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Kauai is known as the Garden Isle of the Hawaiian Islands. It is a feast for the eyes with its tropical rainforest, Sleeping Giant mountain in Naunau Forest Reserve, dramatic Na Pali Coast sea cliffs, deep Waimea Canyon, plunging waterfalls, and white sand beaches. There is almost too much beauty to take in during a typical vacation, but Kauai is an exotic paradise travelers will want to visit again and again. Take a historical train ride through Kilohana Plantation Estate followed by a theatrical luau, kayak to dramatic Secret Falls for a waterfall picnic, or lounge on one of Kauai’s many spectacular beaches. These 25 things to do in Kauai showcase the best activities the island has to offer.
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» Allerton Garden
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Allerton Garden, located on Kauai’s South Shore is an 80-acre botanical garden created and transformed over the years by an eclectic group of gardeners. Through its history, the garden has passed from a Hawaiian queen to a sugar magnate to an architect and an artist. Named among the ‘50 Places of a Lifetime’ to visit, this is an architectural landscape masterpiece. Parts of the garden, including the giant Moreton Bay fig trees, have appeared in famous movies. Visitors can expect lush garden rooms, exotic plants, water features, and sculptures. Guided tours are 2.5 hours long and depart from South Shore Visitors Center hourly.
4425 Lawai Road, Koloa, HI, Phone: 08-742-2623
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» Fern Grotto
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Fern Grotto is a natural amphitheater on Wailua River in eastern Kauai. The lava rock grotto is covered in luxuriant ferns, and has long been a location for live music performances due to the incredible acoustics. After flooding in 2006, the Hawaii DNR closed Fern Grotto to visitors because of safety concerns. Even though the grotto walls have been artificially reinforced, visitors can still only access the grotto by water. Several bout tour companies provide this opportunity. By land, visitors can view Fern Grotto from a designated observation platform. It remains a popular place to hold romantic outdoor weddings, but now they must be held on the observation deck.
Wailua River State Park, Nalu Road, Kapaa, HI, Phone: 808-933-0416
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» Grove Farm Museum
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Grove Farm Museum is a 100-acre homestead commemorating the legacy of Kauai’s sugar cane production. Located in the heart of Lihue, visitors to the farm will see the original plantation house, an owner’s cottage, an old office, a guest cottage, and plantation workers’ homes. This active farm is flush with gardens, farm animals, banana trees, and grazing pastures. Leisurely two-hour guided tours led by Kauai docents familiar with sugar plantation history are available by reservation. Tours are on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays with a suggested $20 donation. An onsite gift shop is open on tour days. This historic site is also available for weddings.
4050 Nawiliwili Road, Lihue, HI, Phone: 808-245-3678
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» Ha'ena State Park
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Ha`ena State Park is located on the extreme end of Kaua`i’s north shore, and is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. One of the biggest draws is the turquoise cove with its 4,000-year-old wet sea caves. Other things to do at the park include winter surfing, beach activities, picnicking, shore fishing, and beachcombing the shoreline or strolling the vegetated sand dunes of Maniniholo Beach. Swimming is not recommended as the surf is high and currents are powerful. It is, however, the perfect spot for views of the dazzling Na Pali Coast. Visitors who bring a flashlight can go across the street to explore Maniniholo Dry Cave. There is also an 11-mile hiking trail at the park.
State Highway 56, Kapaa, HI, Phone: 800-274-3444
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» Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge
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Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge in Hanalei River Valley is the oldest refuge on Kaua`i. At 917 acres, it serves as a feeding and nesting habitat for endangered water birds. Five are protected by the Endangered Species Act – the Hawaiian duck, Hawaiian coot, Hawaiian moorhen, Hawaiian goose, and Hawaiian stilt. There are also 45 other bird species that are at home in the refuge making it a superb destination for bird lovers. Visitors will appreciate valley and waterfall-draped mountain views from the wooded hillsides that surround the habitat. To protect the endangered birds, Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge itself is off limits to the public.
