Lovely Hula Hands
SMITH’S TROPICAL PARADISE
1. PERUSE KILOHANA: THE LAST PLANTATION
Kaua‘i’s over 120-year-old sugar industry may have hauled its final harvest to the mill, but what remains is a place where the vibrant spirit of the era survives.
KILOHANA PLANTATION is a unique destination that recalls a time when “Big Sugar” dominated the island’s economy, culture and landscape. Today, it’s no longer a working plantation, nor is it a museum or historical site; instead, it is a visitor destination where entertainment—not raw sugar cane—is produced.
Kilohana once was a sugar baron’s estate, and its centerpiece remains a charming mansion dating from 1936. Half a century later, the mansion was converted into a restaurant and collection of shops. Since then, the plantation has grown to include a GUIDED EXCURSION on a reconstructed
sugar-era RAILWAY, a LU‘AU, a RAINFOREST HIKE and RUM TASTING at an on-site distillery.
If a train tour is tugging at your heartstrings, Kilohana offers a delightful TRAIN NATURE WALK LUNCH ORCHARD ADVENTURE and a LU‘AU EXPRESS TRAIN TOUR & LU‘AU KALAMAKU package, in addition to its fun SIGNATURE TRAIN TOUR. The Train Nature Walk Lunch Orchard Adventure ties in a little bit of all the great things the plantation offers with a lot of . Your aloha adventure will take you on a train tour and a nature walk with a guide through a tropical forest, all before you pause for a delicious deli lunch with freshly picked pineapple. After, stroll through the orchard for a snack—fruit you pick straight off the tree!—before boarding the train to head back to the depot.
The plantation’s leisurely atmosphere is reflected in the 100 acres of orchards, farms, forests and gardens whose fresh seasonal fruits find its way from the farm to GAYLORD’S RESTAURANT, as well as the farm-to-glass cocktails in the MAHIKO LOUNGE. Enjoy Gaylord’s courtyard setting for lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch. A trip to Kilohana is not complete without discovering the 10 unique shops located within the home and grounds. The master bedroom’s Canefields Clothing or Kaua‘i’s own Koloa Rum and Tasting Room are both found on the property. Whether you ride a train, taste some rum, dine, shop or see their award-winning , you Lu‘au Kalamaku will leave knowing you experienced a glimpse of Kaua‘i’s past. The plantation is located off Highway 50 between Kukui Grove Center and Kaua‘i Community College. Call (808) 245-5608 for information on Kilohana Plantation or visit kilhanakauai.com.
KILOHANA PLANTATION (808) 245-5608
2. STROLL KAUA‘I’S PRIZED BOTANICAL GARDENS
Kaua‘i is nicknamed “THE GARDEN ISLE,” and for good reason: Kaua‘i is home to three BOTANICAL GARDENS belonging to the NATIONAL TROPICAL BOTANICAL GARDEN (NTBG), a private, nonprofit organization and the only officially recognized tropical garden in the United States. This institute is dedicated to scientific research, conservation and education, working every day to protect and preserve tropical plant life that is under threat of extinction.
NTBG’s gardens—two on the South Shore and one on the North— are open for public tours, the fees of which go toward helping support the nonprofit’s mission.
Each property is different, but all three represent captivating combinations of topography,
ecosystems, cultural influences, island history and, of course, tropical flora.
On the South Shore in the verdant LAWA‘I VALLEY lie the Allerton and McBryde gardens. Access to the gardens is through the Visitors Center across from SPOUTING HORN
IN PO‘IPU, but the experience for both gardens begin immediately when visitors board NTBG vehicles for a ride along a spectacular coastline and journey into the valley.
MCBRYDE GARDEN is the flagship garden of NTBG and is known for its biodiversity of native and exotic plants. In fact, it is home to the world’s largest collection of native Hawaiian species as well as plants from throughout the Pacific Islands and the rest of the tropical world. Daily, self-guided walking tours concentrate on 50 acres that contain a variety of plants and themes. Towering palms, vibrant ornamental flowers and fascinating plant oddities reside here, as does a “canoe garden,” complete with a traditional structure that tells the story of how ancient Polynesians brought plants to the islands in their voyaging canoes.
