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SPECIAL ISSUE | WILD HAWAII

Kokee connection

Visiting Kokee State Park may not be at the top of the list for most travelers to Kauai, but on an island where the longest drive time is two hours, getting to the park is easier than you think.

March 18, 2007

THE ACCOMMODATIONS

You can go high-end and plan a day trip out of Poipu. Or you can go mid-range, stay in Waimea and be a mere half an hour from the park. Or you can go rustic. Here are three options.

Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort

1571 Poipu Road, Koloa, HI;

(808) 742-1234

www.kauai.hyatt.com/hyatt/hotels/index.jsp

We started our trip at this 600-room resort, which gives its guests little reason to step outside the compound. The gardens are beautiful, but our room didn't measure up; it had a jammed screen door and an overflowing toilet. But the staff was unfailingly kind and courteous. Doubles from $441.

Waimea Plantation Cottages

9400 Kaumualii Highway, Waimea

(800) 992-4632, www.waimea-plantation.com.

The one- to four-bedroom Waimea Plantation Cottages (pictured above) have lovely sash-hung windows, wooden floors, rattan furniture and lanais. Banyan trees form canopies larger than most city blocks over the property's wide stretches of open lawn. Cottages from $175.

Lodge at Kokee

3600 Kokee Road, Kokee, HI

(808) 335-6061

We found the rustic experience at the Lodge at Kokee less than wonderful. But the Kikiaola Land Co., the managers, said a handyman was working to repair the cabins. We also checked out the Lehua cabin, the newest, largest and most popular of the 12. If we had to do it again, we'd insist on staying there. Cabins about $75.

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THE TRAILS

Kokee has 45 miles of trails that can take hikers deep into the park's rain forests or take them out to the precipitous ridgelines above Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali Coast. All are extremely gratifying and can be tailored for hikers of all levels of conditioning.

From Kalalau Lookout to Puu o Kila Lookout

Level: Easy

Distance: 2 miles round trip

A two-lane strip of asphalt connects the park's premier viewpoints of the Kalalau Valley, and in early morning and late afternoon it is a delightful birding walk.

From Pihea Peak to Alakai Swamp and onto Kilohana Lookout

Level: Moderate

Distance: 6 miles round trip

Just before the turnoff to Pihea Peak, the trail drops into the Alakai wilderness. The birding is superb, and an elevated boardwalk keeps you out of the mud.

From Puu o Kila Lookout to Pihea peak

Level: Moderate to difficult

Distance: 2 miles round trip

This ridgeline trek provides stunning views of the Kalalau Valley to the north and the Alakai wilderness to the south.

Guided treks

Birders can contact David Kuhn for information about birding on Kauai at www.soundshawaiian.com.

Kauai Nature Tours offers a variety of guided hikes; (888) 233-8365, www.kauainaturetours.com.

The Kokee Natural History Museum (see box for contact) offers weekend guided hikes in summer.

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