In the main hub of Kapa’a on the eastern side of Kauai you can find food trucks serving up all sorts of fare from vegan crepes to Chinese takeaway. A fresh juice with tropical fruit is always a good call. A trip to Hawaii isn’t complete without a turtle sighting, and it’s made even better when the locations are as beautiful as Queen’s Bath. This swimming hole near the town of Princeville is filled with tropical fish and every so often waves explode on the rock line like salty fireworks. Farmers of Kauai’s lush taro fields (kalo lo'i) stretch back generations. The Hanalei Valley Lookout is a perfect point to take in the pretty wetlands of Hawaii’s favourite root vegetable, set against the backdrop of Namolokama Mountain. Hanalei Bay is a popular town on the North Shore. You’ve probably already seen it in movies like The Descendants, South Pacific, Lilo and Stitch. There’s yoga as well as a bunch of shops, cafes and restaurants in the area, including the Aloha Juice Bar, where you can pull off the highway and grab a fresh juice or acai bowl. Surfers and stand up paddle boarders enjoy a moody morning at Hanalei Bay near the pier. You can take boats from here along the Na Pali Coastline. Further north is the rugged area of Ha’ena, with some excellent beaches for sighting turtles, botanical gardens, caves and waterfalls. This area of Ha’ena is known to locals as ‘back channels’ and it’s a local’s secret for spotting turtles, so always have your snorkel gear on hand. These turtles at back channels were total chillers; they came right up to the shore line so you could see them by standing on the sand. When we dived in to get a closer look they just went about their business, even swimming around us in big, lazy circles. (Just remember, please don’t touch the wildlife). Continuing north is a favourite spot to catch an amazing sunset, Tunnels Beach. The sharp peaks of the mountains make for a unique backdrop. Ke’e beach is the northernmost point of the island accessible by car. It’s also another popular spot for sunset watching. The view of Ke’e beach below, as you begin to scale the start of one of the USA’s 10 most dangerous hikes – the Kalalau Trail. The stunning Na Pali Coast on the Kalalau Trail. The Na Pali coast is inaccessible by vehicle: you can hike it, kayak, boat or jet ski along it, or take a helicopter ride over it. It’s an effort to get into the Kalalau Valley (and you’ll need a camping permit), but it is worth every bead of sweat. If hiking the 11km trek each way with camping gear and food doesn’t sound that appealing (there have been multiple deaths) you can still safely hike part of it, turning inland onto the hike headed for the 91m high Hanakapiai Falls. You’l reward your hike over rushing rivers and up valley edges with a cold dip under this impressive waterfall. If you do make it into the Kalalau Valley (and you must, one way or another), nothing can prepare you for the truly awesome sights of steep coastal mountains, electric blue hues and rugged twisting ridgelines flowing into the valley. It’s so beautiful and majestic that it’s no wonder locals told us it’s been nicknamed ‘the place of manifestations and dreams’. Great job, nature! Fruits grow wild and can be picked straight from the tree, like papaya or Noni fruit – a superfood (also known as sour sop) praised for it’s myriad health benefits. It’s nature’s medicine, just don’t bite right in, it’s called a sour sop for a reason. Sunset at the Kalalau Valley, looking down the Na Pali Coastline. On the other side of the Nap Cali Coast is western Kauai. Drier than the east and the north, the landscapes and climate is totally different, but there are many special little pockets. The Historic town of Hanapepe is one such place. Check out Art Night every Friday – an art walk and street fest showcasing artistic talent, plus there’s food trucks – what these local store owners are prepping for. You’re in Hawaii so chances are you’re going to have an acai bowl. In Waimea Town we ate at G’s Juice Bar every day. The smoothies and acai bowls were so on point we still talk about them. It’s mind blowing how such a small island can contain so much natural contrast and variety, but being impressive is what Kauai does best. From Waimea Town, take the winding road up towards the Waimea Canyon – you’re in the presence of ‘the Grand Canyon of the Pacific’. The road up to the differing viewpoints is dotted with hiking trails for all abilities, and you’ll see bright terracotta-coloured earth. At the very top of the road after the Waimea Canyon lookout is the Kalalau Valley Lookout, part of Koke’e State Park. This is great news for those who prefer the comfort of a car but still want to see this natural wonder. We took an unmarked trail with a local at the very top of the road on a ridgeline to get the best views possible. We were hiking up in the clouds and it was unreal. The Kalalau Valley from above. It really is something.
While we’re no strangers to Hawaii’s charms, there’s more to this Pacific archipelago than Oahu, Maui and the Big Island. At the westernmost point of the USA sits the Garden Isle of Kauai, the greenest of all the Hawaiian Islands and a nature lover’s paradise. All you really need are your swimmers and running shoes for an unforgettable experience. SONIA TAYLOR shows us why taking that extra flight from Honolulu is totally worth it.