By Lori Michimoto, McNeil Wilson Communications and Claire Morris-Dobie, Hyatt Regency Kauai
The Garden Island of Kauai is also known as The Island of Discovery, and for good reason. Approximately five to six million years old, this nearly perfect circle of raw beauty offers a natural environment so diverse and extraordinary that millions of visitors who finally discover the island, pledge to return and call it home someday.
The busy harbor at Port Allen is the launch pad for pleasure boats that take to the seas for whale watching, dinner sails, dolphin encounters, charter fishing, snorkel and picnic trips and cruising beneath the stunning green palisades of the Na Pali Coast. There are sea kayaks, rubber Zodiacs, smooth power boats and catamarans that glide across the waves as smooth seabirds on the wing. Captain Andy's Spirit of Kauai is an elegant 55-foot sailing catamaran that offers a memorable day-long tour along the spectacular Na Pali Coast. Blue Dolphin Charters offers a mini waterslide from the boat where you can catch an underwater view of exotic marine life. HoloHolo Charters has "Leila" for a trip to the coast of the forbidden island of Niihau.
Kauai is a great place to learn a new sport or hobby. There are instructors for surfing, SCUBA, tennis and golf, even SNUBA which offers the thrill of SCUBA combined with the ease of snorkeling. You can even become a certified SCUBA diver in just 3 days! Seasport Divers, for example, offers a course involving two half-days of video, an afternoon in the pool, and four dives in beautiful Kauai waters.
Golfers can tee off at one of nine golf courses, many of them championship links set amidst spectacular scenery. The Poipu Bay Golf Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., adjacent to the Hyatt Regency Kauai, is the home of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf and offers a scenic ocean backdrop and a rare glimpse of ancient Hawaiian heiau (sacred temples of worship.)
The only navigable rivers in Hawai'i flow through Kauai. Paddlers can explore placid river reaches by kayak, gliding silently through sanctuaries for the rarest birds on planet Earth. Less ambitious travelers can go up the Wailua River the lazy way, by boat, with music playing, and maybe a hula dancer swaying.
Some of the best activities on Kauai are free. Drive to beautiful Waimea Canyon, also known as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific," or take a two mile hike to the first valley on the Na Pali Coast called Hanakapiai Valley where you can picnic on a white sand beach. Trails vary from easy nature walks to backpacker treks requiring skill and endurance.
Take a tour or two of Kauai's natural and man-made wonders. The Kilauea Lighthouse, is host to the largest colony of Seabirds in the islands including boobies, Shearwater and the legendary albatross. Historic Kilohana in Lihue spans 38 acres of aristocratic beauty. Once the home of the Wilcox family, you'll go back into a time of gracious living in the 19th Century. For a nominal fee, try a carriage ride drawn by a handsome Clydesdale horse.
Explorers can also choose mountain bike tours or an expedition into the wilds riding all-terrain-vehicles (ATVs) sometimes called Japanese quarter horses. Real horseback riding with CJM Stables or Silver Falls Ranch will take you into forests, canyons and mountains for picnics, waterfall swims and glorious ocean vistas.
Much of Kauai's breathtaking scenery will look familiar because you've seen it in more than 75 Hollywood features. Kauai Movie Tours will take you in an air-conditioned van equipped with video screens so you can watch clips from films such as "Jurassic Park" while gazing at the green valley where T-Rex prowled. Or see it all from the air in a narrated helicopter ride with Will Squyres Helicopters.
Other popular options are water skiing and windsurfing. Bikers can cruise downhill from the top of Koke'e to the ocean in 12 magnificent miles along Waimea Canyon.
At Limahuli Gardens, native Hawaiian plants are arranged around ancient taro terraces carved into the base of the mountains where the Na Pali Coast begins. The scenery is dramatic, the air tranquil. Ninety percent of Hawaii's native plants are unique to the Islands and half are endangered. At Na 'Aina Kai Botanical Gardens, the Garden Isle's newest garden, whimsical sculptures and a maze full of surprises are woven into a landscape of ponds, gardens, waterfalls, lagoons and streams.
Some of the most authentic luau in Hawaii are offered on Kauai. No one should go home without enjoying this traditional feast with Hawaiian food, hula and fun. The Drums of Paradise Luau at the Hyatt Regency Kauai is offered every Sunday and Thursday, and weather permitting, the event is always held outside just as authentic ancient luau were. This luau combines entertainment with cultural awareness.
Between action options, adven-ture travelers can linger on beautiful beaches, swing in a hammock or sip a Mai Tai poolside. And don't believe anyone who tells you there's no nightlife on Kauai. Every Friday and Saturday, there's sushi and signature martinis with live jazz at Stevenson's Library at the Hyatt. And on Wednesdays, some of Kauai's finest jazz musicians jam at the Hukilau Lanai in Kapaa. The Hukilau also offers a one of a kind Comedy Improv Show every Thursday. It's been said that audience participants (always voluntary) are sometimes as funny as the real cast. Your memories of Kauai will last a lifetime, or at least until you return for thrills you couldn't include on your last visit.