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Top Things to Do in Kauai
Some things defy words, and the Napali Coast is one of them. Besides, beautiful, verdant, spectacular, and amazing lose their meaning after repeated usage, so forget trying to think of words to describe it, but don't forget to experience Kauai's remote, northwest coastline any which way—by air, water, or trail, preferably all three.
Waimea Canyon Drive
From its start in the west Kauai town of Waimea to the road's end some 20 mi uphill later, at Puu O Kila Lookout, you'll pass through several microclimates—from hot, desertlike conditions at sea level to the cool, deciduous forest of Kokee—and navigate through the traditional Hawaiian system of land division called ahupuaa.
Families. Honeymooners. Retirees. Surfers. Sunbathers. Hanalei Bay attracts all kinds, for good reason—placid water in the summers; epic surf in the winters; the wide, 2-mi-long crescent-shape beach year-round; and the green mountain backdrop striated with waterfalls—also year-round but definitely in full force in winter. And did we mention the atmosphere? Decidedly laid-back.
Spas, Spas, Spas
Kauai is characterized by its rural nature (read: quiet and peaceful), which lends itself nicely to the spa scene on the island. The vast majority of spas could be called rural, too, as they invite the outside in—or would that be the inside out? For a resort spa, ANARA Spa is not only decadent but set in a garden. A Hideaway Spa sits in a grove of old-style plantation homes, and Angeline's traditional Hawaiian spa, Muolaulani, is in her home.
This 10-mi stretch of road starting at the Hanalei Scenic Overlook in Princeville rivals all in Hawaii and in 2003 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, one of only about one hundred roads nationwide to meet the criteria. Indeed, the road itself is said to follow an ancient Hawaiian walking trail that skirts the ocean. Today, Route 560 includes thirteen historic bridges and culverts, most of which are one lane wide. Be patient.
The best part about kayaking Kauai's rivers is that you don't have to be experienced. There are no rapids to run, no waterfalls to jump and, therefore, no excuses for not enjoying the scenic sights from the water. On the East Side, try the Wailua River; if you're on the North Shore, don't miss the Hanalei River. But if you have some experience and are in reasonably good shape, you may choose to create a few lifetime memories and kayak the Napali Coast.
Bananas. Mangos. Papayas. Lemons. Limes. Lychees. The best and freshest fruits, vegetables, flowers—and goat cheese—are found at various farmers' markets around the island. Just don't get there too late in the day—all the best stuff goes early.