There are so many reasons to love Hawaii. Sipping Mai Tais on a banana lounge watching the sun set with the smell of coconut oil wafting through the air of Waikiki, Oahu is one. However, my love for Hawaii has taken on a whole new level of appreciation since visiting the island of Kaua'i. Here are five amazing Kaua'i experiences I’ve tried, tested and would do over and over again.
1. Trek the Na Pali Coast
The Kalalau trail along the Na Pali Coast appears on countless 'Best Treks of the World' lists and attracts about half a million explorers by foot each year. Rising in popularity after being ‘uncovered’ by National Geographic magazine in the '60s, it became a hotspot for many Hollywood blockbusters, such as Jurassic Park and King Kong.
To do the whole Kalalau trail would take a few days as it is 36 kilometres long and requires camping permits from the Parks Authority months in advance. It's also an extremely tough, narrow trail along razor-sharp cliffs and requires a good level of fitness. The payoff? The towering sea cliffs and lush valleys take you to the most beautiful slice of paradise beaches only accessible by foot on the trail or by kayaking the ocean shores (also no easy feat).
You can also do smaller day treks from Ke’e Beach to Hanakapi’ai Beach, which takes about three hours. Don’t be disheartened by the locals running past you carrying their longboards while you’re huffing and dripping with sweat. They are cut from a different cloth and seeking to challenge the swell at the notoriously deadly Hanakapi’ai Beach.
However long your trek, finish it off with a sunset dip at Ke’e Beach to ease your muscles and reflect on the insane chunk of this earth you intimately bared witness to.
2. Heli land in Jurassic Park
The best way to see Kaua'i is by helicopter. The only way to see Jurassic Park and the movie’s famed waterfall is via just one helicopter company, Island Helicopters. So that was that, really.
First you fly through Hanapepe Valley, owned by the Robinson Family by which the George Clooney movie The Descendants was based on. You then soar through Jurassic Valley, complete with a landing at Jurassic Falls. Welcome… to Jurassic Park *cue theme song*.
3. Cycle the Coconut Coast
There are plenty of bike rental shops in Kapa’a, which is at the start of the Coconut Coast bike path stretching seven kilometres along Kaua'i’s beautiful East coast. As if the name isn’t enticing enough, you’ll also be tempted by the smell of roasting coconut being cooked over coals on the back of Utes parked at beaches along the way. Give in, you won’t regret it.
4. Swim in your own private rock pool
Hike along the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail starting at Keoniloa Bay, Poipu, and be rewarded with towering cliffs that offer great views of Mt Waialeale and its resident rain cloud, making it one of the wettest places on earth. If you look hard enough, you will also stumble across a number of private rock pools filled by the crash and splash of the Pacific Ocean’s waves.
5. The Grand Canyon of the Pacific
Waimea Canyon, also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, sits just behind the west side of the Na Pali Coast. The canyon is best seen soaring through the valleys by helicopter, but you can also trek the vivid green and orange contrasting cliffs by foot.
Stay: Grand Hyatt Poipu in the south, or hire a beach shack in Hanalei on the north. There are also plenty of places to stay on the east of the island between Lihu’e and Kapa’a.
Eat: Duke’s at Lihue or any of BBQ houses at Hanalei.
Tip: Hire a car - it’s the only way to get around.
Must Do: 100 flavours of shaved ice the size of your head for $3 at Kapa’a.