Nature buffs will be well rewarded if they venture off the beaten
path and discover the hidden beauty and diversity of Hawaii's
northernmost island paradise, according to Thaddeus Latay,
concierge for the Hyatt Regency Kauai.
"Everyone knows about the helicopter tours of Waimea Canyon --
the Grand Canyon of the Pacific -- but in that general area,
there's also really good hiking," says Latay. "The Audubon Society
gets very knowledgeable volunteers to track our local birdlife,
usually in the summer months. This is a really great opportunity
for Sierra Club-type people to go along and get to see and enjoy
our local birdlife and nature."
Latay says that interested travelers can obtain a schedule of
the Audubon hikes from the HVCB's Kauai chapter.
"Also, Kauai Mountain Tours does a four-wheel drive trip that
goes not on the standard paths but on Kauai's back roads. People
feel as if they're in a wonderful jungle-like environment, but
mainly, they get into the thick of things. I always recommend one
particular guide, Francis Keao, because he's versed in Hawaiiana to
The Na Pali Coast is admired by visitors for its great beauty,
but for Hawaiians, who believe that their ancients reside in the
coastline, it has added meaning.
"Once a year -- usually in the summer months -- I go on a
four-and-a-half-hour hike to the 300-foot Hanakapiai Falls to
commune with the spirits and meditate," says Latay. The falls are
near the Na Pali Coast and can be reached by a two-mile trail that
starts at the beach.
"The scenery here is very lush, but the hike is difficult and
not for beginners, especially the second half," says Latay.
Visitors with more down-to-earth interests, like shopping and
dining, can still enjoy their favorite pursuits while discovering
Kauai's lesser-known spots, says Latay.
"There's a shop in the Kukui Grove Mall that specializes
exclusively in products made on Kauai. Also, the Kong Lung store in
Kilauea has a good selection of wood carvings for people who want
to buy something nice but don't want to spend $500 or $600."
For vacationers who want to dine where the locals go, Latay
recommends Tahiti Nui, a local-style restaurant, with music, on the
North Shore; the Aloha Diner in Wailua, an informal spot that
serves traditional Hawaiian food and prepares takeout for
picnickers, and several good inexpensive seafood eateries,
including the Fish Express and the Koloa Fish Market.
"These places are all good and moderately priced," says Latay.
"You can have a big lunch for $5."