Kaua’i, Hawai’i

Kauaʻi lives up to its “Garden Isle” nickname

by Sho Niimura

4 people, 400 miles, 4 days

Last month I decided to visit the island of Kauaʻi, one of my favorite destinations in the world. Even though we were just flying half an hour to a different island for a few days, being able to travel with a few of my good friends during this time made me feel extremely blessed.

After the receiving the negative COVID test results required for inter-island travel in Hawaiʻi, we took the quick flight from Honolulu to Lihue Airport.* Our gray two-door Jeep Wrangler was waiting for us there, and we went off to check in at our Airbnb to the north in Princeville.

The weather was beautiful on our first day, so we couldn’t let it go to waste as Kauaʻi is notorious for its rainfall. We drove over an hour around the island to the Waimea Canyon lookout. The drive up to Waimea is definitely one of the most beautiful drives on the island and the windy roads were extremely fun in the Jeep. It always amazes me how massive and colorful this canyon is.

After taking some photos and soaking in the views, we headed over to a hike in Kalalau Valley on the Na Pali coast and rushed up the ridgeline to catch the setting sun. The weather was all over the place, and the further we hiked up the trail, the rainier it got. After getting soaked for half an hour, the clouds around us suddenly burst into a bright orange. None of us could contain our happiness at this point, and we danced around as the colors in the sky changed each second from a fiery orange to a soft pink. Celebratory burritos finished up our first epic day on Kauaʻi.

We took the next day easy, starting with a nice breakfast and coffee, then drove to the Hanalei Valley Lookout right outside of Princeville. Kauaʻi is nicknamed the “Garden Isle” — as I look back through these pictures, it’s easy to see why. The entire island is so lush and green, with loʻi patches and beautiful taro plants dotting the valleys.

For lunch, we headed to Anini Beach and had the sandwiches we packed in our Yeti cooler that came with the Jeep as an Extra. Then we headed further up north past Hanalei to Haʻena State Park to catch the sunset, which followed the usual pattern: late afternoon rain cleared and the sky blew up into a fiery sunset.

We visited Wailua Falls on the third, drizzly day, driving through the pretty town of Kapa’a and ate a quick and tasty breakfast at a cafe called Java Kai. We hiked down the muddy trail to get to the bottom view of the falls — the rain had turned the trail into a mess and we got completely covered in mud. But we made it down and hopped in the ice-cold water to wash ourselves off and enjoy the powerful and massive falls.

Before our flight back home to Oʻahu, we made the most of our last rainy day and visited the Kilauea lighthouse viewpoint, where we spotted a ton of Nene geese, a species endemic to Hawaiʻi. Soaking in the last bit of greenery on the drive back to the airport, we said our farewells to the beautiful island and felt extremely blessed to have experienced this adventure during such a challenging year for traveling.

*Editor’s note: This trip took place in November 2020, when travel to Kauaʻi from other Hawaiian islands was permitted with a negative COVID-19 test result. Current travel restrictions in Hawaiʻi can vary by island — please check the local rules before planning any visits.