Kauai might still be one of the less-visited Hawaiian Islands, but it is certainly one of the most inspiring. It has stoked the imagination of novelists, screenwriters and filmmakers, who have used the roaming green slopes of its massive mountains and dominating volcano as the backdrop for films such as “South Pacific,” “King Kong” and “Jurassic Park.” This once remote island is a place to take your time. Once remote, we say, because as time has gone by and the news has spread, Kauai is not quite the untouched getaway reserved for savvy travelers that it once was. Although a four-lane highway is not necessary to access paradise on earth, Kauai retains its charm and tranquil beauty — and now is the time to enjoy it before the developers succeed in blanketing the former sugar cane fields with condos.

Waimea Canyon in the heart of Kauai
Kauai is dubbed “The Garden Isle” for its exuberant collection of flora — which reaches a summit of diversity and beauty in the Allerton Garden, overseen by the National Tropical Botanical Garden. To fully capture the splendor of Kauai, take advantage of one of the island’s numerous helicopter tours. A one-hour flight with Jack Harter Helicopters is visually stunning and provides an insightful look into the island’s unique history, geology and biology. Highlights such as the red rock walls of Waimea and the green and black seaside cliffs of the Na Pali Coast are spectacularly framed in the floor-to-ceiling windows of the air-conditioned helicopters as they weave their way through Kauai’s narrow corridors and verdant valleys.

Less demanding is a guided tour of the canyon. Roberts Hawaii’s Waimea Canyon Tour (a four to five hour journey depending on hotel location) acquaints guests with some of the canyon’s most captivating points of interest, from the heights of the Hanapepe lookout, to the eucalyptus groves snugly enveloped at Waimea’s base. Of course, DIY travelers can also embark on their own driving tour of sorts simply by taking the scenic Highway 550, which winds along the western rim of the canyon, offering excellent views along the way.