Shrouded in tropical rainforests and fringed by dramatic precipices and undulating rock faces, the island of Kauai is the eldest island in the Hawaiian archipelago at approximately five million years old.
Borne from an ancient underwater volcano that ultimately pierced above sea level, this island is two million years older than its closest neighbour Oahu.
Folklore and modern history
With a fascinating narrative history that is cloaked in native folklore, legend tells that Kauai was the first island in the archipelago to be discovered by the Polynesian navigator and settler Hawaiʻiloa.
The irrefutable drama and visual magnificence of Kauai has attracted more than just an abundance of wildlife and a constant trickle of curious adventurers - the “Garden Island”, as it is colloquially known, has also drawn crews from blockbuster films such as Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean and Avatar.
How to experience the island
With its plethora of steep green valleys, thousand-metre-tall sea cliffs, tropical forests, striking waterfalls and snaking rivers, two of the best ways to experience Kauai are by ocean or by air. Exhilarating light-aircraft and helicopter flights offer unparalleled panoramic views of this vivacious island, while small boats can navigate the awe-inspiring coastlines.
Activities on the island
Kauai possesses some of the most spectacular beaches in the Hawaiian Islands, with Tunnels Beach and the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park being amongst the most sought-out destinations on the island. In addition, the island is also home to the 22-mile Kalalau Trail, one of the most arduous and rewarding hikes in the archipelago.
Head inland to discover some of the fascinating geological oddities that dot the island, including the large sinkhole known as Makauwahi Cave where bones, remnants of now extinct flora and evidence of massive tsunamis of the past have been found. Alternatively, travel to the humbling lookout point of the colossal Waimea Canyon and observe the towering waterfall that crashes on to the lush vegetation below.
Food and culture
At first glance it would be easy to assume that this tranquil island is completely uninhabited, but the sleepy towns of Hanalei, Waimea, Koloa and Hanapepe are well-worth a visit on days when rest and recuperation are desired.
Browse endearing art galleries, paddle in the bay, listen to the gentle strumming of local musicians, tuck in to food-truck delicacies and learn about the historical sugar plantation that once graced the island.