General Information on the Island of Kauai, Hawaii
Kauai North Shore:
Known for it's lush, exotic beauty, the North end of Kauai may be the most beautiful place in all of the Hawaiian Islands. While this end of the island tends to experience a little more rain, it offers amazing sightseeing. The North shore is also home to Princeville, which is Kauai 's largest development at 11,000 acres of homes, resorts and golf courses.
North Shore Attractions:
Kilauea Lighthouse and Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge
Kilauea Lighthouse Road, Kilauea, HI (808)828-1413
Open daily 10 – 4
Built in 1913, the lighthouse is now a National Historic Landmark. While no longer used for sea-going traffic management, it is still home to the largest clamshell lens of any lighthouse in the world. It is set amid the Kilauea Wildlife Refuge, which is home to a large variety of seabirds, some of which are endangered.
This area was developed in 1853 as a coffee plantation. The coffee plantation has now been replaced by an 11,000 acre developed featuring some of Kauai 's finest resorts and golfing. There are 3 beaches below Princeville with a wide reef which creates pockets which are good for snorkeling when the surf allows.
Na Pali Coast and State Park
Na Pali means “the cliffs”. This area features Kaua'i's ultimate hiking adventures. The Kalalau Trail runs along the Oceanside cliffs, well worth the hike to view. A white sand beach at the head of Hanakapia'I Valley is a fine stopping point for day hikers.
Ke'e Beach State Park
Western end of Highway 56, Ha'ena, HI
You can view the breath taking Na Pali from this ideal beach. Here you will also find the start of the 11-mile Kalalau Trail. This trail is not for the timid or the beginner. Another path leads from the beach to an open, grassy meadow with a stone altar called Lohi'au's Hula Platform. Is said that Laka, goddess of the hula, did most of her dancing on this spot. Today's hula practitioners sometimes leave offerings for her here.
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Kauai East Shore:
The East Shore of Kauai north of Lihue is known as the “Coconut Coast”. The side of the island is best known for it's plentiful sandy beaches, condominiums and is the home of Kauai's major shopping areas.
East Shore Attractions:
Old Kapa'a Town
Originally a 19 th century plantation town, Kapaa is now Kauai 's major hub for business and shopping. The streets are filled with an amazing variety of shops ranging from high end to those with unique “character”.
Smith's Tropical Paradise
174 Wailua Road, Kapaa , HI (808)821-6895 Open daily from 8:30 – 4
Smith's Tropical Paradise is a magical 30 acres full of manicured orchards, themed settings, exotic plants, tropical birds and tranquil lagoons. A popular sight for weddings. A lu'au banquet and live Hawaiian show held on a water-born stage is offered Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 5 to 9.
Starting point is the Wailua Marina just off the Kuhio Highway. You take a flat bottom boat up the Wailua River accompanied by the Smith Family's talented band of singers and dancers. The Fern Grotto is a natural amphitheater fringed with hanging ferns and lush plant life. This site was made famous by the Elvis Presley movie, “Blue Hawaii”. Be ready to dance a little hula while taking the boat trip back down the Wailua River.
Fern Grotto Homestead
Highway 58, ½ south of Nawiliwili Road
Lihue, HI (808)245-3202
This was formerly the plantation home of George N. Wilcox. The 80-acre plantation has been preserved as a depiction of life on a sugar plantation. This is a popular attraction and tours must be booked well in advance.
Lydgate State Park
Just south of the Wailua River, Lydate is an excellent park for family fun. The park features a beautiful beach, picnic areas, playgrounds, and lava pools which shield swimmers from the surf and offer safe snorkeling perfect for beginners.
Hauola Place of Refuge
Located at the north end of Lydgate State Park, is Hauola (dew of life) is one of two acient places of refuge on Kaua'i. In acient times, if a Hawaiian broke a kapu (law) or was part of a defeated army, they could go here seeking protection. After going through rites conducted by priests, they were free to return to their homes.
