Postcards from Kaua’i
This Hawaiian island is known for its dramatic coastlines, abundance of wildlife, stunning scenery and laid-back vibe


The odds are not in our favour as a thick and fast-moving layer of fog continues to set in as we drive up the windy road to Kaua’i’s Waimea Canyon. As a means of lowering our expectations in case of a big white out, our driver warns us that we may see nothing at all but utters the words, “I hope you get to see something,” as he pulls into the parking lot. 

Not instilled with much optimism, while still hoping for the best but being braced for disappointment, we hop out of the van and practically race to the lookout platform. It’s time for the moment of truth.

As the rugged crags and gorge-ous deep valleys of “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” appear before us, our small group is nothing short of ecstatic. I feel like shouting out “I can see it!” into the abyss and pumping my fists into the air with joy, but I refrain, having only met my travel companions a few days earlier.

Somewhere over the rainbow in Kaua’i 

Instead of hindering our view, the mist appearing in the distance only adds to the drama of the colourful geological site that spans 22.5 km long and 1.6 km wide and more than 3,600 feet deep. I can’t help but get the ukulele melody and the voice of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole singing “somewhere over the rainbow” stuck in my head as a giant rainbow becomes even more intense above the canyon.

“Kaua’i has a slower pace. We’re not for everyone. If you’re into nature, this is for you. It’s an island where you just catch that laid-back vibe,” says Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kaua’i Visitors Bureau, noting that this destination is for people who are in search of wildlife over nightlife. “Those who get us, love us, and they keep coming back.”

Chasing waterfalls and the beauty of the Nāpali Coast

The next morning we’re on a mission to see the natural wonders of Kaua’i from another vantage point — by sea. We embark on a catamaran cruise with Holo Holo Charters destined for the postcard-worthy Nāpali Coast — one of the most recognizable coastlines in the world — formed from lava flows. 

“That is one of the most amazing [places],” Kanoho enthused the night before. “To me, it’s one of the Wonders of the World.”

The rugged outer-worldly terrain is about five million years old and spans roughly 27 km with stretches of secluded beaches, hidden coves and multiple waterfalls along the way. If you think it looks like a scene straight out of Jurassic Park, that’s because it is. Along with Oahu, a lot of the key locations for the films were shot on Kaua’i.

It’s hard to picture that anything could take our gaze away from the dramatic coastline, that is, until our captain announced that a pod of spinner dolphins were swimming around our boat. Indeed, they appeared to be guiding our vessel, occasionally emerging from the water to flip in the air.

With so much natural beauty and wildlife to protect, Kanoho says they want to drive respectful and sustainable tourism without overcrowding and negatively impacting local residents.

“This is where the balancing comes in. You need tourism, it’s a good thing, within reason. We cannot handle five cruise ships and 10 more flights when this is what we have to work with,” she says. “I’m totally about prosperity, totally about having the right people come. It just comes back to balance.”

As an advantage, due to its wild landscapes with no road access, “much of this island is inaccessible so it has to be seen from the air.”

Where the wild things are 

The sun is setting as we arrive at Poipu Beach, a popular swimming destination on Kaua’i, but we’re not here to hit the beach. Rather we’re here to witness the relatively new phenomenon of green sea turtles resting on the shores of the beach. It’s quite the sight to behold as several turtles are already sleeping on the sand and others slowly make their way from the water to find a resting spot. 

As a growing number of spectators have come to admire this nightly sight, volunteer groups have set up camp to ensure that visitors aren’t intruding on their territory and have placed safety pylons around the turtles with warning signs for visitors to stay 10 feet away and to avoid using flash photography at night. 

Interestingly, Kanoho says this phenomenon started occurring in the thick of the pandemic, when beaches were closed and travel restrictions were still in place.

Come for the views, stay for the culinary delights 

For a sampling of what the island has to offer, we join tour guide Susan Schwartz of Tasting Kaua’i on a food tour. Every day of the week a tour is offered in a different part of the island to help support local enterprises across the destination. 

“We’re going to go to the places that the people who live here really like to eat at and also the ones who we want to do business with — the ones who are trying to source from Kaua’i whenever it’s possible, organically when it’s available, and the people who are just a big part of the community — who are community minded,” she says, noting that the business became more locally-focussed when current owner Addison Bulosan took over in 2018. “It’s a nice way to support local farmers, ranchers, fishermen and local business people and you also get familiar with different parts of the island.” 

Our first stop is at Kickshaws, a food truck that allows owner Seth Peterson to turn his Bachelor’s degree in biology into his passion for molecular gastronomy.

“We have a burger, it takes 30 hours to do. It’s a 30-hour curing process. We use a little bit of scientific flair in everything that we do,” he says, adding that another favourite dish is the date and maple pecan grilled cheese sandwich. “Normally, we sample that but we have fresh ahi so I wanted to do that today.”

From the tuna melt made with freshly caught ahi tuna to Dole Whip for dessert, Schwartz led us through the stops along the tour by also telling us some history along the way. 

“Out of all the Hawaiian islands, Kaua’i’s history is really the most amazing,” she says. “It’s the only island that they all call unconquerable. It’s pretty amazing. It goes back to the year 1850 with King Kamehameha and then it goes way back to the year 1471. Kaua’i’s fight for freedom and sovereignty is just incredible.”

Whether it’s the sights, the culture, the wildlife, or a history lesson over a delicious locally made meal, Kaua’i has something for every type of client.  

“All islands have their own natural beauty. We all have waterfalls, we all have golf courses, we all have hiking, some better than others,” Kanoho adds. “But we have the only navigable rivers in the state — we have four different rivers that you can kayak on.”

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