Exploring ‘The Garden Isle’ by air, land and sea
Kauai has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. Cascading waterfalls, lush tropical jungles, stunning beaches, and dining options aplenty, who wouldn’t want to visit Hawaii’s fourth largest island? Last Christmas, my boyfriend surprised me with tickets to my dream destination and four months later, we found ourselves on a plane, en route to Kauai.
When we travel, we typically spend the majority of our time surfing and standup paddling, but we knew ‘The Garden Isle’ had much more to offer. Prior to leaving the mainland, I thoroughly researched hikes and adventures on the island, to ensure we’d make the most of our ten-day stay. While most of our outings were self-guided, we did opt to do a few day trips with local companies to enjoy their experience and expertise.
Here were four of our favorites.
Kayak Kauai Hanalei Blue Lagoon Paddle & Snorkel
Kayak Kauai offers a number of different kayaking trips up the Na Pali coast, but their most accessible day trip is the Hanalei Blue Lagoon Paddle & Snorkel. The trip typically meets at the Wailua River Marina Shop but because we were staying in Princeville, we met the group in Hanalei.
The trip launched from the famous Hanalei pier and after approximately 200 yards of ocean paddling, we found ourselves on the beautifully calm Hanalei Heritage River. Once on the river, we enjoyed a number of bird sightings, turtles, and panoramic views of the Makana Peak, complete with waterfalls trickling down the face of the mountain. The local guides were happy to answer our questions and gave us a rundown of the local flora and fauna.
After navigating the river, we returned to Hanalei Bay where we parked our kayaks and set out for a snorkel, where we swam amongst the coral and tropical fish that call the warm waters their home. After having our fill of snorkeling, we swam in and enjoyed a picnic lunch, complete with sandwiches, chips, juice, and cookies—the perfect way to finish off the day.
Visit Kayak Kauai to learn more.
Skyline Eco Adventures Zip Lining
There’s no better way to see ‘The Garden Isle’ than from above. Located in Poipu, Skyline Eco Adventures offers an 8-line and a 5-line course. Because we were tight on time, we opted for the 5-line course for a condensed experience.
We met at the shop in Poipu where we were introduced to our guides and then shuttled up to the course. Because our group was small, our guides decided to take us on the five longest lines as opposed to the five shortest ones that are typically offered on the 5-line course. The course took us over three breathtaking valleys with panoramic views of the mountains and the sea, making for a surreal experience. The guides were fun and knowledgeable, safety was prioritized, and the feeling of the wind if our faces as we zipped across the valleys was second to none.
As if the adventure itself wasn’t already enough, Skyline Eco Adventures is committed to preserving Hawaii’s landscape and culture so that people can enjoy the beauty of the islands for years to come. In an effort to give back and preserve their beautiful playground, Skyline is a member of 1% For The Planet and donates 1% of its profits to local environmental and charitable nonprofits.
Visit Zipline.com/kauai to learn more.
Kauai Backcountry Adventures Tubing
With so much to do and see on Kauai, it’s difficult to decide how to prioritize your time and money. Kauai Backcountry Adventures tubing is a completely unique and incredible experience, making it worth every penny.
We met in Lihue, where we were introduced to our guides and then shuttled over to the tubing location via a four-wheel-drive adventure vehicle. The area is rich with history as it used to be the Lihue Plantation and the canals, tunnels, and flumes that make up the tubing course were dug by hand in 1870. Upon arriving at the course, we were given a quick safety briefing and then suited up with gloves, headlights, and our tubes.
The ditch and tunnel system was once used to irrigate the sugar crops on the plantation but was taken out of service in 2000. In 2003, a section of it was repurposed for tubing tours. Tubing is mellow yet relaxing all at once—the slow moving water allows you to take in the lush scenery of the remote location while the five tunnels add a bit a thrill to the experience. At the end of our journey, we were treated to a waterfront picnic to fuel up after the morning’s adventure.
Visit Kauaibackcountry.com/tubing to learn more.
Captain Andy’s Star Na Pali BBQ Sail
The Na Pali Coast, fifteen miles of lush, towering cliffs and valleys, is one of the biggest draws of the island. During our trip, much of the northern side of the island was closed off due to recent floods, meaning the Na Pali Coast trail was inaccessible. After doing some research, we settled on a trip aboard one of Captain Andy’s catamarans to see the treasured coastline.
Captain Andy’s has every detail dialed in from start to finish. We boarded the 65’ Star Yacht in Port Allen and were treated to a delicious breakfast as we motored up the coast. Before reaching the Na Pali Coast, we anchored for an hour near a bustling reef where we had the opportunity to snorkel with tropical fish and the honu (turtles) that call the area their home. After that it was back on board, next stop: the Na Pali Coast.
The Na Pali Coast was everything I imagined it would be and more. The contrast of the towering sea cliffs to the deep valleys was stunning and was topped off with cascading waterfalls and sea caves tucked in along the way. Drinks were served en route and a pod of common dolphins came out to play, making the journey even more memorable. To round out the trip, we enjoyed a BBQ lunch, complete with burgers, coleslaw, and beers, making for the perfect end to an already perfect day.
Visit napali.com to learn more.