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On the road to Hanalei, the old sugar town of Kilauea is too often bypassed in the rush to see Kauai's fabled Na Pali coast. Kilauea, best known for a lighthouse on a postcard sea cliff, is a thriving sun-baked coastal hamlet with 10 miles of secluded beaches, fancy hideaway inns, and farm folks who celebrate its rural roots. Check out Farmer's Market any Saturday. Those who seek "the real Hawaii" find it in this tidy tin roof town of stone houses amid plenty papaya. Guava, too. Juice and jam samples of the tangy tropical fruit are sampled free daily at 480-acre Guava Kai plantation. Kilauea National Wild Life Preserve, a raw finger of ...

On the road to Hanalei, the old sugar town of Kilauea is too often bypassed in the rush to see Kauai's fabled Na Pali coast. Kilauea, best known for a lighthouse on a postcard sea cliff, is a thriving sun-baked coastal hamlet with 10 miles of secluded beaches, fancy hideaway inns, and farm folks who celebrate its rural roots. Check out Farmer's Market any Saturday. Those who seek "the real Hawaii" find it in this tidy tin roof town of stone houses amid plenty papaya. Guava, too. Juice and jam samples of the tangy tropical fruit are sampled free daily at 480-acre Guava Kai plantation. Kilauea National Wild Life Preserve, a raw finger of red dirt crowned by a white lighthouse, is the main attraction. The 81-foot-tall lighthouse stands on a north-jutting peninsula whose 200-foot sea cliffs serve as nesting sites for rara avis such as red-footed boobies, ruby-throated frigate birds, sooty shearwaters and ubiquitous egrets. Avid bird watchers also can cross the mighty albatross off their life list here; the famed Gooney birds of Midway love Kauai, too. Whale watchers often spot spouts of hunky humpbacks, observe the flight of spinner dolphins (do they go clockwise or counter-clockwise?), and bow to ancient green sea turtles who glide by with great dignity. The 203-acre walk-in wilderness preserve is Hawaii's biggest, and most rewarding. For more "only in Kauai" diversions, take Lighthouse Road in town. Everyone sooner or later sips a smoothie at Banana Joe's Fruit Stand, shops at 1877 Kong Lung Co., (dubbed "Gumps in the cane field"), orders fresh baked baguettes and tropo-pizza at Kilauea Bakery & Pau Hana Pizza, dines at Lighthouse Bistro, catches the latest flick in historic Kilauea Theater, and cheers Kauai Polo Club matches. Kayakers launch at Kilauea and Kalihiwai Bay. Nearby Aninini Beach attracts neophyte windsurfers. Everyone catches rays at no-longer-Secret Beach. At 240-acre Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens hiking trails put you nose to bud with all the Garden Island grows. Honeymooners tuck into a half dozen romantic cottages or hidden estates that offer deluxe lodging, such as: Namahana Plantation, Secret Beach Hideaway, and Aloha Sunrise Cottages (complete with rooster wakeup). Of all the old ex-plantation towns, only Kilauea and Paia on Maui have stayed down to earth and thrived, not as museums, but as lively places.

Rick Carroll
About the Expert

Rick Carroll has written dozens of articles on Hawaii and the Pacific. His books include Great Outdoor Adventures of Hawaii, Madame Pele: True Encounters with Hawaii's Fire Goddess, and Travelers' Tales Hawaii.

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Rick Carroll for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Kilauea is a small town on the northeastern shore of Kauai. KÄ«lauea shares the name of the active volcano, Mt. Kilauea. The name literally translates to "spewing" or "much spreading" in Hawaiian.
  • Research: Wikitravel | Wikipedia
  • Weather: Rainfall | Daylight
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