Intriguing Sights to Explore on the West Side of Kauai
There are moments in life that stay with us forever, and if you’re looking for an unforgettable experience, you cannot go wrong with Kauai. The West Side of Kauai is far from the crowded resort scene and visitors are offered a chance to experience the rich ambiance of old Hawaii. Located just an hour’s drive from Lihue, you can spend a few days to relax and take a much-deserved break from the modern world. There are plenty of off-the-beaten-path activities and amazing tours worth experiencing, including Helicopter Tours of Waimea Canyon, Nāpali Coast Zodiac tours, and biking down Waimea Canyon Drive. So, without further ado, here are a few of our favourites:
Waimea Canyon ー Great Hiking and Astounding Vistas
Known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” Waimea Canyon can be seen in one of two ways. You can actively hike the trails or take a drive between the lookouts along the canyon. Either way, you’ll see brilliant blue ocean vistas, sparkling waterfalls, and lush landscapes. On the way to see this natural wonder, stop at the visitor center in Kōke‘e State Park to see the flightless state bird, the Nene Goose, walking around the meadow.
History of Waimea
Waimea is a quaint town with a rich and colourful history. Captain Cook first stepped foot on the Hawaiian Islands in the late 1770s. Now, you can enjoy the unhurried pace of small town, island life. Tour the architecture reflecting Hawaii’s past, grab a bite at one of the eclectic eateries, and shop the day away in the interesting shops. If you want a more in-depth stroll through time, take the walking tour on Monday mornings from the West Kauai Visitor Center.
Did you know? Due to the unique treasures of Waimea, the National Trust for Historic PreservationⓇ awarded Waimea with being among the “Dozen Distinctive Destinations” in 2016.
Kauai’s Russian Fort – Fort Elisabeth
Another history lesson can be learned at Fort Elisabeth. There’s quite a story behind this site, involving shipwrecks, Russian diplomats, Hawaiian Kings, and sandalwood circa 1816. Overlooking the mouth of the Waimea river off Highway 50, see what’s left of the star-shaped foundations originally built around a magazine, armory, barracks, and sandalwood trading house. This pillar for trade was dismantled in 1864 and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966.
National Tropical Botanic Gardens (NTBG)
Take a tour of the exquisite Allerton and McBryde Gardens on the island's south shore. Hālau Ka Lei Mokihana o Leinā’ala (Hula School) performs a traditional hula show in the gardens with live Hawaiian music and stories of the Hawaiian people and their connection to the gardens. Events are every Thursday from 2 to 2:45 PM. Reservations are required for tours, so please call 808-742-2623 to book ahead.
Hanapepe Town is a 10-minute drive from Waimea and can be found on the south shore of Koloa. It once flourished as one of Kauai's most populated communities. In the 1950s, the town was abuzz with G.I.s and sailors who were stationed there. Today, the town hasn't changed over the last century but is still called "Kauai’s biggest little town." The historic, plantation-style buildings are now home to charming shops, local eateries, and more art galleries than any other spot on Kauai! If you’re looking for a different kind of thrill than the Friday evening Art Walks, then you must walk across the Hanapepe Swinging Bridge. The bridge was originally built in the early 1900’s as a way for residents to cross the river and it can still be used today to get to the west side of the riverbank where Hanapepe Valley residents live. Out of respect for the residents, just remember to turn back to Hanapepe once you reach the other side.
Kaua‘i Coffee Serves Up Great Taste
The Kauai Coffee Estate is the largest coffee farm in the U.S and a must-visit stop for coffee enthusiasts. On the free walking tour you’ll learn how coffee is grown, harvested and roasted on site. Sip your complimentary coffee from the Lanai and view rows of coffee trees leading down to the ocean.
Access to Beautiful Beaches
No trip to Hawaii is complete without at least one – or more – beach days. There are several stunning beaches in the area, but our top two picks are Kekaha Beach and Polihale State Park. Kekaha Beach Park has the longest stretch of white-sand in the state of Hawaii. It’s the last beach on the west side that offers a lifeguard station. From here, you can see Niihau, the last inhabited island in the Hawaiian chain; protected by the same family since 1864. This beach is great for surfing and swimming when the winds are low and the waves are gentle.
Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority
For the adventurous travelers, follow the unpaved, bumpy road to Polihale State Park. Enjoy the solitude from this extraordinary beach, and in the winter months, bring binoculars to look for Humpback Whales.
Where to Stay
At Waimea Plantation Cottages, there are 61 authentic, beautifully restored and modernized plantation cottages on 27 acres of oceanfront property. Nearby the road to Waimea Canyon, these 1- to 5-bedroom cottages can accommodate up to 10 guests. Each cottage is unique with its own character and has a full kitchen and private lanai (porch). On-property amenities include:
- An oceanfront pool
- Oceanfront hammocks
- Dine-in restaurant
- Oceanfront hammocks
- Gas BBQ grills
Enjoy Kauai and book your reservation online at Waimea Plantation Cottages which offers the perfect jumping off point to West Kauai.