Eastside & Lihue Attractions
Whether you are visiting the Hindu Monastery, Wailua Falls or the Kauai Museum, there are lots of adventures to be had on the east side of Kauai.
Well, it may not be the 60 MPH trains that you`re used to seeing zipping down the countryside, but a train nonetheless. What`s special about this train ride is that you, as a passenger, will get to tour the historical 105-acre Kilohana Plantation, an estate that not a lot of people normally witness. Kilohana Plantation is located in Lihue, right across the Hokulei Shopping Village and a few minutes away from the Kauai Community College. Their two main tours are their Signature Train Tour and their Train Nature Walk Lunch Orchard Adventure.
Passengers on the Signature Train Tour will enjoy a 40-minute, conductor-narrated, ride in which you will come across rows of over 50 varieties of fruit tree orchards, fruit fields, vegetable gardens, rare and exotic tropical flowers, forests, plants, and hardwood trees. Probably the highlight of the ride, especially for the children, is when the train reaches the animal pastures. The train will make a short stop and you and your family will get to feed the wild pigs, goats, and sheep. Don`t worry, all animals are contained and safe for the little ones.
Now, if you want to truly go out and about rather than being restricted on the train, you may want to check out the Train Nature Walk Lunch Orchard Adventure. This train ride begins just like the Signature Train Tour, but after the Animal Fun Feed Stop, your guide will take you on a 45-minute nature walk. You will be educated on all the exotic flowers and plants, wander through fruit tree orchards, and get the opportunity to pick and taste the in-season fruit from the trees. Can`t get any fresher than that. Make sure you pick a good amount, that`s your lunch for the day. No, I`m just kidding, instead, you get to enjoy a deli lunch complete with a freshly picked pineapple cut at your table.
Pure fun for the family, and one of the better train rides you won`t fall asleep on.
Location: Puhi (12.3 miles from Poipu)
Green and full of life. Smith’s Tropical Paradise is exactly that. Not only is it home to the popular Smiths Luau and the only boat tour to the hidden Fern Grotto, but it itself is a private 30-acre botanical and cultural garden that is open to the public, for a small fee. You can find this lovely garden on the east side of Kauai, known as The Coconut Coast, within the Wailua Marina State Park.
Tucked away from the busy Kapaa traffic and crowds, you can escape into a peaceful afternoon picnic or a quiet stroll down pathways that go for over a mile while meeting peacocks and other native birds along the way. Smith`s Tropical Orchard includes over twenty types of fruit, including breadfruit, starfruit, and macadamia nuts. Become immersed in the bamboo and fruit forests, providing excellent backdrops for capturing memories. Polynesian and Filipino hut replicas provide educational insight and preserve a piece of history that has long been forgotten. The Japanese-themed garden island has been a popular location for weddings. You never know! It could be an option on your list, too! You may be driving by or you may have activities planned in the area, but the botanical garden is worth a mention for your list of things to experience on Kauai. It is an excellent way to step back and simply give yourself a nice break. Next thing you know, you are attending the Garden Luau and taking a trip to the Fern Grotto because, well, why not? This is paradise and you should enjoy it!
Location: Kapaa (19.2 miles from Poipu)
The Kauai Museum, located in Lihue, is a cultural gem of the island nestled in the center of the town. This history museum is dedicated to preserving and sharing the rich history of Kauai. Visitors can explore and learn about the island`s past through various exhibits, artifacts, and interactive displays. The museum features multiple galleries that showcase the history, art, and culture of Kauai.
The permanent exhibits cover a range of topics, including the island`s geology, immigration, plantation life, and Hawaiian traditions. The collection includes authentic artifacts, photographs, and artwork that provide insight into the colorful and diverse history of Kauai. One of the most fascinating exhibits at the museum is the “Holo Holo Koloa: Plantation Days” exhibit, which offers a glimpse into the life of plantation workers in Kauai. Visitors can explore the daily life of these workers, including their living conditions, work schedules, and cultural traditions.
The museum also has a rotating selection of special exhibitions that feature art, photographs, and artifacts from various cultures and times. This rotating collection means that no two visits are the same. Visitors can explore new exhibits and learn new facts with each visit to the museum. Aside from the exhibits, there are also interactive displays that allow visitors to get hands-on with the exhibits. One of these interactive displays is a replica of a traditional Hawaiian canoe. Visitors can climb aboard and imagine what it would have been like to sail across the Pacific in a canoe.
The museum also offers educational programs and events for visitors of all ages. From storytelling sessions to art classes, there`s something for everyone. The museum also offers guided tours for visitors who want to gain deeper insight into the exhibits and learn about the history and culture of Kauai. In conclusion, the Kauai Museum is a fascinating cultural destination that offers a unique and informative look into the past of Kauai. Its exhibits, artifacts, and interactive displays will educate and entertain visitors of all ages. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, the Kauai Museum is a must-visit destination.
Location: Lihue (13.4 miles from Poipu)
This 151-foot waterfall is one of the island`s most accessible major waterfalls since it can be viewed from the road. At mile marker 6, Route 580 heads inland for three miles (5 km). Route 580 is called Kuamoʻo Road at this point, and it is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to the Opaekaa Falls parking lot and overlook (on the right-hand side). Route 580 goes through a notch in the ridge that the Wailua River has eroded.
The waterfall is located on the Opaekaa Stream in Wailua River State Park. Opaekaa means “rolling shrimp,” opae means shrimp, and kaa means rolling, which were once abundant in the stream. Walk uphill from the Opaekaa lookout and across the road for another great view of the Wailua River valley and the interior plains beyond. From this vantage point, you can get a good look at where Raiders of the Lost Ark was filmed, along with Jurassic Park and Outbreak. If you look to the right, you can also get a good look at Kamokila Hawaiian Village.
