A quintessential tropical paradise, Kaua’i, known as “The Garden Isle” of the Hawaiian Islands, boasts diverse and natural wonders that are easily accessible.
And time stands still at the old historical towns of Lihue, Kapaa, Hanalei, Hanapepe, and Waimea. Conspicuously, the charm and the laid-back pace of these friendly little towns have not been obscured by tall buildings because by the isle’s eco-friendly law no building in Kaua’i is allowed to be built taller than a mature palm (coconut) tree, about four stories high.
Lihue which means `cold chill`in the Hawaiian language is home to the airport and is the government, commmercial, cultural, and historical centre of the island. The heart of the town is Rice Street with government offices, banks, supermarkets,a post office, and the Kauaì Museum which offers a historical look at Kauaì as well as exhibits of contemporary artists. Coming to Lihue from The Point at Poipu where we`re booked for nine days is a beautiful driving experience passing through the famous `Tree Tunnel`, a green canopy of eucalyptus trees that line Maluhia Road shading the first mile of Highway 520. Continue Rice Street until Kalapaki Beach of white sand located at Nawiliwili Bay – a public beach lined with coconut trees popular for stand up paddle (SUP) boarding, swimming, surfing, and wind-surfing.
SUP, now all the rage on calm waters of peaceful rivers or seas, allows you to stand, kneel or sit on a board by using a canoe-type paddle to drive forward or onward.
Showing up in our bucket list of Kauai`s wonders is the Alekoko Fishpond and our GPS directs us to drive up to Niumalu Road and right on Hulemalu to get a view of the Alekoko Fishpond, also known as Menehune Fishpond, a masterful display of aquacultural engineering, which is listed on the US National Register of Historic Places. According to legend, the Menehune (a mythical race of wild banana-eating little dwarf people that lived in Hawaii before settlers from Polynesia many centuries ago) built the pond in one night approximately 1,000 A.D.
Then head north to see Wailua Falls, the 80-foot tiered waterfalls where Hawaiian chiefs once jumped from the top to prove their courage. Remember the long-running well-known TV show Fantasy Island – Wailua Falls is the falls featured in the opening scene.
Next stop is the Old Kapaà Town, the largest town of Kauaì with 10,000 people, once the heart of the plantation community of the island. This historic town where most of the buildings have been renovated is home to dozens of bars and restaurants, boutiques and shops making it a hip little hot spot.
As we continue along the highway (hwy. 56), seeing lush mountains on the left and oceans on the right, we`re approaching Kilauea en route to see the Kilauea Lighthouse on the northernmost point of the isle and the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge noted for `shearwaters, boobies, frigates, monk seals, and a rugged coastline`.
On the left side of Kuhio Hwy. (a section of Hwy. 56) lies the Hanalei Valley Lookout with an informative plaque that tells the valley`s rich agricultural history offering the best views of the picturesque Hanalei Valley with its patchwork of terraces and its moutainous interior.
Just past the Princeville Centre, the road winds down towards the town of Hanalei crossing the Hanalei River on a one-lane bridge. The one-lane bridge etiquette is: whoever reaches it first has the right of way, with up to six (6) cars to follow.
Quite interesting but smart! After spending some time in the Hanalei Town we turn right at a road called Aku to reach the crescent-shaped Hanalei Bay with its mile-long white sandy beach ideal for beach walking.
Beyond Hanalei, the road winds along curving coastline past the lush green landscape and beaches until the Haena Beach Park to see `Maniniholo`, the `Dry Cave`, an ancient lava tube where you can walk into.
Before the night falls we`re back at Poipu.