Natural Wonders of Kauai
On the West Side of Kauai, Waimea Canyon stretches farther than the eye can see. Penned “Hawaii’s Grand Canyon,” it measures 14 miles long, offering incredible views along the way. The word “waimea” is Hawaiian for reddish water. It refers to the striking red color in the soil that colors the Waimea River as it follows its timeworn path. While the canyon is breathtaking any time of day, if you are fortunate enough to be there at sunset when the light hits the red walls just right, it’s so beautiful it practically glows.
The Napali Coast on the North Shore of Kauai is an awe-inspiring sight. These towering cliffs are a symbol of the timeless spirit of Kauai. For those who desire a closer look, the Napali Coast can be toured by air, boat or by hiking the Kalalau Trail.
Stand at the top of the Kalalau Lookout and the valley unfolds before you like a picturesque postcard leading to a cerulean sea. You can drive to the lookout which is located in the Kokee State Park, but to fully appreciate its magnificence, take a short walk along the Pihea Trail.
This scenic viewpoint on the northernmost tip of Kauai is so gorgeous it will make you sigh. Not only is it a great place to spot whales during the winter, but it is also home to the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, a sanctuary for seabirds.
Kauai is also known for its breathtaking waterfalls. Opaekaa Falls on the East Side is one of the island’s most accessible waterfalls while Wailua Falls is known for being in the opening credits of the TV show “Fantasy Island.” Take a helicopter tour of the Mt. Waialeale area you’ll see mountains deeply etched by silver streams of water. Weather permitting, your pilot may even descend toward the crater for a closer look.
From the signature views of Hanalei Bay on the North Shore to sun-drenched Poipu Beach on the South Shore, Kauai’s picturesque and intimate beaches offer something for everyone. On the island’s East Side, Kalapaki Beach is a fun place to watch surfers and let the kids play.
Gardens and State Parks
When you view the unspoiled beauty of Kauai, it’s easy to consider the entire island a natural wonder in itself. From state parks to botanical gardens, there are many ways to experience the island’s flora and fauna.
Kokee State Park
Travel further north along the winding road past Waimea Canyon and explore Kokee State Park, a forest rich in native plants, Hawaiian forest birds and hiking trails. At the Kokee Natural History Museum you’ll find hiking maps and exhibits. Near the end of the road, the famous Kalalau Valley Lookout offers a view of Kalalau Valley opening out to the Napali Coast.
Located on Kauai’s South Shore in the Lawai Valley, this is the headquarters of the National Tropical Botanical Garden featuring 259 acres of gardens and the world’s largest collection of native Hawaiian plants.
Also in southern Kauai, this 80-acre gem is the public entrance to the National Tropical Botanical Gardens. It features impressive garden design and is home to the towering Moreton Bay Fig trees from the film “Jurassic Park.”
Limahuli Garden and Preserve
Located in the lush North Shore of Kauai, Limahuli Gardens covers 1,000 acres, three distinct ecological zones and is home to early traces of early Hawaiian culture.
Other notable gardens include the 240-acre Na Aina Kai Garden on the North Shore and Smith’s Botanical Garden in Wailua.