Kauai © Frank Kovalchek
The wettest spot on earth is said to be Kauai's Mount Waialeale with an average rainfall of 485 inches per year - this has resulted in the Alakai Swamp, the highest swamp in the world, and the Waimea River, the longest river in the Hawaiian Islands. It also causes an abundance of rainbows and lush vegetation that has earned it the title of 'the Garden Island'.

Kauai was the first of the Hawaiian Islands to be discovered by English explorer Captain James Cook in 1778 when he landed at Waimea on Kauai's southwest coast. There is evidence, however, that he was not the first European in Hawaii; some Spanish sailors may have paid a visit about a century earlier.

Today Kauai is popular with visitors, but tourism development is concentrated in just a few prime locations such as the Princeville resort on the north coast. The main attractions on Kauai are its natural beauty and the unassuming lifestyle of the people.

Holidaymakers who opt for Kauai's raw wilderness are rewarded with some of the most secluded, pristine beaches in the Hawaiian Islands and marvellous natural wonders like Waimea Canyon, covering 14 miles (23km) on the west side. There are also some restored historic sites to explore, like the Alekoko Fishpond near Nawiliwili Harbour on the southeast coast, regarded as an engineering wonder of ancient times.


 Hanakapi'ai Falls
Hanakapi'ai Falls © paul (dex) bica

Kalalau Trail

Since 90 per cent of Kauai is inaccessible by road, hiking is a great way to experience the island's celebrated natural bounty. There are a number of good hiking trails around the island, but by far the most famous, and the most popular, is the strenuous 11 mile (about 18km) Kalalau trail, which winds along the Na Pali Coast. This spectacular coastline is dotted with waterfalls and swift-flowing streams, which over centuries, have cut steep, narrow valleys, that terminate in rugged cliffs overhanging the ocean. The trail begins at the end of the road at Kee Beach, and most hikers will opt to camp out for at least one night before returning. It is possible only to hike the first two miles (about 3km) of the trail, which will lead hikers to Hanakapiai Beach, where they'll be greeted by breathtaking views of Kauai's North Shore. Note that the Kalalau trail will take even well-conditioned hikers a full day to complete, and should not be undertaken lightly; however, those who are willing to put in the effort, will be richly rewarded. Permits are required when continuing beyond Hanakapi'ai Valley (two miles into the trail), whether you are planning to camp overnight or not, and can be obtained from the State Parks office in Lihue during normal business hours.

Address: Hanalei, HI; Website: www.kalalautrail.com; Opening time: The number of people allowed on the trail at any one time is limited. Permits often sell out, and during busy times can sell out up to a year in advance. Book early to avoid disappointment.; Admission: Permits are $20 per person per day.

Kalalau Valley
Kalalau Valley © Michael from Minnesota

Napali Coast State Wilderness Park

A rugged coast of extreme beauty, the Na Pali Coastline stretches 15 miles (24km) from Ke'e Beach all the way to Polihale State Park on the island of Kauai. The rugged cliffs create a paradise of peaks and valleys, bubbling streams and dramatic waterfalls. The area is inaccessible by car; the Kalalau Trail from the end of Hawaii Route 56 (called the Kuhio Highway) provides the only land access for hikers, traversing 11 miles (18km) and crossing five major valleys before reaching Kalalau Beach at the base of Kalalau Valley. A popular way to explore the NÄ Pali Coast is by kayak as the original islanders did, allowed by permit between May and September.

Website: http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dsp/parks/kauai/napali-coast-state-wilderness-park/park-info/; Telephone: (808) 274 3444; Opening time: Daily sunrise to sunset.; Admission: Free. $12 per night camping.