Untouched Hawaii: 4 little-known natural wonders of the Islands preserved foreverby: Chris Bailey
posted: Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 11:28 AM
Wainiha Preserve, Kauai
At 7,050 acres, Wainiha Preserve is one of Hawaii’s largest private nature sanctuaries. It’s also the most ecologically diverse, with terrain varying from rare lowland forests to mountainous bogs to rarely seen waterfalls like Hinalele (pictured on previous page). The preserve is Kauai’s primary source of water. It flows from here to the populated areas. But that’s to be expected from a valley located next to Mount Waialeale—one of the wettest spots in the world.
Wainiha is home to 220 different species of plants unique to Hawaii, including a type of mint once thought to be extinct, and lauae, a fern used in Hawaiian chant and other cultural rituals.
Several endangered native birds can be found at Wainiha, including the akikiki, akekee and uau. The preserve’s freshwater streams and springs are home to the Newcomb’s snail, an air-breathing invertebrate found nowhere else in Hawaii.
What’s being done?
While the ecosystems of Wainiha are currently in good condition, field crews keep busy eradicating invasive plant species such as the Australian tree fern, clidemia and kahili ginger. These plants grow fast and can displace—and usually kill—Hawaii’s more fragile native plant life.
Workers also keep an eye out for a more aggressive foe: wild pigs. These feral pests uproot native plants with their snouts, creating ruts in the earth where fast-spreading weeds grow. Water often collects in these furrows, making the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. The mosquitoes carry diseases, which can afflict the native bird population.
How can I visit?
Unfortunately, Wainiha’s remote location above Haena on Kauai’s windward coast makes access difficult, if not impossible, by ground. The only way in is via helicopter—a luxury reserved for workers. Some commercial helicopter tours may fly you by the valley. Hikers who take the Alakai Trail can look down into Wainiha Valley at the Kilohana Lookout.
Check out these related HawaiiMagazine.com posts:
VIDEO: “Untouched Hawaii”: Wainiha Valley Preserve on Kauai
HAWAII Magazine's 15th annual Reader Photo Contest winners and finalists
Breathtaking Maui view to be forever green