If you close your eyes and imagine Hawaii, then you’re probably thinking of Kauai, one of the most remote islands in the 50th state.
You know — jagged peaks plunging into hidden rainforest valleys, beaches with impossibly blue waves thundering ashore, and of course, endless summer weather.
That’s Kauai. But that’s not all there is to it. Behind that postcard facade there’s a funky island that your kids can connect with. Ours did.
A canyon and a forbidden island
The signature attraction in Kauai is Waimea Canyon, also known as the “grand canyon” of the Pacific. If you’re in Kauai for only a few days, put this at the top of your list. Think of it as a tropical Grand Canyon, because — well, that’s what it is. It’s a mile wide, 14 miles long, and roughly 3,600 feet deep, and on a clear day you can see all the way to the secretive island of Niihau.
Kauai isn’t as well known for its coffee as Hawaii’s Big Island. That’s a shame, as we discovered when we visited Kauai Coffee, which offers free tours of a working coffee plantation and plenty of samples. We found the coffee to have more character than some of the Kona coffees we tried a few weeks before. Kona coffees are known for their subtlety.
Kauai is known for its historic sugar plantations, and the one we visited came with its own railroad. The Kauai Plantation Railway offers two tours: a short tour that takes you around the old plantation by rail, and a longer one that includes a guided hike on the property and lunch. If you’ve ever wondered what sugar cane looks like, how its grown and processed, you don’t want to miss the longer tour. The most fun part – at least for the kids – came at the end, when our guide brought us to the mango and starfruit groves, and allowed us to pick and sample some of the fruit.
Kauai is the kind of place you could get lost in. Once the kids are older, I’ll bring my hiking boots and backpack and set off into the rainforests to discover the real island. But you don’t have to rough it if you want to get authentic. Just take your kids to some of the attractions, and you’ll see things they won’t show you in any tourism brochures.
And you’ll thank them for it – once the caffeine buzz has worn off.