March 16, 2011
Oh, Seattle spring, with your gales of wind, chilly air, and relentless rain, you are much too reminiscent of Seattle winter. It’s no surprise that this is the time of year you always see billboards and buses around town advertising “hot deals” on getaways to Mexico and the Hawaiian Islands. They all have the same message: escape the gloom (at least temporarily) and trade in your business casual for board shorts or a bikini.
Last year I was one of the lucky few who got to go on hiatus from somewhat miserable March and spent a little over half of the month on the island of Kauai. However, that trip was not a spur of the moment vacation package, but a full out adventure in a tropical paradise. In honor of that trip, I’ll be doing a series of posts for the remainder of the month on my favorite Hawaiian Island: Kauai.
Atmosphere and Island Orientation
While only slightly smaller than Oahu (home of Honolulu and 80% of Hawaii’s residents), Kauai is the least populated of the major islands. Despite its small size, it offers almost as much geological diversity as the Big Island with a deep, red canyon dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” lush rain forest, swamps, mossy forestland, numerous rivers, and dramatic, green sea cliffs along the Na Pali coast. It is also home to the wettest place on Earth (Wai’ale’ale Crater) and is the oldest of the major islands so its entire shoreline is dotted with beautiful, sandy beaches.
Known best as the “garden isle,” this sleepy island attracts people primarily for its natural beauty and profuse plant life (not its night life). It is particularly lush on the windward, or northern side of the island, where most of the precipitation falls. This area is known as the North Shore and is very scenic due its small, laid back towns and green mountains, valleys, and waterfalls.
The leeward, or southern part of the island, is the sunniest and thus where you’ll find the largest resorts. Most of these are clustered around the inviting beaches of Poipu. The western side of the island is the most rural, largely due to the agriculture there and the wilderness parks: Polihale, Koke’e, and Waimea Canyon.
The eastern side of the island features two of the largest towns (Lihue and Kapa’a) and is where a majority of the residents live. It is more built up around Lihue due to the airport and industrial areas, but Kapa’a offers a mix of beach front resort hotels, everyday amenities, and more private, remote neighborhoods up in its hillsides and further south along the Wailua River.