Kauai Island is farther north and west than the other major Hawaiian Islands. It has dramatic craggy mountains, luxuriant valleys and many breezy beaches that have mostly managed to dodge excessive development. Yes, Kauai has many hotels, resort complexes and some of the state's best golf courses, but they're centralized in small pockets on the east, north and south sides of the island.
The landscape has also been protected by height restrictions—keeping buildings from towering over the coconut trees—and the interior of the island remains predominantly rural. As a result, it's the natural scenery that elicits the "Wows!" on Kauai.
Serious hikers should set aside an extra day or two just to hike Kauai's marvelous nature trails. Outdoor enthusiasts will also find challenging golf, whale-watching (December- to mid-April) and boat trips along the spectacular Na Pali Coast. This island is well-suited to travelers who enjoy nature—the scenery and abundance of outdoor activities are the highlight there; shopping and nightlife are relatively limited.
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