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South Side Visitors Center: National Tropical Botanical Garden

The South Side Visitors Center is located near the Spouting Blowhole just across the street. At the South Side Visitors Center, visit the grounds and check out the many beautiful flowers and native Hawaiian plants. In addition, amenities at the South Side Visitors Center include: restrooms, picnic area, snack shop and store. Furthermore, the South Side Visitors Center is a gateway to Allerton and McBryde Gardens Tour (two gems that exist only on Kauai).



National Tropical Botanical Gardens

While only 5 National Tropical Botanical Gardens in the world exist. There are three National Tropical Botanical Gardens on the island of Kauai. One is at Limahuli on the North Shore while the Allerton Garden and McBryde Garden can be found on Kauai’s South Shore.  Both Allerton Garden and McBryde Gardens can be accessed at the South Side Visiors Center.  



Allerton Garden

Probably, popularized by the film industry, the Moreton Bay fig trees that find their home in the Allerton garden is a major tourist attraction. Featured in blockbuster movies such as the original Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean, many flock to the garden for picture-taking of the trees and artifacts on the property. The Allerton Garden rests between the Pacific Ocean and the McBryde Garden offering spectacular views. While visiting the Allerton Garden, a beautifu landscape of native and endangered plants await. In addition, hidden gems only found at the Allerton Garden include: Diana’s fountain, the three pools, the mermaid room and the riparian area.



Information and Pricing for Allerton Gardens

The Allerton Garden tour lasts approximately 2.5 hours. Ticket prices for adults is $50.00; Children 6 to 12 is $25.00 and children under 5 are Free.

McBryde Garden

Another tour offered is the McBryde Garden. The McBryde Garden lies in the southern part of the Lawai Valley and has 50 acres of diverse plant collections for visitors to explore.  The McBryde Garden is a self-guided tour.  In addition, the McBryde garden includes: the Spice of Life Trail, Canoe Plant Garden and Biodiversity Trail.  At the Biodiversity Trail learn and discover the evolution of plants for the past 400 million years.  With that being said, the McBryde Garden is a great place for your future Botanist or Biologist to visit.   

Furthermore, many plants from tropical regions around the world are brought to the garden for research and cultivation. As a result, the McBryde garden offers the largest collection of native hawaiian flora in existence. Consequently due to the expansive land area, expect the tour of duration for the McBryde Garden to be approximately 1.5 hours. 


Information and Pricing for McBryde Gardens

After departing the South Shore Visitors Center, a shuttle will drop you off at the McBryde garden. Tour the garden at your own pace and catch a return shuttle to the South Shore’s Visitor Center. Ticket prices for the McBryde Garden: Adults $30.00; Children 6-12 $15.00 and Children under 5 are Free.



Allerton Garden: Sunset Tour

The Allerton Garden also offers a sunset tour. Allerton Garden at Sunset; Adults $95.00; Children 6-12 $45.00 and Children 5 and under Free. Consequently, the guided tour must be a minimum of four participants. Tour times 3:30-4:30. Additionally, The Sunset Tour comes with a tour of the Allertons property with beverages and a light dinner. Once for the rich and famous, Allerton Sunset Tour provides all with an opportunity to admire, indulge and unwind

Free Hula Shows: Thursdays from 2:00-2:45pm

National Tropical Botanical Garden invites you to experience a traditional hula show by Kauai’s award winning Halau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leinaala.  The show highlights the wahi pane (sacred places) of Kauai with intriguing stories of our Hawaiian people, their connection to and dependence on plants both wild and cultivated.  Hula shows are free to attend and is a great opportunity to visit the gift shop and register for a tour at one of the nearby Allerton and McBryde Gardens. Taking a tour earlier in the morning and watching the hula show in the afternoon is recommended.


Plan your Trip

Allerton Garden is intermingled with the McBryde Garden. However, the Allerton Garden and McBryde Garden are separate tours. Significantly, The Allerton Garden and McBryde Garden tours both depart the South Shore Visitors Center every hour from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm at the top of the hour.

