By Bob Ecker
THE HAWAIIAN ISLANDS are a tropical
paradise full of palm trees, warm languid
breezes, friendly people, world-class surfing
and miles of gorgeous beaches. Although
many tourists gravitate to Maui and Oahu,
travelers should not overlook the qualities of
two other islands, Kauai and Hawaii, the Big
Island, which offer a unique vibe not found
Kauai: The Garden Isle
Lush and green, Kauai is the oldest island
in the Hawaiian archipelago. With a population of only about 63,000, Kauai is much quieter and more laid-back than its sister islands.
In fact, Kauai receives only about a fifth of the
number of visitors traveling to Oahu.
There are plenty of hotels, resorts and
condos available, but Kauai is really known
for its vast array of greenery, tall and jagged
mountains, tropical rain forests, steep ravines
and picturesque beaches. The ecological wonders are perfect for the outdoor enthusiast.
Travelers can enjoy hiking, biking, nature
tours, zip lining, horseback riding and all
sorts of water sports.
Kauai offers more than 50 miles of white-sand beaches—more beaches per mile of
shoreline than any other Hawaiian island—
and beach access, as in all of Hawaii, is a public right. Kalapaki Beach (popular with local
surfers), Hanalei Beach Park and Waioli
Beach Park are fun spots to relax, hang out,
swim or snorkel.
One of Kauai’s great natural sites is the
3,567-foot-deep Waimea Canyon, about 14
miles long and a mile wide. Nicknamed “The
Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” this colorful valley shows off its volcanic red soils that flow
through the Waimea River below. You can
drive through on the canyon’s rough road or
hike various trails within the park.
Another popular area to explore is Na
Pali Coast State Park, which encompasses
6,175 acres of land and is located in the center
of the rugged 16 miles along the northwest
side of Kauai. Many people hike the red-earth
trail to Hanakāpi‘ai, while others may opt for
a boat or helicopter tour of the stunning coast.
Visitors to Kauai will love the flowers,
including gorgeous hibiscus varieties in doz-
ens of colors, birds of paradise plants, many
shades of bougainvillea and hundreds of
species of orchids. Of course, on the Garden
Isle, visiting one of the stunning gardens is a
must. Don’t miss the McBryde Garden,
which displays the largest collection of native
Hawaiian plants in the world, or the Allerton
Garden, featuring elegantly manicured land-
scaping and massive Moreton Bay fig trees
that were used in the film Jurassic Park.
These two magnificent open-air retreats
encompass more than 330 acres of immacu-
lately preserved flora.
Hawaii: The Big Island
Hawaii, the Big Island, is Hawaii’s youngest island, with rugged and active geothermal
areas, and diverse topography, such as black-sand beaches, prairies perfect for horseback
riding, pristine spots for snorkeling and vast
vistas of volcanic rock. Nearly twice as large as
all the other Hawaiian islands combined, the
Big Island has lovely beaches, little towns and
villages, and sumptuous hotel properties similar to those found on the other islands, but the
particular thrill of Hawaii is seeing the earth’s
very essence, its fiery matter, hot and up close.
Volcano viewing, one of the main attractions on the Big Island, can be experienced at
the one-of-a-kind Hawaii Volcanoes National
Park. Visitors can enjoy miles of hiking trails,
rare and unusual volcanic scenery and museums with interpretive displays and exhibits.
Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano in the
world, takes up most of Hawaii Volcanoes
National Park—333,000 acres running from
the volcano’s summit to the sea.
Mauna Loa has not erupted since 1984;
however, the very active Kilauea volcano is
going strong and a top tourist draw. Kilauea
(which means “spewing” in Hawaiian) has
been emitting lava and rock more or less continuously since 1983. It is currently erupting
on its east side, and the relatively new Kalapana
volcano viewing site, just outside the park, is a
great place to see the lava flows live.
The Big Island has some of the best deep-sea fishing to be found anywhere. Most boats
depart from Honokohau Harbor, near historic Kailua-Kona village. From the ocean
you can observe Mauna Kea rising dramatically 13,800 feet above sea level, the volcano’s
sheer contour plunging down into the ocean.
Other Big Island attractions include
championship golf, world-class spas and the
granddaddy of all triathlons, the prestigious
Ironman competition, which draws hundreds
of competitors and spectators each October.
The other Hawaiian islands are wonderful, but the oldest and youngest islands have
qualities that should not be missed. C
Bob Ecker is a Napa, California–based writer
Kauai and Hawaii
The Costco Connection
Costco Travel offers exciting vacation packages to the Big Island, Oahu, Maui and Kauai.
For information, click “Travel” at Costco.com
or call 1-877-849-2730.
The Big Island has
some of the best
deep-sea fishing to be