Whether you prefer easily accessible beaches with convenient beachfront facilities or hidden coves off unmarked roads, Kauai will not disappoint. Some of the southern coast's better-known spots include the gorgeous Poipu Beach and nearby Mahaulepu. The northern coast is home to Lumahai, an idyllic swimming beach situated at the end of a dirt road, and Kee, one of Na Pali's few accessible waterfront areas.
Most of the island's best swimming beaches are protected from the surf by bays or offshore reefs. As a rule the currents on the North Shore tend to be stronger during the winter, while the waves on the South Shore are more intense during summer.
Surfing and Windsurfing
Like Oahu, the Big Island, and Maui, Kauai is one of the world's premier surfing destinations. During the wintertime, rollers on the North Shore can reach up to 30 feet high. This is no spot for beginners, but experienced surfers relish the waves' phenomenal curls and the unpopulated waters. Come summertime, all of the island's best surfers head to the South Shore where perfectly shaped eight-foot waves are the norm.
Windsurfers also enjoy testing their skills in Kauai's bays: The calm waters of Anini Beach and Nawiliwili Bay are ideal for windsurfing novices, and the more turbulent waters at Tunnels Beach, Mahaulepu Beach, and Salt Pond Beach challenge the more advanced.
Snorkeling and Scuba Diving
Although many resort hotels and condominiums provide snorkeling equipment for exploration on the beach, serious snorkelers and scuba divers know that the choicest spots are usually reached by boat. The sea off Kauai's coast is a kaleidoscopic wonderland where underwater explorers have a good chance of encountering giant turtles, tame moray eels, and bright coral reefs.
Many tour operators and dive shops on the island run excursions to popular dive and snorkeling sites. Snuba, a sport in which your oxygen supply remains on a boat while you swim underwater for limited distances, is available at Lawai Beach in Poipu.
Not for the faint of heart or the light of wallet, helicopter rides are a popular attraction for visitors to Kauai. Skilled pilots will take you on unforgettable rides that offer a bird's-eye view of Kauai's breathtaking landscape. Some people insist that this is the best way to see such unique sights as Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali Coast.
Kauai is a good place to kayak because of its waterways and the many
accessible hiking areas off of these waterways. You can either go on an
organized kayak tour or rent your own. The kayaks are not tippy and,
with quick instruction, they're easy to learn. Several outfitters will
set you up, and they can even tell you where to camp.
Some of Kauai's most magnificent spots are accessible only on foot, making the island a premier destination for hiking aficionados. Miles of well-marked trails offer challenges to people of all physical abilities.
Pihea Lookout Trail on Kauai's North Coast is an excellent hike for beginners. The 1.7-mile trek starts at Puu o Kila Lookout, above the Na Pali coast and continues through tropical growth gloriously scented with native blooms. Be sure to bring your camera; the views are spectacular, and if you embark early enough you might glimpse herds of wild goats.
Horseback riding in Kauai's backwoods is about as romantic as a fairy tale, and stables all over the island offer visitors this ultimate fantasy. Whether you wish to explore the North Shore at sunset or take a daytime ride into a secluded beach, it is sure to be an adventure from atop a saddle. Ask your hotel concierge for details on specific rides.
The Garden Island is ideally suited to this sport--golf greens stay as lush as can be without much tending. Princeville is indisputably Kauai's top area for golf, and is home to the championship Makai and Prince courses. Lihue boasts the Jack Niklaus-designed Kauai Lagoons and the erstwhile sugar planting town of Koloa has Poipu Bay, often referred to as the Pebble Beach of the South Pacific.
Because Kauai is less touristy than most of the other Hawaiian islands, you will not be overwhelmed by shops at every turn. However, if you want to collect some Hawaiian souvenirs, you won't be disappointed. Ubiquitous island mementos include colorful floral-print clothing and T-shirts; traditional arts and crafts, including jewelry made from coral, enamel, and precious metals; feather and flower leis; and a host of take-home foods, which include everything from exotic fruits to coffee, macadamia nuts to Maui potato chips.
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