The South Shore Visitors Center is on 4425 Lawai Road, Koloa, HI. It is located before reaching the Spouting Horn Blowhole on your right hand side. For reservations or inquiries call 808-742-2623

In Conclusion, before heading to the gardens, please be prepared as the weather can be unpredictable on Kauai.  Visitors are encouraged to dress for the weather and terrain. In addition, the following items are suggested: comfortable walking shoes, rain and sun protection, water bottle, insect repellent.  



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Opaekaa Falls and Wailua River State Park

Opaekaa Falls is located on the east side of Kauai in the town of Wailua. The waterfall is visible from a lookout and is great for all ages.  Ample parking is also available as well as restrooms. Furthermore, there are picturesque views and photo ops of the Opaekaa Falls and Wailua River. Unlike many waterfalls on Kauai, Opaekaa Falls does not require a hike and is easily accessible.  In addition, there are handicap accessible ramps and sidewalks that are great for strollers.

Opaekaa in English is translated into “rolling shrimp”.

An abundance of shrimp in the stream was how the waterfall got its name. The Opaekaa Falls is a quick stop off to the side of the road in Wailua.  Therefore, if you are trying to get in as much as you can within a short period of time it is a great place to visit. The views of the Opaekaa Falls is from a distance.  However, the natural beauty is worth a look if you do not live in an area where there are waterfalls.  In addition, since it is free of charge the Opaekaa Falls will not disappoint.

Opaekaa Falls is a 151 foot tall, 40 foot wide waterfall that cascades down to a hidden pool. 

Two Lookouts: Opaeekaa Falls and Wailua River


There are picnic tables and shade across the street where you can view the Wailua River. Directions to the falls cannot be missed as it is on signage heading toward the area.  Turn up to Kuamoo Road (580) and travel up the hill to the lookout which will be located on the right hand side.  The drive from the main Highway is about two miles up Route 580. The Wailua River State Park is  across the street from Opaekaa Falls Lookout.  You will see informational boards at the Wailua State Park providing descriptions of the area.   



Poliahu Heiau

Poliahu Heiau is also located in the State Park.  The Heiau is a temple dedicated to Ku. The temple was created by hand where stones were brought up from the river below.  The area was known for religious ceremonies and rituals. As you visit please respect the sacred site. Stay outside of the heiau and do not climb on the walls.


Wailua is known as a political and religious center of Kauai in ancient Hawaiian times as well as today.  The area was where the Hawaiian chiefs and priests built their houses and temples. The area is a sacred place where many of the births of chiefs occured in the area.  The ahupuaa (Hawaiian Land Division System) of Wailua is the largest on Kauai. With an abundance of water and fertile valley floors, this area provided great farming and hunting.  There was also plentiful fish for fishermen in the freshwater as well as ocean nearby. The resource of the land provided a thriving abundance of food for its people and was very self-sustainable.  



The use of the area has changed over time. A great agricultural area with fertile soil and an abundance of water, the landscape evolved with the times. In the 1600s the land was terraced for taro farms. In the 1800s the same terraces were used by Chinese and Japanese farmers for growing rice. In the 1900s the land was used for raising cattle and horses.  

Located on the Wailua River State Park grounds is also an old cemetery. Entrance to the cemetery is at the bottom of the hill up a flight of stairs near the HoloHoloKu Heiau.  





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Ke’e Beach

Ke’e Beach: The End of the Road

Ke’e Beach is located at the end of the road on Kauai’s North Shore.  Ke’e beach is a lifeguarded beach that has a reef protecting a lagoon for snorkeling during the summer months. However, during the winter months, the beach is not safe for keiki due to the large surf and ocean currents.  Furthermore, Ke’e beach is one of the most visited beach on Kauai.  Because of this, making an early start for this day trip is recommended.  


There are facilities such as restrooms and showers. However, there are no picnic areas and no self phone service.  In addition the nearest store for drinks and snacks is miles away.  Wainiha General Store is the last place to get ice cold drinks and snacks.  Therefore, it is recommended that you bring your own snacks and drinks.

