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Road Trip: Kauai

August 21, 2008
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The drive from Kapaa to Kee The sense of driving back Beach brings a change in the air and light. Time seems to move slower on the flatlands of north Kauai. in time to a simpler way of life is as palpable as the scent of ginger in the summer. This scenic drive wends through a dense rainforest along the coastline and spans eight one-lane bridges, passing other world-renowned beaches such as Lumahai and much more.

** Go:** From Kapaa, follow Kauai’s Kuhio Highway/Route 56 to the north through pasturelands to the lush and tropical North Shore. In the town of Anahola, you’ll pass a mountain peak that some say looks like King Kong’s profile; others say it looks like a shark’s fin. A few miles onward, look for an old dairy in Moloaa. Enjoy the scenery as the road sweeps through the fragrant valley of Kalihiwai. Back on the Kuhio Highway, 56 becomes Highway 560 at the Hanalei Valley Overlook in Princeville. This is the best place to soak up Old Hawaii. Feel the serenity of the Hanalei River threading through soothing green taro fields. Watch as clouds tickle the mountain peaks and waterfalls tumble thousands of feet. The interior mountains are laden with dense tropical plant life and ribboned with waterfalls. The craggy Napali Coast will lull you into a state of tropical bliss. At the end of the road, past Lumahai Beach, are the ironwoods and clear waters of Kee Beach.

** Stop:** On the coast outside Princeville, the Queen’s Bath is a massive natural pool that’s truly regal (yep, that’s it on our cover). When the surf spills onto this lava shelf – usually in the summer – this oasis offers one of the most scenic swim sessions anywhere.

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** Along the Route:** Take a strenuous hike along the Kalalau Trail, which starts at mile marker 10 and offers an extended view of the coast. Look in one direction, and you’ll see an accordion fan of cliffs folding back, one against the other. In the other direction, you’re rewarded with a view of Kee Beach.

If you plan a Tuesday drive, stop at the Waipa Farmers Market, just after mile marker 3 on Highway 560. Arrive before 2 p.m. to find the item you want before it sells out. Sample lilikoi chevre, pick up a jar of Kauai-made honey and learn the art of eating pimply red-skinned lychee. The market is tucked under the luscious, green Namolokama Mountains, streaming with waterfalls.

Visit the Waioli Huiia Church, also near mile marker 3, where American Gothic architecture is supplemented by thatch-roofed Hawaiian Style. Or tap your foot at the Hanalei Family Community Center to the sounds of slack-key guitar.

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After a measure of local culture, take a leisurely paddle up the Hanalei River through the 900-acre Hanalei Wildlife Refuge. You’ll encounter endangered wetland birds, including the endemic Hawaiian coot, Hawaiian duck and common moorhen. Rent a kayak and venture out on your own, or sign up for a guided tour with Kayak Kauai. Then paddle under the historic, one-lane, 110-foot Hanalei Bridge, erected in 1912. For a more vigorous hike, follow the footsteps of bootleggers up the steep Okolehau Trail.

Quench your thirst and hunger at happy hour at Hanalei Gourmet, a one-time school building in downtown Hanalei that now features numerous beers on tap. Then go to Hanalei Pier to watch the sun set. From there you can take in an expansive view of Namolokama, the mountain behind Hanalei, and its 2,000-foot waterfall. You’ll never forget the moment when the sun slips off into infinity and the day’s adventure fades in a blanket of stars.

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