Kauai is alive, gently yet steadily streaming noises at all hours of the day and night. Persistent winds whip the palms, waves repeatedly caress the shore and chickens cock-a-doodle-doo.
Many who live here claim that an element of magic flavors this place – the appropriately named "Garden Island." And before long, you might just believe them.
Perhaps you’ll catch on after a long, solo stroll through a dense grove of trees – just you, bopping birds and that one chicken lackadaisically crossing the dirt path. As otherworldly beams of light slice through a thick green canopy, you can almost hear whispers of the island ancestors' echoing through the trees.
Yet aside from being the oldest, the fourth largest, the northernmost and the westernmost of the Hawaiian islands, what else defines this stunning and rejuvenating destination?
Kauai stuns from every angle — Photo courtesy of The St. Regis Princeville Resort
Kauai boasts 50 miles of beaches, more beach per coastline than the other Hawaiian islands. Topographical diversity here ranges from the 3,567-foot deep Waimea Canyon (AKA “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific”) – stretching 14 miles across the western end of the island – and the 3,000-foot-high cliffs that rise from the ocean floor to the magnificent, unspoiled Napali Coast.
The Hawaiian islands are the world's most remote archipelago; as the oldest, Kauai features an especially diverse array of flora and fauna that cover that large expanse of beach.
Over the centuries, trade routes and tourism have ushered in hordes of foreigners, in turn introducing new plants, animals and insects that have mingled with the island's unique, pre-existing plant life and wildlife. Countless endemic plants and birds can be found only here, and nowhere else on earth.
Many endangered species have found refuge on and off of Kauai’s shores, too. More than 80 different species nest on the island – 21 of them exclusively native to Kauai, including the nene goose, which is the state bird.
Spinner dolphins play near the spout of a humpback whale — Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting
Thankfully, residents of Kauai place an emphasis on wellness, taking into consideration the health of the island's surroundings and its people, too.
As one example of how some hotels have decreased their environmental footprint, Grand Hyatt Kauai has converted one of its 4,000-square-foot tennis courts into a hydroponic greenhouse, where they grow six different types of lettuce to be used by on-site chefs.
Want incredible views of the island's beauty? Thanks to the Kauai-based filming awhile back of the popular reality TV show The Amazing Race, six zipline companies – and counting – now operate on the island, offering adrenaline rush options like flying by moonlight and soaring in Superman-like formation.
For more adrenaline-pumping fun, look into some of the Kauau spots that have been featured in film. Steven Spielberg has brought dinosaurs to life on the big screen with his Jurassic movies four times, each time choosing Kauai as the magnificent backdrop for his tales.
Now in this summer's hit Jurassic World, Kauai plays a prominent role once again, and scenes showcase sites like the spectacular Napali Coast, Jurassic Kahili Ranch, Kauai Ranch and Valley House waterfall, plus the island's lush tropical forests and mountainous peaks. In fact, in appreciation of Spielberg’s longstanding support of Kauai as a filming location, the Kauai Visitors Bureau (KVB) created a special tribute video called Mahalo Nui Loa Steven Spielberg.
Movie producers have also chosen this special island to shoot works from Raiders of the Lost Ark to, more recently, The Descendants.
But these interesting details are really just the start of what makes this Hawaiian island so special.