Restroom and Showers

Gateway to the Na Pali Coast

Many people come to the area because it is a gateway to the Na Pali Coast. Furthermore, Ke’e beach is the furthest you can drive by car on the North Shore.  Making it a prime location to park your car. Ke’e beach is where the head of the famous 11-mile Kalalau Trail begins.



Besides the Kalalau Trail, the Hanakapiai Falls trail and shorter trails also start at the end of the road.  For four year olds and older, a short hike to the Coast Viewpoint (.5 mile) is something you can do.

Parking

Ke’e Beach, Hae’na and the North Shore was impacted by a severe flood in April 2018. As a result, the road to Ke’e Beach and the surrounding area (right past Hanalei) was restricted due to repairs and maintenance. Since then, a shuttle service has been established to help transport visitors to many popular destinations past Hanalei.  This will help preserve the beautiful landscape and limit traffic flow to the recovering areas impacted by the flood. In order to visit this area, you must book tickets for the shuttle in advance as most shuttles are booked two weeks out in advance.  Here is the link to the website.

https://www.hanaleiinitiative.org/the-shuttle

Shuttle services are provided at various locations where you can park and take the shuttle to your destination.

Make sure to make it back for the last shuttle that leaves at 5:00 pm.  

Another option to get to attractions, sites and beaches past Hanalei is to purchase a pass for entry and parking. Facilities with limited parking spaces and monitored entry, require parking permits that need to be purchased a week in advance as there are only a set number of dedicated parking stalls for visitors.  It is advised that visitors plan ahead if wanting to take a day trip to Ke’e Beach or hike the Hanakapiai or Kalalau Trail. You can get a permit two weeks in advance before heading to the area.

https://www.gohaena.com/

Beautiful and Scenic Drive

The drive is about 40 miles from Lihue and will take roughly an hour to drive.  Heading toward Hanalei town take Route 560.   Hanalei to Ke’e Beach is a nine mile trip one way.  In addition, you will drive over seven bridges on your way to Ke’e Beach. Local courtesy of letting 5-7 cars cross before switching directions is implemented.  Furthermore, the famous double bridge over the Wainiha River let’s you know that you are getting close.





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Maniniholo Dry Cave, Haena Beach Park

Maniniholo Dry Cave

Maniniholo Dry Cave and Haena Beach Park is a popular attraction for those visiting the North Shore of Kauai. This ancient site is located across from Ha’ena Beach Park, on highway 560.



Maniniholo Dry Cave is said to have formed naturally thousands of years ago.  The sea level was higher and the ocean once used to hit the base of the cliff. As a result, erosion from the waves formed the cave.  The sand was brought into Maniniholo Dry Cave during the 1957 tsunami. In addition, stones have been piled in the front of the cave by locals as well as native Hawaiians.  

Exploration

About 300 yards deep, with plenty of standing room, the cave is great for exploration.  The floor is covered by sand as well as large stones.  Furthermore, keiki love to explore the cave and run around.  Consequently, a flashlight is needed to go deeper into the cave. We used the one on our cell phone.


Hawaiian Culture and History

Maniniholo Cave and the surrounding Haena area has its importance in Hawaiian culture and history.  In Hawaiian legends, it is told that this dry cave was once used by menehune to escape danger. For that reason, the cave was used as a passage route to get from one side of the island to the other.

 Another Hawaiian legend says that this cave was named after Maniniholo, the head fisherman of the Menehune.  Maniniholo used it to catch many fish here at Ha’ena. On one account, after catching many fish, he left some of the catch under the cliff. The menehune then carried the rest of the fish to the island’s interior to other menehune.  However, when they returned to gather the rest of the fish, they saw an akua (supernatural beast/ spirit) who took the fish that they had left there.  In order to catch the supernatural beast, they decided to dig a cave and make a trap.  This cave is the remnants of the menehune work.  Other legends say that the menehune dug the cave looking for imps that stole their fish.


