Guide To South Kauai
At the southern tip of Kaui lies the town of Koala (the town's name means ‘tall cane’ in Hawaiian). If you head into Koala on Rt. 520 you will be taken through the impressive Eucalyptus Tree Tunnel which was planted in 1911. At the entrance of town lies an old mill - in 1835 the first sugar plantation was opened and in 1841 the first sugar mill began its operation - the mill still stands as a reminder of the old days.
The smaller villages, Kaleheo, Hanapepe and Waimea also reflect the simple life style of the people working in the sugar fields. Many sugar workers remained in the area, giving it that special small-town flair. Do not miss out on a visit to Hanapepe, the islands ' biggest little town ', where a thriving artists community is breathing new life into the town with art festivals, music and a great, friendly attitude. The architecture is simple but colorful, and there are small grocery stores and local shops, and the galleries of the many talented artists. The sugar industry gave way to alternative crops such as planting coffee and macadamia nuts.
This area has been dominated by sugar cane plantations for over a century. The old sugar towns, Koala, Lawai, Waimea and Hanapepe, still remind the sugar era. On Kauai’s South Shore you will find the most beautiful beaches and the best weather. Many luxury resorts are located in this area. The resorts on the South Shore often host famous PGA tour golf tournaments. The next time you are there, you might meet Tiger Woods at breakfast, who knows!
One of the most impressive natural sights, the Waimea Canyon, can only be accessed via the South Coast. The canyon is also called ‘the Grand Canyon‘ of the Pacific. It can definitely not compete size wise with the Grand Canyon in Arizona, but quite as stunning. Daily tours are offered into the canyon to see it from several scenic overviews, as well as with 4WD vehicles. Another possibility to explore the canyon is by hiking or mountain biking. There are plenty of trails and campgrounds in the park. If you like to get the aerial picture, take a helicopter tour.
Compared to the mellow lifestyle in Koala, Poipu is a lively resort area. Located on Kauai’s South Shore, it offers wonderful beaches, hotels, condominiums, and restaurants. They weather is known to be bright, sunny and dry. The south shore was the severely damaged area by the hurricane Iniki in 1992, whose tidal waves washed away million dollar beachfront homes like cardboard boxes, leaving some home owners with little more than the foundation of their homes. This is the reason why most buildings and all the landscaping is relatively new. Great efforts have been undertaken to rebuild, and once again the area is beautiful and well -worth the visit.
Two golf courses are part of the various recreation facilities. The hotels range from the upmarket like the Hyatt Kauai and the Kauai Marriott to the more moderate, like the Aston Poipu Kai and Poipu Point.
One natural sight apart from great white sand beaches is Spouting Horn. It is a lava tube in an outcropping over the ocean. When waves are high enough, the tube acts like a small geyser.
Many B&B's and vacation homes can be found in and around Poipu, as well as a lot of vacation condos for all budgets. In the valleys and on the ridges you can find some of the nicest properties, such as the famous Marjorie's B&B and Lawaii B&B. Right on the Ocean in Poipu are the Kuhio Shore Condos, one of the few rentals actually on the Ocean.
Leaving Waimea towards the Canyon, you will pass the Menehune Road. The road leads to a historic construction called the Menehune ditch which is a well-designed and engineered wall, or tunnel. Since this building method was unknown to the early Hawaiians, none could explain its existence. So the Menehune were credited with building the mysterious irrigation ditches, fishponds, and temples found on the island. They measured only 3 feet in height, worked only nights and had according to the legends big red faces and eyes. If you don't feel like driving yourself, enjoy one of the narrated tours into the Canyon.
You can reach the canyon within a 20 minutes drive from Waimea town up into the mountains. Several amazing view points are waiting for you along the way. The canyon is 10 miles long, 2 miles wide, and 3,600 feet deep. At the floor of the canyon runs the Waimea river. If recent rainfall was high, you can see many waterfalls cascading down the steep ridges. The variety of colors is awesome, and its size and nice weather make hiking and camping attractive means to explore the canyon. Depending on the weather the atmosphere of the canyon is always different. It is a spectacle of tropical green, colorful rainbows, red cliffs and the blue of the sky.
Shortly before you reach the last viewpoint, the Pu'u o Kila viewpoint, you pass the Kokee State Park. The park’s woods used to be Hawaii’s prime source of kola wood, which was utilized to produce surf boards, furniture, canoes, paddles and weapons. The Kokee Natural History Museum gives you an insight about the canyon’s evolution, flora and fauna. Many hiking trails originate from the park. If you decide to stay overnight, get a camping permit before you put up your tent.
If the weather allows it, you can have the most breathtaking view from the Kalalau viewpoint. This is one of the most scenic places in all of Hawaii.
Make sure to stop in Waimea Town on your way back. This quaint little town is where Hawaii’s western history began. Captain Cook landed at Hanapepe Bay for the first time in 1778. Near the landing site is the Captain Cook monument. Unfortunately Captain Cook died here, when he attempted to kidnap a Hawaiian chief to trade for a stolen boat, but his ruse was thawrted, and he was killed by the islanders.
A short excursion from Waimea town takes you to Fort Elizabeth, built by the Russians in 1820. An enigmatic Russion doctor, Georg Scheffer, plotted the overthrow of King Kamehameha with the help of Emperor Nicholas I. The fort was part of his plan. Though within a few years Scheffer was recalled to Russia, and the Fort fell into the hands of King Kamehameha.
The sunny South and Southwest shores of Kauai boasts some of the finest beaches on the island. There are plenty of places to stay, weather its one of the great hotels or a quaint B&B, or even a vacation home. Soak up the sun and forget your worries.
Polihale Beach Park
This beach is definitely a unique place, literally endless and oftentimes deserted. The several miles long white sandy beach is located at the most western end of Kauai. You can only access it by driving a dirt road. Once you sit on this endless beach you definitely start dreaming, especially at sunset. If you have the time, camp out there for a night or two, it is an experience you will never forget. You have to obtain a camping permit.
Salt Pond Beach
The beach is located on the most southern point of the west shore. The currents and surf are strong, so swimming is not advised, but the beach, similar to Poilihale, has an amazing scenery.
Poipu Beach Park
At the marquee coastline of the Garden Island, Poipu is home
to Kauai's premier resorts and white-sand beaches. Made up of several coves and
small bays, the area offers a wide enough variety of coastal conditions that
every beach goer will be satisfied. Swimming is safe all year round and the
sandy bottom, which adds to its popularity. Keen boogie boarders head for neighboring Brennecke beach, where the waves are bigger.
Lawai Beach is located a little bit further down Spouting Horn road and is popular with snorkellers since an offshore reef attracts a host of fish. The same off shore reef causes the waves to break offshore and this is one of the most popular places for surfing on Kauai. Surf is highest during the winter months.
Kalapaki Beach & Lydgate State Park
Kalapaki beach is located in front of the Westin Kauai Hotel resort, and the Lydgate beach is just south of the Kauai Resort Hotel. Both beaches are excellent for swimming and safe all year round. Lydgate beach is one of the few beaches on Kauai with a lifeguard on duty.