Active getaway to Kauai

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of November 28-December 4, 1996
Active getaway to Kauai
Rock-climbing in Thailand
Crested Butte a good early-season choice
Kayak camping on Lake Mead
Out-of-the-way trails in the Ozarks

Active getaway to Kauai
Question: My wife and I are considering going to Hawaii sometime between January and April. We do not want to lay around the beach, but are interested in doing something active and interesting, such as kayaking and/or hiking. We have done extensive hiking in the Rockies and in New Hampshire and New York and thoroughly enjoyed sea-kayaking in Baja. Any good ideas? Thanks!

Bill Stewart
Ottawa, Ontario
[email protected]

Adventurers will find plenty to do
along Kauai's rugged Na Pali coast

Adventure Adviser: For the best of everything active that Hawaii has to offer, I suggest heading straight to Kauai, home to the 11-mile Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali coast, not to mention a stretch of great paddling along its south shore. Sure, the other islands have plenty going for them when it comes to non-beach-related outdoor pursuits, but if you want to steer clear of island-hopping, you can't go wrong with Kauai.

Base yourself at Waimea Plantation Cottages at the bottom of a 3,700-foot-deep canyon on the island's west shore, a low-key resort with 48 recently restored plantation houses in the midst of a lush coconut grove. One-bedroom cottages go for $90-$150 per night, including beach access and use of tennis court and pool; call 808-338-1625.

From there, it's only a short hop to nearby Kokee State Park and its handful of notable 4,000-foot-high hiking loops, including the 6.5-mile Awaawapuhi Trail through cloudforests to a dizzying ocean-view lookout. Another good bet in Kokee is the 4-mile round-trip hike via the Canyon Trail down almost 1,500 feet to Waipoo Falls, where the rain-fed Waimea Stream begins its long plunge into Waimea Canyon. For trail maps and info, call the Kokee Natural History Museum at 808-335-9975. Also in the neighborhood, relatively speaking, is the Na Pali Coast on the north side of the island. Be forewarned, however: Waimea is far enough off the beaten path to guarantee a healthy amount of peace and quiet, but it comes with a small price: Rent a car at the airport or plan on staying put.

Winter rains on the wild side of Kauai can be a bit off-putting, but the hike--if you make the effort--is a stunning route along an ancient path that zigzags 11 miles along coastal cliffs and gorges to the Kalalau Valley. Not for the faint at heart, the strenuous hike is a major one-day undertaking or a respectably challenging overnighter. Either way, if you decide to go for it, be sure to check in ahead of time with the Division of State Parks (808-241-3444) for day-use and camping permits, weather and trail information, and maps. If you'd rather stretch your legs on a bite-size section of the famed trail--and who wouldn't, with a deluxe room on reserve back at the Plantation?--try the 2-mile hike from the trailhead at the northern end of Highway 56 at Kee Beachto Hanakapiai Valley and Beach (no permit needed).

Once you've had your fill of hoofing it, trade in your hiking boots for mountain bikes and turn your quads into a pile of screaming Jell-O with an 18-mile ride from Waimea to the Puu O Kila Lookout on Waimea Canyon Road. You'll start at sea-level and grunt your way up a whopping 4,000 vertical feet; the Kalalau Lookout is a good place to stop en route to make sure you haven't left your lungs behind. Rent mountain bikes and a car rack at Bicycle John in Lihue for about $25 per day (808-245-7579). As for paddling, Kayak Kauai Outfitters leads an all-day excursion to Kipu Kai, an isolated beach on the south shore with calm waters and plenty of humpback whales, dolphins, flying fish, and sea turtles. Rates are $105 per person; call 800-437-3507 for details. If you'd rather strike out on your own, Outfitters Kauai (808-742-9667), also on the south shore, will rent you a boat--just steer very clear of the wind- and wave-battered Na Pali Coast.

And finally, even though you've made clear your distaste for sitting like a slug on a beach, I feel obliged to mention Polihale Beach, one of the longest and sunniest and most remote on the island and a mere stone's throw from Waimea. For more Hawaii details, consult "A Sportif Guide to Hawaii" in Outside's 1996-97 Winter Travel Guide.

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