Kauai: Natural Beauty

Kauai didn't earn its nickname, the Garden Isle, purely by chance. The natural, lush beauty of the island is evident in everything from its tropical mountain forests to its unspoiled coastline. Here are a few of the natural attractions in Kauai.

Kokee State Park

The park's 4,345 acres of upland wilderness make it an irresistible destination for hikers, campers and other fans of the great outdoors. Kokee boasts vast expanses of wooded areas and many good hiking trails. Kalalau Lookout, perched on cliffs overlooking the ocean, features gorges that carve through the cliffs to meet the ocean 4,000 feet below.

Alakai Wilderness Preserve
Next to Kokee State Park, the preserve encompasses the Alakai Swamp. The swamp is a 10-mile-long and two-mile-wide enclave with pristine nature trails and a recently completed boardwalk built over the boggy terrain, affording views of rare plant and animal species.

Waimea Canyon State Park
The park offers endless delights for the adventuresome nature lover. Visitors can follow the Waimea Canyon Drive as it meanders 12 miles into Kauai's interior, and enjoy spectacular views as the scenery drops 3,000 feet below. The park's 1,866 acres comprise a painter's palette of red and orange against a backdrop of emerald green.

National Tropical Botanical Garden
This is the nation's only tropical garden chartered by the U.S. Congress. Tours are conducted at three garden sites on Kauai: the Lawai Garden, which is the site of the NTBG's headquarters; the adjacent Allerton Garden, and the Limahuli Garden on Kauai's North Shore.

The 186-acre Lawai Garden offers views of rare species of indigenous Hawaiian plants as well as magnificent collections of tropical flora from around the world.

The 100-acre Allerton Garden, once a private estate, consists of tropical flora and trees, spread out along landscaped trails, amid fountains and statuary.

The 17-acre Limahuli is nestled among towering mountains and a 990-acre nature preserve, filled with rare and endangered tropical plants. The area also abounds in ancient Hawaiian archaeological sites, including 700-year-old stone terraces.

Olu Pua Botanical Gardens
The 12-and-a-half-acre gardens, once the site of the Kauai Plantation Co. manager's estate, were later transformed into a botanical garden. The garden has extensive collections of diverse plantings, including examples of tropical vegetation from all parts of the world.

Na Pali Coast State Park
One of nature's miracles, the Na Pali State Park on Kauai's North Shore encompasses Kalalau Valley, which can be reached by an 11-mile path that starts at Kee Beach and winds up and down steep cliffs. The area features views of rugged, unspoiled coastline that can be enjoyed by boat or helicopter. The local State Parks office issues camping permits.

Spouting Horn
This lava rock outcropping got its name because of the shooting geyser that appears at high tide. It is located near Poipu Beach, one of Kauai's most popular resort areas. The spouting is caused by surf spilling into a lava tube and up through a hole in the coastal rock. The geyser sometimes reaches a height of 60 feet.

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge
A popular spot for families to visit, the refuge, located on Kilauea Point, is a nesting site for such exotically named creatures as the red-footed booby, the wedge-tailed shearwater, the Laysan albatross and other species of Hawaiian seabirds. Next to the Kilauea Lighthouse is a visitors center with educational displays on the history and nature of the region.

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