Parking and Information

Ke’e Beach, Hae’na and the North Shore was impacted by a severe flood in April 2018. As a result, the road to Ke’e Beach and the surrounding area (right past Hanalei) was restricted due to repairs and maintenance. Since then, a shuttle service has been established to help transport visitors to many popular destinations past Hanalei.  This will help preserve the beautiful landscape and limit traffic flow to the recovering areas impacted by the flood. In order to visit this area, you must book tickets for the shuttle in advance as most shuttles are booked two weeks out in advance.  Here is the link to the website.

https://www.hanaleiinitiative.org/the-shuttle

Shuttle services are provided at various locations where you can park and take the shuttle to your destination.

Make sure to make it back for the last shuttle that leaves at 5:00 pm.  

Another option to get to attractions, sites and beaches past Hanalei is to purchase a pass for entry and parking. Facilities with limited parking spaces and monitored entry, require parking permits that need to be purchased a week in advance as there are only a set number of dedicated parking stalls for visitors.  It is advised that visitors plan ahead if wanting to take a day trip to Ke’e Beach or hike the Hanakapiai or Kalalau Trail. You can get a permit two weeks in advance before heading to the area.

https://www.gohaena.com/

Haena Beach

During the winter months, the surf can be very high and beachgoers should heed caution. Inevitably, the beach will be closed by lifeguards when conditions are too rough.


The Maniniholo Dry cave is a great place to take a break from a long drive. As a result our boys get a chance to stretch their legs and run around.  They also get to explore one of Kauai’s natural wonders. After visiting the cave, they came up with so many stories.  This is where the Batman and Spiderman lives.  They also claimed to see blood on the rocks.  Whether adult or keiki, your imagination runs wild as you enter the cave.  Will the space cave in?  How was this cave formed?  What was the cave used for?  What’s in the darkness?  Are the Legends of the Evil Spirit true?  Maniniholo Dry Cave and Haena Beach Park is great for exploration and play with your keiki.




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Kuk’s Mini Golf

Kuk’s Mini Golf: Kukuiolono Park, Kalaheo

Nested in a prime location at Kukuiolono Park, Kalaheo you will find a Mini golf course next to the 9-hole Kukuiolono Golf Course and driving range called “Kuk’s Mini Golf”.  If you are a golfer or not, this mini golf is a great place to take your keiki for an outing.  For those staying on the South Shore or West Side of the island, Kukuiolono Park is about 20 minutes away.

Spectacular Views and Weather

Enjoy the spectacular views of both the South and West Shores.  Kuk’s Mini Golf offers golfers young and old a chance to putt around and enjoy the beautiful weather of Kauai.  You could also get a few swings in on the driving range while being able to take your kids along.


For Real!

Unlike most miniature golf courses, the setup is created with real grass.  It includes local plants and flowers, Hawaiian rocks, a Japanese garden, and water features.  Also, original park artifacts that have been excavated from the land are part of the layout. The course is intended to mimic the regulation nine-hole golf course with smaller versions of the Japanese and Hawaiian gardens that are also found on the property.

This mini golf course is one of three opportunities for mini golf on the island of Kauai.  It is a great place to stop for a quick lunch break. Grab some refreshments at Paco’s Tacos Cantina which is located in the Clubhouse.

A Piece of Kauai History

As it is still a work in progress, Kuk’s Mini Golf has plans on using the venue to educate others about Hawaiiana and other cultural ethnicities that create the diverse population of the Island of Kauai.  A piece of history on Kauai can be found here at Kuk’s mini golf course.  




Also read our blog on Kukuiolono Park, Kalaheo here >>>>https://kauaiwithkeiki.com/2017/10/13/kukuiolono-park-kalaheo/



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Salt Pond Beach, Hanapepe

Salt Pond Beach Park

Salt Pond Beach Park, which is named for its traditional Hawaiian salt collecting beds, is located on Kauai’s western shore.  If you are traveling along Hwy 50, heading west from Kalaheo, after passing Hanapepe town turn left onto Lele Road or Hwy. 543.  Protected by natural lava rock ridges as waves break outside the reef, Salt Pond Beach is perfect for little keiki.  Shallow pools and lagoons are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and tidepooling.  Furthermore, this lifeguarded beach offers amenities such as restrooms, showers, and pavilions.




