Kauai is the oldest island in Hawaii and is called “The Garden Isle”. I love Hawaii; it’s my happy place. I am excited to share my love of our 50th state. I hope to inspire you to fully learn about and enjoy this Pacific paradise.
Kaua’i is green and rolling, like comparing the Blue Ridge to the Rockies. There is a casual, laid-back feeling here, lots of chickens, and some spectacular scenery. If you’ve seen lots of Hawaii movies, as I have, you’ll recognize many settings here.
Map of Kauai overview
We’ll have to start this overview with the chickens. They are everywhere! The airport, the mall, the town streets… There are different versions of why this is so. I’ve heard that the pre-history Polynesians brought chickens with them when they settled in Kauai where they have no natural enemies. I’ve also heard that Hurricane Iniki in the 1990s destroyed all the chicken coops and yards and released all the farm chickens into the wild.
The West Side of the island is drier and mountainous. Historic villages and the Waimea Canyon (“Grand Canyon of the Pacific”) are on this side of the island. Waimea Town is a charming place with good shopping and food. Captain Cook first landed here to a friendly reception during Makahiki, the winter-y season of the year when the Hawaiians were not allowed to fight. His statue is prominent in town. Aunty Lilikoi Passion Fruit Products store is here, a must-stop for us for syrup, fudge, and wonderful-smelling lotions. Waimea Plantation Cottages are refurbished sugar plantation buildings you can stay in with beautiful lawns and a walk to the sea. On a good day you can see the private island of Ni’ihau from this side of Kaua’i.
From Waimea Town, head upland to Waimea Canyon State Park. There is parking at the major overlook and it is a spectacular sight. When it has been rainy, you can see gorgeous waterfalls. The many colors of the earth revealed by the action of the Waimea River are beautiful.
The next town going east along the coast is Hanapepe. Some of you will have fond memories of “The Thorn Birds” when seeing the rustic, wild-west-style storefronts of the main street. This is a good spot to find local artists. We like Banana Patch Studio, but there’s so many to choose from! Port Allen is nearby for charter cruises and the Kauai Island Brewery and Grill. We had fun seeing the Hawaiian-style cogeneration plant.
Further east on highway 540 is the Kauai Coffee Company. On the way you will see acres of coffee trees with their lovely red “cherries” on the former McBryde sugar lands. The Visitor Center offers coffee tasting, a snack bar, and a gift shop. The Hawaiian Trading Post at the intersection of highway 50 and 530 is a fun stop. Here you can see (and buy) jewelry made from the special shells collected on Ni’ihau (https://www.facebook.com/NiihauShellLei/timeline).
The South Side of the island is known for Koloa Town and Poipu. Koloa is an old sugar town with a beautiful “Tree Tunnel” formed of century-old eucalyptus trees. Poipu is one of the main resort areas of Kauai with amazing restaurants, beautiful beaches, botanical gardens, and golf. A lava tube on the shore forms Spouting Horn blowhole. The park here has good parking spaces and sometimes a craft market. I highly recommend watching sunset from an ocean-view seat during dinner at the Beach House.
Let’s talk story
I’m willing to see any movie set in Hawaii at least once. Then, of course, I end up falling in love with some of them. A setting in Kaua’i can make up for plot holes or other criticisms.
- Jurassic Park (1993) with Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern: Waimea Canyon is very recognizable as a feature of the fictional Isla Nublar. Hurricane Iniki was filmed and included in the storm scenes.
- Donovan’s Reef with John Wayne and Lee Marvin: The Allerton and McBryde gardens are on the south shore near Poipu. The governor’s house in the movie was once Queen Emma’s summer home.
Be sure to see Part 2 of my Kauai overview. Whatʻs your favorite thing to do on Kauai? Are you planning a trip?
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