I LOVE Hawaii. This is not a shock if you check out the other posts on this blog. Each island has its own distinct personality and landscape. This summer we ventured to Kauai. We had visited Oahu and Hawaii (the Big Island) and wanted to branch out. I really didn’t have any idea what to expect other than the obvious, beaches and great weather. What a treasure we found!!!!! Kauai is home to some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen and Highway 550 is definitely the most beautiful drive on the planet!
How to Get There
First let me say the speed limits on Kauai are SLOW!!!! and while you drive the most beautiful drive on the planet you may wish they were even slower. I don’t recall seeing a sign for a limit over 45. We were staying in Lihue on the southeast coast and Waimea, the entrance to highway 550, the most beautiful drive on the planet, is on the southwest coast. The drive from Lihue to Waimea is 25 miles and takes 52 minutes. Highway 550 is also known as Waimea Canyon Drive.
Waimea Canyon- The First Sight on the Most Beautiful Drive on the Planet
For those of you unfamiliar with Kauai, like me, Waimea Canyon was nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific by Mark Twain. If anything could inspire me to hike (and potentially camp) it is this canyon. I hiked the Grand Canyon years ago and survived, no style points but I made it out so, something that can make me want to hike must be AMAZING and it is. Warning: This ride is through mountains and has lots of twists and turns. Imagine a roller coaster that lasts 30 minutes. Good news, unlike the roller coaster, there are LOTS of places to stop and view the gorgeous scenery. I recommend stopping at every other one on the way up and catching the others on the way down. Yes, that’s right. You get to see these phenomenal sights twice. Highway 550, the most beautiful drive on the planet, stops at the Napali Coast. It goes 95% of the way around the island but stops just short of a complete circuit. Good news to have in advance. I missed that tidbit on the map and we had a longer day than expected, not that we were complaining. One more planning tidbit. Check your gas tank before you head up the most beautiful drive on the planet because there are no gas stations. The round trip is 36 miles at elevations up to 4000 feet.
Be Patient, Really Amazing Things Are Coming
Ok, true confession time. I had not planned or researched our Kauai trip, so I had some general ideas but basically pulled brochures at the airport and crossed my fingers. The stunning scenery of this drive was completely unexpected. About mile marker 9, I was ready to give in, then mile marker 10 came with the first view of the canyon. From there I was awestruck. Scenic lookouts occur about every mile with Waimea Canyon lookout at mile marker 10, Puu Ka Pele near mile marker 13 and Puu Hinahina between 13 and 14. The views speak for themselves.
Napali Coast and the Kalalau Valley – the Crown Jewel of the Most Beautiful Drive on the Planet
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better, they do. Mile marker 18 is the Kalalau lookout over the Napali Coast and Kalalau Valley. This valley is one of the most photographed in all the Hawaiian islands. It was featured in the original King Kong and Jurassic Park along with many others. When I looked at my photos of this valley, they were so stunning they looked fake. I promise you, they are real and the view is too! When we return to Kauai, and we will as soon as possible, we will definitely do this drive, the most beautiful drive on the planet again, this time with a picnic lunch and maybe some hiking shoes. DO NOT MISS THIS!!!!