During your Kauai vacation you'll appreciate the various towns and special sites if you take time to learn a little about the historical background and geography of Kauai.
Considered the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands, lush green Kauai is believe to have been settled in the 4th or 5th century A.D. Centuries later, explorer Captain James Cook discovered the island while on his excursion to Alaska, landing in Waimea.
The beautiful island stood strong and independent, being the only Hawaiian Island that was under the reign of its own king. Eventually, however, Kauai's King Kamualii offered the island to the aggressive King Kamehameha, who ruled the other Hawaiin islands, in order to avoid further violence.
Kauai's history has always been steeped in folklore and superstition and visitors to the island can still travel to many locations that are believed to be sacred.
One of the island's fun bits of folklore is the legend of the Menehune, the little people. These incredible engineers are said to have lived in the forests of Kauai and would appear at night to build structures such as aqueducts, unaided by local humans. The Menehune were shunned by the Hawaiians and today, when things go wrong, this tribe of little people is blamed for the mishaps and the Menehune legend has lived on throughout the generations.
At an area of 553 square miles, Kauai is shaped like a circle with each section being varied and unique. From the pristine beaches of Poipu to stunning Waimea Canyon to the rugged Na Pali Coast, Kauai's geography possesses it all.
The fourth largest of the Hawaiian Islands and nicknamed The Garden Isle, about 60 percent of Kauai's coastline is made up of the world's most amazing beaches while Kauai's inland boasts awe-inspiring mountains and canyons.
The Garden Isle is divided into five regions. Each has its own unique characteristics and deserves a visit during your trip to Kauai.
The rugged North Shore is home to the majestic Na Pali Coast with its hanging valleys and steep cliffs as well as the picturesque beaches of the Hanalei area including Ke'e Beach, Hanalie Bay, and Lumahai Beach, made famous in the movie South Pacific. Visitors to this area might consider lodging in Princeville, the largest planned development on the island, featuring beautiful beaches, fine resorts, world-class golf, and a large selection of restaurants.
The West Side combines Hawaii's richest history and the island's natural splendor. Visitors to Waimea can visit not only the splendid "Canyon of the Pacific" but also the place where Captain Cook landed and discovered the island. Make a stop at the Koke'e Natural History Museum, the Menehune Ditch (aqueduct), and the Russian Fort Elizabeth, built in the early 19th century. Don't miss the lush Hanapepe Valley, where Steven Speilberg filmed Jurassic Park.
The Coconut Coast, in the eastern part of the island, is rich in natural beauty and culture. Visitors to this part of the island of Kauai will enjoy a trip to Old Kapa'a, an old 19th century plantation town that's now full of shops and restaurants offering local wares and cuisine. The Wailua State Park boasts some archaeological sites and a picnic area and offers canoeing or rafting on the Wailua River. The Keahua Forestry Arboretum will give nature lovers a chance to view the islands flora and fauna up close.
The tiny South Shore is home to the world's greatest beaches like Poipu Beach. Continually touted as the best all-around beach, Poipu welcomes thousands of visitors each year. But travelers should pull themselves away from the beach long enough to visit Spouting Horn, a geyser-like formation where water spouts from a lava tube, as well as Old Koloa town, the site of the island's first sugar plantation.
The region known as Lihue/Kalapaki is the business and transportation center of the island. Check out the Kauai Museum, a local history and art museum, and the pristine beauty of the Huleia National Wildlife Refuge. Kalapaki Beach is breathtaking and a great place for swimming and sunning. For some great photos, visit Wailua Falls and the Fern Grotto, often the site of a number of island weddings.
The temperature on Kauai is nearly perfect all year round. Gentle tradewinds keep the humidity low. Diverse eco-systems or "micro-climates" add a little variety as well. Five-thousand foot high Mount Waialeale offers a rainforest experience, with more than 400 inches of rain a year, while the coastal areas are dry, receiving less than 20 inches of rain annually.
For information about the geography and natural resources of the island::