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Beautiful Kauai
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Beautiful Kauai
  Kauai Travel Tale

by Lorry Patton

Beauty -- according to Webster -- is " a quality that pleases, " and pleasure is certainly something one seeks when planning a trip.

The beautiful, almost circular, island -- a diminutive 550 square acres in size and just twenty minutes by air from Honolulu -- is the wettest spot on Earth. An average of 1,270 cm of rain falls each year on the 1,598-meter peak of Mt. Waialeale -- the extinct volcano that formed Kauai centuries ago.

Don't worry about the rain though -- it rarely graces the virtually empty beaches below -- beaches where you can sink your chair into the coarse sand sometime between night and day and wait for the sun to rise. Pure cool pleasure!

Since there is only one major highway on Kauai ( approximately 120 km long ), everything is easy to find. All side streets to small communities and villages lead back to the main road which makes almost a complete circle around the island -- except about 40 km on the north shore ( Na Pali Coast ).

A few villages are worthy of a detour. Old Koala Town, for example, is a replica of itself back in the mid 1800's when it was a profitable sugar mill town. And Rice Street in Lihue has several 19th century buildings still standing -- including a 2-story museum that describes the birth of Kauai. Old Koala Town also has an important past. It was the site of Hawaii's first viable commercial industry: Sugar. The plantation no longer exists, but thanks to Hawaii's program " to promote small town economic revitalization within the context of historic preservation " and a 3 million- dollar face lift, the nostalgic atmosphere does.

Sugar is still very important to Hawaii's economy. In 1987, sugar export brought in 336 million dollars. In fact, so advanced is Hawaii in its sugar production that other countries have asked Hawaii for assistance in developing sugar industries of their own. Today, the airport town of Lihue in Kauai is the location of one of Hawaii's largest sugar plantations.

The beauty of Kauai's Na Pali Coast is worthy of a detour as well; however, Na Pali Coast can only be felt, touched and seen by air, sea, or foot. The jungles, the waterfalls, the rugged cliffs, the hidden beaches -- are all beyond the motorist's reach.

If you wish to explore Na Pali on foot, a trailhead of the risky Kalalau Trail -- the only land route to the remote cliffs and valleys -- begins at Haena near the end of Highway 56. (Hikers are cautioned to use extreme care.) A calmer less strenuous way might be on a leisurely cruise along the scenic coastline. (Several boat excursions are available. ) Or, for an exhilarating birds-eye view of the craters, jungle foliage and secret coves, try a helicopter flight.

However, to discover beauty on your own: a car, a camera and an adventurous heart is all you really need.

Discover the stunning green Kalalau Valley with its 4000 foot verdant cliffs plunging to the ocean below from atop Kalalau Lookout Point. Discover the 10 miles of ever-changing colorful gorges that make up the Alakai Plateau from Waimea Canyon Lookout Point. ( Gorges so deep and awesome the canyon is referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. )

At Menehune Fish Pond, discover the legends of Hawaii's little people: The magical Menehune were supposedly the first settlers on Kauai. Only two to three feet tall, these tiny people seem to have had supernatural powers. Apparently, they liked to play in the day and work at night. At remarkable speed. According to legend, the 900 length stone walls enclosing the fish pond ( still in use ) were built in one night by the Menehune.

Discover the Sleeping Giant and more Menehune legends. One day, the Menehune needed the giant Puni's help in thwarting a hostile canoe invasion. He was asleep. They tried to wake him by tapping him with rocks. Some rocks fell in his mouth. He swallowed them and died right on the spot. You can see his rocky profile on the mountain top.

Discover the Wailua Falls. The Wailua Falls were made famous by the television show Fantasy Island. These twin falls may not be as startling as other falls, nevertheless, in ancient times, Hawaiian Chiefs of true royal blood showed their courage by diving in the pool below.

Discover, as you drive along the northeast shore, ripe with deep emerald ferns, giant philodendra, taro leaves and miles of brilliant beaches why Kauai is called the Garden Isle. The lush green foliage of Hanalei Valley, where there is almost always a rainbow decorating the blue sky, will astound you. The curve of white sand against the dark bluff at Lumahia Beach, the bay where Mitzi Gaynor washed that man out of her hair, will dazzle you. The one-lane wooden bridges crossing sparkling streams that tumble off the flowering cliffs on the road to Haena will leave you breathless. In fact, much of the"Garden Isle" will leave you breathless. But remember -- don't tell anyone.

Several airline carriers fly to Kauai from Honolulu International Airport and from the other outer islands. These include Aloha Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines.

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