Like most everything in life, the best things to enjoy on Kaua'i are free – or at least pretty affordable. Called Hawaii's Island of Discovery and popularly referred to as "the Garden Island" – both for good reason – Kaua'i's landscape is an enticing, exciting playground for lovers of the environment, outdoor adventure, and Polynesian culture.
The following are twelve enjoyable and interesting ways for visitors to experience and enjoy Kaua'i for free (or nearly free).
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Mark Twain called Waimea Canyon the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific." It is a sightseer's paradise – a mile wide, 10 miles long and more than 3,500-feet deep. Take in the stunning views from several of the lookouts or hike into the crater.
Follow the road through Koke'e State Park to the Kalalau Lookout with unforgettable views of the once cultivated Kalalau valley that descends 4,000-feet to the Pacific blue. After sightseeing, enjoy a picnic lunch at the top of the crater in Koke'e State Park, surrounded by a forest dominated by koa and 'ohi'a lehua trees.
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Hike Amid Rainforests and Lush Valleys
Kaua'i is a hiker's dream destination, with spectacular hiking trails that immerse one into the magnificence of Kaua'i's verdant wilderness. Hikes range from comfortable walks to challenging treks into hidden valleys streaming with waterfalls.
A must-do for any serious hiker is the 11-mile Kalalau Trail along the majestic Napali Coast.
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Learn About Kaua'i's Royalty
Prince Kuhio Park was home to Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole (1871-1922), beloved as the "People's Prince" for his tireless work on behalf of Hawaii's people and the last royal heir to the Hawaiian throne.
Located near Lawa'i, this historical setting features the foundation of Prince Kuhio's home, a royal fishpond, a shrine where offerings were made, and heiau (ancient place of worship) where the kahuna (priests) meditated and lived.
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See Kaua'i's Cherished Sites
Alekoko Fishpond was built hundreds of years ago for a young chief and once covered 40 acres that were marked by a 2,700-foot long stone wall. Located in the Huleia National Wildlife Refuge that is a habitat for endangered Hawaiian birds, the fishpond is also known as Menehune Fishpond because the legend is that it was built by the mythical menehune (little people) of Hawaii.
The Wailua River is a beautifully scenic area that was once a sacred place in ancient times and reserved for the kings and high chiefs of Kaua'i. Near the river's mouth in Lydgate State Park are the remains of a heiau that was a place of refuge for those who had broken a kapu (taboo).Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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A Birdwatcher's Paradise
For a nominal entry fee, the Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge is a uniquely special setting for bird lovers. The most northern point in Hawaii is known for its famous lighthouse.
Framed by breathtaking views of Kaua'i's north shore, Hawaii's endangered birds are seen nesting in the cliffs, including the Hawaiian Gallinule, red-footed boobies, tropicbirds, albatrosses and frigate birds. Look to the ocean and you have a good chance of seeing Hawaiian monk seals, green sea turtles, and Hawaiian spinner dolphins.
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Enjoy Kaua'i's Culture
Hawaii is the only state with its own music, language, and dance. On Kaua'i, the host culture of Hawaii can be enjoyed for free or at little cost. Many hotels offer free hula performances, torch lighting ceremonies, and lei-making courses, among other cultural offerings.
Coconut Marketplace in Kapa'a and Harbor Mall in Lihu'e stage free hula shows every Wednesday.
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A River Runs Through It
The only navigable rivers in Hawaii are found – and enjoyed – on Kaua'i. Rent a kayak and leisurely paddle along one of the gentle rivers bordered by lush, tropical foliage.
Or, journey by riverboat up the Wailua River with Smith's to the famous Fern Grotto. In this beautiful, jungle-like setting, a natural amphitheater has been formed creating remarkable acoustics. On your return down the river, you'll enjoy Hawaiian music and hula performed on the boat.
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Discover Kaua'i's Quaint Towns
Koloa is a historic 19th-century plantation town that was the site of Hawaii's first sugar plantation. Every July the Koloa Plantation Days celebrates the town's proud heritage. Visitors will find restaurants and specialty shops amid some of Hawaii's oldest buildings.
Hanapepe exudes an old-fashioned small-town appeal, with its plantation-era buildings and slow-paced lifestyle. Every Friday evening, Hanapepe's nine galleries open their doors for a night of artistic enjoyment. Stroll along Main Street to see fine art and listen to live entertainment.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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A Garden Isle Waterfall Spectacular
Kaua'i's waterfalls are a year-round display of nature's ability to keep the Garden Isle green and vibrant. In Lihu'e, one can drive right up to picturesque Wailua Falls. If the 80-foot waterfalls look vaguely familiar, it was a fixture in the opening credits of the 1970s TV show Fantasy Island.
In scenic Wailua, Opaeka'a Falls is the island's most accessible major waterfall as it cascades into a hidden pool. And it's a wonderful setting to take photos. Opaeka'a means "rolling shrimp," which were once abundant in the stream.
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Experience Kaua'i's History
The telling of Kaua'i's story can be experienced in museums offering intriguing exhibits and artifacts. In Lihu'e, the Kaua'i Museum tells the island's story from its formation and the arrival of the first Polynesians to more modern times with the start of the sugar plantation, and the various ethnic cultures that have contributed to its history.
Also in Lihu'e, Grove Farm was established as one of Hawaii's earliest sugar plantations, but today offers a museum display of Kaua'i's heritage highlighting the old sugar days and through the monarchy to statehood.
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Learn About Kauai's Missionary Past
Waioli Mission in Hanalei was founded in 1834. It is where the early Christian missionaries, Abner and Lucy Wilcox, one of Kaua'i's most influential families, lived and worked from 1846 to 1869.
This historic New England-style home was shipped in pieces from Boston around Cape Horn and today stands as a showcase of koa wood furniture and other artifacts from the missionary era. In front of the house is the old Waioli Huiia Church. Its green shingles and stained-glass windows are one of Hanalei's most photographed sites.
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Hit the Beach
Kauai has 43 gorgeous white sand beaches stretching over 50 miles - more beach per mile than any other island in Hawaii.
Whether enjoying the fun at Po'ipu or tossing a towel down in a secluded cove at 'Anini, Kaua'i's range of beaches matches the island's diversity. For the more adventurous, rent a snorkel and see the wonders and undersea beauty of Kaua'i's marine world.
By its very nature, Kaua'i is a destination to be explored and an experience to be discovered – a place that encourages loved ones to gather and create priceless memories to last a lifetime. For more information about Kaua'i, Hawaii's Island of Discovery, visit at www.kauaidiscovery.com online or call the Kaua'i Visitors Bureau toll-free at (800) 262-1400.
As you can see, there is plenty to do on the island of Kauai for free or just the nominal cost of admission. So, next time that you're on the island, get out and enjoy its many and varied aspects.