Kauai, the “Garden Isle,” is the oldest island in the archipelago. It was formed more than six million years ago by a single volcano – the Waialeale shield volcano – which created the origin of the island chain at the time.
Sun, wind and rain have eroded the landscape over thousands of years, and nature has gradually shaped the true beauty of the 1,480 square kilometer island. A look at the map of the island, which is 53 kilometers long and 40 kilometers wide, clearly shows the deep chasms, Waimea Canyon (not to be confused with the city on Hawaii Island) to the west, the imposing cliffs of the Napali Coast to the northwest, and the river valleys around the island two highest mountains on the island – the Kawaikini (1,600 meters) and Waialeale (1,570 meters) inland. With the erosion, topsoil was created, which formed the essential basis for a unique plant and flower splendor.
Nowhere else in Hawaii will you find denser rainforest, more lush vegetation and more beautiful gardens. As a true irrigation motor, the Waialeale provides the necessary moisture all year round. The region is considered one of the rainiest areas on earth, averaging 12,000mm of rainfall (with a record of 17,300mm in 1982). On the Waialeale, the clouds rub against each other, rain down or envelop it in dense fog. At the same time, it forms a weather divide that separates the somewhat cooler and greener north-east from the drier west coast between Koloa and Polihale.
According to collegetoppicks, Kauai has always maintained its values. To this day, no building may be built higher than a palm tree. More than 79 percent of the island either belongs to one of the large nature reserves or is at least rural. So it’s no wonder that Hollywood discovered the island as a film set long ago and still uses it to this day. Whether “Jurassic Park” or “Pirates of the Caribbean Part 4” – film productions found particular pleasure in the impressive backdrop of the Napali Coast or one of the 43 white sandy beaches for outdoor shots.
If you want to discover Kauai, you should plan at least three to four days to really enjoy the highlights. Starting from Lihue, the island’s capital with airport and the natural fishing and trading port in Nawiliwili Bay, a tour through the south to the west coast is recommended.
Poipu Beach, 20 minutes south of Lihue Airport, is the sunniest part of Kauai. This had been one of the favorite haunts of the Ali’i, the Hawaiian chiefs. Today the region offers spectacular opportunities for snorkeling and other water sports. Poipu Beach is also an ideal base for tours to the West Coast and Waimea Canyon. Drive through the charming town of Hanapepe to Waimea with its quaint plantation cottages. Incidentally, this is where Captain James Cook set foot in Hawaii for the first time.
Shortly after Waimea, the road forks and becomes Canyon State Drive for breathtaking views of Waimea Canyon. Especially in the early morning or late afternoon, when the shadows lengthen and the sun is a little lower, the variety of colors of the rock formations on each of the numerous viewing platforms is impressive – from golden yellow to the typical red of the ferrous rock.
The view into the more than 1,000 meter deep canyon gives an idea of the force with which the earthquakes in prehistory almost split the island. Following the road, one then arrives at the 1,250 meter high Kalalau Lookout and the Puu o Kila Lookout. Visitors are rewarded with a magnificent view of the Kalalau Valley, which ends as a hanging valley with a break to the sea.
The Napali Coast is also the most north-western coast of the entire archipelago and thus the point where waves first hit land after many hundreds of nautical miles. Giants up to 12 meters high thunder against the rocks in the winter months – a spectacle that can be admired impressively on a hike along the Napali Coast Trail. The trail begins at the north end of the shoreline. The way to the North Shore of Kauai leads from the capital Lihue first along the east coast, the Royal Coconut Coast. It was once the favorite place to stay for the Hawaiian royal family.
Princeville and the North Shore, just 45 minutes from Lihue Airport, are truly idyllic tropical paradises set amid majestic mountains, rolling grasslands, quaint villages and the extraordinarily beautiful Hanalei Bay and Valley.
Location and size
The 1,429 km² large, almost circular island consists of mountainous regions rich in vegetation in the middle. Almost half of the coast has sandy beaches.
62,640 people live on Kauai.
Kauai’s main airport is Kauai Island Lihue Municipal Airport (LIH) in the southeastern part of the island, 3 km east of Lihue.
Average temperatures on Kauai range from 20° to 29° C. Water temperatures are also pleasant at 22° to 27° C all year round.
Kauai has seven distinct microclimate zones, ranging from lush green areas in the middle to desert zones on the western side. Mount Waialeale (1,569 m) is the heart of the uninhabited center of the island. It is surrounded by a lush rainforest, which is one of the world’s wettest regions. The abundant rainfall at Mt. Waialeale does not normally affect the island’s coastal regions, where it rains far less – just 500mm per year in the west. Most of the time, Kauai rains only at night and the rainfall is short-lived.
The trade winds on Kauai ensure a pleasant climate. The wind is usually light and blows away much of Hawaii’s humidity.
|Average temperatures in Lihue (Kauai) in °C|
Dress casually. A thin jacket is enough in the evening. Slightly smarter attire for restaurants and nightlife. Suits and ties are rarely worn.
The Beaches on Kauai
Poipu is one of the most popular beaches for tourists and locals alike because of its rich marine life. Humpback whales can occasionally be spotted from the beach from December to May. These waters are also home to the large honu (Hawaiian green sea turtle). However, Poipu Beach is most famous for the endangered monk seals that often sunbathe on the shore. Only about 1,200 species of monk seals remain, mostly inhabiting the waters off Kauai.
A variety of colorful fish can be seen while snorkeling in Poipu. The park is equipped with restrooms, showers and picnic tables, and lifeguards patrol the beach. A special team deals with the protection of the monk seals.
Things to do on Kauai
North Shore, Kauai Kauai
‘s dramatic North Shore is filled with rugged mountains, lush taro fields, beautiful beaches and spectacular sea cliffs. One of the most worth seeing regions is Kauai’s North Shore, the magnificent Napali Coast.
Napali Coast, Kauai Kauai
‘s famous coastline stretches 17 miles of majestic emerald green peaks. Located on Kauai’s North Shore, the Napali Coast offers scenic views of the endless Pacific Ocean, velvet green cliffs and waterfalls plunging into deep, narrow valleys. To see this stunning natural wonder, one must either hike or take a helicopter or boat excursion.
Waimea Canyon, Kauai
Waimea Canyon on Kauai’s West Side is nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Though this canyon isn’t as big or as old as its Arizona sibling, this geographic wonder is unlike anything else in Hawaii. At 14 miles long, 1 mile wide and over 3,700 feet deep, Waimea Canyon offers excellent views of mountain peaks, jagged crevices and deep canyons from its vantage points. The view stretches for kilometers inland.
Spouting Horn, Kauai
Located on Kauai’s South Shore is the spectacular Spouting Horn saltwater geyser, one of Kauai’s most popular photo opportunities. The surf at Poipu flows in a natural lava vent that spurts high water fountains when the swell is high. There is also a hissing and rumbling that gives rise to a Hawaiian legend.
Kilauea Lighthouse, Kauai Perched
on the northernmost tip of the island of Kauai is the 16 m high Kilauea Lighthouse, built in 1913 to protect shipping. Although the beacon was replaced with an automatic light in the 1970s, the tower still serves as one of the island’s most popular tourist attractions.
Wailua River, Kauai
The tranquil Wailua River meanders along the East Side, past waterfalls and through lush jungle landscapes. Kauai has the only navigable rivers in Hawaii, with Wailua being the most popular. The 32 km long river has its source in the middle of the island on the 1,569 m high Mount Waialeale.