Discovering Kauai's southern charm

Waimea Canyon, roughly 10 miles long and reaching 3,000 feet deep, is often called the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific."
Waimea Canyon, roughly 10 miles long and reaching 3,000 feet deep, is often called the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific." Photo Credit: HTA/Tor Johnson
Tovin Lapan
Tovin Lapan

In April record rains fell on the north shore of Kauai, leading to damaging floods that destroyed some homes, took out the Hanalei pier and caused several landslides. The county is still working on road repairs in some areas, and the northwest corner of the island remains inaccessible to tourists.

While hotels and resorts in the north shore town of Hanalei are operating normally, some activities and accommodations remain closed, especially in the areas around Haena where road work and other repairs are still being done.

It makes it a perfect time for a more in-depth exploration of the Garden Isle's south side, which also happens to receive much less annual rainfall than the north and includes Waimea Canyon and the Poipu resort area.

What to Do

Get up close with the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" - Waimea Canyon is roughly 10 miles long and up to 3,000 feet deep, and the state park is accessible from the south side of Kauai. Many visitors choose helicopter tours to get a view of the red and green walls of the canyon, but for those who prefer to keep both feet firmly on the ground, the state park offers hikes with captivating vistas, including views of nearby Niihau island on clear days. Additionally, Outfitters Kauai offers a downhill bike tour that starts 3,600 feet above sea level and descends along Waimea Canyon with plenty of stops for picture taking (adults $109, children ages 12 to 14 $89).

Get out on the water - The Port Allen harbor on the southside of the island is a launch point for numerous sea excursions and dive companies. For scuba enthusiasts, Sheraton Caverns, off the south shore near its namesake Sheraton Kauai Resort, is a popular boat dive location 400 yards offshore. There, divers will find three partial lava tubes that are home to a variety of sea life to explore. Archways and overhangs formed by lava create a one-of-a-kind marine landscape, and divers should look out for frogfish, black coral and sea turtles.

Familiarize yourself with Hawaii's flora - The National Tropical Botanical Garden has both north and south side branches on Kauai, and the southern installment includes McBryde Garden and Allerton Garden. The Allerton Garden (2  hour tours cost $50 adults, $25 children ages 6 to 12, and free for children under 5) landscape was shaped over more than a century by various owners, including Queen Emma, a sugar plantation magnate, and later an artist, Robert Allerton, and an architect, John Gregg. The lush section of the Lawai Valley includes native and introduced plants and trees set among reflecting pools, burbling fountains and stone sculptures. Visitors will see towering tropical trees, palms, numerous types of ginger and Moreton Bay fig trees they might recognize from blockbuster "Jurassic Park" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" films. After a tour of the gardens, head across the road to Spouting Horn where you can see ocean waves crash upon porous rocks and shoot spouts of sea water dozens of feet into the air.

Community Marketplace - The Warehouse 3540 complex, in the town of Kalaheo on the Garden Isle's south side, is a refurbished old industrial building that is now home to a handful of food trucks and independent shops. This is a good place to stop for lunch followed by some souvenir shopping. The Fresh Shave offers shave ice creations made with all natural ingredients and fresh fruits, no artificial dyes or sweeteners, and the Kickshaws truck serves up the "awesome burger" made with 80% ground beef, 20% ground bacon. Every Friday, Warehouse 3540 hosts a community market when additional vendors selling food, crafts and other items populate the space.

Where to Stay

Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa: - The property to the east of Poipu Beach sits on 50 acres of oceanfront land, and the 602 rooms include private lanais, and there are 37 suites available. Lagoons and manicured gardens dot the grounds, and the aquatic offerings include a main pool, quiet pool, lap pool, saltwater swimming lagoon, lazy river and 150-foot waterslide. (Standard starting rate $509)

Sheraton Kauai Resort: Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the resort in the Poipu area recently completed extensive room renovations. The revamp touched on furnishings, amenities, artwork and other features. Rooms got significant technology upgrades, with mirrors rimmed with lights, built-in USB ports in nightstands, wall-mounted TVs that can swivel and pivot and more electrical outlets. Signature restaurant RumFire boasts a sweeping view of the ocean from its window-lined dining room. (Standard starting rate $233)

Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu: This 25-acre resort in the Poipu area completed its first phase in 2011 and finished its expansion in 2017. Now complete, Koloa Landing offers 306 total units, three pools, a 12,000-square-foot ballroom with capacity for 1,000 guests and two lawns that can each accommodate 800 people. Holoholo Grill, the signature restaurant, is a concept from well-known Hawaiian chef Sam Choy opened in spring 2017. (Standard starting rate $352)

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