The Garden Island

With a combination of majestic mountains, volcanoes, beaches, tropical climate and plenty of waterfalls, Kaua’i is the quintessence of an island paradise.

Kaua’i is the oldest island in the Hawaiian chain and often described as the ‘Garden Isle’ thanks to its rich vegetation. It’s also the longest-inhabited island in Hawai’i.

In 1960, in a story about Hawai’i, National Geographic published a photo from Kaua’i that would change everything for the little island.

The photo gave a glimpse of the lush Kalalau valley with a caption that read “Nā pali’s towering cliffs wall a Shangri-la valley accessible only by sea… Jungle-like valleys tucked amid the ridges offer an unspoiled world for the adventurous.”

This photo and others that followed created the valley’s Garden of Eden image, inspiring the popular pilgrimage to survive the 18-km trail to reach it. A secluded hippie community lived in the valley for many years until the state began regulating camping, hiking, and hunting along the Nā Pali Coast.

Nā Pali means “the cliffs” in Hawaiian and the name well-describes the coast’s nature; Kauai’s northwestern coast is dominated by tall, rugged sea cliffs rising up to 1,200 metres above the Pacific Ocean. If winter and snow ever came to these mountains, they would resemble the fluted terrain of Alaskan often showcased in modern ski and snowboard films.

The exposed path leads us closer and closer to the sea and the impressive landscape of the Kalalau Valley. The contrast between the viewpoints at Waimea Canyon and the Kalalau Lookout are huge; previously we were in the middle of a tourist brochure with signs, paved roads and no chance of going the wrong way. Now we’re totally off the beaten track and the experience is so much deeper.

And it’s raining. A lot. Almost every day, at least somewhere on the island. Mostly it rains around Mount Waialeale, which is usually described as the world’s wettest place. This 1544-meter-high mountain receives an average of 11,500 millimeters each year. No wonder the island is green!