Warning! This post will not suggest that you visit a specific beach while exploring the island. Nope, sorry, please accept my apologies right now. Beaches are not part of the 5 things you must do in Kauai. The fact is the island is known for beaches of unmatched beauty, and with more beaches per mile of shoreline than anywhere else in Hawaii. You won’t need my help finding that special piece of paradise for just the two of you. These suggestions are for the traveler that seeks cultural immersion whenever they visit a new destination.
Sample Local Food
You can understand a culture through the food that they eat. Food and its methods of preparation are remarkably diverse and were guided by local conditions. The early Hawaiians relied heavily upon the sea for their protein, but their vegetables were limited to what could remain viable in their journey from the Marquesas. These canoe plants as ethno-botanists describe them were taro, yams, banana, plantain, and sugarcane all with high water content which equated to a long ‘shelf life’. Spices were basic. Salt was used to both preserve fish and pork and to brighten up an otherwise bland diet. Salt was either traded for or collected in isolated pools that evaporated and left their grainy deposits to be collected.
You must try poi, a local delicacy that is very nutritious. I know you have heard and read about this starchy staple that is uniquely Hawaiian, but until you sample it you’re still only a spectator in life. Buy a small bag of locally grown poi. It’s simply fresher. Try it in the morning with a sprinkle of sugar and splash of soy milk, it is delicious. Of course for the more seasoned who want to experience an unadulterated version that the locals eat try it right out of the bag. If you have mastered this introduction and you want to walk in the flip flops of the locals, allow the poi to sit for a few days until it becomes a bit sour from fermentation. This my friends is how the kanaka maoli would eat it in ancient times and to the local gourmands its really only edible when there is that sour tang that combines so well with fish.
Sample A Local Refreshment
Kauai has a unique signature drink that you must try while enjoying all that the island has to offer. Borne and bred in Kalaheo town, a sleepy community that is known for cowboys and verdant hillsides with sweeping views of the Pacific. Sipping on a cool drink you will be able to taste a bit of the history of Kauai. When King Cane ruled the island, when the swaying green hillsides produced sugar and its by product molasses. From this union Koloa Rum gets its great flavors. We are justifiably proud of a locally made product that we can call our own.
Speak Like a Hawaiian
For me there are few things more enjoyable than greeting someone for the first time in their own language. First you see the astonished look on their face and then the smile. Just a few simple phrases is all that is required and it can open up a world of Aloha during your stay. We’ve compiled a few greetings that you can use here in a previous post.
Visit a Museum
I can think of no better way to understand the present than by studying the past. Museums offer an important glimpse into how a community evolved. They are the keepers of the past, with old photographs, recorded oral histories, and local artifacts that weave a chronology of how a people and an island have collectively created a story. The Kauai Museum on Rice Street is our resource for learning and understanding the historical milestones that have made this island what it is today.
Tour Allerton Garden
Enticed by the beauty of exotic colorful plants in the landscape you may be amazed to learn about their role in the ancient and modern world. From the healing properties of plants to natural mosquito deterrents, ancient cultures discovered through trial and error. What has been re-discovered in sophisticated labs around the world by large pharmaceutical companies. Tropical plants remain the primary cache for modern medicine.
Botanical Gardens are not what they used to be. They have expanded greatly in the past decade to take on the study of how environmental threats, be it natural or man made, are effecting plants and ultimately the world around us. Visiting Allerton Gardens is also an economical way to learn from local guides how early Hawaiians used plants and the legends that were associated with them and get a bit of exercise in too.
Part of the allure of travel is experiencing a culture that is different. It reminds me that even though we live in a very connected world there are many things that just cannot be transmitted over a social media feed. Walking in another persons sandals makes you appreciate and respect varying points of view.
Tell us what you like to do when visiting a new destination for the first time.