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11 Unexpected Things to Do in Kauai


By Natasha Smith, POPSUGAR

Hawaii is one the most coveted island destinations in the world. Heaven is truly a place on earth, and that place is the island of Kauai. The Garden Isle checks off every essential on any traveler's bucket list: beaches, activities, resorts, delicious food — and then some. Not to mention it is one of the most naturally beautiful places on earth with its picturesque beaches, pristine waters, and hikes of a lifetime with breathtaking outlooks. While there is nothing wrong with living your best life and soaking in vitamin D and drinking mai tais on the beach, we have rounded up some of the hidden-treasure gems you might want to keep on your radar for your next trip to the Garden Isle. SPF not included.


1

Fly High With Island Helicopters.

[post_ads]Take your flight experience to new heights with Island Helicopters. While there are plenty of helicopter tour companies that will take you soaring over the stunning island, Island Helicopters takes it to a whole other level where, for the first time ever, visitors can land at Manawaiopuna Falls, the famous falls in Spielberg's Jurassic Park. Nothing will take your breath away more than feeling the powerful rush of the 400-foot waterfall located on private land that only Island Helicopters (in regards to tour operators) has the landing rights to.

You will leave the experience feeling spellbound and breathless from all the "OMGs" you will be saying about the spectacular views of the iconic Na'Pali coastline, and various canyons and waterfalls.

Tip: The tour operator is only allowed to land a certain amount of times per week and are closed on Thursday and Sundays, so book toward the beginning of your trip just in case weather instabilities prevent your flight from going up or if you need to reschedule.


2

Enjoy a Home Away From Home

Tropical paradises can sometimes be more enjoyable from your own home. But let's be honest, we can't all own a home or apartment on an idyllic Hawaiian island, obviously. So properties like the Westin Princeville on the North Shore or Koloa Landing Resort in Poipu are both excellent places that offer the comforts of home in paradise.

Expect the luxuries of a proper hotel like housekeeping, room service, and turn down service, along with perks like a washer/dryer in the unit and pantry stocking services. Want to grill that rib eye steak yourself one night? No problem, the Westin can have a raw steak (and whatever other veggies and groceries you want) left in your fridge. Didn't pack enough undies and socks or they are covered in mud from your hikes? Don't worry about paying those overpriced laundry fees and do it yourself in your room. Don't get too cozy though, or you may never want to leave.

3

Learn to Make a Haku

A Haku is essentially a wearable bouquet for your head, or for the rim of your hat. Flowers and making lei are an important part of the Hawaiian culture and Elvrine Chow of Heavenly Hakus is one of the biggest advocates of spreading that aloha. Elvrine hosts a Haku-making class every second aloha Friday of the month at the Kauai Museum
, and is in charge of creating a flower buffet for you to pick from consisting of local petals, flowers, buds, leaves, and stems for your Haku lesson.

I say "lesson" loosely; don't think of it as somewhere you will bored listening to someone explain how to do something and get tested in the end. Think of it as a hands-on creative free flow of braiding, visualizing, and almost sewing stunning flowers into your own wearable masterpiece. Quick lesson: in Hawaiian, the plural of lei is lei – no added s, which I didn't know until I was in Elvrine's class! There is a "test" at the end of class, but promise, it's quite a fun one. Walk away from class with your proud masterpiece. I sure did!


4

Go Mountain Tubing

Kauai is known for its breathtaking vistas and spectacular scenery, so try it out from an entirely new perspective. Head out a mountain tubing experience with Kauai Backcountry, strap on a headlamp, and jump into the refreshing waters to float down open canals and through tight tunnels that date back to 1870.

Kauai Backcountry has exclusive access to this historic irrigation system that once directly fed the sugar crops with waters that originate near the top of Mt. Waialeale, one of the wettest locations in the world with rainfall of about 452 inches per year! As you float down the tight canals and dark caves, you will find yourself literally off the beaten path and in one of the most tranquil, remote places on the island. End the adventure with a swim in the natural sinkhole and splash around in the refreshing mountain water!

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5

Get Pampered

After an exhilarating day surfing or zip-lining, be sure to treat yourself to a lomi lomi massage at Anara Spa, located in the Grand Hyatt in Poipu. While I am no newbie to spa treatments, specifically massages, I'd have to say this lomi lomi massage was truly special.

Hyatt's open-air concept is adapted in the Anara spa, complete with hanging vines in their outdoor lava rock showers, hot tub, and sauna locations. Massage and facial rooms face the mountains and have spectacular views that immediately put you at ease, if the fresh eucalyptus doesn't do that for you first. Walk out of your massage session an entirely new person, prepared to tackle another day of waterfall hunting and cliff diving.


6

Zip-Line Over Lush Valleys

It's a bird, it's a plane . . . it's, YOU! Soar high above the treetops, touching the clouds in an incredibly exhilarating zip-line experience with Outfitters Kauai. During their Treehouse Plus tour, you will have a chance to glide on seven different zip lines over the lush valleys of Kipu Ranch, one of them being the longest in the state at 4,000 feet! Not only are there tandem lines, but you get to fly "Superman Style" without any restrictions while taking in the panoramic views. Raise you heart rate by jumping and soaring from tree house to tree house while soaking in those aerial secret forest trail views and suspension bridges.


7

Fill Your Belly WithHawaiian Fare.

There is no excuse to eat poorly on vacation, and even less of an excuse if you are in the cultural melting pot of Kauai, known for its broad spectrum of various cuisines to local food options. Catch the aloha spirit at the tried-and-true poke spot on the south shore,

Koloa Fish Market, where the daily fresh poke comes in a variety of flavorful options such as wasabi poke and kimchee poke to spicy mayo and avocado. In addition to the poke, they serve a delicious traditional pork lau lau lunch plate with traditional kalua pork, salmon lomi lomi, and chicken long rice.

