Highlights
5-5070 Kuhio Highway
It is easy to get into the flow here, especially with a day trip down the Wailua River on Kauai’s north shore. I booked a day trip with Kayak Kauai for a guided tour to the Secret Waterfall (known to locals as Uluwehi Falls). We launched in Kapa’a and stroked steadily along a wide dark green river inland, away from the demanding Pacific. The landscape was flat at first, and then riversides rose into black rock and tree-covered cliffs. Read more about getting into the flow in Kauai at: http://takeyourbigtrip.com/2012/02/26/kauai-flow-visit-hawaiis-relaxing-island/
Often described as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, this 10-mile-long Kauai valley is a kaleidoscopic array of scarlet earth, verdant valleys, and raw volcanic crags. Bands of color streak the corrugated landscape, each representing a different eruption and layer of lava. Waimea Canyon Drive has a series of lookouts; among the most popular is Waimea Canyon (past the Mile 10 marker on Highway 550), where a number of rivers once cascaded down the gently sloping shield volcano. When part of its flank collapsed, the rivers combined with dramatic results. Continue into the mountains to explore Koke’e State Park beyond. Its small, free museum contains a 3-D map, which sheds light on the canyon’s wild beauty, while the gift shop specializes in local art, crafts, and Niihau shell jewelry.
HI-560, Kapaa, HI 96746, USA
With sand between your toes and frothy waves running over your tired feet, enjoying a long walk on the beach with your beau is about as romantic as life can get. Many hotels make it easy on couples, thanks to their convenient waterfront location, but Hapuna Beach on the Big Island and Honokahua Bay on Maui are two other pacific coves that inspire hand-holding and quiet whispers. For complete intimacy, Lumahai Beach—fitted into the bay near Hanalei on Kauai—is difficult to find, but its remote coast and soft sand have been the scene of more than one knee bent into the sand for a proposal.
Hanalei Bay, Hawaii, USA
Kauai’s Hanalei Bay may be one of the most magical places on the planet. I swear some of the locals start paddleboarding at sunrise and don’t come back in until sundown. I’ve paddleboarded in calm waters, but this was my first time trying to actually surf the waves. One positive: Standing lets you see the sets roll in before the surfers see them. The highlight of my morning was watching a dad surf into the waves while his 2-year-old rode on the nose of his board. I was happy playing in head-high surf. Maybe next year I’ll be ready to charge Hanalei on its big days. To see just how big the bay can get, check out this video of surf star Laird Hamilton at Hanalei: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jA05XIX7Yh0.
If you’re looking for a great snorkel experience accessible to Waikiki, I found Hanauma Bay a great spot. Turtles and fish galore.
3838 Wyllie Rd, Princeville, HI 96722, USA
If you want big waves or big cliffs, head to the Napali Coast. If you want white sand and gentle ripples, a more relaxed beach, lay your towel down at Anini Beach on the North Shore. Sometimes the wind picks up a bit, but put on a mask and snorkel and head underwater. The sea turtles may just look up from their coral reef grazing to say hi.
Kapaʻa, HI 96746, USA
Swift streams and waterfalls continue to carve these vertiginous and rugged valleys as they pour into the sea. One of the most stunning wilderness areas on earth, it also contains ancient Hawaiian ruins of graves, temples, house platforms, and terraced fields. The fear factor increases past the initial two-mile path to Hanakāpīʻai Beach (best visited in summertime, as winter swells tend to wash it away). Only experienced hikers in good condition and with proper gear should venture further along the famous 11-mile Kalalau Trail. Check for path and park closures before making plans and don’t forget the $20/night permit to crash at a campsite. However long you trek, stay on the main path and pack out what you brought in.
4265 Rice St
This adorable structure built in 1930 shelters a microbrew pub. Start with one of its classic beers, like a malty lager or a dark Bavarian-style brew called Black Limousine. Kauai Beer Company (KBC) also serves kombucha on tap and root beer, both made in-house. Pair your beverage with snacks ranging from poutine-style fries with Gouda to a changing menu of sandwiches like pumpkin, beet, and chèvre, or a Cubano that’s crafted Hawaiian-style (think pork shoulder and seared Spam!). Opened in 2013 by Jim Guerber and his son Justin, this chill Kauai hangout spot appeals to residents and visitors alike. Be sure to check out its seasonal taps, featuring delicacies from an orange-zest-guava-star-fruit beer to hardcore hop-tastic beverages like KBC’s 200th batch: The Bicentennial Double IPA.
Honolulu, HI 96744, USA
This used to be the old highway to get from the leeward to the windward side of the island. It was literally built into the side of a mountain and was barely hanging on. It’s now been replaced with a proper 4 lane highway complete with a tunnel, but parts of the old highway are still there to hike on. To get there you have to go through tourists. They are there for the lookout and the spectacular view – but you can go much deeper than that! From the lookout, go down to the right and go past the ‘closed’ sign, away from the tourists at the lookout snapping photos. Take the old Pali Highway through dense jungle growing along the side of this lush mountain. We also picked fresh guava off the trees and snacked on them along the way down. We hiked about 45 minutes down and then slowly turned around and came back up. You can hike all the way through to the end though.
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