Ohiki Road, Kapaa, HI, Phone: 808-828-1413
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» Kamokila Hawaiian Village
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A visit to Kamokila Hawaiian Village is a time-traveling adventure into the past. Located on four acres along the Wailua River near Opaeka’a Falls, this reconstructed traditional Hawaiian village gives visitors a peak into Old Hawaii. Self-guided tours of the village include 14 thatched-roof huts, plus a chief’s assembly house, hula house, birthing house, doctor’s house, and canoe house. Visitors learn about ancient Polynesians’ everyday life via artifacts and storyboards throughout the village. Lush tropical foliage teeming with traditional flowers and fruits surrounds the village. There is also an optional three-hour trip on Wailua River by outrigger canoe that includes a brief hike to a waterfall.
5443 Kuamo’o Road, Kapaa, HI, Phone: 800-823-0559
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» Kauai Museum
© Kauai Museum
Kauai Museum is dedicated to Kauai indigenous and immigrant cultural heritage. Multicultural artisans from Kauai and Niihua that include craftsmen, sculptors, and artists, are represented in museum collections. Visitors will learn about Hawaiian monarchy, native Hawaiian life, the geology of Hawaii, and Captain Cook and crew in Waimea. Tours are typically self-guided, but docent-led tours can be reserved upon request. Admission includes a week-long pass that enables visitors to return for more exploration. That’s a great thing, since there are three floors in two buildings, plus a movie. Kauai Museum is an interesting mix of Hawaiian history and local artistry.
428 Rice Street, Lihue, HI, Phone: 808-245-6931
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» Kauai Whale Watching
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Kauai Whale Watching offers winter visitors an experience they won’t soon forget. Pacific Humpback Whales migrate to the waters surrounding the islands each winter for mating and birthing their young. Good tours bring passengers to open waters near where whales and dolphins play without disturbing them. Curious dolphins and whales, however, sometimes approach tour boats. This provides visitors with spectacular opportunities to photograph them up close. Tours include underwater hydrophones that allow passengers to listen in on whale songs. Knowledgeable onboard guides teach passengers about whale biology and explain whale behavior. Tours run from mid-December through the end of March.
Princeville, Kaua`i, HI, Phone: 808-876-7777
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» Kauai Glass Beach
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Kauai Glass Beach embodies the saying ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.’ After years of using this industrial area as a dumping ground for trash, Mother Nature turned mass numbers of glass bottles into millions of pieces of beautiful sea glass. Unfortunately, the amount of sea glass on this tiny beach has dwindled due to the avarice of sea glass collectors. Another notable area near the beach is the lava beds on the beach’s southern end. Some sea glass has been embedded in the lava rock with surreal effect. Those brave enough to venture out onto the lava beds should be cautious of strong incoming surf.
Ula Street, Eleele, Kaua`i, HI, Phone: 808-245-3971
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» Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge
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Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge is one of Kauai’s best places for wildlife viewing. The dramatic steep cliffs that plunge into the sea only add to the allure. Visitors should expect to see nesting seabirds, spinner dolphins, Hawaiian geese – an endangered species and Hawaii’s state bird, Hawaiian monk seals, and an assortment of coastal plants. Daniel Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse tours are available on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The iconic 100-year-old lighthouse is open to tours as far up as the Watch Room. Other Kilauea Point amenities include interpretive panels with epic views, interpretive dioramas in the Visitor Center, and the Kilauea Point Natural History Association bookstore.
Kilauea, HI, Phone: 808-828-1413
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» Kilohana Plantation Estate
© Kilohana Plantation Estate
Visiting Kilohana Plantation Estate is like being transported to 1930s Kauai. The plantation estate was a gift of love from Grove Farm sugar plantation owner Gaylord Wilcox to his wife. The Tudor-style mansion boasts 16,000 square feet of living space. Architecture and design buffs will appreciate the Art Deco home with its pine wainscoting, detailed moldings, coffered ceilings, Hawaiian artifacts, rare artwork, and antiques. A dozen galleries, shops, and Gaylord’s Restaurant & Lounge are in repurposed rooms inside the mansion. Conductor narrated train tours take visitors through the historic 105-acre plantation in elegant mahogany cars. A spectacular theatrical luau is performed evenings.