Tip: It's cash-only, so have your dollar bills ready. And while shave ice is a dime a dozen in Hawaii, I had the tough job of trying tons of various types of shave ice and narrowed it down to Loco Coco Shave Ice, a food truck vendor I stumbled upon while driving along the coast. Not only does Loco Coco make all their syrups from actual fresh fruit purees, which means no artificial flavors, but it is topped with additional fresh fruit, homemade coconut creme if you wish, and placed into a real coconut shell. Not only is it perfect for the 'gram, but deserves a Michelin star for shave ice excellence.
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Tip: Loco Coco is not a storefront, but rather a food truck located in a parking lot: so it isn't terribly easy to find. But once you do, its well worth it. The one other shave ice truck that struck my fancy is The Fresh Shave, again, another gem I stumbled upon that I can't seem to get out of my mind. Their signature logo of mustaches is served up everywhere, along with your straw. What I found most unique about The Fresh Shave was its unique menu concoctions like the Dirt McGirt, comprised of flavors such as Oreo cookie crumble, and cold brew shave ice made with local coffee. They are closed Sundays and Mondays, and have a secret menu. Ask and you shall receive.

Friday nights in Hanapepe is a local party with live music, street vendors, and plenty of delicious food options. Bobbie's does an excellent open-air BBQ huli huli chicken plate. Be sure to order early as they can run out pretty quickly. Porky's food truck is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, so get in line early and order up a grilled pineapple pork sausage that will remain in your food dreams forever. For a sit down date night type of dinner, scoot over to RumFire in Poipu, where the sunset views are epic and the dining is delicious enough to write home about. Chef Michael Young locally sources all his ingredients for a global taste with island flair. Table 53 is truly something special in which RumFire has raised over 200K for local charities.

Tip:
Pre-request Table 53 (where 100 percent of the net proceeds go to a local charity) and order the venison tar tar and the coconut lemongrass soup. For a truly unique farm to table dinner, check out the He 'Aina Ola at the Westin Princeville. Start with a tour of a working farm (where your food will come from!) and then sit down with about 25 others for a top notch chef prepared meal using fresh local fish and greens along with wine pairings. Clear eyes, full bellies, can't lose.


8

Visit the Kadavul Hindu Temple

Island life isn't just fun in the sun and SPF numbers. The Hindu Monastery in Kapaa is home to over two dozen monks and a pilgrimage to sincere Hindu devotees. The Kadavul Hindu Temple is a traditional Sri Lankan-style Siva temple and sits on 363 acres of lush land. The meditation area under the massive Banyan tree will be sure to immediately put you at peace. One of the most unique things is being able to partake in the Puja ceremonies between 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., but be aware that the temple closes at noon. While not all travelers expect to visit a Hindu Monastery on a Hawaiian Island, this place is a sanctuary with a tranquil and calming energy.

Tip:
Be sure to wear appropriate clothing as you will be asked to wear a sarong if you have shorts that are too short or shoulders that are bare.

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9

Snorkel, Sail, Sunset, Repeat

The famous Na'Pali coast is something to write home about, but sailing it with Captain Andy's Sailing Adventures takes that to a whole other level. While catamaran rides can sometimes be a bore, Captain Andy's makes sure that you are engaged, having fun and taking in all aspects of the sail.

Expect to see schools of dolphins jumping alongside the catamaran, listen to underwater whale sounds and swim alongside sea turtles in this never forget adventure. If you're lucky, you will see a humpback whale breach not too far from the catamaran while you feast on a delicious BBQ lunch. Depending on water conditions, the captain is able to pull up directly to the entrance of secret caves and waterfalls along the Na'Pali. This unforgettable experience is truly one of a kind and not to be missed!


10

Become a Paleontology-Lover

Sink directly into Mother Earth at the Makauwahi Sinkhole on the South side of the island down the two-mile Mahaulepu Heritage Trail, just a short walk further through a forest of trees and piled up rocks. Unseen to most tourists, keep continuing on, (probably on all fours to get through the tight spots), but you will end up on the other side of a magnificent garden of Eden, aka the Makauwahi Cave, a massive sinkhole considered to be one of the richest sites of fossils in the US and a treasure chest for history buffs. The sinkhole sits on 17 acres of land with fossils dating back over 10,000 years of Kauai history.

The layers in the walls of the limestone sinkhole have preserved histories of hurricanes, droughts, and floods, including tons of bones of extinct animals. I don't suggest driving here (simply because the hike in is so scenic and beautiful!), but near the parking lot, there are tons of tortoises that you can get up close and personal with.

Tip:
Free guided tours are available from 10am-2pm on Wednesdays, Friday, Saturdays, and Sundays.

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11

Hike Ho'opi'i Falls


While I wouldn't call myself an expert hiker, I do love nature, and what's better than combining a decent hike with a seemingly natural obstacle course with sensational views, ending in a rope swing and rock diving? Ho'opi'i Falls is a wonderful hike to leisurely embark on with great rewards at the end, just be sure you have your swimsuit on you. The trail starts on Kapahi Road, where you will see cars parked and a power poll with a quiet sign. Don't be worried because it looks like a residential neighborhood: it actually is the start of the hike.

While the beginning of the hike can be quite muddy and slippery, get ready for plenty of twisted roots and hanging vines to cross your path as you continue toward the waterfalls. At one point you will need to climb under roots while also dodging hanging fruits and looking out for loose rocks on the ground. Two waterfalls await you, depending on how far you want to hike. At waterfall number one, you will find locals rock diving into the water and at waterfall number two, you will find a rope swing and swim hole area.


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Travel Magazine: 11 Unexpected Things to Do in Kauai
11 Unexpected Things to Do in Kauai
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