ALLERTON GARDEN is a distinct contrast to the neighboring McBryde Garden. Once a private estate designed with discrete rooms walled by plants with fountains and statuary, Allerton is a masterpiece of landscape design and a natural showcase for tropical plants, including its famous “JURASSIC TREES.” Further back in history, the area was a Hawaiian queen’s retreat, and some of her plantings still grace the garden today. Guided walking tours are offered daily. Another offering is the SUNSET ALLERTON ESTATE TOUR, which departs at a time of day that is truly magical and focuses on the estate’s intriguing history. The tour concludes with refreshments on the patio of Allerton’s gracious bayside home.
Full tour descriptions, times and online bookings for McBryde and Allerton gardens are available at ntbg.org/tours, or by phone at (808) 742-2623.
On the North Shore is NTBG’s third Kaua‘i garden, located on Kuhio Highway about one-quarter mile before Ke‘e Beach.
LIMAHULI GARDEN can be found in a lush valley overlooking the ocean, protected on three sides by craggy, moss-green mountains. Upon entering Limahuli, visitors are awe-struck by the sight of ancient taro terraces that date back to the time when the first Polynesians landed on the island. These are back-dropped by lo‘i kalo the majestic Mount Makana.
Declared by American horticulturists as the BEST NATURAL
BOTANICAL GARDEN, Limahuli speaks to Hawaiian culture, both past and present, and is home to a number of native and endangered plant species suited to a wetter environment, with some unique to the valley. A recreated Hawaiian forest gives all who go a chance to walk through a healthy ecosystem no longer seen in most of Hawai‘i.
Limahuli offers both selfguided and guided walking tours, and is open five days a week. No reservations are needed for the selfguided tour; however, reservations are needed for the guided tour. Find details at ntbg.org/tours, or by phone at (808) 826-1053.
Also on Kaua‘i’s North Shore is Princeville Botanical Gardens, an intimate Eden nestled in a lush valley. This 8-acre garden sanctuary is truly a labor of love; once covered with invasive jungle, today the grounds are home to the most diverse private collection of unusual botanical specimens on the island, with native varieties of flowers and plants, including species used for both industrial and medicinal purposes.
Private guided tours are the only way to view the gardens, and every tour includes an added treat— CHOCOLATE! The Robertson family grows and produces its very own chocolate right on the property, and Princeville Botanical
Gardens is the only garden on the island where visitors can get a lesson in the chocolate-making process (as well as samples of the decadent end-product, along with fresh honey and fruit!).
Full tour descriptions, times and reservations for Princeville Botanical Gardens are available by phone at (808) 634-5505, or visit kauaibotanicalgardens.com.
3. GET CARRIED AWAY IN A HELICOPTER
Although available on all of the major Hawaiian Islands, HELICOPTER
TOURS are most popular on Kaua‘i, where the ageless beauty of the island’s rugged interior comes into full perspective. Expect to see waterfalls cascading down 3,000foot cliffs and unique geographic and mythical sites described to you through noise-canceling headphones connected to your pilot’s microphone. In fact, the majority of the island can only be seen by air, so why not take flight?
One view that is a must-see is MOUNT WAI‘ALE‘ALE, a 5,148-foot extinct volcano. The mountain’s crater-like valley is an awesome sight, and one that cannot be fully experienced any other way than by helicopter.
Other popular spots include HANAPEPE VALLEY, JURASSIC FALLS, OLOKELE CANYON, WAIMEA CANYON, HANALEI VALLEY and many otherwise-hidden valleys along the NAPALI COAST. Tours are conducted daily and are subject to weather conditions. Flight times range from 30 to 90 minutes. Most tours depart from the Lihu‘e Airport.
BLUE HAWAIIAN HELICOPTERS (808) 831-8800 ISLAND HELICOPTERS (808) 245-8588 OR (800) 829-5999 JACK HARTER HELICOPTERS (808) 245-3774 OR (888) 245-2001 SAFARI HELICOPTERS (808) 246-0136 OR (800) 326-3356
4. FEAST AT A LU‘AU
Like Broadway shows, each LU‘AU has its own signature. Menus may be similar, but the shows, performers, music and costumes are deliberately designed to be unique from one another.
