While the Big Island is the youngest and largest Hawaiian island, Kauai is the oldest major island and the fourth largest. Volcanic activity formed Kauai nearly six million years ago. The centre of volcanic activity moved away from Kauai a very long time ago, leaving the island at the mercy of the elements. Wind, sea and rain have have had plenty to time to sculpt the island, and over the years erosion has reduced the height of the mountains and softened the landscape. Kauai and neighbouring Nihau were the last islands to remain independent from the Kingdom of Hawaii. Attempts by King Kamehameha to conquer the islands and unify Hawaii failed but in 1810 King Kaumualiʻi, the ruler of the two islands, decided to join the Kingdom of Hawaii under King Kamehameha. Tourism is now by far the biggest industry on the island with the population of around 60,000 welcoming well over a million visitors each year. Due to its lush vegetation the island has been given the nickname ‘The Garden Isle’.
Na Pali Coast from Kalalau overlook, Kokee State Park
The Na Pali Coast is 27 kilometres (17 miles) of breathtaking scenery. The only way to catch a glimpse of it by road is to take the long (and bumpy) journey through Waimea Canyon to Kokee State Park. From the Kalalau Overlook at the end of the road you can look down on the coast, weather permitting. Alternatively, you can walk along the Na Pali Coast from Ha’ena via the Kalalau Trail. The dense tropical jungle along this coast means that the views from the trail are limited. The best views of this spectacular coast are from a boat or air tours. Click Tab 2 to see a view along Na Pali Coast from the half mile marker of the Kalalau Trail.
Waimea Canyon from roadside overlook, Waimea Canyon State Park
Waimea Canyon is roughly 16 kilometres (10 miles) long and 900 metres (3,000 feet), so unsurprisingly it is often called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. The highest mountain on the island, Mount Waiʻaleʻale is 1,569 metres (5,148 feet) high and it attracts extremely heavy rainfall, possibly the heaviest in the world. Rain that falls on the western side of Mount Waiʻaleʻale mainly runs off into the Wiamea River which has carved this deep canyon. The heavy rainfall in the area also means that the when we visited the road through Waimea Canyon State Parkwas full of potholes.
Mountains covered with lush tropical jungle tumble down to the sandy Ha’ena Beach and the turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean. Located on the north coast of Kauai, Ha’ena Beach is at the end of the Kuhio Highway on the edge of the spectacular Na Pali Coast. if you want to continue along the coast from here you have to walk.
Spouting Horn Blowhole
The south coast of Kauai is less rugged than the north and the Poipu area is where many beach resorts are located. To the west of Poipu the shore becomes rocky. At Spouting Horn the sea washes into an old lava tube under the rocky shore. A spout of water emerges from a blow hole every time a wave washes into the lava tube. Nearby the National Tropical Botanical Garden not only has a wide variety of tropical plants on display, it is dedicated to preserving tropical plant diversity by protecting plant varieties from extinction. Click Tab 2 to see Pinapple Plant sin the Agricultural Display Garden of the National Tropical Botanical Garden.
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Kilauea Point & Lighthouse
Kilauea Point Lighthouse stands on the 55 metre (180 foot) high Kilauea Point in the north of the island. Because it was sited on top of a high peninsula, it was only necessary to build a 16 metre (52 foot) high tower. Construction commenced in 1912 and the lighthouse entered service on May 1, 1913. Courtesy of its elevated position the lighthouse proved to be an invaluable navigation aid for aircraft as well as shipping. In 1927 a flight that had overshot Oahu in bad weather regained its bearings when the distinctive double flash from the lighthouse was spotted. The lighthouse closed in 1976 when it was replaced by an automated beacon. In 1985 Kilauea Point became a wildlife refuge. By 2003 fabric of the lighthouse had deteriorated and a committee was formed to raise funds to restore it. Restoration work began in 2008 and was completed in 2013.
Hanapepe Swinging Bridge, Hanapepe
Hanapepe Swinging Bridge was built in the early 1900s to allow townsfolk to cross the Hanapepe River to taro fields on the other side. It was destroyed by Hurricane Iniki in 1992 but rebuilt in 1996. It is still used by local people to get across the river, but because it rocks and swings as you walk across it has also become a tourist attraction.
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Kilohana Plantation, Lihue
In the 1930s, Kauai was a major centre for sugar production. In 1935 Gaylord Parke Wilcox and his wife Ethel built a mansion in the middle of a 10,500 hectare (26,000 acre) sugar plantation. The Tudor style mansion was designed by Hawaiian architect Mark Potter.The house plus 14 hectares (36 acres) of formal gardens surrounding it were completed in 1936 and for many years thereafter it served as both plantation house and the family home of the Wilcox family. The mansion was severely damaged by Hurricane Iwa in 1983 but was restored. Today Kilohana Plantation is open to the public, with the historic mansion filled with Hawaiian antiques and paintings. There is also a restaurant, shops and plantation railway on which you can take rides. The railway is 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) long and it recreates the days of the steam powered sugar trains that were once very common on the island. Click Tab 2 to see a picture of the Plantation Railway Train.