Kauai is the shape of an almost perfect circle, with a magnificent beauty emanating from each one of its 552 square miles. The island's location is a strategic and fortunate one for visitors because the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean keep the island at perfect temperature year-round.
Kauai's beaches make up almost half of its shoreline, which is an obvious perk for visitors. Kauai, Hawaii's fourth largest island, also shares its mountains with its guests. A hike along the Kalalau Trail, or a helicopter ride past 5,148-ft Mount Waialeale, the center of Kauai rewards visitors with amazing memories and photographs. The deeply weathered mountainous region tells a story as does Kauai's Waimea Canyon. Often referred to as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific", Waimea Canyon offers extravagant views and hiking trails throughout its 4,000-foot elevation.
A nonstop drive around the island of Kauai is almost achievable, but not quite. Visitors can travel in a variety of directions to experience Kauai uniquely at each turn; a car will take you to Kee Beach, the furthest possible on the north shore, while Polihale Beach State Park or the top of Waimea Canyon Road is as far as you can get on the west side.
Kauai's Napali Coast, which rivals any in the world for the grandest coastline, can only be seen via the sea, or the air, or by hiking (you have an excellent view of the whole coast from Kee Beach). The Napali Coast's 17-mile coastline took its sweet time to form -- millions of years of wind and water erosion -- but the result was worth the wait to enjoy the 4,000-foot cliffs, complete with lush green valleys, free-flowing waterfalls, and secret sea caves.
Visiting Kauai gives you the opportunity to communicate with others in English, but you also get a glimpse into the Hawaiian language. Just as different parts of the U.S. mainland have their own regionalism -- deep Southern accents, pronunciations of English words in Boston, Texas' famous drawl, and so forth -- Hawaii also has unique vocal character. You'll enjoy the melodic sounds of the Hawaiian language, and you may even start using a few during your visit to the island. Most of us know aloha and mahalo, but you'll quickly add some new words to your list. Hawaiian pidgin is also fun to hear -- it's very rhythmic and colorful.
Hawaiian music adds another laid-back element to your visit to the island. You'll hear the traditional slack-key guitar and ukulele, but also Hawaiian reggae, hip hop, and some more modern beats. Alongside the music it's fun to watch, and even try, the hula. More than just a swaying island dance in grass skirts, the hula began as a means of worship and storytelling through chants (mele). Hula is for everyone -- women (softer, gentler), men (more active), and children (sweet and charming). Kauai was once the sight of the most prestigious hula school in all of the islands and people would travel from all of Hawaii to Kauai to learn hula. Watch the swaying hips synchronized with flowing hand movements when you watch the hula at an island luau.
The Hawaiian culture is a friendly one, rich in the spirit of aloha, and the cultural tradition of the lei is an added enticement. Colorful, fragrant garlands, leis come in a variet -- wide and flat, thick and round, single or many strands. Long ago, hula dancers placed lei of scented green maile leaves at the altars of the goddess of hula, Laka, for inspiration. Today, lei are made of carnation, plumeria, ilima (rich hues and velvety texture, this fragile flower is cherished and associated with royalty), and many others. Lovely anise-scented mokihana lei are very special since they are made of the berries found only on Kauai.