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Cruise Diva Goes Ashore in Hawaii
Sights to see & things to do


Hawaii’s northernmost island features a juxtaposition of lush vegetation, barren desert, and gleaming beaches. Appearing as a backdrop to Hollywood’s most glittering stars, Kauai has set the scene for feature films from South Pacific and Blue Hawaii to Jurassic Park. Considered by many visitors to be the most beautiful and natural of the islands, it is also the most independent; local law prohibits buildings that exceed the height of a coconut tree.


Ships dock at the island’s main harbor, Nawiliwili, and are met by shore excursion buses and vans. Automobile rentals are also available and independent tours can be arranged in advance. Helicopter tours are particularly popular, especially those that fly over Waimea Canyon and along the Na Pali Coast.

In nearby Lihue, two interesting museums illustrate the island’s geological and social history. Using artifacts and even a replica of Captain Cook’s ship, the Kauai Museum traces the island’s history from its volcanic origin, through its discovery by Polynesian settlers and European explorers and all stages of development to the present. The Grove Farm & Homestead Museum is the best remaining example of life on a sugar plantation in Hawaii.

Smaller, but no less imposing than the mainland’s original Grand Canyon, is Kauai’s “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” More accurately, this is Waimea Canyon, a great gulch of ever changing color. Filled with observation points overlooking waterfalls and the Waimea River far below, the scenery changes from barren and desert-like to lush during the sixteen-mile drive to Kokee State Park, located in the midst of an abundant rain forest. The coastal drive to Waimea Canyon passes Spouting Horn at Kikuiula Bay, a blowhole that blasts spouts of seawater from ten feet to as high as six stories into the air.

North of Nawiliwili, the Coconut Coast is another of Kauai’s most scenic areas with abundant coconut palms swaying with the trade winds. The oldest and most popular attraction is a boat ride down the Wailua River to Fern Grotto, a natural amphitheater filled with ferns. Elvis fans will recognize this area from one of the most beautiful scenes in Blue Hawaii.  In Wailua River State Park, an overlook affords a view of Opaekaa Falls, a restored Hawaiian village, and, if you look just right, you can see the fabled “Sleeping Giant” outlined atop the Nounou Ridge.

Further north along the road to Hanalei is tropical grandeur to rival that of Tahiti’s fabled islands and the mythical idyllic Bali Ha’i. Past Princeville, resorts and development give way to the greens of the valley and blue shadings of the sky and sea. The gorgeous and unspoiled scenery is the main attraction until the road ends. Then the real Hawaii takes over where the untouched Na Pali Coast begins.


On the road between Nawiliwili and Lihue, the Anchor Cove complex has shops with collectibles. In Lihue, the Kauai Museum’s store is the best bet for arts and crafts made in Kauai as well as highly prized Niihau shell leis. Between Lihue and Poipu, the Kilohana Plantation contains a sprinkling of galleries and shops. Poipu itself is mostly touristy but neighboring Old Koloa Town has some fun gift and souvenir shops in its single block. Scattered throughout Kilauea and Hanalei on the North Shore are a variety of high end boutiques selling arts, crafts, and aloha wear, as well as the funkier stores where the locals shop.


One of Kauai’s best beaches is Kalapaki.  Located near Lihue and very close to the cruise pier, it is sheltered by a jetty and very safe for swimming. To the southwest, Poipu Beach Park is actually two beaches in one and is excellent for swimmers, snorkelers, and surfers. The jetty provides a protected area for children and a grassy lawn is perfect for picnics under the palm trees. On the Coconut Coast, head for Lydgate State Park north of Lihue. The rock wall fishpond insures the only safe swimming area and the best snorkeling conditions on the eastern shore. These beaches all have rest room and shower facilities.

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