One of America’s greatest decisions was to make a group of islands in the South Pacific its fiftieth state back in 1959. Ever since, the Hawaiian Islands has held the nation — and, really, the world — spellbound with its beauty and adventure. Hawaii is a land best suited for wayward explorers who aren't just there to see but to experience. While all of the islands are stunning, the oldest among them is the most enticing. Aside from being featured in more than 50 movies over the years, nearly half of Kauai is inaccessible by roadway. For visitors looking to get the full lay of the land, they have to dive right in, so to speak, and forge their own way through the canyon overlooks and sugarcane plantations nestled among the palm trees.
Tidal Pools and Blowholes Galore
Tidal pools and blowholes dominate the landscape of Kauai. Launching seawater more than 50 feet into the air at high tide every day, Spouting Horn is the Old Faithful of the island. Meanwhile, the tidal pools of Mahaulepuintrigue with their fierce riptides and rocky shores draw droves of curious onlookers. However, this beach isn’t recommended for inexperienced swimmers. Instead, visitors to Mahaulepu Beach are encouraged to wade in the water and explore the lava tubes and sand dunes hidden along the shore. As one of the most secluded spots on the island, there’s a good chance you'll have the whole place to yourself too.
Black Sand Beach
Waterfalls and tide pools may be everywhere, but Hawaii’s famous black sand beaches are incredibly rare on Kauai. So rare, there’s only one. Waimea Beach is a remote hideaway frequented by honeymooners on the far western side of the island. While it isn’t near a lot of the major tourist attractions, the beach has unbelievable sunset views of the so-called Forbidden Isle that are hard to resist. With local fishermen idly on the pier and lovebirds flitting in and out of the plantation-era cottages, a visit to Waimea looks and feels a lot like a scene out of South Pacific.
Hike the Napali Coast
Kauai is one of those islands that has a tendency to leave visitors slack-jawed and no where is that more evident than along the Napali Coast. This 14-mile stretch of beach is some of the rockiest on the island, and while not altogether recommended, It is possible to brave (some) of the path by foot. Hanakapi’ai divides into two trails: an eight-mile waterfall route and the four-mile beach path that’s accessible only in the summer. Both routes are strenuous and require permits so if you’d rather take it easy or don't want to pre-plan, opt for one of the better ways to see the area: by boat or helicopter tour.
The Jurassic Park Falls Actually Exists
Based on the scenery here, we wouldn’t be surprise to stumble upon a 65-million-year-old dinosaur. Luckily, you’re much more likely to find the magic waterfall Steven Spielberg took a fancy to. He used Manawaiopuna Falls as a backdrop for numerous scenes in his 1993 classic Jurassic Park. Despite the renewed interest in the falls since the release of Jurassic World, the waterfall is located on private land and isn’t available to most visitors. While some hikers do trespass, the only way to legally see the waterfall is by helicopter. Fortunately, the thunderous 350-foot waterfall is hard to miss from the air and most tour operators make a point of featuring it along the way.
Tube through the Sugarcane Plantations
Historical sugarcane plantations are one of the highlights of Kauai, but you don’t need to go on a walking tour to appreciate them. At least, not if you visit Lihue Plantation. Although the plantation has been unused since 2000, officials have managed to make it a popular tourist attraction by promoting mountain tubing. Equipped with a flashlight and an inner tube, visitors can float down the canals, in between ditches, and through the tunnels that once irrigated crops in an exciting water activity like no other.
A Miniature Grand Canyon
Located on the western side of the island, you'll find the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Even though Waimea Canyon isn’t nearly as large or as old as the original in Arizona, at 14 miles long and one mile wide, it’s still impressive and colorful. The state park is free to visitors and many hikers can be spotted roaming the gorge and staging their cameras on the red cliffs in an attempt to capture the perfect sunset shot.