The popular and long-running show at SMITH’S TROPICAL PARADISE is staged in a torch-lit amphitheater on the banks of the WAILUA RIVER. It features music and dance with stunning special effects, such as an exploding volcano. LU‘AU KALAMAKU is staged as theater-in-the-round in a renovated carriage house on the grounds of KILOHANA PLANTATION Tuesday and Friday nights. The airy venue offers comfortable seating, and the food is prepared in the kitchens of the fine-dining restaurant, GAYLORD’S RESTAURANT & LOUNGE. The performance traces the story of an ancient Polynesian family’s epic journey across thousands of miles of open ocean from Tahiti to Hawai‘i. Aside from its sophisticated, avantgarde approach, this performance seeks to leave audiences with a deeper understanding of Hawai‘i’s historical and cultural foundation, starting with the brave seafaring explorers who paddled canoes across the ocean.
Producer and creator Haunani Asing Marston takes traditional themes and styles, and then adds innovative twists. The fire dance, for example, couples a dancer with a troupe of fairy-like performers in dazzling costumes who juggle illuminated balls in a dreamlike poi sequence. Another showstopper is a beautiful love song with exquisite lyrics bound to dazzle— and catch you up on the storyline if you’ve lost track (the performance is mostly in Hawaiian).
THE GRAND HYATT LUAU, held every Sunday and Wednesday at the vast Grand Hyatt Kauai on the South Shore, is another winner. The show includes cocktails, musical entertainment and a scrumptious buffet on a riveting journey through Polynesia. Held on the oceanfront grounds of the Hyatt, the lu‘au’s breezy trade winds and drumming beats of Hawai‘i are enjoyable for all.
GRAND HYATT LUAU (808) 240-6456 LU‘AU KALAMAKU (877) 622-1780
5. SCALE WAIMEA CANYON
Often called the “GRAND CANYON
OF THE PACIFIC,” WAIMEA CANYON is a geological wonder located along Highway 550 to KOKE‘E en route
STATE PARK. Approximately 10 miles long and 3,000 feet deep, the canyon is only a fraction of the size of its Arizona namesake, but its location—carved into the lush landscape of a tropical island—is unique. Formed by a deep incision left by the WAIMEA RIVER and extreme rainfall runoff from the island’s central peak, MOUNT WAI‘ALE‘ALE (one of the wettest places on Earth), Waimea Canyon is an aweinspiring marvel.
The canyon’s walls take on ever-changing hues as the sun makes its daily journey across the sky. From a lookout along the rim of the canyon, every morning’s sunrise is a stunning meditation with nature.
Hiking trails snake through the canyon, some more demanding than others. Trail information is available at the KOKE‘E NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM or the Ranger’s Station in the park. The trail to the 800-foot WAIPO‘O FALLS is the most popular. The half-day hike offers glimpses of exotic rainforest vegetation. Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on the warm, flat rocks of a ginger pool. Tent camping and 12 reasonably priced cabins are available in KOKE‘E STATE PARK. For more information about cabins, call the Koke‘e Lodge at (808) 335-6061. In addition, breakfast, lunch and a cocktail lounge are available at the lodge, which is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Groceries and gas are not available in the park. WARNING: Kaua‘i, the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands, is made of brittle volcanic rock, so never attempt to climb steep cliffs. Every year, people are stranded in the wilderness, and fatalities have been recorded. If you become lost at night, stay put and try to light a fire. Be mindful of flash floods; small creeks can turn into raging torrents with upland rains, so never camp in a dry creek bed.
6. SEE A VINTAGE LIGHTHOUSE
KILAUEA POINT NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE is a regular stop on the flight path of the largest colony of seabirds on the main Hawaiian Islands. Every day, hundreds of birds come and go from the nooks
and crannies of the refuge’s cliffs and hillsides. Though eight species of birds nest on the refuge, the main attraction is a 100-YEAROLD LIGHTHOUSE.
Located on the northernmost point of the inhabited Hawaiian Islands, the lighthouse was constructed out of necessity to serve as a landfall light for merchant ships sailing from Asia. Due to lack of good roads, materials needed to be lifted from cargo boats in the ocean and carried up steep cliffs in order to build the 52-foot tower.
The lighthouse’s Fresnel lens alone weighs 4 tons, floats in a vat containing more than 250 pounds of liquid mercury and is composed of hundreds of reflecting prisms. It is valued at $1 million and remains a work of art.
