Four Reasons To Visit Kauai

Waimea_Canyon_RainbowTourism literature is awash with lists. With a few strokes your browser will display countless lists of places to visit and destinations to avoid. Writers have often strained and resorted to reasons such as “beautiful scenery”, “delicious food”, and “friendly people”.  Kauai is different. The real challenge is to narrow down the many reasons to visit the island to just four. Here they are.

  1. Motion Picture Perfect

For decades, Kauai has been the Pacific basic extension of Hollywood. In place of the artificial props, computer generated landscapes, and other devices originating in Tinsel town, Mother Nature has been the set designer for more than 60 movies in which Kauai has played a vital supporting role. Silver screen classics including King Kong, Blue Hawaii, Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean, South Pacific, and Raiders of the Lost Ark have all been filmed on Kauai. In fact, producers have selected Kauai for a broad range of films – a number of which may test the knowledge of the most ardent film buffs – such as Honeymoon in Vegas, Voodoo Island, and Pagan Love Song. Two challenges will be encountered by visitors seeking to locate actual shooting locations. First, many films were shot in remote locations not accessible other than by air or sea; second, even the highly accessible film locations are often difficult to find by those in rental cars and using GPS or printed maps. Gray Line Hawaii’s highly-recommended Kauai Movie Adventure Tours are led by film experts who show movie clips in their tour vehicles between location stops so guests view the actual location as well as how it appeared in movies.

  1. Authentic, Uncontrived, and Fewer Crowds

For many, the Island of Kauai is the epitome of Hawaiian paradise.  Despite featuring some of the finest resorts anywhere and world class amenities, the island is a true throwback to yesteryear when everyone seemed to know everyone else and today it maintains a tempo notably more sedate than on the more populous islands.  Sure enough, there’s slow moving traffic at “rush times” on the road through Kapa’a but the shops and eateries along the way are unique and plentiful. The number of visitors to Oahu, Maui and the Big Island each year surpass Kauai’s 1.2 million and that suits Kauai just fine.  The average daily census of visitors is just under 25,000, and when combined with about 70,000 full-time residents the island offers plenty of personal space – a distinct contrast with Oahu’s almost one million population and similar land size. Paradoxically, one of the very best reasons to visit Kauai is because fewer people do!

  1. Unique Venues and Entertainment: Kilohana Plantation and the Remarkable Luau Kalamaku

Some visitors select Kauai because they feel it lacks some of the commercialism apparent on other islands. Others specifically choose the island because of the unique shopping opportunities in such locations as Hanalei and Kapaa. Kauai guests are as apt to find a fabulously unique mom and pop boutique as a less exotic, well-known retailer. In some of Kauai’s best locations exclusive visitor attractions, dining, and special shopping opportunities are grouped together in enchanting settings worthy of an extended visit. Perhaps the very best of these is Kilohana Plantation. Located in a near impossible to miss location on Kaumualii Highway, in Lihue, Kilohana is a 16,000 square foot plantation estate featuring a mansion built in 1935 by Gaylord Wilcox, a sugar baron. The Tudor-style mansion is on the National Register of Historic Places and is furnished with artwork, antiques, Hawaiian artifacts, and imported finery. Many of its rooms have been repurposed as exclusive shops. The Koloa Rum Company has a store and tasting room offering samples of the only rum brand made in Hawaii, and Gaylord’s Restaurant offers an award-winning fine dining experience that has been an island tradition for over 30 years.

On Tuesday and Friday evenings, Kilohana is the home to Hawaii’s finest luau and show: Luau Kalamaku. The evening is a unique celebration with a captivating theatrical performance chronicling the epic voyage forebears who sailed from Tahiti to Kauai. Guests can take a 40-minute train ride on the Kauai Plantation Railway, visit an on-site local artisan craft fair, enjoy an open bar, authentic Imu Ceremony, and a delicious luau buffet dinner with live music before the show begins. Hula, fire knife dancers, beautiful music, and a protected open-air setting make for an evening to remember.

  1. Unequalled and Totally Accessible Aerial Views

The vast majority of the island is unpopulated due to mountainous terrain and roadways are confined to the perimeter of the island. Hiking is popular among many visitors, but the most efficient and utterly thrilling way to see Kauai is from the comfort and vantage point of a sightseeing helicopter. State of the art aircraft such as the Airbus Eco-Star helicopter used by Blue Hawaiian Helicopters transport guests to waterfalls, the Napali Coast (only visible from the air or sea), the hidden Kipu Kai Beach, and Mt. Waialeale, the highest point on the island. The highlight for many is Waimea Canyon, the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. If you’ve visited the canyon’s big brother in Arizona don’t think you can skip this geographic marvel created by erosion and the catastrophic collapse of the volcano that created Kauai. Tour vehicles are the next best way to view the breathtaking canyon and are recommended ahead of self-driven rental cars whose drivers must focus on the road instead of the landscape. The Best of Hawaii Land and Helicopter Combo tour is the latest single-day excursion for visitors staying on Oahu makes it possible to take fly to Kauai, take a land tour of movie filming locations, followed by a helicopter tour, then fly back to Oahu.




Haleakala National Park Tour Contract

Haleakala_Blue_PeachThe National Park Service has selected Polynesian Adventure Tours to receive a 10-year concession contract to operate guided vehicle tours at Haleakalā National Park, effective January 1, 2018. Polynesian Adventure Tours is the largest of the four companies awarded contracts and has been operating tours at Haleakalā National Park since 1987.