The falls flow year-round. Most of the time, it falls in a double cascade but the two sides may become one after a heavy rain. The falls are at their best in full sunlight (late morning usually).
Note: You may hear about a “hidden” trail to the falls that begins beyond the overlook, right around the two-mile marker past the guardrail. There are no state-maintained trails to either the top or the bottom of the waterfall from the Kuamoo Road overlook.
Location: Kapaa (20.8 miles from Poipu)
Just a few minutes away from the Lihue Airport is a special place called Kamalani Playground, located at Lydgate Park. Think back to your elementary jungle gym, but imagine it larger. It’s a nice spot to bring your family for a casual day out, especially because Kamalani Playground is perfectly situated next to a large open soccer field, a beachside pavilion, and in walking distance to Morgon’s Ponds. One of the best things about having the Kamalani Playground so close to the airport is it provides a good hang out for you and your family whether you`ve got a later flight and need to burn some time or maybe you arrived a little too early for your check-in at a nearby hotel or vacation home.
Kamalani Playground was incepted back in 1994. Bob Leathers of Leathers and Associates drafted the designs and former Kauai Councilmember Tim Bynum organized the project. According to the Honolulu Advertiser, Leathers consulted with children around the island to seek what kind of things they wanted to see in the new playground. Although, what truly made this idea a reality is the work done by 7,000 Kauai residents who volunteered their time to construct it. From this project, a volunteer group formed and was named The Friends of Kamalani and Lydgate Park, who currently help maintain Kamalani Playground. The first detail you’ll notice is the architecture of the playground; it is almost entirely built of wood vs. modern plastic and metal structures. Then, you see the various pieces of ceramic art and Hawaiian woodcarvings throughout that provide a unique blend of engineering and artistic talent. The playground has everything from swings, bridges, and slides, to mazes of hidden passageways, and even seating areas for parents. The grounds are padded with soft sawdust to help absorb any serious falls.
If you’re planning a picnic, the Kamalani Playground at Lydgate Park is a great place to go. It’s been years since I`ve actually played there because, well, it’s been years since I was a little kid. But, I assure you no matter what age you are there is going to be a little bit of an urge to go exploring. It is honestly a really amazing piece of work, not only because of the craftsmanship, but because it was something the community produced, so there`s even more to appreciate.
Location: Wailua (18.9 miles from Poipu)
Exploring the History of Sugar in Hawaii Grove Farm Sugar Museum is a unique historic site located in Lihue. This museum is a must-visit attraction for those interested in history, agriculture, and the sugar industry. The museum is located within the historic Grove Farm Plantation, a 100-acre property that was once the home of one of the most prominent sugar producer families in Hawaii. The Grove Farm Sugar Museum tells the story of the sugar industry in Hawaii and the significant impact it had on the island`s economy, culture, and lifestyle.
Visitors can explore the museum`s exhibits, which are housed in the plantation`s original buildings and artifacts, and learn about the history of sugar cultivation and processing.
One of the most unique features of the Grove Farm Sugar Museum is the fully restored steam locomotive that transports visitors through the plantation`s fields. The train ride provides a glimpse into what life was like for the workers who tended to the sugar cane crops and transported them to the mill for processing.
In addition to the train ride, visitors can also tour the historic plantation house, which has been restored to its original condition and showcases how the plantation owners lived. The house includes original furnishings, artwork, and artifacts, transporting visitors back to a time when the sugar industry was at its peak. The museum also hosts several educational events throughout the year, including talks and workshops on the history of sugar and the plantation`s impact on Hawaii.
Visitors can also attend special events such as the annual Plantation Days celebration, which features live music, cultural performances, and traditional Hawaiian food. The Grove Farm Sugar Museum is a fascinating and educational experience for visitors of all ages. Whether you are a history enthusiast or just interested in learning about Hawaii`s past, this museum should not be missed. The museum is open daily from 10 am to 2 pm, and admission prices are reasonable.
Location: Lihue (13.5 miles from Poipu)
Located in the heart of Kaua’i, this peaceful retreat is a haven of inspiration, tranquility, and spiritual nourishment that is open to visitors of all backgrounds. Founded in 1970 by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, the Hindu Monastery is dedicated to the preservation and perpetuation of Hinduism and the ancient Tamil culture. The monastery holds many thousands of sacred palm-leaf manuscripts, a library, a museum, and several temples that are considered some of the most beautiful outside of India.
Visiting the Hindu Monastery is an experience that cannot be missed. Visitors will be greeted with stunning views of the Wailua River Valley, beautifully landscaped gardens, and an air of serenity that pervades the entire complex. The monastery is open to the public every day for self-guided tours, which include a visit to the Iraivan Temple – an awe-inspiring structure featuring intricately carved granite walls that are a work of art in their own right. Visitors can also explore the Shiva Garden, the sanctified place of power that is considered to be one of the most potent spots on the island, and view the meditation garden, where the monks come to meditate and chant.
For those interested in learning more about Hinduism and the mission of the Hindu Monastery, guided tours are also available with advance registration. The monks of the monastery are warm, welcoming, and always happy to share their knowledge and insights with visitors. Whether you’re seeking spiritual renewal, cultural enrichment, or simply a peaceful oasis in the midst of your travels, the Hindu Monastery on Kauai is a destination not to be missed.
Location: Wailua (23.6 miles from Poipu)