Where in the World? Kauai, Hawaii

Kompanik

 


In each issue we challenge you to guess where in the world the photos were taken. Sometimes it will be easy and other times not so easy. In every case, though, we bet that you will learn something about the place being featured. Remember NO PEEKING until you make your guess.

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Oh, you want a clue or two? Okay, but this is an easy one to start the year off with. Known for its unique geography and unparalleled natural beauty, nicknamed “The Garden Isle,” this is one of the most breathtaking islands in the world. 97% of its land is covered with verdant undeveloped mountain ranges and lush, tropical rainforests. From the soaring cliffs of the NaPali coast and its many velvety emerald peaks to the vast chasms of Waimea Canyon and the hundreds of rainbows and waterfalls, she dazzles the senses like no other destination on the planet. It is no wonder that so many Hollywood movies are filmed here. Close your eyes and make a guess, the turn the page to see if you are correct. So, Where in the World are we?

Kauai’s Regions

Geologically, the oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands,Kauai consists of six distinctly different regions making the island one exciting, fascinating place to visit. Lying 108 miles northwest of Oahu and only 552 square miles,this roughly circular island is easily explorable from any vacation stay location.

Lihue

Kauai’s main airport is located in Lihue, the government and commercial center of the island with significant cultural and historical significance as well. Our initial aloha was a beautiful orchid lei placed around our necks, but once outside the airport, official greeters were the colorful chickens, feral moa as they are called. And they roam freely all over the island, even on the beaches. Scenic Nawiliwili Harbor, the island’s major shipping center and cruise ship port provided us with a rich variety of beaches, restaurants, resorts, and shops to enjoy the island’s bountiful hospitality.

“The plane. The plane.” Remember these famous words during the opening line of the 1980’s television show, Fantasy Island? It was none other than the majestic, easily accessible Wailua Falls that was featured in the show. Located at the south end of the Wailua River, the powerful yet graceful falls separates into two cascading streams, dropping vertically more than 80-feet below.

One intriguing, historic, off the beaten path jewel of a find is The Alekoko Fishpond, commonly referred to as the Menehune Fishpond. According to Hawaiian legend, the Menehune were mischievous little people known for their great engineering feats, living in the deep dark forests and hidden valleys of the Hawaiian Islands. Local lore tells that the Menehune built the large, magnificently beautiful tiered pond for the royal Hawaiian family in only one night.

Kilohana Estate, a restored, pastoral plantation provides a glimpse of island life in the 1930’s. The 16,000 squarefoot Tudor mansion was once home to one of Kauai’s most prominent families. Expansive, manicured, green lawns surround the estate and the Kauai Plantation Railway conducts narrated train tours of the picturesque 105-acre plantation grounds. Koala Rum Company, Kauai’s first and only commercial distiller, blender and bottler of premium Hawaiian Rum offers dark, gold and white rums for tasting.

Lunch was served in an open air courtyard with plantation and mountain views at Gaylord’s Restaurant at the Kilohana Estate. The produce for their fresh, ambrosial field green salad is grown right on the estate and the ahi entrée fresh caught that morning by local fishermen.

South Shore

The south side of Kauai is called as the “sunny side” of the island. The biggest attractions and most perfect beaches are found primarily in the Poipu area of its south shore. The spectacular Spouting Horn blowhole is one of the most photographed sites on Kauai. The Poipu surf at this lookout park channels through a natural lava tube on the rocky shoreline and during large ocean swells, releases huge spouts of water, some as high as 50 feet in the air.

It’s no wonder Poipu Beach has received accolades from the Travel Channel as being one of America’s best beaches. In the months of December through May, humpback whales can be seen spouting off shore, and the snorkeling in clear, azure blue waters teeming with tropical fish and green sea turtles was unforgettable.

Just a short distance from beautiful Shipwreck Beach is a spectacular geological wonderment known as the Makawehi Lithified Cliffs. The magnificent coastal hike commenced in a quiet pine-needled forest leading to commanding views of the churning Pacific waters visible from vantage points overlooking the edge of sun-bleached cliffs.