Adjacent to the Salt Pond Beach are the The Salt Flats.  This delicate area is restricted, unless you have been invited by a member of a salt making family.  Making pa’akai or Hawaiian sea salt is an ancient cultural practice that is passed down from generation to generation.  Kauai is the only place in Hawaii that makes salt according to the ancient traditions which are all done by hand.  

Looking from a distance, you may see the salt patch or lo’i filled with rows of oval salt beds which are lined with clay.  These shallow beds allow for the evaporation of seawater and produce this prized sparkling salt.  Held in respect, the salt is never sold; it is only given away.  The Hawaiian salt is used for cooking, seasoning, preserving food, medicinal purposes and in cultural blessings.  The season runs from May-September; the amount of harvested salt depends on many natural variables such as the sun, ocean tides and weather conditions.

Salt beds, Hanapepe

On the Salt ponds side of the beach, the beach in this area is reddish-golden from the clay that lies beneath the water.  If you want to access this part of the beach, it is recommended that you walk from the main beach.  Although you may see vehicles lined up on the sand and parked along the fenceline, please avoid trying to park here (If you do access the beach from the back side, do not drive right on the beach as it damages the sand dunes that protect the salt patches from high surf.)  A paved parking lot that is next to the salt beds can be used.

 At this part of Salt Pond Beach, my sons were entertained by the red and greyish clay in this area. They were running it through their hands and trying to break it apart with rocks.  Also, there were many fish in this lagoon as my husband took the boys to look at the different types of fish found in the shallow waters.  We were even able to Find Nemo (a clownfish) that happened to come in with the tide and a plethora of other reef fish.




Salt Pond is a great choice for a day at the beach with your keiki.



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Kilauea Point Lighhouse and National Wildlife Refuge

At the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge you will encounter unprecedented sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean.  The contrast of colors in this landscape is amazing with the deep greens and browns of the cliffside, to the blacks of the rocks, to the vibrant bright blues of the ocean.

LEARN & DISCOVER

There are many things to take notice of and engage the keiki in.

1. BIRDWATCHING

Seabirds are everywhere, hugging the cliffs, hovering above you, hiding from you, and even walking amongst you. Observation scopes are located throughout the pathways and binoculars are available for the keiki to use. Just sign them out and return when you are done.

Observation scopes
Hovering Seabirds

2. WHALES, DOLPHINS, NENE, & MONK SEALS

Besides the opportunity see seabirds in their natural habitat, there are also opportunities to see other wildlife such as whales and dolphins, endangered Nene, and Hawaiian monk seals. On this particular day, the Nene were approaching nesting season. Therefore, we were able to observe mating behaviors such as them “talking” to each other and acting territorial. We have also seen whales during whale watching season which runs from November-May. Dolphins can also be spotted from the lookout areas and are usually most visible during the summer months.

3. NATIVE PLANTS

Along the property there are informational picture boards which provide a visual inventory of what to look for. Walking up the pathway to the lighthouse, take notice of the abundance of native plants. Try to have the keiki match the picture and the description with the plants around you. The easiest one to identify is the native Napaka shrub. It has waxy green leaves with white flowers that have five petals and looks like a half-flower. Your keiki can reach these along the path and feel the surface of the leaves for the texture.

There is a Hawaiian legend that goes with this half – flower that you can tell your keiki. One version is about a royal princess who fell in love with a commoner from the mountains. Together the princess and the commoner traveled up the mountain in distress. The kupuna told them that there is nothing that he could do so that they could be together.  So as a token or rememberance of her love, the princess took the flower from her ear and tore it in half telling the commoner that he must go by the water and live.

Since then, the Naupaka flower only bloomed in half-flowers where one-half can be found near the sea and it’s counter-part found in the mountains.  Some say that if you find one of each flower and put them together, you reunite their love and it can bring you good luck. The Naupaka plant can easily root near sand and rocks and is found along most of the beaches on Kauai as it prevents erosion.  

4. Kilauea Point Lighthouse

The historic Daniel Inouye Lighthouse is another highlight. Tours are offered on certain days and times of the week, so if you are interested in actually going up into the lighthouse, plan ahead. Children need to be 44 inches tall for this activity.




