Cruising along a quiet road on Kauai’s west side, I’m offered a glimpse into the Hawaiian countryside. Filling my view are green rolling hills, cows grazing, and papaya fields. Sparsely developed, this is what I imagine more of Hawaii used to look like before its booming tourist industry kicked in. It pleases me to see there is a quieter side to this island paradise.
Up a winding mountain road, I find Waimea Canyon State Park. Dubbed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon easily lives up to this nickname. Under a brilliant blue sky, a panoramic stunning view of emerald green and chocolate brown slopes make up this incredible natural wonder.
My first adventure is on a zip line tour by Skyline Eco-Adventures. Behind a gated fence on private property, and with permission from the owners, our group walks up a hill, passing fields of guineas grass to reach the first launch. Soaring high above mountains, I glide through breathtaking valleys and take in distant ocean views. Our friendly guides are laidback, yet never waiver on safety, bringing every rider slowly back into each landing.
For a little lighter adventure, I check out a waterfall where hiking is not required. The majestic Wailua Falls is on state-managed property and only accessible by an overlook despite what you may read otherwise online or on social media. Set in lush surroundings, the rushing sounds of the twin waterfalls are calming, making it easy to appreciate its beauty from this vantage point.
Heading down the Makauwahi Cave Trail, I wear flip-flops (slippers if you are Hawaiian) instead of sneakers. What was I thinking! Winding down a twisting trail filled with rocks, I feel fortunate when I safely finish the ten minute walk. To enter the cave, I have to squat and take baby steps to wiggle my way through the tiny opening.
Once through the small passageway, I’m able to stand up inside the cave’s, inner sanctum – a pure island paradise. Here, the epic rolling bolder scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark was filmed. I can certainly see how a location scout thought this place would fit the bill for a blockbuster movie!
On a rainy morning, I board a Blue Hawaiian Helicopter. The sounds of the thumping of the helicopter blades makes me a touch nervous but excites me all at the same time. Once in the air, our third-generation female helicopter pilot instantly puts me at ease. She reassures us clear weather is nearby as she flies upward leveling out the bumpiness.
Breaking through the rainy sky, our view instantly offers us the most jaw dropping landscape I have ever seen. I’m completely in awe of this Hawaiian island. A few patches of fog hover atop majestic mountains as waterfalls cascade their sides only adds to the island’s beauty
The headset starts playing the Jurassic Park theme song and I instantly know what’s coming up, the gorgeous waterfalls featured in this world-famous movie.
Flying west, we make our way over to the jaw dropping Napali Coast. When we fly overhead, I immediately taken aback by the beauty outside my window. This is the most incredible natural wonder I have ever seen!
Kauai is the place where bucket-list items can be checked off. I can assure you, I checked off many from my adventures on this Hawaiian island.
Photo credit: Sara Kendall
Exotic cultures, new faces, delicious fares, beautiful oceans, and urban places gets Sara Kendall racing to the airport. Sara is just as passionate about photography as she is for traveling, so you will find her writing is paired with her beautifully captured images. Her work has appeared in numerous magazines, newspapers, and online publications including her long-standing run as a contributing travel writer for The Charlotte Observer.