Caves in Kauai
The collection of fascinating caves in Kauai are perfect for the adventurous and curious. Both wet and dry caves are the highlight of thousands of Kauai vacations and are brimming with history of the ancient island people. One of the best ways to explore the Kauai caves is by enjoying one of the widely available island tours. These can specifically include cave exploration or branch out to include other fun activities such as snorkeling or diving.
The three main Kauai caves to look for are all located along the beautiful North Shore. Maniniholo Dry Cave, Waikanaloa Wet Cave, and Waikapalae Wet Cave are all within a short distance of each other making a cave tour easy. They are also all near numerous attractions including Haena Beach Park where camping is available. Maniniholo Dry Cave is one of several dry sea caves in the area. The total cave depth is roughly 300 yards. It used to be much bigger until the tsunami of 1957 hit and the cave was filled.
The name Maniniholo comes from the fabled head fishermen of the legendary "little people," called the Menehune. Haena and the surrounding area was said to be a valuable fishing region for the Menehune. The story goes that the Maniniholo Dry Cave was dug by the chief himself, in search of Akua, a celestial beast that stole the people's fish. Though the legend is a much more interesting story to tell, the truth behind how the cave came to be is simple; the ocean waves, which used to be at a higher point, pounded heavily upon the lava for years and years carving away the rock and creating the cave. Maniniholo Dry Cave is right across the road from Haena Beach Park on the eastern most point of the Napali Coast and east of Princeville.
The eerie caverns of the wet caves in Kauai are quite a sight to see. Both the Waikanaloa Wet Cave and the Waikapalae Wet Cave are legendary meeting spots for ancient Hawaiian chiefs. This area also boasts some of the best and most exciting dive sites of any around the island. The lore behind both of these popular wet caves in Kauai dances around the goddess Pele. Legend has it she dug and dug in this area, trying to create a foundation for her home. Twice she passed the earth's soil and struck water which created the renowned caverns. Sadly, these days the water in both the Waikanaloa Wet Cave and Wakaipalae isn't clean enough to swim in anymore.
Inside all of the wide, yawning caves the rock faces display intricate patterns and impressions from ages of enduring currents. The water inside is exceptionally cold and fed by freshwater springs that seep through the pervious lava. Both the wet and dry Kauai caves are conveniently located down the highway from each other. There are several other great dive sites in this area including an area to Tunnels Beach.
Another great way to explore the caves in Kauai is via a boat tour. Boat tours in Kauai offer a fun way to spend a morning or afternoon and afford a better look at some of the island's most beautiful mountains, waterfalls, sea caves, and lava tubes. Helicopter tours offer even more option for a good look around the island but most don't touch down so you can explore the caves. You'll only be able to see the gaping openings from the air.
If you're visiting either the Maniniholo Dry Cave, Waikapalae, or the Waikanaloa Wet Cave, your best bet is to bring along a flashlight if you want to see anything. The darkness quickly swallows you up as the light subsides from the entrance. It can be very difficult to see, even if your eyes do seem to adjust. At the end of the Napali Coast lies some of the most stunning of all scenery in Kauai. The visible rewards of a trip here are extraordinary and remind us why Kauai is regarded as one of the most beautiful of the Hawaiian islands. The enchanting folklore of the Kauai caves, the lush greenery blanketing the outside and the mysterious, deep caverns are one of the best attractions on the island offering a captivating adventure on the North Shore.
Top image: _e.t (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0