Kauai, The Garden Isle
Nobody on Kauai will give you a hard time for simply lazing on one of the island’s gorgeous beaches every waking hour of your vacation. Still, you may find it impossible to resist the countless opportunities for outdoor adventure on this lush, mountainous and least-populated of Hawaii’s four major islands. Whether you venture out sea-kayaking, helicopter-touring, ziplining, hiking or canyoneering, you won’t likely regret packing an activity or two into each of your days on what’s typically nicknamed the “Garden Island.”
For the ultimate hiking and beachcombing, many visitors to Kauai head for the Na Pali Coast, which is on the northwestern tip of the island, just beyond the picturesque village of Hanalei (the setting for such films as South Pacific). The eastern side of Kauai is dominated by the waterfalls of the Wailua River Valley, the southern end by Poipu’s breathtaking beaches and upscale resorts, and the western side by gargantuan Waimea Canyon — there’s unparalleled beauty wherever you look.
Touring Kauai by helicopter affords visitors one of the most memorable opportunities to see the entire island, and especially the remote and formidable Na Pali Coast. Several companies offer these tours. Island Helicopters is especially fun because they offer an 85-minute island excursion that includes stopping and walking around the base of 400-foot Manawaiopuna Falls, which appeared prominently in the opening scenes of Jurassic Park. This extremely informative, mesmerizing tour then circles the entire island, its capable pilots zipping in and out of tight valleys and even, weather permitting, the crater of extinct Kawaikini Peak, the island’s highest point.