Few islands are more visually stunning than Kauai — from the ground, in the air, or on the water.
No. 10: Na Pali Coast
Number 10? Oh, you wait. It doesn’t end here, but what a great place to start. By the way, even fifth-generation Hawaiians take the helicopter tour to see the island they live on from this perspective. One local woman told us, “I cry every time I fly over the Na Pali Coast.” Fly with Jack Harter Helicopters.
No. 9: Tidal Pools and Blow Holes
The lava rock that makes up the Hawaiian Islands slowly erodes into the black sand beaches we all know and love. Before that, however, the sharp shelves around the island make incredible tidal pools and blowholes as they’re worn away by the sea.
No. 8: Sweet Shave Ice
Don’t call it “shaved ice.” It’s “shave ice” and tastes like fruit-flavored snow — much fluffier than a snow cone. Everyone on the island has a favorite shave-ice stand, some of which get very creative with the ingredients.
No. 7: Hidden Beaches
The erosion results in beaches just like this — more than 100 of them — ringing the island. We found this one down a heavily-rutted road and through a thicket of pine trees.
No. 6: Kauai Luau
Arrive early for Smith’s Garden Luau and watch the imu ceremony where the kalua pork is unearthed from the underground oven. Once you’ve stuffed yourself full of poi and mahimahi, settle in for some hula, Tahitian drum dances and Samoan fire knife dancing.
No. 5: Na Pali Coast (by water)
For a coastline perspective that will make you feel really small, take a catamaran ride with Holo-Holo Charters. On calm days the captain will take the boat within a few feet of Kauai’s awesome rock. Prepare jaws to drop.
No. 4: World’s Wettest Place
It’s impossible to count all the waterfalls on the island. The highest elevation is one of the wettest spots in the world (up to 400 inches of rain a year), and the water finds a lot of paths down to the ocean. This gusher is commonly referred to as Jurassic Park Falls because it was in the first Jurassic Park movie.
No. 3: Waimea Canyon
Waimea Canyon is often called the Grand Canyon of Hawaii for good reason. It might not cover as many square miles as the one on the mainland, but in some ways it’s even more breathtaking.
No. 2: Road Scenes
Best travel advice for Kauai is very simple: Get out. Go for a drive. It takes maybe an hour to go from south shore to north shore, and the scenes along the way keep changing. This one struck photographer Jon Whittle as timeless.
No. 1: Na Pali Coast (again)
There’s no such thing as too much Na Pali. During the helicopter tour, ask the pilot to fly over the roofless cave — it’s a stunner. Fly with Jack Harter Helicopters.