Magnificent coves and sheltered bays in the distance appeared like a perfect painting. On our return hike, we unexpectedly stumbled across a sacred ancient Hawaiian burial site. The stillness off that secluded site was interrupted by a gentle breeze stirring through the treetops, reminding us that for the ancient Hawaiian gods, their mana still lives here. Allerton Gardens, a natural tropical botanical garden paradise is probably most famous for its Moreton Bay fig trees that held the dinosaur raptor eggs featured in the movie Jurassic Park. But spending a day wandering through its exquisitely designed outdoor garden settings featuring exotic plants, sculptures, and water features was divine.

Lunch at Brennecke’s Beach Broiler right on the beach was a perfect choice after the hike. One of their signature shirts that read “Keep Calm and Drink Mai Tais” described the restaurant’s laid back tropical beachy atmosphere to a tee. Burgers, kalua pork and of course, fresh fish are house specialties. Oh, and also great Pacific Ocean views.

Historic, rustic and scenic, Old Koloa Town opened the Hawaiian Islands first sugar mill in 1835 setting the precedent for commercial sugar production across the islands. Quaint and charming shops now occupy the restored plantation buildings, but ruins of the sugar mill’schimney and foundations still remain.

East Side (Coconut Coast)

The east side of the island is known as the Coconut Coast for the hundreds of coconut groves planted here. But, its golden beaches, perfect for whale-watching, surfing or sunbathing, are the area’s biggest draws. Lydgate Beach Park in Wailua with its two lava rock enclosed ocean pools is the perfect place for families and first-time snorkelers.

Another easily accessible waterfall located in Wailua is Opaekaa Falls, a 150-foot cascade of roaring water, named for the rolling shrimp that were once abundant in its streams. Spectacular views of the Waimea River Valley where Raiders of the Lost Ark was filmed can be seen from the lookouts high above the river.

Kauai boasts Hawaii’s only navigable rivers. Our kayaking trip on the scenic, tranquil, nearly 20-mile stretch of the Wailua River took us past lush, green jungle landscapes and green verdant mountain ranges. A moderate hike from our landing point took us through a tropical rainforest, wading through streams and traversing muddy canyon trails. We were rewarded with mesmerizing views and the thunderous applause of a 100-foot, bridal-veil waterfall.

Uluwehi or Secret Falls is so named because of its remote location. After a refreshing swim in the clean waterfall-fed pool, we lunched atop massive boulders overlooking the falls, before returning to our kayaks for a trip back down river.

One of our travel rules is to seek out new restaurants and culinary experiences on return visits to a destination. However, one restaurant in Kauai makes us break that rule. Hukilau Lanai always hits a home run with their gourmet regional Hawaiian fare, friendly atmosphere and gorgeous setting. Hukilau is located in a beautiful tiki‑torch lit garden at the Kauai Coast Resort mere steps from the stunning Pacific Ocean.

There we enjoyed spectacular sunset views and the tantalizing Hukilau Mixed Grill, a sampling of grilled catch of the day (ours was buttery, sumptuous Ono) with sugar cane skewered shrimp, served with creamy orzo pasta and Thai chile coconut sauce.

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West Side

In 1778, Captain Cook first landed in the Hawaiian Islands here at Waimea Bay. Known for its rare black sand, Waimea Beach has a spectacular vantage point for sunsets over Niihau, the Forbidden Isle, off Kauai’s west coast. Without a doubt, the highlight of the western regionis the vast, spectacular, jaw-dropping, and eerily quiet Waimea Canyon, known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” This massive geological wonder stretches 14 miles long, one mile wide and more than 3,600 feet deep.

Panoramic views of multi-hued deep valley gorges and crested buttes can be seen from a perfect vantage point at the Waimea Canyon Lookout. We were treated to views of wild goats traversing the rocky cliffs and magnificent eagles soaring through the canyon with several waterfalls in the distance.