Admission

Admission for children 15 and under are free and adults are $5 per person so this is a great bargain.  If you are a L.O.C.A.L. (Kamaaina) you can purchase a yearly pass for $20 that allows entry for 4 people.  Only cash and traveler’s check are accepted as forms of payments, so make sure you bring some cash.  The Refuge is closed on Sunday and Monday and open Tuesday – Saturday, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm so plan accordingly.


Bookstore

On the way out, there is a great bookstore that offers books and gifts or information to reinforce anything that your keiki may have been interested in


Nesting Shearwater

Getting There

Heading north on Kuhio Hwy. from Lihue pass through the towns of Kapaa and Anahola.  The next town is Kilauea (look for the gas station on the right) and turn right onto Kolo Road.  Pass the gas station and make the first left onto Kilauea Road.  The refuge is at the end of this scenic road, about 2 miles in.

I had this old photo from 2008, when my family visited!


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Turtle Watching on Kaua’i’s South Shores

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles

On the South Side of Kaua’i, you will have your best chance to view Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles as there are many vantage points standing  along the shoreline.  The South Shore’s rocky shoreline is lined with seaweed, seagrasses, and rocks that are covered in algae which provides food for hungry turtles.  This environment provides a natural feeding area for turtles, who can tear grasses and scrape algae off rocks with their sawlike beaks.  In turn, Green Sea turtles contribute to maintaining the homeostasis of these reef environments by eating the algae.  

Views from Koloa Landing also Known as Whaler’s Cove

The area that we like to bring our keiki to for viewing Green Sea Turtles is Koloa Landing also known as Whalers Cove.  If you are staying at the  Koloa Landing Resort, there is an access path through the hotel that leads directly to this spot.  Whenever we stay at Koloa Landing, we make this an evening family activity.  From the hotel, cross the street carefully to the boat ramp entrance. If driving, when approaching the south shore, take the roundabout exiting Poipu towards spouting horn.  Then make the first left towards the Sheraton hotel.  You will see the boat ramp entrance on the right.


At the base of the ramp, there is a viewing area to the left that doesn’t take much maneuvering to get to.  The evening we went, there were a plethora of sea turtles that came right up to the shoreline at this spot.  Evenings are the best times to view the Green Sea Turtles in action.




 On a different visit, the boys decided they wanted to climb the rocks and head to the cove on the right.  My 5 year old was able to do this on his own as my 4 year old succeeded with a little help from dad.  Once you reach the edge of the cove, there are flatter rocks to stand on.


We spotted one large Sea turtle camouflaged into rocks across the cove.  Nonetheless, we also viewed 2-3 sea turtles as they swam by us.  These were mostly submerged slightly below the water and appeared as shadows until a head or arm poked through to the surface.  My boys kept yelling, “brother, brother did you see that!” in excitement.  If you don’t feel like making the short trek down the ramp, you can also park on the side of the road near the lava rock wall and view from the overlook.

Camouflaged Sea Turtle



Other Viewing Spots

Other spots along the south shore that provide viewing points are Brennecke Beach which is located to the left of Poipu Beach Park.  Lawai Beach located across from Lawai Beach Resort and next to The Beach House restaurant also offers another up close vantage point.  There is a lawn fronting the Beach House restaurant with a walking path that follows the shoreline.

Another spot is the walking paths behind The Point at Poipu.  These walking paths behind this hotel, which hug the shoreline, connects with the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa on the right.  (See Hotels We Love) We have also spotted Green Sea Turtles while at Baby Beach in Poipu which is protected by a rocky shoreline (See Best Beaches For Keiki – Baby Beach, Poipu) for a video of the encounter.  

Shores behind The Point at Poipu leading and walking path to Grand Hyatt Kauai

The Hawaiian Honu is of symbolic importance and represents navigation, wisdom, and good luck.  Legends tell of a Honu who transformed into a young girl and performed as a guardian protecting the keiki from enemies.

Remember, Green Sea Turtles are protected by state and federal laws (See 10 Things You Should Know About Kauai) so keep your distance and use common sense.  Do not try to feed, touch, ride, or harass sea life.

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