This amazing, yawning chasm seems almost incongruous on a tiny, tropical island, but the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" harbors a wealth of scenery, lush vegetation, and native fauna. Its multi-hued brilliance attracts thousands of visitors, who appreciate the canyon's beauty from scenic overlooks or hike into its depths for firsthand views. Roughly 10 miles by 2 miles, Waimea extends down 3600 feet, carved by river waters and provoked by an ancient earthquake. State parks set around the formation provide recreational opportunities and information about local nature and geology. The canyon has an entirely different terrain and look than any other part of the island.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: Waimea Canyon is like no other place on a Kauai, with enchanting views of the huge canyon and beautiful sights on the way up.
Local Expert tip: Try to make it up here in the morning before the clouds settle in.
This large, crescent-shaped bay on the North Shore hosts a number of enviable beaches, which all share golden sands and clear, calm waters. The bay is protected by coral reefs, and along its two-mile stretch, folks soak in the sun, build sandcastles, and learn to surf. Water activities include everything from fishing to windsurfing, swimming to kayaking, scuba diving to boating. During the winter, waters get a little rougher, but conditions at such beaches as Black Pot and Waikoko remain manageable throughout the year. Watch locals tear up the waves at Pine Trees, a surf break along the beach, or just spend the day playing in the waves.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: Hanalei Bay is one of the most gorgeous beaches on Kauai, enveloped by lush cliffs and perfect for swimming, picnicking and surf lessons.
Local Expert tip: Pick up take house from a Hanalei restaurant and enjoy it at the bay.
Many visitors recognize these twin falls as the ones pictured in the opening sequence of the "Fantasy Island" TV show. Their dramatic, 80-foot double 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. The thunder of the falls is a relaxing sound and whether you hike down to the pool or watch from above it's a wonderful excursion.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: Wailua Falls is easily accessible and picturesque, and the sound of the falls is thundering.
Local Expert tip: Serious adventurers can consider taking the trail up to the falls.
On the west side, Glass Beach proves that one person's trash is another person's treasure. Here the black and gray sand beach is blanketed in a thick layer of colorful beach glass that offers hours of treasure hunting and sparkles beautifully. Swimming here is best done in the small tide pool rather than in the open ocean, but it's worth a visit. The photo op here can't be beat, and having fun with the camera is very rewarding. To here, head west and turn left on Waialo Road toward Port Allen. Turn left on Aka Ulu then right at the fork in the dirt road and you'll see the beach.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: Glass Beach is unique, as it's covered in a thick blanket of multi colored beach glass.
Local Expert tip: Watch the sunset here and notice how the glass sparkles in the light.
Just beyond Princeville, a highway overlook affords travelers a view of the Hanalei Valley's incredible beauty, which spreads out in a lush panorama of color, texture, and dimension. Set against rugged mountains are the shimmering strands of river and waterfalls, and taro fields push out across the valley in a study of the possibilities of green. Although the location begs for photographic documentation, the scope of the image is undoubtedly one you won't soon forget. It's a quick stop so set aside just a few minutes to take it in. Try to visit the overlook earlier in the day for the best light.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: The overlook is easily accessible and offers sweeping views of Hanalei Valley and the cliffs behind it.
Local Expert tip: You'll see more waterfalls coming down the cliffs after an extremely heavy rain.
Arguably one of Kauai's most popular natural sites, this geyser-like attraction delights visitors with its spectacle and energy. Incoming surf rushes into an ancient lava tube and is forced upward and outward in a dramatic display of sea water. At times, the geyser can reach heights of fifty feet. A peculiarity of the formation is that the water also creates a low, moaning sound, leading ancient islanders to speculate that a giant lizard was trapped below ground, calling out to escape. At times, local folks hawk their wares in the area, creating a tented village of souvenirs and sundries along the walkway in.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: The erupting water through the hole in the lava rock cliffs is backed by the Poipu Coastline.
Local Expert tip: Notice how the spout happens before the noise does. Very odd!
Take a low impact walk through a rainforest that leads you to two waterfalls along the Kapa'a Stream. You could go along the stream for a while, so it's hard to say exactly how long it is, but it's a quick few minutes from the trail head to the stream, covered by a tree canopy sparkling with streams of sun light. It's another 20 minutes or so to the falls, but it's gorgeous from the start. It's a pretty easy walk, but it's on a narrow sometimes muddy trail through bushes, and the mud can be slippery if it's wet, so just go slow. This isn't the best waterfalls for swimming, the enjoyment is mostly in the hike, but it's a lovely and usually completely private walk, except for the mosquitoes.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: Ho'opi'i Falls is an amazing place for a peaceful and secluded forest walk along a river.
Local Expert tip: Bring mosquito repellent and water.
Fly to Hawaii's Forbidden Island of Ni`ihau, owned by the Robison family, the same owners of the helicopter company. Hop on the chopper mid-morning and then across the west side channel to the desolate island. Here you'll explore beaches, walking for hours and picking up whatever you find. They treat you to a sandwich lunch, and you get a roughly half hour air tour of the island. After about four hours on Ni`ihau you head back. As Hawaii's most secluded and least populated island, visiting Ni`ihau is like taking a trip back in time. The beaches and interior of the island are untouched, and exude a sense of peace like no other.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: This is helicopter tour to a private "forbidden" island. Need we say more?
Local Expert tip: Bring a bag with a snorkel and mask and a small bag to put shells in.
Na Pali Explorer does just that, they explore the Na Pali Coast but they are based out of the west side in Waimea. Their tours are offered on a 26 foot RIB, a 48 foot RIB, or a 46 foot inflatable hull RIB. Exploring the ocean and Na Pali Coast with this company can be done in various ways. The include dolphin and whale sightings, shore landings to explore secluded beaches, snorkeling, a visit to an ancient fishing village, sea cave explorations, and all kinds of coastal views. The different tours that are available depend on season and wave size.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: This outfitter takes guests to explore the 17-miles long, beautiful coast to take in it's undeveloped beauty.
Local Expert tip: The snorkeling tour is the most exciting one.