When Hollywood directors go searching for paradise, they often end up in Kauai. South Pacific made the beaches famous. Its waterfalls, ocean cliffs and remote mountain valleys were immortalized in Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Blue Hawaii, Raiders of the Lost Ark and many other hit films.
Kauai manages to satisfy beach lovers, the action-oriented and the culturally curious. Topographically, it is astonishingly diverse. The Napali Coast has sheer, sharp cliffs, soaring hundreds of metres from the crashing surf. The giant, 1,000-metre-deep rift of Waimea Canyon with its walls of red, orange and green rock is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.
Its challenging surf has shaped the talents of world-class surfers, like the late Andy Irons, who grew up riding the waves of Hanalei Bay on the north shore.
Kauai is also the only Hawaiian Island with wide, placid rivers, like the Wailua, Hanalei and Huleia that allow you to navigate by paddle, oar or motor deep into the heart of the land. It boasts more beaches per kilometre of coastline than any other Hawaiian Island.
It's also one of the rainiest places on Earth. The slopes of Mt. Waialeale receive a whopping 1,150 cm of rain annually. The rain constantly replenishes mountain streams, and feeds the fertile small-scale farmlands that have turned Kauai into a haven for fresh produce. You can find everything from organic lettuce to pineapples and taro root here.
The island also has some interesting Hollywood connections. Out on winding Route 56, where it wraps around the north shore, Richard Taylor, brother of the late Hollywood siren, Elizabeth, once invited a band of hippies to form a clothing-optional retreat on his oceanfront property during the 1960s. These days, celebrities like Pierce Brosnan choose this secluded stretch of coastline as a retreat from the paparazzi.
Though the State of Hawaii has been a global tourist hub for decades, Kauai is just far enough off the beaten path at the northern end of the main islands to make it feel like an unpolished pearl. Once experienced, it's not easily forgotten.