Chickens roam free on Kauai and no building is taller than a coconut tree, but don’t be fooled: this charming island is replete with things to see and do. Just a short flight from Honolulu, it is popular with tourists keen to get outdoors and take in the amazing scenery. If you want to discover the real Hawaii, add a couple of days exploring Kauai to your Hawaiian Islands itinerary.
View the island from above
Take to the sky with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters to appreciate the beauty of Kauai from above. On the Kauai Eco Adventure tour (a 50-55 minute flight), you’ll explore the Olokele Canyon before flying over to the striking Waimea Canyon, often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. The helicopter then zips over to the Napali Coast followed by Hanalei Bay. With group sizes no larger than six, the experience is so intimate you can enjoy a two-way chat with the pilot, who talks you through the history of the island during the flight.
Sample Hawaiian fare
The food trucks in Kapaa, in Kauai’s east, are known for their fresh fish tacos and Hawaiian fare, but if you find yourself near Lawai in the south of the island, pull off Koloa Road and grab a shave ice from The Fresh Shave truck. Kauai’s signature dessert is revamped with organic ingredients and locally grown fruit, rather than corn syrup and artificial flavouring. The Handle Bar (pineapple and coconut) and The Whiskers (mint and lime) are popular but it’s hard to go wrong with any of its ice shaves. Tip: it pays to get in early – on a busy day, the truck can sell out by 2pm.
SEE ALSO: The Ultimate Guide to Maui
Explore the village of Hanalei
Visit the peaceful township of Hanalei in Kauai’s north – a town that exudes a relaxed Hawaiian vibe with no Walmart insight. Try Banadi for crêpes and coffee, then pop into Sand People to browse the coastal-inspired homewares and jewellery, Yellowfish Trading Co for antiques and vintage Hawaiiana, or Backdoor which is popular with surfers and locals alike for swimwear, shoes and Hawaii-cool clothes.
Sail around the Napali Coast
The Napali Coast may be beautiful from the sky, but it’s truly remarkable from the sea. Sail around the coast with Holo-Holo Charters and if you can spare a whole day, opt for the Niihau + Napali Super Tour. You will get close to the rugged coast, explore waterfalls and caves and, hopefully, spot sea turtles, and then snorkel amongst the coral off the island of Niihau.
Admire Opaekaa Falls
A few kilometres off the Kuhio Highway – and with lots of parking available – are the incredible Opaekaa Falls. At 46-metres high, the waterfall is surrounded by lush greenery and a photo is guaranteed to score you some likes on Instagram.
Visit famous film locations
If you’re a film fanatic, you’re in luck. Jurassic Park, King Kong, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Lord of the Flies and Blue Hawaii were all shot around the island and many filming locations are easy to reach. Several companies offer movie tours of the island or, if you’re up for an adventure, do a self-guided hike to one of the famous natural film sets, such as the Waikapalae caves where the Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was filmed.
Shop Straight From the Designers
Not so well known to tourists is Warehouse 3540 – an industrial space where local emerging designers set up shop and sell directly to the public from 10am to 4pm, Monday to Saturday. This former glass factory is the place to find a unique gift. Find homewares and art at Navy Dylan and if you’re after a piece of jewellery to remember your trip by, visit the Lily Koi store nearby.