Kauai is one of the most beautiful places on earth. People agree about this. A first trip here can feel like an exercise in cataloguing places to come back to and spend more time: Waimea Canyon, Kalalau Trail, the hidden and possibly unnamed beaches around Kapa’a on the east coast. However long you have to visit won’t be long enough, but save at least one day for the signature Na Pali coast.
FLY to Honolulu on the major airline of your choice then hop to Lihue, Kauai on Hawaiian.
STAY at Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa along the south coast and convenient to Na Pali, Waimea Canyon and the shave-ice hot spots of Waimea town.
HIKE Almost anywhere you go on Kauai, you can find something beautiful. However, to see the best of the best and understand what you’re seeing, it helps to have a guide. Peter Artley runs Kauai Eco Tours. He identifies native and non-native plants as you go, knows the geology and climatology of the place, and clearly just loves Kauai. It’s infectious. And he’ll also carry your lunch, emergency gear and band-aids in case you get a blister. Pete took me on the Na Pali Rim tour to Lolo vista point. It was a leisurely downhill stroll through various shades of Hawaiian forest. Invasive strawberry guava plants dangle delicious fruit across the trail. You can eradicate a few by eating them; just don’t drop the seeds in the bushes.
EAT poke, raw tuna marinated in spices. We ate a poke picnic with a spectacular view along the cliffs. Then we walked back to the road, identifying rare flowers and listening to coqui frogs (also invasive) and roosters audible everywhere on Kauai. The Kauai Eco Tours website identifies this trek as five leafs of difficulty. It’s not technical (no abseiling), but the hike out is an uphill grind. When you pause to breathe and look out at the Pacific, you can ask yourself, heaven? Nope, still Kauai.