Kauaʻi or Kauai ( is the oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands. With an area of 552.3 square miles (1,430.5 km2), it is the fourth largest of the main islands in the Hawaiian archipelago and the 21st largest island in the United States. Known also as the "Garden Isle", Kauaʻi lies 105 miles (170 kilometers) across the Kauaʻi Channel, northwest of Oʻahu.The United States Census Bureau defines Kauaʻi as Census Tracts 401 through 409 of Kauaʻi County, Hawaiʻi, which is all of the county except for the islands of Kaʻula, Lehua, and Niʻihau. The 2000 census population of Kauaʻi (the island) was 58,303
The densely jungled valley of Honopu was thought to be the last home of the Menehune and is often referred to as the "Valley of the Lost Tribe." The beach in this area is where Jessica Lange eluded King Kong in the 1976 remake of the classic King Kong and Harrison Ford fled from pirate attack in 6 Days, 7 Nights.
For many years this was one of the best "hidden" beaches on Kauai. Today, the sandy, rock-studded beach is still beautiful. But it is no longer hidden. A major resort now borders the beach, which means it's harder to have the beach all to yourself - but easier to find a cool drink when you tire of beachcombing.
Kipu Kai Beach
The majestic "Hoary Head" mountain ridge frames the golden sands of Kipu Kai beach, which is only accessible by boat. Many years ago, the local population of Nene, the endangered Hawaiian goose, disappeared from Kauai, but thanks to the efforts of local cattle rancher J.W. Waterhouse, these rare birds may occasionally be seen at Kipu Kai
This is a famous movie location and excellent snorkeling area, located at the foot of the Na Pali Coast Trail. Kee Beach appeared in the popular television mini-series, The Thorn Birds
Famous for its spectacular beauty, Hanalei Bay is a long half-moon of sandy beach carved into the base of a sheer cliff on one side and narrowing into a rocky point on the other. The beach is a great spot for walking or throwing a Frisbee around. At the westernmost curve of the bay, you'll find a calm shoreline where the water is relatively quiet even when most of the north shore is too rough for safe swimming.
Sleeping Giant (Nounou Mountain)
Look for the mountain ridge between Wailua and Kapaa which looks like the figure of a man on his back. Legend has it that this was a pesky giant who ate constantly. The villagers of Wailua, tired of feeding the giant, tricked him into eating a great number of rocks hidden in a vast quantity of fish and poi. The giant was so full that he lay down to take a nap, fell into a deep sleep, and has yet to wake up.
The white sands and gentle waters of Kalapaki Beach are ideal for sunning, swimming, and sailing. Kalapaki Beach also is the home of the Kauai Marriott Resort & Beach Club, and Kauai Lagoons--40 acres of freshwater tropical lagoons that serve as a sanctuary for exotic wildlife.
Opaeka'a Falls is about 1.3 miles from the start of Route 580. We're told there are shrimp in the pool beneath the falls, emerging from their hiding places at night. The best view is from the path along the highway. Across the way is a great view of the sacred Wailua River.
Keahua Forestry Arboretum
Keahua Arboretum is home to mango, monkeypod, eucalyptus trees. The streams are filled with life, and there are pools in which to swim. Picnic tables are scattered here and there and just beyond is access to the sacred area of Mt. Waialeale
The bellstone is so named because, when struck sharply, a note would resonate over the entire Wailua Valley. Royal births were announced this way.
These dramatic 80-foot waterfalls can be seen from Highway 583 or Maalo Road and were used in the opening of the television series Fantasy Island. The cliff over the pool once served as a diving platform for the ali`i.
Menehune (Alekoko) Fishpond
Legends abound about the Menehune, an ancient race of "little folk" who made their home on Kauai. These mysterious people were thought to be very industrious and used their great strength to accomplish mighty feats overnight. The seaward end of the fish pond was left unfinished because dawn came before the Menehune had completed their work. Many generations later, the wall was completed. However, the stonework which closed the gap was far inferior to that of the mystical Menehune.
This picturesque fern-fringed cave is only accessible by a leisurely ride up the Wailua River. The dewy emerald grotto, complete with the soft strains of Hawaiian music, creates an alluring setting for weddings.
Water, forced into a lava tube by the surf, gushes into the air making an eerie hissing noise. The ancient Hawaiians believed that Kaikapu, a lizard goddess, was trapped by a clever fisherman in the lava tube and the hissing is the sound of her angry roar.
National Tropical Botanical Garden
Located in Lawai Valley, the National Tropical Botanical Garden is the only tropical botanical garden in the U.S. to be chartered by Congress. The tour of the grounds, ablaze with a multitude of plants and flowers, includes ancient Hawaiian stone walls and taro terraces.
You may be able to catch a glimpse of days gone by at the ancient Hawaiian salt ponds near Hanapepe. The art of salt-making in earthen pans is still practiced here by families descending from ancient saltmakers, and is a reminder of the rich Hawaiian culture of the island. Enter the salt-making area only if permission is granted by saltmakers.
Hanapepe Valley Lookout
Rolling green hills, quaint farms, and lush vegetation create a dazzling view from the Hanapepe Overlook. This untamed, exotic area was the perfect setting for Steven Spielberg's blockbuster thriller Jurassic Park.
Hanapepe means "bay crushed by landslides." The main street through town was used for the filming of "The Thornbirds." This quaint town is filled with charm, and there are heiaus and numerous Hawaiian homesites up the valley that are also worth exploring.
