. It’s then covered with leaves and sand and left to bake for several hours. The result is a delicious and tender accompaniment to an equally delicious Polynesian buffet. But don’t spoil it by counting calories….

I stayed in Kapaa on the so-called ‘Coconut Coast’, in a delightful hotel right on the beach and was joined on the terrace each day by zebra doves looking for an easy meal. Two young myna birds were also frequent visitors and once even, a beautiful Pacific golden plover passed by only feet from where I was sitting.

All that on an island of roughly 550 square miles – what more could you ask for?

  1. I just love Kauai . . . it’s by far the most beautiful of the Hawaiian islands, and I’m far from the only person who feels that way.

    What a coincidence that you stayed in Kapaa — it’s my preferred spot on Kauai too! You didn’t mention your hotel, but here’s some of my favorites:

    Happy traveling!

    Kapaa Kango    Nov 13    #