Yes, Kauai has the best beaches in Hawaii, but don't forget the rest of this beautiful island. Get out and discover for yourself why Kauai is called the "Garden Isle." Walk back in history in the capital of Lihue. Make time to see Kauai's incredible botanical world of manicured gardens, the geological wonders of Waimea Canyon, the incredible carved cliffs of the Na Pali Coast, and the enchanted rainforests of the wettest place on Earth. Book a helicopter flight, take a back-roads tour in a four-wheel-drive vehicle, make a pilgrimage to a Hindu temple located on a sacred Hawaiian site, drop the kids off at a children's museum, or sign up for an expedition to Kauai's famous movie sites. There's a lot more to Kauai than its gorgeous beaches, so get out there and discover why visitors become enchanted with this magical island.
Hang Ten Without Getting Wet -- Here's your opportunity to take a photo of your trip to Kauai that will astound and amaze your friends -- you on a surfboard. Oh, you don't surf; can't even swim? No problem. Drive down to Hawaiian Trading Post, at the intersection of Koloa Road and Kaumualii Highway. On the side of their building (facing the parking lot) is a fake backdrop with a surfboard and a huge wave (fashioned from plaster) that looks amazingly like the real thing. Bring your own camera (and bathing suit) and snap away.
The Poipu Resort Area
No Hawaii resort has a better entrance. On Maluhia Road, eucalyptus trees planted in 1911 as a windbreak for sugar-cane fields now form a monumental tree tunnel. The leafy-green, cool tunnel starts at Kaumualii Highway; you'll emerge at the golden-red beach. The Poipu Beach Resort Association (tel. 888/744-0888 or 808/742-7444; www.koloaheritagetrail.info) produces a free brochure called the Koloa Heritage Trail, which is a 10-mile walk, bike ride, or drive that has some 14 historical stops and markers describing the history and culture of this area. The Historic Trail begins at Spouting Horn and finishes at the Koloa Mission Church in Koloa town. The trail is a great idea, but a few of the sites are either no longer there (like site no. 10 on Hapa Rd., where the precontact evidence of ancient Hawaiians is no longer), changed dramatically from what they once were (like site no. 13, the Yamamoto Store and Koloa Hotel, now gone), or difficult to get to (like site no. 9, Pu'uwanawana Volcanic Cone, which you can see in the distance from the highway, but is located on fenced private property).
If you'd like to take a self-guided tour of this historic town, stop at the Waimea Library, at mile marker 23 on Hwy. 50, to pick up a map and guide to the sites.
Wailua River State Park
Ancients called the Wailua River "the river of the great sacred spirit." Seven temples once stood along this 20-mile river, which is fed by 5,148-foot Mount Waialeale, the wettest spot on Earth. You can go up Hawaii's biggest navigable river by boat or kayak, or drive Kuamoo Road (Hwy. 580, sometimes called the King's Hwy.), which goes inland along the north side of the river from Kuhio Highway (Hwy. 56) -- from the northbound lane, turn left at the stoplight just before the ruins of Coco Palms Resort. Kuamoo Road goes past the heiau (temple) and historical sites to Opaekaa Falls and Keahua Arboretum, a State Division of Forestry attempt to reforest the watershed with native plants.
Sleeping Giant -- If you squint your eyes just so as you pass the 1,241-foot-high Nounou Ridge, which makes a dramatic backdrop for the coastal villages of Wailua and Waipouli, you can see the fabled Sleeping Giant. On Kuhio Highway, just after mile marker 7, around the minimall complex of Waipouli Town Center, look mauka (inland) and you may see what appears to be the legendary giant named Puni who, as the story goes, fell asleep after a great feast. If you don't see him at first, visualize him this way: His head is Wailua and his feet are Kapaa.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.