The lighthouse has been inoperable since 1976, but thanks to a major fundraising campaign, the structure has been fully restored to its former glory.
The lighthouse celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2013, when it also received a new title. In a special ceremony, the lighthouse was formally renamed as the DANIEL K. INOUYE KILAUEA POINT LIGHTHOUSE in honor of the late U.S. senator, who was a longtime supporter for conservation initiatives, including the wildlife refuge.
The WILDLIFE REFUGE is one of the busiest refuges in the nation, currently ranking among the top five in annual visitation. Watch for the sign as you turn off Kuhio Highway into KILAUEA TOWN. Kilauea Point is at the end of the road.
The refuge is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and is closed on federal holidays. The entrance fee is $5 for adults (16 years+). For more information, call (808) 828-1413, or visit kilaueapoint.org.
7. EXPLORE LANDMARK CAVES
There are three LANDMARK CAVES along the coastal drive to KE‘E BEACH that are worth a stop. One of these caves, which cut several hundred yards into the base of a vertical cliff across from the beach in HA‘ENA STATE PARK, is rich in legend and easy to explore. The
MANINIHOLO DRY CAVE is named for a fisherman who directed his crew to capture an evil spirit that made away with some of their catch. When they were done digging out the hillside, the cave, which still exists, appeared and the thief was dead— or so they say. The other two, named the HA‘ENA CAVES, are wet caves where the water is cold and deep. They are located about 15 minutes from HANALEI on the way to Ke‘e Beach at the end of the road. A stop here makes for rather interesting photography opportunities. Here’s a tip: Make good use of your flash.
8. TREK ALONG THE NAPALI COAST
The majestic NAPALI COAST on Kaua‘i’s northwest shore is one of the most spectacular wilderness areas in the Pacific. This 6,175ACRE STATE PARK is open only to foot traffic, but there’s a way to sidestep this restriction— head to the ocean. A number of outlets can provide access to the famous scenery via the water, including a snorkel cruise, powered ocean raft or a kayak. No matter how you do it, slicing through the swells along this 15-mile stretch of rugged coastline affords an awesome view of the 4,000-foot cliffs, or . Beyond are wide stretches of pali golden-sand beach, deep jungle valleys and mysterious sea caves. HANAKAPI‘AI and KALALAU beaches are well-known Napali Coast destinations; in fact, National has called Geographic Kalalau Traveler Beach one of America’s Top 40 Beaches. HONOPU, with its famous 90-foot arch, and NU‘ALOLO KAI and MILOLI‘I, with their fringing reefs, also are well storied. Although discovered by JOHNNY DEPP in “PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES,” Honopu Beach’s arch is actually inaccessible by land, but you can view the majestic archway by air (see “UP IN THE AIR”) or sea.
In addition, NU‘ALOLO KAI, an ancient fishing village, is a popular snorkeling destination. Tour boat operators land here for snorkeling and archaeological tours.
Honopu Valley is sometimes called the “VALLEY OF THE LOST
TRIBE” because of the mystery surrounding the exodus of the people who lived there until the mid-19th century. In 1922, visiting archaeologists found several skulls thought to be primitive, preHawaiian people.
BLUE DOLPHIN CHARTERS (808) 335-5553 CAPTAIN ANDY’S SAILING ADVENTURES (808) 335-6833 HOLO HOLO CHARTERS (808) 335-0815 KAUAI SEA TOURS (808) 826-7254 OR (800) 733-7997 NA PALI RIDERS (808) 742-6331 NORTH SHORE CHARTERS (808) 828-1379 Z TOURS (808) 742-7422
stRoll kaUa‘I’s pRIZeD BotanICal GaRDens PHOTO: HAWAII TOURISM AUTHORITY (HTA) / TOR JOHNSON LOCATION: MCBRYDE GARDEN
leaRn to sURF PHOTO: HAWAII TOURISM AUTHORITY (HTA) / TOR JOHNSON
see a VIntaGe lIGHtHoUse PHOTO: HAWAII TOURISM AUTHORITY (HTA) / TOR JOHNSON LOCATION: KILAUEA
tRek alonG tHe napalI Coast PHOTO: NA PALI RIDERS LOCATION: HONOPU ARCH