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Sep 25 2017

Things to Do on Kauai's North Shore

Category: Best Of | Favorites | General | Itineraries | Lists | Sightseeingkmaxwell @ 05:23

Known as "the Garden Isle" thanks to the lush tropical forest covering much of its 562.3 sq mi of terrain, Kauai has been featured in more than 70 Hollywood movies and TV shows—in large part for the breathtaking beauty of its dramatic peaks, scenic waterfalls and stunning canyons.

If you're lucky enough to visit this peaceful island in the middle of the Pacific, consider adding the following sights and activities to your itinerary:

Kilauea Lighthouse

This century-old lighthouse situated on a rocky peninsula 180 ft above the ocean is located in the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, a protected breeding ground for many Hawaiian seabirds. Placards along the walkway provide information on wildlife visible from the point, including the red-tailed tropicbird (koa'e 'ula), Layson albatross (moli), great frigatebird ('iwa) and more.

Tours are offered, but times vary based on availability of staff and volunteers. The refuge is open 10 am-4 pm Tuesday-Saturday.

Kilauea Lighthouse from the lookout point

Queen's Bath

A natural tide pool surrounded by igneous rock, Queen's Bath is accessible via a short but steep hike down the Princeville coast. It's a great spot to catch a glimpse of sea life and take in views of the ocean and shoreline, especially at sunset.

Be sure to wear appropriate footwear, as rocks can get slippery from the waves, and heed warnings regarding surf levels and swim safety. 

Queen's Bath at sunset

Kayak The Hanalei River

The Hanalei River flows north from Mount Wai'ale'ale into Hanalei Bay, the largest bay on Kauai's north side. Rent a kayak for the day from Kayak Hanalei or Pedal 'N Paddle, both easy to find on Hanalei's main drag, Kuhio Highway (Route 560).

Kayak rentals can launch directly from the dock at Kayak Hanalei. Pedal 'N Paddle charges lower rates, but you'll have to transport the kayak to the river yourself. (Foam pads and straps are provided for vehicle transportation and are easy to install.) The mouth of the river is about a mile from the store.

Once on the river, head toward the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge. This stretch of the river affords magnificent mountain views and is calm, with minimal current. If it's a sunny day, be sure to bring a hat, sunscreen and water, as there is little shade.

For those who want to get in the water, Kayak Hanalei offers a guided Kayak and Snorkel Tour, as well.

Hanalei River

Ke'e Beach/Kalalau Trail

For a respite from the intense Hawaiian sun, visit Ke'e beach at the western edge of Ha'ena State Park, which marks the end of Kuhio Highway (Route 560). In the morning, tall trees cast shade over much of the sand. What's more, this beach's reef lagoon keeps the water calm, making it an ideal spot for swimming. Past the reef, however, currents can be strong, so comply with any warning signs in the area.

If the primary parking lot is full, there is an overflow lot just west of Limahuli Stream. Consider arriving early to snag a spot at this popular destination. 

If you're feeling ambitious, head out for a hike on the nearby Kalalau Trail along the Na Pali Coast. This 22-mile roundtrip hike has been deemed one of the most beautiful but dangerous hikes in the world, traversing lush valleys, steep sea cliffs and unpredictable streams. Although the full hike takes about two days and requires a camping permit, beginners in good physical condition can explore the first mile or two of the rocky trail, which affords picturesque views of the coast's majestic ridges. Be sure to bring water and suitable footwear, as even the beginning of the hike is moderately strenuous.

Shady Ke'e Beach


View from Kalalau Trail

Limahuli Garden & Preserve

This botanic garden on the west side of Hanalei is home to dozens of endangered plants and birds found nowhere else on the planet. On self-guided tours, visitors follow a numbered path through one of the most biodiverse valleys in the Hawaiian Islands, consulting a detailed guidebook that explains the history and cultural relevance of both native and introduced plants. (There are nearly 250 taxa of native plants and birds in the valley, about 50 of them on the verge of extinction.) The path also passes an archaeological site thought to contain remnants of home sites built by the ancient Hawaiians.

Guided tours are available and require a reservation. 

Reconstructed traditional Hawaiian hale (house) and "canoe plant" garden at Limahuli Garden & Preserve

Garden Island Chocolate

For the ultimate chocolate experience, book a tour and tasting at Garden Island Chocolate in Kilauea. This three-hour adventure involves a guided tour of the family-owned farm and an informative presentation on the growing and harvesting of cacao fruit, the history and process of chocolate making, the varieties of cacao pods and beans, and the health benefits of dark chocolate. Interspersed throughout the presentation are extensive tastings of Hawaiian-grown and -made dark chocolates (20 types, all 85% cacao and higher). The experience concludes with a sample of traditional Latin American-style hot chocolate, which the guide whips up in a live demonstration using fresh, local ingredients.

Reservations are required, and tours begin at 9:30 am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Cacao fruit and pods

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