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Kauai is also known as the Garden Isle of Hawaii. The oldest and fourth largest of the Hawaiian Islands, Kauai lies 105 miles (170 kilometers) northwest of Honolulu across the Kauai Channel. Of volcanic origin, the highest point on the mountainous island is Mount Waialeale[?], at the center of the island, 5148 feet (1570 meters) above sea level.

Soils on Kauai are very fertile, particularly on the north part of the island where pineapple, rice, and sugar cane are grown; ranching is also an important agricultural industry.

The wettest spot on Earth, with an annual average of 460 inches (11 648 millimeters), is located just east of Mount Waialeale. The high annual rainfall has eroded deep valleys in Kauai's central mountains, carving out canyons with many scenic waterfalls.

The city of Lihue, on the island's southeast side, is the seat of Kauai County and the main city on the island. Waimea, on the island's southwest side and once the capital of Kauai, was the first place visited by explorer Captain James Cook in 1778. The city is at the head of one of the most famous and scenic canyons in the world, Waimea Canyon[?], whose gorge is 3000 feet (9144 meters) deep.

Kauai from space (NASA image)

Tourist information Kauai is a paradise for nature lovers. Hiking, kayaking, camping, a helicopter tour (~$180) and/or a boat tour (~$115) are the only ways one can see the true beauty of the island. If you don't hike hazardous trails or do not have the budget to take a helicoptor or boat tour, you won't be able to see much on Kauai, because the roads only reach about 5% of the island.

There is one main highway, which does not circle the entire island. The highway goes along the coast from the north at Ke'e Beach, goes around the east side where the town of Lihue and the airport are located, continues along the south shore and then west, ending at the remains of a town called Mana[?] and Polihale State Park[?].

The northwest part of the island is the Na Pali Coast[?], a range of breathtaking, rugged cliffs that are inaccessible by car. A view of this spectacular vista, either by hiking, helicopter or boat, should not be missed when visiting Kauai. Image of the Na Pali coast

In the northwest interior of the island are the Waimea Canyon, also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific and the high altitude Alaka'i Swamp[?]. In the center of the island is the top of the inactive Wai'ale'ale volcano. The summit is shrouded by clouds 300 days a year and gets an average of 1.5 inches of rain everyday, making it is the wettest place on earth.

Almost the entire island is lush green wilderness, perfect for hikers and campers. Some of the hiking trails along the cliffs are very steep and are not for beginners. There are streams and rivers at the bottom of the Waimea Canyon and throughout the island. Kayaking on these rivers is a popular activity. Ocean kayaking is also popular.

One way to see the scenery is by taking a helicopter tour. Tours leave from Lihue airport and fly over the shorelines, the valleys where the ancient Hawaiians used to live, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and the swamp at 2000 feet elevation. The waterfall where the visitors to Jurassic Park landed is located on Kauai.

Some helicopters fly into the shaft of an old volcano. Half of the crater had fallen off due to erosion. The remaining half forms a semi-cylindrical opening. When a helicopter is in the opening, the passengers are surrounded by a vertical wall 270° around. The cliff walls are covered with plants and numerous threads of tiny waterfalls. The Hawaiians called it the Wall of Tears. The ceiling of the shaft is always covered by clouds. On the rare occasion when the mountain clouds clear up, the helicopter can fly up the shaft vertically and it feels like you're looking up from the bottom of a well. Even most seasoned pilots have seen the sky from the shaft only a few times.

Na Pali coast from helicopter

Another fun thing to do is to take a raft expedition. The trip leaves the north shore on a motorized raft, which holds 14 passengers and a crew of 2. The raft travels along the west shore to see spectacular views of the cliffs. When the lava flowed from the volcano to the sea, it cooled to form the rocks and continued to flow in underground tunnels. When the flowing lava stopped, the tunnels became sea caves along the shore. Rafts can enter into the sea caves - some of the cave entrances are covered by waterfalls. Some raft trips land on a beach for a lunch break, followed by time for snorkeling in the coral reef. The colorful coral fish swim to the divers begging for food.

Large power and sail catamarans also tour the island coasts.

Another way to see the island is by car. One can basically drive the entire stretch of the highways on the island in a few hours. At one end is the viewpoint at Waimei Valley and Kokee to see part of the sea cliffs and lush green valleys and the desert-like Grand Canyon of the Pacific.

At the other end is a dry lava cave that the visitor can walk inside. Along the ways are numerous resorts and white sand beaches.

There is a place called Spouting Horn on the south shore near Poipu, where the ceiling of an undersea lava tunnel is cracked; the sea waves push water into the tunnel and water spout shoots 30 feet into the air.

There is a famous coral reef on the north shore, one can stop by any rental store to rent snorkeling gear for $1.99 per day (in 1996's US dollar value). Drive to a place called Tunnel Beach, it is the largest reef on Kauai. Park the car on the roadside and just walk into the water. There is no road sign to Tunnel Beach, one has to look it up in the map and guess the way there. The map actually shows many coral reefs around the entire shore line, but Tunnel Beach is the best around May when the ocean waves are pounding on the south shore, the north shore is perfect for snorkeling.

Tourists can also attend a Luau[?]. They cook a pig in the imu[?] (the ground oven) and serve shredded pork with poi (mashed taro root) and other traditional dishes in the buffet-style dinner. Afterwards, they have a show of different Polynesian dances for the tourists.

The island of Kauai was featured in Disney's 2002 animated feature film[?] Lilo & Stitch.

From [1] (http://cp_lai.tripod.com/hawaii.htm), by permission. See top of source webpage.

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