3-2087 Kaumualii Highway, Lihue, HI, Phone: 808-245-5608
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» Koke’e Natural History Museum
© Koke’e Natural History Museum
Koke’e Natural History Museum is an excellent place for visitors to check out if they’re interested in learning about Kauai’s climatology, ecology, and geology. The museum is located on the northwest part of the island, near the Koke’e State Park Campground. Visitors can also get information at the museum about trail conditions within the Koke’e and Waimea Canyon State Parks. The museum offers several events throughout the month, including forest workdays and guided hikes. Visitors can stop by the museum’s gift shop and explore the large selection of books, collectables, local arts and crafts, and apparel. Admission is complimentary, although donations are greatly appreciated and necessary for continued operation.
3600 Kokee Road, Kekaha, HI, Phone: 808-335-9975
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» Lawai International Center
© Lawai International Center
Lawai International Center is a Buddhist temple that is situated just off of Kaumualii Highway in Kalaheo, Hawaii. One of the United States’ oldest Buddhist temples and the only site of its kind outside of Japan, visitors will find this historic center on the southern part of the beautiful island of Kauai. Volunteers in the area are bringing the valley and its shrines back to a place of prominence, where it can serve as a leading international center for education, compassion, and cultural understanding. By reservation, visitors can enjoy guided tours of this site and its 88 shrines every last and second Sunday of the month.
3381 Wawae Road, Kalaheo, HI, Phone: 808-212-1349
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» Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail
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Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail is a scenic, coastal trail that runs along the south shore of Hawaii’s island of Kauai, in Poipu. The trail is part of Kauai History Heritage and is the last piece of accessible coastline along the island’s south shore that hasn’t been developed. Malama Mahaulepu is contributing efforts toward keeping this heritage site undeveloped and preserving its natural beauty for every visitor to enjoy. Starting from Shipwreck Beach Keonela Bay, visitors can enjoy a gorgeous coastal hike where they’ll see rocky inlets and limestone formations, Kiawe trees, sand-dune cliffs, and the occasional Hawaiian Monk Seal or sea turtle.
4334 Rice Street, Lihue, HI, Phone: 808-245-3971
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» Jack Harter Helicopter Tours
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One of the most fascinating ways to get to know Kauwa`i is by helicopter. Visitors can take 60- or 90-minute helicopter tours of the island exploring its diverse natural wonders. A few of the many sights on either tour include the Tunnel of Trees, Waimea Canyon, the Na Pali sea cliffs, Mt. Waialeale volcano, and Wailua Falls, among other fascinating highlights. Guests will appreciate knowing 60-minute flights mean 60 minutes of air time. It’s the same for the 90-minute flights that are the most in-depth on Kaua`i and the favorite of photographers. Skilled pilots are also knowledgeable about the history, geography, and culture of the island, and provide informative in-flight narrations.
4231 Ahukini Road, Lihue, HI, Phone: 808-245-3774
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» Mountain Tubing Adventure
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Mountain Tubing Adventure gives visitors the unique opportunity of exploring the recently closed sugar plantation in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii. In 1870, Chinese laborers hand-dug a series of flumes, tunnels, and ditches that carried water from the surrounding rainforest to the sugar cane fields in Lihue. At the beginning of the adventure, guides will fit guests with helmets, headlamps, and gloves, they’ll also make sure everyone’s footwear is secure. An all-wheel-drive vehicle will transport visitors to the island’s interior, stopping at an overlook for the Waialeale Crater along the way. After arriving at the ditch, visitors will get a brief demonstration and begin their scenic float down the mountain.
3-4131 Kuhio Highway, Lihue, HI, Phone: 808-245-2506
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» Na’Aina Kai Botanical Gardens
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Na’Aina Kai Botanical Gardens is a 240-acre plot of land with several diverse botanical gardens on the island of Kauai, in Kilauea, Hawaii. Garden founders Ed and Joyce Doty retired from their Northern California ranch in 1982 and moved to the picturesque island of Kauai. What started out as a front-yard landscaping project quickly grew to the massive botanical gardens site that can be found today. The gardens feature numerous bronze sculptures throughout the property; they’re among one of the country’s largest collections. These magnificent gardens can be explored via guided tour, some of which include the Formal Gardens, Children’s Garden, Forest Garden, Kaluakai Beach, and The Bird Tour.