In 2013 the National Park Service announced the upcoming transition from 18 Commercial Use Authorized permittees to up to 4 concession contractors as a means of improving visitor experiences and protecting the park’s cultural and natural resources. The Service released a prospectus outlining opportunities for companies interested in operating Haleakalā vehicle-tours. Selection factors included education of guests on the importance of preserving natural and cultural resources, operational safety, relevant experience, and financial capability. The scoring of the Polynesian Adventure Tours proposal placed it among the four highest of all the proposals submitted by entities seeking concession contracts.

Sandra Weir, President of Polynesian Adventure Tours, said, “We’re elated and honored to have been selected. We also feel humbled with being entrusted as one of the few operators to share the wonders of Haleakalā National Park on our guided tours. The contract is clearly an expression of confidence in our company and we’ll work to ensure we meet all expectations of the Service and the public.”

Haleakalā National Park Superintendent Natalie Gates quoted in the Haleakalā National Park News Release of April 18, said, “We believe the selected concessioners will do an excellent job providing memorable visitor experiences while protecting park resources. We look forward to working with them.” An evaluation panel of National Park Service staff recommended the companies to the Pacific West Regional Director of the National Park Service who made the selection. Haleakalā National Park employees were not involved in the selection.

About Polynesian Adventure Tours – Gray Line Hawaii
Polynesian Adventure Tours is the sole licensee of Gray Line Tours and provides quality sightseeing tours and ground transportation for the Hawaiian Islands of Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island of Hawaii. The company was founded 40 years ago and continues to grow as it explores new ways of bringing the excitement and beauty of Hawaii to its guests. Along with its daily island sightseeing tours, the company operates single-day tours between islands, including Oahu-originating tours to Haleakalā National Park and Hana, Maui. For more information visit

Memorial Day Lantern Floating Ceremony


lantern floatingWill you be visiting Hawaii on Memorial Day? If so, you won’t want to miss the annual Memorial Day Lantern Floating ceremony at Ala Moana Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii on the beautiful island of Oahu.

People in Hawaii, like the rest of the nation place flowers and offerings on gravesites of those who have served their country as well as loved ones who have passed. Additionally, a Lantern Floating ceremony is held in remembrance. An estimated 50,000 people come together on the evening of Memorial Day to honor their loved ones by placing lanterns holding lit candles in the ocean. The ceremony also symbolizes courage and hope for the living.

The ceremony integrates traditional Hawaiian chants and dances with customs from the Japanese culture as there is a large community of Japanese Americans in Hawaii.

The Hawaiian conch shell or pu bellows to open the ceremony and bless the area. A traditional Japanese taiko performance incorporating various drums is then offered as a prayer for peace followed by a Hawaiian chant called an oli to call the attention of the crowd. Attendees then enjoy a beautiful and traditional hula performance.

The formal part of the evening brings together community leaders who ignite a central lantern known as the “light of harmony” signifying their unified commitment to create harmony amid diversity. A blessing is offered by her Holiness Shinso Ito (Head Priest of Shinnyo-en; a school of esoteric Buddhism founded by Master Shinjo Ito in Japan in the 1930s). Flowers are scattered and a shomyo (traditional Buddhist chant) is performed. Lastly, the ringing of a bell signifies it’s time to send off the lanterns. People make their way closer to the water to send off their lanterns with wishes for peace and happiness.

Another way to honor the memory of those who have served America is by visiting the floating Arizona Memorial at historic Pearl Harbor and Punchbowl National Cemetery of the Pacific. Both memorials can be seen on the USS Missouri, Arizona and Punchbowl Cemetery and the Pearl Harbor and Honolulu Highlights tours.

The Meaning of “Aloha”

Blog_AlohaThe word “aloha” is the most recognized of all Hawaiian words. Not only is it used virtually daily by local Hawaii residents, the word is included in the vast majority of advertising, blogs, and informal social media communication relating to Hawaii. Those of us who live in Hawaii think it’s wonderful that “aloha” is used so pervasively. In its simplest use, it means “hello”, “welcome”, or “goodbye”. However it has a much richer meaning. The word conveys a warm feeling, evokes a sense of our island lifestyle, and is adaptable for use in a range of settings.

But how did the word come about?

Language experts believe that aloha was derived from the Proto-Polynesian root qarofa* and is related to similar words in other Polynesian languages, including aroha in the language of the New Zealand Maori and alofa in the Samoan language. Although these similar words have essentially the same meaning, the word aloha has achieved worldwide familiarity and usage. Most consider the song Aloha ‘Oe, written by the Hawaiian Queen, Lili’uokalani, as the most famous of all Hawaiian melodies and certainly expanded familiarity of the word.

There are variations in the use of the word, such as “aloha kakahiaka”, meaning “good morning”. In addition to its most popular use as a salutation or when bidding someone goodbye, the word is frequently used to describe the qualities of love, respect, and hospitality, such as “Malia has a lot of aloha for the guests on her tour bus”. The Aloha Spirit is recognized as a major theme in Disney’s Lilo & Stitch motion picture, set on Kauai. Frequent descriptions refer to “alo” as meaning “face” or “share” and “ha” as “breath of life” or “essence of life”.

You’re welcome to use “aloha” now!

With this small bit of background you’re now ready to starting using the word yourself. For starters, try including it in conversations or when welcoming visitors: “I have a lot of aloha for the Hawaiian lifestyle” or “Aloha! Welcome to my home.” Simply saying the word conveys a sense of comfort, peace, and warmth.


*Biggs, Bruce, 1979. Proto-Polynesian World List II. Working Papers in Anthropology, Archaeology, linguistics, and Maori Studies No. 53. Department of Anthropology, University of Auckland