If incredible ocean views, stunning natural beauty, and unbeatable eco-experiences rank high on your vacation must-haves, Kauai is just the treasure trove you’ve been searching for. Climbing the Napali Coast and exploring Waimea Canyon are undoubtedly some of the best hikes in Kauai. But if you want to uncover the island’s best natural gems, lace up your sneakers, take the path less traveled, and get ready for the ultimate treasure hunt.
Makawehi Lithified Cliffs
If by some chance Kauai doesn’t already make you feel like you’ve stepped onto the set of Jurassic Park, this site surely will. These limestone cliffs boarder the sea on the island’s South Coast, and a million years’ worth of natural forces are to thank for its rugged good looks. Since these cliffs originally formed under the ocean, the area is teaming with fish fossils.
Your inner archeologist will surely awaken, but resist the urge to add them to your private collection. To reach this fossil-filled coast, take a pleasant stroll to the far east end of Shipwreck Beach or hike the path that lies between the Grand Hyatt Kauai and the Po’ipu Bay Golf Course. The choice of trail is up to you.
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Uluwehi Falls (Secret Falls)
Kauai boasts some of Hawaii’s best kayaking spots. So if you find yourself paddling along the Wailua River, be sure to take a break and head ashore for a hike to Uluwehi Falls. Also known as Secret Falls, this 100-ft, bridal-veil waterfall mesmerizes with its beauty, and welcomes visitors to swim in its pool while surrounded by serene rainforest. While there are local guided tours to the site, it’s more than easy to find it on your own adventure.
To find this hidden jewel, you’ll need to rent a watercraft at the Wailua Marina, whether it be a kayak, canoe, or standup paddle board. Two miles down, you’ll come to a fork in the river. Stay to the right, and paddle through the jungle until you’ve reached a bend with a large sandy beach. Once you pull your boat ashore, follow the three-quarter-mile path through lush greenery and few streams – wear comfortable shoes that you aren’t afraid to get dirty. At the end you’ll be rewarded with the most stunning waterfall in all Kauai.
Ok, we admit it doesn’t exactly take a hike to get to this lovely jewel – more like a paddle or a drive. But you can trust us when we say it’s well worth the trip. Legend says these ponds were built in a night by the mythical Menehune. Historians say they are an ingenious aquaculture creation from the ancient Hawaiians. No matter which story you choose to believe, the Menehune Fishponds are a magical sight to behold. To see them for yourself, drive a few minutes from the town of Lihue down Hulemalu Road to the Alekoko Scenic Overlook for picture perfect views from above. Or get an even closer look by taking a kayak tour on Huleia River and paddle to the entrance. Unfortunately, the ponds themselves are closed to the public, but the surrounding mangroves and creatures will leave you anything but disappointed.
Wet & Dry Caves
The Napali Coast is as iconic to Kauai as Waikiki is to Oahu. Simply put, it’s a must-see for every Kauai traveler. You can witness these emerald cliffs by boat, helicopter, or up close and personal on the trails that weave their way along this iconic shoreline. There’s no wrong way to see the Napali Coast, but if you choose to venture on foot, pay a visit to Haena State Park for the captivating Wet and Dry Caves. Waikapalae Wet Cave was made world-famous as a filming site for Pirates of the Caribbean, and its crystal clear pool is sourced by underground springs. You can swim through this cavern to reach a smaller cave in the back. But be sure to pack an extra fluffy towel – the water can be very chilly. The Maniniholo Dry Cave can be easily explored, and those with a thirst for adventure should bring a flashlight to venture farther into its cavern.
Kauai is a treasure trove of natural beauty just waiting for you to discover, and all you need is your curious nature, our handy list, and a travel agent to help get you there. From hidden waterfalls deep in the rainforest to the Napali Coast’s secret caverns, this treasure chest is officially open for the taking.