Kauai: Entering the Realm of the Unreal
It was a Thursday night when Matt told me he wanted to get out of Oahu. After nearly a month in Hawaii, the two of us have had enough of the sunburned tourists in flip flops and Tommy Bahama. We're so over the overpriced restaurants that line Kalakaua Avenue, the ABCs on every corner and luxury shopping to the extreme. We were yearning to get back in touch with nature. So we settled on a decision: we would go to Kauai.
Roughly half-an-hour's flight from Oahu, Kauai - nicknamed the Garden Isle - is an adventurer's playground. Ringed by white sand beaches and impossibly turquoise waters, the island is about 80 percent undeveloped land, portions of which are only accessible by foot. Perhaps most well known as the home of Mount Wai'ale'ale, the wettest place on Earth, Kauai has also lured countless Hollywood film crews to its shores appearing in such motion pictures as Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Pirates of the Caribbean. Naturally, Kauai's siren song also lured us.
So at 5:30 a.m., bleary-eyed and perhaps a little delusional from lack of sleep, we boarded a plane headed for Kauai at the Honolulu Airport. Arriving just as the sun crested the horizon, Matt and I set out westward along one of two main highways, which reach like arms around the island. For the first time in several weeks, we were able to breathe deeply, relishing in the quiet serenity of the island.
While one expects to find tropical beaches and botanical gardens here, it comes as a great surprise to stumble upon a gargantuan chasm of ancient lava rock. Waimea Canyon stretches 10 miles long and 2,500 feet deep. Rumored to have been dubbed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific by Mark Twain during his travels in the mid-1800s, the sheer size of the canyon is humbling to any who attempt to reach its rocky floor.
However, of all of Kauai's unique wonders, none can touch the Nā Pali Coast for utter grandeur. Rising from the Pacific through a veil of mist, the velvety fingers of the Nā Pali Coast reach skyward. Roadless, pristine and hauntingly beautiful, these riveting jade pleats can only be explored via 22 miles of undulating foot paths, kayak or helicopter.
HOW WE DID IT
Flights | We booked last-minute flights from Honolulu to Kauai through Hawaiian Airlines.
Rental Car | Because Matt is an Avis preferred member, we booked a four-door Jeep Wrangler through their website here. The cost was reasonable and we opted for pick-up/ drop-off at the Lihue Airport in Kauai.
Itinerary | You can easily drive the entire island of Kauai in a weekend with a bit of sightseeing thrown in. Our route included a drive to Waimea Canyon Lookout and a hike to the top of Waipo'o Falls before camping in our Jeep on the beach in Polihale State Park. (Get a camping permit online here.) The next morning, we started our day with a helicopter ride booked through Jack Harter Helicopters, then a drive to Hanalei, where we hiked about four hours total to Hanakapi'ai Beach and back.
- Bring water, good hiking shoes and, if possible, use a 4WD to get around.
- Be careful of swimming in the waterfalls, as there are places where you can catch leptospirosis.
- To save some money, grab snacks at local grocery stores instead of eating every meal at a restaurant.
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About The Authors
Matt and Hillary are explorers who love to tell stories about the world. They're constantly on the hunt for the beautiful, the unexpected, the forgotten and the unknown, and love to share their favorite stories with those who also share this thirst for exploration. They are never in one place for very long, so be sure to follow their adventures on their blog at There They Go. To learn more about Matt and Hillary you can visit their Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Youtube.