4101 Wailapa Road, Kilauea, HI, Phone: 808-828-0525
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» Napali Coast State Wilderness Park
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Napali Coast State Wilderness Park is a beautiful wilderness park that is situated on the northwestern portion of Kauai Island, Hawaii. The park is known for having towering sea cliffs, or pali, interspersed with streams, narrow valleys, and cascading waterfalls. Visitors can enjoy a scenic hike along Kalalau Trail, a steep footpath that runs through the park, connecting the nearby Ke’e Beach with the sandy Kalalau Beach. This trail meanders through five different valleys, including Hanakoa Valley, with its agricultural terraces and native plants. With breathtaking scenery around every corner, the park provides an idyllic location for capturing one marvelous photo after another.
9565 Kaumualii Highway, Waimea, HI, Phone: 808-338-1332
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» Old Koloa Town
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Old Koloa Town is a historical, plantation-era village that houses restaurants, shops, and exhibits relating to Koloa’s sugar plantation history. This quaint village is situated on the southern portion of Kauai Island, in Koloa, Hawaii. Visitors will find everything from realty services to clothing and specialty gift shops to tattoo services to art galleries. For souvenirs, gifts, and art, Divine Planet, Hula Moon Gifts, and Christian Riso Fine Art & Framing are all great options. When it comes to dining and snacks, visitors will want to check out Tom Kat’s Grille, Pizzetta, Koloa Mill Ice Cream & Coffee, and Koloa Shave Ice.
5300-5500 Koloa Road, Koloa, HI, Phone: 808-245-4649
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» Polihale State Park
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Polihale State Park is a remote beach that is located on the western portion of Hawaii’s beautiful island of Kauai. Visitors who are willing to brave a long and rugged hike down a dirt road will be rewarded with an incredibly stunning beach park at the end. Visitors can enjoy tent camping, picnicking, and bond fires along the large, sandy beach that is backed by dunes. This beach park provides a wonderfully scenic setting where visitors can take in colorful sunsets and sweeping Pacific Ocean views. The beach provides an idyllic spot for swimming during the summer, when conditions are calm; it’s also a great spot for shore fishing.
Lower Saki Mana Road, Waimea, HI, Phone: 808-874-3444
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» Princeville Ranch Zip and Dip
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Princeville Ranch Zip and Dip is an awesome ziplining course that is located in Princeville, Hawaii, on the island of Kauai. Visitors will want to experience the thrill of KING KONG, the longest and newest zipline within the Princeville Ranch adventure. Visitors will strap into their harnesses before climbing into open-air, all-terrain transporters for a quick trip to the trailhead. Once there, they can clip onto the lines and soar like birds over streams and breathtaking valleys as they embark on a thrilling series of nine zipline crossings. They’ll also cross a suspension bridge that extends over a gorgeous waterfall and through the treetops. At the end, visitors can enjoy a refreshing dip in an idyllic swimming hole.
4900 Kapaka Street, Princeville, HI, Phone: 808-876-7777
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» Koloa Rum
© Koloa Rum
Koloa Rum is an award-winning rum distillery in Lihue, located near the town of Kalaheo on Kauai's southern shores. The distillery, which began producing at the Kilohana Plantation in 2009, specializes in single-batch twice-distilled Hawai'ian rums flavored with delicious tropical flavors, ranging from traditional dark and spiced rum variants to coconut and coffee flavors. Tastings are offered every half hour for visitors ages 21 and older, with a full tasting room cocktail menu available. The company's public store also sells a wide variety of cocktail mixes, syrups, tropical jams and jellies, and other pantry goods produced through the Kukui brand label, founded in 1931 by the Tateishi family to utilize the island's abundant tropical fruit plantings.
3-2087 Kaumualii Hwy, Lihue, HI 96766, Phone: 808-246-8900
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» Secret Falls Kayak Tour
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Secret Falls Kayak Tour is an incredibly scenic kayaking journey up the Wailua River on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Visitors will enjoy an adventurous paddle, followed by a beautiful hike through the rainforest to the Secret Falls for a refreshing and rejuvenating swim. The Secret Falls Kayak Tour is proudly offered by Kayak Kauai, a kayak and canoe rental and touring service. Secret Falls is an absolutely amazing place that features one of Hawaii’s tallest and most beautiful waterfalls. No matter if it’s families, romantic couples, or solo travelers, the Secret Falls Kayak Tour is the perfect Hawaiian day trip for all.