Kokee State Park lying north of Waimea Canyon offers miles of hiking trails surrounded by wildflowers, native plants, and quiet endemic forests. Four lookouts along the trail offered us commanding views of the Kalalau Valley as it stretches west toward the open ocean and to the north, the stunning and foreboding NaPali coast loomed through the clouds in the distance.

Hanapepe, the island’s number one artist community is known as Kauai’s “biggest little town.” From World War I to the early 1950’s, Hanapepe was one of Kauai’s busiest towns, alive with the laughter and merriment of G.I.’s and sailors training in the Pacific Theater. Today, the town is a quaint, charming art village filled with local eateries, unique shops, and galleries.

Its historic buildings have been featured in movies such as The Thorn Birds, Flight of the Intruder, and Disney’s Lilo and Stitch. No visit to Hanapepe would be complete without a walk across The Hanapepe Swinging Bridge, originally built in the early 1900’s as a way for residents to cross the river. It’s not only fun to hop and bop across this wooden suspension bridge, but, the bridge is truly functional, serving as an access to taro fields across the Waimea River.

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North Shore

Perched at the northernmost tip of Kauai, the 52-foot Kilauea Point Lighthouse was built in 1913 as a navigational beacon. The stunning drop-dead gorgeous views of the rugged northern coastline and the deepblue Pacific made this a perfect vantage point for some great photos. Co-located with the lighthouse is Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, a sanctuary for numerous species of Pacific seabirds.

Cradled by the verdant, emerald north shore mountains on one side and the golden sand beaches and crystal clear waters of Hanalei Bay on the other, Hanalei Town resembles a picture perfect postcard of Kauai. The crescent-shaped Hanalei Bay is one of Hawaii’s most scenic beaches. In the distance, the distinctly shaped mountain peak of Makana played the role of Bali Hai in the classic 1957 musical, South Pacific.

Historic Hanalei Pier is a popular landmark. At one time a busy working pier for the sugar industry, it is now a perfect place to watch surfers, fishermen or take in a stunning sunset. The old, iconic Waioli Huiia Church, a muchphotographed symbol of Hanalei founded in 1834 is impossible to miss with its deep green shingles and stained glass windows. Set against the backdrop of lush green, waterfall-lined mountains, the pastoral beauty of this historic green, spired church designed in the American Gothic style is soothing to the soul.

Without a doubt, any visitor to Kauai will tell you that the island’s one absolute, not-to-be-missed adventure is the stunningly spectacular, mysterious, and remote NaPali coast. The only land access to this enchanted area is a hike along the challenging, often treacherous Kalalau Trail. Its 11-mile uphill, rocky trail begins at Ke`e Beach, following a narrow, slippery mountainside path with sheer cliff drops to the ocean below.

The path crosses five different valleys before ending at the beautiful secluded Kalalau Beach, complete with a waterfall. Hikers like me with a fear of heights can opt for a shorter route, stopping at the two-mile mark, Hanakapi’ai Beach. Either choice, the trail’s lofty views are awe-inspiring and almost indescribable. Boating and sailing adventures are other ways we’ve explored the dramatic scenery, abundant waterfalls, and sea caves. But, these options may not be available during the winter due to rough seas.

Kauai’s breathtaking beauty and the majesty of its varied landscape are best seen from the air. From the cockpit of our helicopter, the stunning vistas were simply incredible. Our experienced pilot and guide provided dramatic views of inaccessible mountainous shorelines and deep interior valleys with towering green cliffs. Glistening waterfalls too many to count hung like silver ribbons from peaks near and distant.

The sunlight filtering through tropical showers created a showcase of colorful rainbows. As we journeyed to our last views of the NaPali coast and the Mt. Wai’ale’ale’s crater in the center of the island, our pilot proudly proclaimed “E komo mai i ka palekaiko- welcome to paradise.” That is very true!

 


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