Ten miles long and about 3,600 feet deep, Waimea Canyon was described by Mark Twain as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific." One memorable image of the canyon that will remain with you, beyond the incredible scale of it all, is the rainbow of colors that dance along the canyon peaks. From the last two lookouts there are spectacular views into Kalalau Valley, one of the most beautiful sights on the island.
Russian Fort Elizabeth
In 1815 the Russian doctor, Georg Scheffer, arrived in Hawaii to gain trading privileges from King Kamehameha, who had created a kingdom incorporating all the islands of Hawaii. The Russian went to Kauai, nominally under the control of King Kaumualii, to salvage Russian cargo being held in Waimea. Once on Kauai, Scheffer gained the confidence of King Kaumualii when he promised the king that Czar Nicholas would help him to break free of Kamehameha's rule. Kaumualii allowed Scheffer to build a fort near Waimea and two others near Hanalei. However, Scheffer did not have the backing of the Russian Czar and was forced to leave Kauai. Russian Fort Elizabeth eventually went under the control of Kamehameha supporters and years later was used to put down a rebellion by Kaumualii's son, George Prince Kaumualii. It is the only remaining Russian fort in Hawaii.
If you make the drive from Waimea to see Waimea Canyon, you might as well do it right. From Kokee State Park, at the top of Waimea Canyon Road, continue on to Kalalau Lookout. There you'll encounter a spectacular view of knife-edged cliffs and overgrown gorges that drop to the sea 4,000 feet below. Mist and cloud cover roll in and out of the valley so inquire at the Kokee Museum about the best time that day to see the full valley panoramic.
Na Pali Coast
Cliffs rising as high as 4,000 feet are accessible along the beautiful Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast. Hiking, helicopter or rafting trips offer spectacular views of the region where many believe that the Na Pali spirits can play tricks on hikers and campers alike. Some historians claim that the Na Pali region was the first part of Kauai to be settled.
Waioli Mission House
Wai'oli Mission House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built of coral limestone blocks in 1837, its chimney was put in place by the Reverend William Alexander, the first missionary on Kauai. The house was restored in 1921, and is currently undergoing another restoration. The Mission House will reopen for tours after renovations. Wai'oli Mission Hall and picturesque Wai'oli Hui'ia Church (founded in 1834) are nearby.
Waikanaloa Wet Cave, Waikapalae Wet Cave
Waikanaloa (water of Kanaloa, a god) Wet Cave is, as its name implies, underwater. It has been explored about 100 yards in by scuba divers.The two caves are located within approximately 100 yards of each other on the mauka (mountain) side of the highway after Haena and before Ke'e Beach.
Maniniholo Dry Cave
Maniniholo Dry Cave (Maniniholo means "swimming Manini fish") is about 300 yards deep, and reaches to a small exit hole on the side of the mountain. The cave interior used to be larger than now, before a 1957 tsunami half-filled it with sand. To get there, go to Ha'ena Beach Park on Route 560. Look for the cave on your left.
This familiar peak can be seen from Ha'ena and is easily recognized as "Bali Hai" from the movie South Pacific. During special occasions, the ancient Hawaiians would climb Mount Makana and throw burning spears into the wind to sail across the sky and eventually land in the ocean.
In 1853, R.C. Wyllie started a coffee plantation on the site of what is now Princeville. The coffee plantation failed, but Princeville is now the largest planned development on Kauai. It's home to some of Hawaii's finest resorts, golf courses and restaurants. Princeville is also the site of three beaches, Pu'u Poa (thumping point), Kenomene Beach, and Kaweonui Beach (mostly rocky but, like most beaches on Kauai, beautiful to behold). A wide reef creates pockets which are good for snorkeling, however, high surf creates rip currents which make it wise to stay near shore unless the sea is perfectly calm.
The 52-foot Kilauea Lighthouse was constructed in 1913, and its beam once reached 90 miles out to sea. The lens is the largest of its type ever made. The lighthouse has not been in service since 1976. At Kilauea Point, you are at the northernmost point in the Hawaiian Islands. Open daily from 10am to 4pm (except Holidays).
Hanalei Valley Lookout
Hanalei Valley Lookout offers one of the most famous views on Kauai. The valley is one mile wide and six miles long. Most of the taro grown in Hawaii is grown here. On the valley floor is a one-way truss bridge built in 1912. The bridge was damaged by a tsunami in 1957, and subsequently reinforced. Legend has it that the rainbow came to Hawaiian Islands from the bluffs just beyond the valley when a piece of brightly colored kapa cloth was thrown into a pool below Namolokama Falls, and its colors arched up in the mist.
AirLocated on the eastern end of the island, Lihue Airport is the aviation gateway to Kauaʻi. Lihuʻe Airport has direct routes to Seattle, Phoenix, LAX, Honolulu, and Kahului.
Several state highways serve Kauaʻi County:
- Hawaii Route 50, also known as Kaumualiʻi Highway, is a thirty-three mile road that stretches from Hawaii Route 56 at the junction of Rice Street in Lihuʻe to a point approximately 1/5 mile north of the northernmost entrance of the Pacific Missile Range Facility on the far western shore.
- Hawaii Route 58 is a two mile road that stretches from Route 50 in Lihuʻe to the junction of Wapaa Road with Hawaii 51 near Nawiliwili Harbor on Kauai.
- Hawaii Route 56, also known as Kuhio Highway, is a twenty-eight mile route stretching from Hawaii Route 50 at the junction of Rice Street in Lihuʻe to the junction of Hawaii Route 560 in Princeville.
- Hawaii Route 560 is a ten-mile road that stretches from the junction of Route 56 in Princeville to a dead end road at Keʻe Beach in Haena State Park.
The Kauaʻi Bus is the public transportation service of the County of Kauaʻi.