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Insights & Stories

Getaway Kauai: Experience the Garden Island

Reading time: 4 Minutes

April 17th, 2019

Kauai is the oldest Hawaiian Island after Niihau. It's sometimes called The Garden Island in honor of its green valleys, lush rainforests and abundant waterfalls.

On Kauai's North Shore is the Na Pali Coast, a 17-mile stretch of cliffs that rise 3,000-feet into the sky. Time and the elements have created a landscape there of sharp mountain peaks and jagged green cliffs so dramatic that they look more like a fantastic wonderland than a natural creation.

It's no wonder adventure movies like the Jurassic Park series and Pirates of the Caribbean chose Kauai's jutting mountains as their backdrop. The cliffs occasionally dip to give way to pristine beaches that are inaccessible, except by boat or intense hiking.

On the island's west side, Waimea Canyon—sometimes called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific—offers views that take your breath away. Lookout points and hiking trails lay at the edge of sweeping chasms that plummet 3,600 feet down into cool, dark valleys.

A staycation on this majestic island is a departure from day-to-day life on whichever island you call home.

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Where to Stay

The Garden Island Inn, just a five-minute drive from Lihue Airport, is an easy place to settle in and get comfortable. Rooms have their own kitchenette, so it's convenient to brew a cup of coffee and head out to the property's quiet and shaded gardens for a relaxing morning ritual. The hotel's colorful rooms are all adorned with vibrant, hand-painted works by local artist Camile Fontaine, whose tropical designs are also featured (and can be purchased) at Palms Gallery in Poipu.

Just across the road, a large park looks out over crescent-shaped Kalapaki Beach, where you can swim, body surf and watch sea turtles and surfers. The hotel lends out its beach gear, too, so there's no cost for guests to borrow a lawn chair and boogie board, and head out for a day of sun and splashing.

Where to Eat

Kalaheo Café & Coffee Co. sits in the dense greenery of upcountry Kalaheo, amidst a 4,000-acre coffee plantation. The cafe serves up fresh, local ingredients in a casual dining atmosphere. The place is best known for its breakfasts, but also serves tasty lunches and dinners. And, of course, they serve delicious Kauai coffee. Dinner specials on Friday and Saturday nights include a salt-rubbed, 14-ounce Prime Rib Roast.

Kalaheo Café makes a great to-go stop for coffee and a bite for the road on your way west to the scenic, 45-minute, winding drive up to Waimea Canyon State Park—a scene of unforgettable splendor at Kalalau Lookout.

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Where to Adventure

While on your Kauai vacation, set aside time to view the island from the sea. Capt. Andy's Sailing Adventures offers cruises along the magical Na Pali Coast. The company's most luxurious sail is a five-and-a-half-hour voyage on their 65-foot Star Yacht. The luxury catamaran—with hardwood floors, tiled bathrooms and on-board chef—takes you out for sailing, snorkeling and a barbecue lunch with beer and wine. Guests commonly see spinner dolphins and, during the winter, whales.

Capt. Andy's also offers a dinner sail at sunset. For a more physical adventure, join an all-day expedition on their 24-foot rigid hull raft that takes you to a remote beach for snorkeling, picnicking and a hike to the ruins of an old Hawaiian village. The raft ducks in and out of sea caves and plunges under the occasional waterfall to show you the grand peaks and valleys that make the Na Pali Coast world famous. It's a fast, wild ride, so expect to get wet.

Discover our full list of must-see places to sleep, eat and adventure below!

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The mention of any individuals or businesses is not an indication of affiliation or endorsement by Bank of Hawaii. The individuals and owners of any other trademarks, logos, brands or other designations of origin shown, named or mentioned herein did not sponsor, endorse or preview this article.

Jurassic Park is a registered trademark of Universal City Studios LLC and Amblin Entertainment Inc. Pirates of the Caribbean is a registered trademark of Disney Enterprises, Inc.

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