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It's not hard to see where Kauai's popular eastern shore got its nickname, the Coconut Coast: This bustling stretch of beaches, resorts, and condominiums is lined with rows upon rows of thousands of coconut palms, planted here in the 1800s by a German immigrant hoping to strike it rich by processing the flesh into oil.
Though the area is the most populated section of the island, it's only a coconut's throw from some of Kauai's wildest natural wonders. A 45-minute boat ride up the Wailua River reveals lush tropical rain forests, with the journey ending at the Fern Grotto, a lava-rock cave filled with tropical plants and wildlife once only accessible to Hawaiian royalty.
Drive up Kuamo'o Road from Highway 56 for a beautiful roadside view of 'Opaeka'a Falls and the Wailua River Valley, or brave the two-mile hike up Sleeping Giant for a sweeping panorama of Kauai's east side. Swimmers, snorkelers, and sunbathers are drawn to the area's gorgeous beaches. Stop by Kealia Beach during the winter to watch the locals take on the waves, or take it easy in the smooth, protected waters of Lydgate Beach Park, the perfect place to test out that brand new snorkel gear.
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The ocean on Kauai's east side finally starts to settle down in the spring, lending itself to beautiful conditions for snorkeling. Lydgate Beach Park's man-made ponds provide perfect protection from the waves, and the porous rock walls allow lots of tiny tropical fish to sneak through. There's a lifeguard here, too, making this an ideal beach for families and those who are new to snorkeling.
With little to no rain and temperatures in the mid-80s, summer is the perfect time to explore the island's lush (read: wet) rain forest interiors. You can kayak on the Wailua River, one of Hawaii's only navigable waterways, or hike the Nounou Trail, a scenic two-mile hike that's also known as the "Sleeping Giant", for the way the rocks resemble a man lying on his back.
There's a reason this area is called the Coconut Coast. Originally a hot spot for sugarcane, pineapple, and, you guessed it, coconut groves, Kapa'a reflects on its plantation heritage at the annual Coconut Festival, with a coconut cook-off, coconut bowling, and coconut pie eating contests.
From December to May, humpback whales swim from the colder waters of Alaska to the warmer waters of the Hawaiian Islands to breed and give birth to their young. Catch a glimpse of the majestic mammals from the Kapa'a overlook between Kapa'a Town and Kealia Beach.