Gorgeous Na Pali Coast views from the helicopter
Koloa Rum Company is located on the picturesque island of Kauai, the oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands. Near its namesake town of Koloa, where commercial sugar production first began in Hawaii in 1835, the company produces single batch rums distilled from copper pot and column stills. One thing that makes Koloa Rum unique is that is it distilled from Hawaiian cane sugar, not molasses or cane juice like most other rums. Another interesting fact is that this distillery uses some of the machinery from the rum flavoring process to produce jams and jellies under the Hawaiian Kukui Fruit Specialties brand.
While the distillery is not open to the public, visitors can sample various Koloa Rum products at the company store and tasting room in nearby Lihue. The free tastings are held daily, every 30 minutes on a first come, first served basis. Make sure arrive a little early or plan to stay a little longer because the tasting sign-up sheets can fill up quickly if there is a tour or luau in the adjoining Kilohana Plantation.
All of Koloa's rums offer a subtle sweetness and surprisingly smooth finish for their high proof - most of the rums are bottled at 40% ABV/80 proof. The Kauai Spice rum is reminiscent of a freshly baked holiday spice cake with notes of cinnamon and honey, and the Coconut rum has a light, natural flavor similar to coconut water without being overly sweet. Another delectable offering is the Kauai Coffee rum, which is infused with locally grown coffee and has rich notes of espresso and mocha. Koloa also makes ready-to-drink cocktails including Mai Tai, Rum Punch, and Pineapple Passion.
In the future, Koloa Rum Company plans to move their distillery and tasting room to the center of Koloa town, where visitors will be able to see some of their sugar cane fields, learn about the rum-making process, taste the rums, and enjoy a meal at the on-site restaurant.
Check out the Koloa Rum Company website for more information about their products and free daily rum tastings:
A helicopter tour of Kauai is worth the splurge - it is the only way to see parts of the island that are inaccessible by car or boat. If possible, take the tour at the beginning of your trip to get a good perspective of the island. The views of countless waterfalls, green mountains, and vast canyons will take your breath away. Most companies use 6-seater helicopters, which can be a bit cramped and have limited views from the seats on the left side. Seating is typically determined by weight to balance the helicopter, but it never hurts to request seats in the front or on the right side. Also, the windows produce a lot of glare which makes photography difficult, so put down your camera and experience nature's majesty first-hand!
Another excellent way to see the Na Pali Coast is by boat. Options range from a relaxing catamaran to a wild rigid inflatable boat (Zodiac), or even an ocean kayak during the summer months when the seas are calm. Regardless of the type of vessel, you will get to see rugged mountains, numerous waterfalls (including some that flow into the ocean), sea caves, deserted beaches, famous surf breaks, and wildlife like sea turtles, dolphins, and whales.
Known as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific", Waimea Canyon is 14 miles long, 1 mile wide, and up to 3,600 feet deep. There are numerous lookout points and scenic hikes of various lengths, or you can just enjoy the views from the car as you drive up to Kokee State Park which has a small museum, lodge, and restaurant. Be sure to dress warmly since temperatures can be much cooler at this higher elevation, even in the summer months.
The main road in Kauai does not go around the entire island - it ends at either side of the Na Pali Coast. At the end of the road on the north side is Ke'e Beach. This long golden-sand beach has spectacular views of the lush mountains contrasting beautifully with the deep blue ocean. You may even spot an endangered Hawaiian monk seal napping on the beach! This is also the location of the trail head for the incredible Kalalau Trail. While only experienced hikers should attempt the strenuous 22-mile round trip journey, others can enjoy the first 2 miles of this hike which leads to secluded Hanakapi’ai Beach.
Around the west side of the island, past Kekaha and the Pacific Missile Range Facility, is the other end of the road. If you have a 4 wheel drive (preferably a Jeep), you can take the long dirt road about 4 miles to the gorgeous beach which also has panoramic views of the mountains and coastline. The sunsets here are beautiful, so if you aren't afraid to drive back on that dirt road in the dark, stay to see the stars!