3-5971 Kuhio Highway, Kapaa, HI, Phone: 808-826-9844
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» Smith Family Garden Luau
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The Smith Family Garden Luau is a unique and authentic Hawaiian experience that emphasizes the island spirit of aloha. The Smith family has been hosting this beautiful celebration on their piece of tropical paradise for over 50 years. Visitors will find this splendid property full of roaming peacocks, bamboo forests, and fruit orchards, located in the Wailua River Valley on the picturesque island of Kauai. The heart of the luau celebration is of course the pa’ina, or the feast. Visitors will be treated to earthen, imu-oven-roasted Kalua pig, teriyaki beef made from a secret recipe, mouthwatering chicken adobo, and grandma’s famous poi. They’ll also enjoy performances in the form of Hawaiian hula, Tahitian drum dances, and a Samoan fire knife dance.
3-5971 Kuhio Highway, Kapaa, HI, Phone: 808-821-6895
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» Waimea Canyon State Park
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Waimea Canyon State Park, or the Grand Canyon of the Pacific Ocean – as it’s sometimes referred to, is a large and beautiful canyon that extends nearly 10 miles in length and up to approximately 3,000 feet in depth. This incredibly gorgeous and scenic state park can be found on the western portion of the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The park is equipped with ADA accessibility, a picnic pavilion and tables, restrooms, trash cans, walking paths, and scenic viewpoints. There is no entrance fee for the park, and visitors can enjoy activities that include hiking, seasonal trout fishing, seasonal goat and pig hunting, picnicking, and sightseeing.
Waimea Canyon Drive, Waimea, HI, Phone: 808-274-3444
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25 Best Things to Do in Kauai
- Allerton Garden, Photo: Courtesy of LUC KOHNEN - Fotolia.com
- Fern Grotto, Photo: Courtesy of Jeff Whyte - Fotolia.com
- Grove Farm Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Daniele - Fotolia.com
- Ha'ena State Park, Photo: Courtesy of pikappa51 - Fotolia.com
- Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge, Photo: Courtesy of norinori303 - Fotolia.com
- Kamokila Hawaiian Village, Photo: Courtesy of ingusk - Fotolia.com
- Kauai Museum, Photo: Kauai Museum
- Kauai Whale Watching, Photo: Courtesy of ranchorunner - Fotolia.com
- Kauai Glass Beach, Photo: Courtesy of fnendzig - Fotolia.com
- Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, Photo: Courtesy of Andrea Izzotti - Fotolia.com
- Kilohana Plantation Estate, Photo: Kilohana Plantation Estate
- Koke’e Natural History Museum, Photo: Koke’e Natural History Museum
- Lawai International Center, Photo: Lawai International Center
- Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail, Photo: Courtesy of IndustryAndTravel - Fotolia.com
- Jack Harter Helicopter Tours, Photo: Courtesy of MNStudio - Fotolia.com
- Mountain Tubing Adventure, Photo: Courtesy of Colin - Fotolia.com
- Na’Aina Kai Botanical Gardens, Photo: Courtesy of SoniaBonet - Fotolia.com
- Napali Coast State Wilderness Park, Photo: Courtesy of bayazed - Fotolia.com
- Old Koloa Town, Photo: Courtesy of Studioli - Fotolia.com
- Polihale State Park, Photo: Courtesy of nstanev - Fotolia.com
- Princeville Ranch Zip and Dip, Photo: Courtesy of EpicStockMedia - Fotolia.com
- Koloa Rum, Photo: Koloa Rum
- Secret Falls Kayak Tour, Photo: Courtesy of wallixx - Fotolia.com
- Smith Family Garden Luau, Photo: Courtesy of Shane - Fotolia.com
- Waimea Canyon State Park, Photo: Courtesy of Don Landwehrle - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Matt - Fotolia.com
Queen’s Bath is a wonderfully unique tide pool that is located on the beautiful island of Kauai, Hawaii. The tide pool is a large sinkhole that is surrounded by jagged igneous rock. It is situated on the island’s north shore, in the coastal town of Princeville. Visitors can take a short, scenic hike down to the tide pool where they can enjoy swimming and jumping from the rocks into the pool. Visitors should pay close attention to the tides and wave size, as it can be a very dangerous swimming location during larger swells. Queen’s Bath provides an idyllic Hawaiian day trip for those looking for a little sunshine and water.
Kapiolani Road, Princeville, HI, Phone: 808-245-3971