Lonely Planet Writer

Just back from: Kaua‘i

Kalalau Valley selfie 2 How could Alex resist a selfie in such stunning surrounds © Alex Howard

Alexander Howard, Lonely Planet’s Destination Editor for Canada and the Western US, went on an adventure to the Hawaiian Island of Kaua‘i.

Tell us more… While researching an article for Lonely Planet, I spent a week exploring the island of Kaua‘i. I’d wanted to visit the island since working on the last edition of Discover Kaua‘i, and reading about all the amazing landscapes and experiences available there.

In a nutshell… Kaua‘i has served as the backdrop of countless adventure films, from Jurassic Park to King Kong to Raiders of the Lost Ark, and in many ways it exemplifies an image of the archipelago beyond the usual beachcomber paradise: sweeping emerald cliffs, dense rainforests and staggering volcanic valleys. Although there’s room aplenty for beachside lounging, Kaua‘i is made for active exploring, whether it’s finding secret waterfalls along Waimea River or tackling the gruelling 11-mile Kalalau Trail.

Kalalau Valley Rainbow A rainbow arcs across the Kalalau Valley © Alex Howard

Defining moment? I wanted to snap a picture of the Kalalau Valley, the same valley that’s on the cover of the current edition of the Lonely Planet Discover Kaua‘i. After making the hour’s trip to Waimea, the nearest town, I parked in the Kalalau Lookout’s lot under a thick cloud of fog. A light afternoon rain had settled overhead, and my chances of getting a clear photograph of the valley were slim. I went to the lookout and waited for a break in the clouds. I waited… and waited… and waited, only to give up as night began to fall.

I had time the next day to try again, this time earlier in the day before the clouds would have a chance to gather. After checking the weather report several times, I went back up to the lookout, fully expecting further disappointment. It was the last day of my trip, and I desperately wanted to get a shot of the valley. I was pleasantly surprised when, upon my arrival to the lookout, I had clear skies. I lingered for at least an hour, snapping photos from every conceivable angle. Just before I was set to leave, a rainbow appeared in the middle of the valley.

Natural arch on the south side of Honopu Beach on Na Pali Coast of Kauai. Na Pali's iconic coastline © Alex Howard

You’d be a muppet to miss… Experiencing the Na Pali Coast, Kaua‘i’s most famous coastline. As Hawaii’s oldest island, Kaua‘i’s volcanic landmass has been shaped by eons of erosion, and the result is a land of scalloped mountains and towering pinnacles. I first caught sight of the coastline from a doors-off helicopter, and it was like I’d suddenly been transported back in time – no wonder the coast was used as the fictional home for dinosaurs.

Fav activity? The 11-mile Kalalau Trail is one of the best hikes in the entire state, but it’s so rugged that you need several days to make the trek and the return trip. Short on time but eager to experience a taste of the trail, I opted for a shorter 8-hour hike to Hanakapi’ai Falls. The hike follows the first two miles of the Kalalau Trail as it hugs the serrated coastline of the island.

Alexander Howard travelled to Kaua‘i with support from Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau (gohawaii.com/en/kauai). Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.

Watch the interview