Kauai is the northernmost in the chain of islands that make up Hawaii. It’s also the furthest west from the mainland. Between Hawaii and California are 2400 miles of Pacific Ocean. So it makes sense that at Kauai’s northern tip is a lighthouse.
Kilauea Lighthouse is a 52-foot high round tower rising over a hundred feet above sea level. Its lens once shone 22 miles out to sea, though it is no longer lit today.
With the advent of radar and other navigational systems, Kilauea Lighthouse now serves as a wildlife refuge for some of Hawaii’s unique flora and fauna. Most notable of these are the nene geese, which roam freely around the lighthouse grounds. Also nesting in the cliffs around the lighthouse are the red-footed booby, Laysan albatross, wedge-tailed shearwater, frigatebirds, and tropicbirds. During the winter months, this is a great spot for whale-watching.
Entrance to Kilauea Lighthouse is $5 USD per person. There’s a visitor center and gift shop in the grounds, as well as water fountains and restrooms.
Maniniholo Dry Cave
Located right across from Haena Beach Park, this cave isn’t worth driving to on its own, but if you’re in the area, it’s a nice quick stop. There’s nothing particularly amazing about it, but it goes deeper than you would imagine at first glance. It’s pretty cool to try and figure out where the cave ends, and it can be just a tad creepy when you realize how far you are from the cave mouth. Bring a flashlight (or use your phone) to explore.
Opaeka’a and Wailua Falls
In Wailua, between the main east shore towns of Kapaa and Lihue, are two beautiful “drive-up” waterfalls. Both of these falls have parking lots, restrooms (though they’re only porta potties in the case of Wailua), and a viewpoint from which to check out the falls.
Opaeka’a is closer to the main highway, but the viewpoint you’re at is farther away from the actual falls. A patch of rock separates Opaeka’a into two lacy streams. It’s a lovely sight amidst all the greenery in the hills.
Wailua is a little deeper into the island. You’ll see it from above, along one side (but you’ll hear it long before you get there). It’s a pretty big, powerful waterfall–reminds me of Snoqualmie Falls in Washington. I don’t have a good photo of it, since I always end up there at dusk for some reason. Watch out for mosquitoes here, and suicidal frogs on the road.
Maha’ulepu is basically the area that spans the southeastern coast of Kauai, between Poipu in the south and Lihue in the east.
There is a 2-mile Heritage Trail you can walk starting from behind the Grand Hyatt Kauai. Along the way, you’ll pass some really amazing views as you go through Gillin’s Beach, Maha’ulepu Beach, Kawailoa Bay, Kamala Point, and Haula Bay.
If you want a fairly easy hike with big rewards, definitely make time for this one! In calm weather or during the summer months, you can make it a whole day excursion, if you bring a picnic basket and stop for quick dips in the ocean. In the winter months, whale watching is incredible from this area–we saw a bunch of whales spouting and tail slapping not too far from Kamala Point.
This isn’t really something to stop for so much as go through. Off highway 50, make a point to detour through higway 520 on your way south to Koloa and Poipu. The first mile of this highway has you going through a “tunnel” of tall eucalyptus trees. The photo doesn’t really do it justice!
Ever seen a blowhole? This natural feature happens when waves erode a sea cave so that it becomes a shaft with the top exposed. Strong crashing waves can then cause a blast of water to fountain through the top.
Spouting Horn is a famous blowhole in Koloa town, in the south of Kauai. It’s fun to watch the seawater spray up in powerful blasts, and if you don’t catch a strong one, just give it a few minutes–sooner or later, a wave will come and wow you. The area around Spouting Horn is also very pretty, with the black lava giving way to turquoise blue waters. You can catch sight of the occasional turtle swimming here and, in winter, even some whales in the distance.
If you need a break from relaxing on the beach (hard to imagine, but sometimes you might get the urge), no worries, just get in the car and head out to one of these cool sights!