Kauai is Hawaii's verdant, untamed hinterland, whose richly variegated landscape resembles no other place on earth. Only recently has the 20th century arrived here, and new romantic resorts have begun popping up on the island's most heavenly beaches. Still, much of Kauai remains as it has been for thousands of years--its trademark billowing waterfalls, tranquil streams, and precipitous canyons lure rugged travelers who wish to leave everything but the island's captivating beauty behind.

Try to get a window seat for the plane ride over; as your plane swoops across the island you will be treated to a jaw-dropping view of scenery that many argue is best viewed from above. In fact, some of Kauai's most rugged and dramatic spots can only be seen from a plane, helicopter, or boat: The Na Pali Coast qualifies as one of these spots. Formed by towering volcanic cliffs interwoven with valleys of seemingly endless green, this is the region where Kauai's lava-formed northwestern coast meets the sea. The magnificent, virtually uninhabitable palisades are so steep that the one road circumnavigating the island is forced to discontinue here.

Equally remote is Mt. Waialeale, located in the island's center. Holding the record as the wettest spot on earth, the top of this 5,000-foot dormant volcano receives more than 450 inches of rainfall every year. The rain-soaked peak fosters Kauai's fertile climate, which supports several unique species of plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. Run-off from Mt. Waialeale is also credited for forming the imposing Waimea Canyon, whose steep kaleidoscopic drop-offs often inspire comparisons to Arizona's Grand Canyon.

There is something enchanting about Kauai's wild terrain. "Jurassic Park," "King Kong," "Raiders of the Lost Arc," "Blue Hawaii," and "South Pacific" were all filmed here. And while the island's economy has for years depended on sugar cultivation, the tourism industry is gaining strides as the chief source of income. The shimmering white-sand beaches on Kauai's southern and western shores are rapidly being developed; and air-conditioned malls, tennis courts, and championship golf courses have become permanent fixtures on the island's horizon.

Kauai residents rightly seek to ensure that the advent of tourism won't destroy their island's unspoiled countryside. Their vigilance can only pay off in the long run, allowing future generations to experience the same wonder as they explore Kauai's awe-inspiring landscape that we feel today.

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