Tourism 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.