Hikina Akala Heiau
The Hinkina a ka la (rising of the sun) Heiau is again at the north end of the beach at Lydgate State Park. Built in approximately 800 A.D., it was built on the first spot in the Wailua area that the rays of the sun touch each morning.
Menehune (Alekoko) Fishpond
Off Nawiliwili Road is Wa'apa Road. Take this road to Hulemalu Road which leads to the overlook for the pond.
Legends say the Menehune were an ancient race of “little people” who were known to accomplish amazing feats overnight. This is a large, impressive fishpond is built adjacent to the Hule'ia Stream. According to legend, it was built in one night by the Menehune as a gift for a princess.
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Kauai South Shore:
Is said to have some of the nicest weather on the island, along with a myriad of beautiful beaches. It contains the Lihue airport, Nawilili harbor as well as the widest variety of accommodations ranging from luxury hotels to B&B's.
South Shore Attractions:
Lawa'i Bay Old Faithful. Waves shooting up through a large lava tube create a geyser effect. Great photo opportunity. There is also a large section of curb side vendors selling inexpensive souvenirs and costume jewelry. Some of the local artists sell their wares here as well.
4428 Rice Street
Located in the heart of Lihue, is the museum showing local history and art for the islands of Kaua'i and Niihau. It features a permanent exhibit of geology, flora, fauna, pre-contact Hawaiia, and artifacts from the missionary and plantation periods.
Old Koloa Town
The town of Koloa was the site of Kaua'i's first sugar plantation which was built in the 1830's. This town offers a variety of shopping and restaurants.
National Tropical Botanical Gardens
Lawa'i Road , Po'ipu, HI (808)332-7361
Features both a 252 acre scientific research center (Lawa'i Gardens) and a 100 acre estate property ( Allerton Gardens ) for botany and horticulture. The visitor center showcases 2,600 different plant species, many of which are rare or endangered. The grounds are open only for visitors with reservations for the guided 2-1/2 hour walking tour. The tour meets at the visitor center across from Spouting Horn parking lot.
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Kauai West Shore:
Sheltered by Mount Wai'ale 'ale, the West shore is known for both the driest weather on Kauai and for it's lack of development. The West shore is known for it's 17 mile long stretch of sandy beach starting at Waimea and extending to Polihale, it houses the fabulous Waimea Canyon inland and featues the Na Pali Coast – Hawaii 's last true wilderness.
West Shore Attractions:
Created by an ancient fault in the earth's crust, the canyon is known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. It is 3,600 feet deep, 2 miles wide, and 10 miles long. Views are spectacular.
Kokee Natural History Museum
Located at Kokee State Park at the top of Waimea Canyon Road.
(808)335-9075, 10-4 daily. Admission is free.
After driving past the breath taking views of the Waimea Canyon, visitors are treated to a small museum which is dedicated to the flora, fauna, and natural history of the area. There are also sections dedicated to Hawaiian artifacts and a nice collection of shells.
Waimea Canyon Drive , 4 miles north of Koke'e State Park
Kalalau Lookout, near the end of the road above Waimea Canyon, marks the head of the hiking trail that also passes pu'u-o-Kila Lookout. Bring layers of clothing, the weather is unpredictable and the wind are often up. View the valley with it's many ridges and waterfalls. Another great photo opportunity.
Russian Fort Elizabeth State Historical Park
Built to support Russian fur trading with the Hawaiians and ultimately in a vain attempt to annex the Hawaiian Islands , the Hanalei fort is at Pu'u Poa overlooking the bay. A few rocky outcroppings remain on a flat area near the Princeville Hotel.
The ancient Hawaiian salt ponds near Hanepepe are a nice reminder of Hawaiian culture. The art of salt-making in earthen pans is still practiced here by families descending from the ancient saltmakers. Enter the salt-making area only if permission is granted by the saltmakers.
Founded by Chinese rice farmers long ago. This sleepy little community was host to the miniseries “The Thornbirds”. It features galleries selling antiques and local arts along with several excellent restaurants.
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