Where to experience epic Kauai nature

Photo by Ben K

From Instagram-worthy gardens to nature-filled eateries on Kauai

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The Garden Isle: Kauai’s lush wonderland has plenty of places to experience Kauai nature. Gushing waterfalls. Birds unseen anywhere else on the planet. Jungles teeming with ancient plants. Historic canoe crops. Edible landscapes. Crystalline beaches backed by emerald. Rainbows. A hidden redwood forest. One of the wettest spots on earth. Yup, that’s Kauai Nature, with a capital N.

95% of this verdant island can only be accessed on foot.  Nature lovers will find some of the planet’s most illusive species.

Here are some tips on how to make the most of Hawai’i’s most lush isle.

Finding Epic Kauai Nature

Tip #1: South Shore Gardens

With three outposts of the famous National Tropical Botanical Gardens on Kauai, you can fill an entire week exploring the flora of the island. The two gardens on the south shore blend native plants with more showy flower displays.

If you are short on time, or traveling with kids, head over to the McBride Lawai Gardens to get to know the landscape. Those with a day to wander, add the spectacular Allerton Garden as well.

Dine overlooking the succulent gardens of Plantation Gardens Restaurant.

Tip #2: North Shore Gardens

The National Tropical Botanical Garden’s North Shore property might be the most instructive and interesting display in the state. Limahuli Garden and Preserve illustrates ancient farming practices, native and canoe plants, all while boasting epic views of the sea.

After touring the property, delight in the beautiful Hanalei Beach before capping off the night enjoying sushi at Hanalei Dolphin.

Tip #3: Don’t miss Kilauea

Also on the North Shore, Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens and Sculpture Park is a natural wonderland.

Explore the gardens, then take a wander out to the Kilauea Lighthouse to see the nesting albatross. Grind on seafood wraps at Kilauea Fish Market.

Tip #4: Kauai Beaches

The isle’s white sand beaches are home to the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, sea turtles, dolphins, tropical reef fish, and migrating whales.

While most of Kauai’s beaches are easily accessed, there are a number of hidden beaches–including one pristine area that can only be enjoyed after a treacherous 11-mile hike.

Don’t miss the chance to soak up the rays at the quiet Polihale Beach, Maha’ulepu Beach, and Moloa’a Beach.

Tip #5: Hiking

Hikers will find miles of trails spidering through the inland mountains. Spots worth exploring include Waimea Canyon, Kokee State Park and Na Pali Coast’s treacherous Kalalau Trail.

If you aren’t keen on much hiking, you can still experience these parks by car, boat trip or helicopter.


Tip #6: Waterfalls

Waterfalls are abundant on the Garden Isle. And the best spot is along the sacred Wailua River corridor.

Start with some quick photo opps at Wailua Falls and Opaeka’a Falls. Go early as they tour buses arrive mid-day, crowding the overlooks.

Grab a quick picnic of poke at Pono Market to enjoy along the banks of the river before a kayak trip to Secret Falls.

Spend the evening in the manicured gardens of Smith Family Garden Luau.

Tip #7: Eating in Nature

Some of Kauai’s most interesting restaurants offer an alfresco experience. The sweet Caffe Coco is set in an arbor-covered garden. Sunday brunch at Gaylord’s at Kilohana will please most anyone with a big appetite and a penchant for another era.

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Tip #8: Kauai Hotels with Instagram-worthy Gardens

Most of the island’s accommodations feature picturesque gardens. Some worthy properties to check out include the Grand Hyatt Kauai in Poipu and the gorgeous grounds up at Rosewood.

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