Nowhere in the Hawaiian Islands is the allure, romance and embodiment of the Polynesian South Pacific more exemplified than on Kaua'i. This small, plush, emerald green island is the northernmost and oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands. Eons of time and erosion have sculpted this island into an eclectic blend of flat agricultural plains, mountainous backdrops, and feral rocky coastlines that are interrupted by pristine sandy beaches.
Blanketed by thick tropical foliage, the "Garden Isle" has attracted then awed its guests with visual wonders that have inspired the creative talents of painters, writers and photographers.
Man has done little to mar the Eden-like beauty of Kaua'i. Development has been constrained by relatively strict guidelines, leaving the island free of towering commercial and resort edifices. The main airport is in the town of Lihu'e and the resorts are concentrated around three different locales: Princeville/Hanalei to the north, Kapa'a/ Wailua to the east and Koloa/Po'ipu along the south coast.
Kauai's dramatic cliffs along the Na Pali coast are a hiker's dream, with meandering trails across jungled ridges that rise high and sheer from a pounding blue ocean below. Inland, Waimea Canyon is a startling surprise-it's the Grand Canyon, a smaller version in emerald green; a wrinkled, folded landscape worn from the red earth, 3,000 feet deep and 14 miles from end to end.
Along the northeast shore, around the town of Princeville, quiet bays are scenes from a south seas postcard; forested hillsides, blue water and golden sand. In the wild interior, a helicopter flight reveals a maze of rugged mountain peaks of the richest green, splashed by waterfalls spilling from the heights; a glistening, verdant world fed by some 450 inches of rain each year.
Kauai's diving is characterized by rough and varied topography, with tunnels, caverns and swim-throughs practically everywhere, and an amazing collection of rare fish, many of them found in few other places. Turtles are everywhere, lying peacefully in the grottos, and a number of small critters can be found, including Redstripe Pipefish, Goldlace Sea Slugs, and Flame and Bandit Angelfish, all endemic to Hawaii.
Heavy swells generated from winter storms far out to sea, strong trade winds and easterlies usually dictate what dive sites around the island are accessible. During the winter months, the south shore is the mainstay of diving off Kaua'i. However, when the conditions are ideal (usually in summer), there are many majestic and wild areas open to diving.
Ni'ihau and Lehua Rock
The "Forbidden Isle" of Ni'ihau is privately owned, its 20 plus residents tenaciously grasping the vestiges of pure Hawai'i. Its closest point of land is separated from Kaua'i by the Kaulakahi Channel, 17 miles off the southwest coast, and 24 miles from the nearest large boat harbor at Port Allen. Depending upon the type of boat and channel conditions, travel time ranges from two to three and a half hours. However, that is only during the summer, when the winds are flat and the seas are calm.
It is during this small, precious window of time when the least dived sites in the islands are open. Huge, ancient formations are festooned with rare, colorful tropicals. Hawaiian Monk Seals, near extinction and found only in the remote northwest, bask lazily on barren ledges. The pelagics we so excitedly dream about frequent this area like no other.