Tucked away in the Limahuli Valley of Kauai's North Shore, this exquisite, pristine preserve has as its mission the protection of Hawaii's native species and the conservation of tropical ecosystems. On the 17-acre site, plants are labeled for visitors' edification, and those used by natives for food, medicine, and shelter (such as sugarcane, taro, and the like) are indicated. Scenery here is absolutely spectacular, and you can wander about on your own or take a guided tour. Reservations are required for entrance. Member of the National Tropical Botanical Garden.
Local Expert tip: Make sure to check out the ancient taro terraces.
Set along the Wailua River, this 30-acre complex introduces visitors to Hawaii's local flora and to more exotic species too. A mile-long trail wends through manicured grounds, offering folks the chance to view cultivated vegetation and a series of ethnic villages that represent the cultures of Kauai's various immigrants. Filipino, Japanese, and Polynesian sites can be explored, along with a fruit orchard, rainforest setting, and ginger and heliconia gardens. Narrated tram tours are available, and the complex also hosts weekly luaus, complete with entertainment and traditional foods.
Local Expert tip: Catch the luau, it's very worth it.
A gathering of artisans and fans of handmade creations, both locals and visitors, happens every Friday night in the small town of Hanapepe on the west side - the art mecca of the island. The historic town is made up mostly of artists of all types, jewelry makers, painters, photographers, and much more who celebrate art every Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. On any given Friday you'll find a throng of people, along with galleries and other shops with their doors wide open inviting everyone to browse, socialize, and enjoy live music. Art night is a great time for everyone to mingle, meet new folks, admire locally made art, and enjoy a night out on the town, although it's a small town where everyone most likely knows each other's name. Art night can be enjoyed dressing up a bit, or casual straight from the beach. Just be ready for a friendly social scene with a heavy art theme.
Jade's expert tip: You may want to have dinner first, appetizers at art night are usually the only food available.
On the very site of an ancient Hawaiian village, this modern-day equivalent has been erected to teach visitors about the islands before Western contact. The compound, lying along the Wailua River, showcases (replicated) homes and community buildings, including those used by the chief and those devoted to storing herbal remedies. Visitors may also catch demonstrations of cloth-making, agriculture, and poi-making and learn about early religion and social interaction. Educational and enlightening for the whole family.
Local Expert tip: Make sure to try of the fruit that grows here.
Lydgate Beach Park truly has everything you could need for a day at the beach - two protected natural swimming pools, spectacular snorkeling, white sand, amenities, lifeguard, and an amazing playground for children. This is where snorkel lovers will have the time of their lives. The underwater worlds in nearly always pulsing with life, and offers views of colorful tropical fish. The calm pools are perfect for children or anyone else who would prefer to not get knocked around by waves. Lydgate is a great place for a full day at the beach or a quick snorkel stop. It's also centrally located on the east side so it doesn't require driving far out of your way.
Local Expert tip: Bring some fish food from a snorkel gear shop and send the fish into a feeding frenzy!
Many visitors recognize these twin falls as the ones pictured in the opening sequence of the "Fantasy Island" TV show. Their dramatic, 80-foot tumble is the subject of many tourist photographs, a distinct difference from the days when Hawaiian royalty dove from the cliffs as a sign of power and prowess. Although the falls' beauty waxes and wanes depending on rainfall, they're always a worthy site. Some folks choose to hike down to the basin, but the journey, which is steep and somewhat treacherous, is perhaps best reserved for adrenalin junkies.
Local Expert tip: If you're brave, the hike is worthwhile.
A lovely hike with great views, the Kuilau Ridge Trail is pretty gentle at first but is at a consistent incline, which can be a bit tiring. About half an hour up the trail you'll come to a picnic area and this is a great place to enjoy a lunch. This spot also has wonderful views down into a valley and if it's a clear day you'll be treated to a great view of Mount Wai`ale`ale. Keep going past the picnic area for a few minutes and you'll be rewarded with a nature stroll like no oter, with amazing views, lush foliage, and coastal views. Turn around a the wooden bridge and head back. The whole hike should take about three hours. It starts about 1 3/4 mile past the Kaua`i Research and Extension Center. Head up Kuamo`o Road and you'll see the trail head marker on the right side.
Local Expert tip: Make sure to bring a picnic lunch to enjoy at the picnic area.
Preserved in this museum's collections are the story of Kauai, detailed in artifacts, exhibits, and photographs. Two buildings showcase items from the era preceding Western contact as well as the plantation period. There's also a focus on the influx of various ethnic peoples who came to labor in the fields. Royal garments, native handicrafts, exotic shells, model ships, and documentary images are spread throughout the complex, which also offers guided tours, a cafe, and a gift shop.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: he Kauai Museum is the largest and most elaborate museum on the island.
Local Expert tip: Go at the start of your trip, it will provide you with a deep background to enrich the rest of the vacation.
In its heyday, this grand, 1930s-era mansion was the focal point of a successful sugar-cane plantation. Today, the Tudor-style, 16000-square-foot home has been restored to its original glory and houses galleries, boutiques, and the historic train. Visitors may wander its halls with their rich detailing and explore the cottages that lie on the estate's grounds. In addition, 22 North gourmet food fit for a locovore, and local artwork and crafts from on-site shops make ideal souvenirs. You'll also find Kauai's only rum distillery and a ceramics shop where you can make your own pottery to ship home.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Kilohana Plantation is the best near port place to pick up locally crafted gifts and souvenirs.
Local Expert tip: Ride the historic train.