You fall asleep in the Jeep. You can’t help it. You were so excited about the trip you couldn’t sleep on the flight from the mainland to Kauai. After renting this Jeep at the Lihue airport, your spouse loaded the suitcases — and the kids — into the back and was only too happy to drive to your destination: Koloa Landing Resort on the glorious South Shore. He tuned the radio into a local reggae station and the kids tapped into their map apps to help direct him, and after the first few moments of enjoying the tropical scenery along the Kaumualii Highway, your eyelids drooped closed and you were out.
You suddenly hear your spouse say, “Whoa — look!” followed by “Wow!” and “Awesome!” and “Rad!” from your kids. “Mom, are you awake?”
You are very much awake now, and you adjust your eyes to see what the fuss is about. Just ahead on the highway looms a huge, green canopy of trees. In the next moment, the Jeep speeds into what looks like an emerald tunnel. Thick trunks and greenery line either side of the road and towering branches reach up overhead, leaves fluttering, sunlight flashing in between. It’s like some sort of majestic gesture from Mother Nature, or South Shore jungle welcoming committee or something out of The Wizard of Oz.
“Yeah . . . wow!” you chime, rather mesmerized.
As the Jeep exits the tunnel on the other side the kids urge, “Again, dad! Please? Can we go again?”
Your spouse looks at you and shrugs and you grin back. He does a little maneuvering and u-turns it before heading back into the verdant passageway. Your kids have their phones up now, video recording the trees’ shimmering leaves and tremendous height. You reach over to turn up the radio and the groovy-smooth reggae is the perfect accompaniment as you roll down the windows and take it all in: the herbaceous fragrance, the warm wind, the rustling branches.
You were headed to the South Shore, so now, of course, at the other end you have to turn around to get back on track, and everyone laughs at the absurdity as you drive through the tunnel — again.
But what’s the rush? If this is what it means to be on “island time”, you are all in.
So where did these trees come from? They didn’t just sprout up this way in two perfect rows . . . right? Your kids start doing research on their phones and fill you in.
As with a lot of Kauain history, there exist multiple versions of the story, but what most locals will tell you is this: Over 100 years ago, a wealthy Scot named Walter McBryde shipped in 1000s of Eucalyptus Robusta trees from Australia (aka “Swamp Mahogany”) to landscape his massive estate. Overestimating his needs, he had some 500 trees left over, so he gifted them to the Koloa community, and they were planted along this stretch of highway.
Over the decades, these Eucalyptus trees flourished, forming a canopy and creating a true tunnel. However, catastrophic hurricanes Iwa (in 1982) and Iniki (in 1992), brought wind speeds of over 225 kmph, destroying many of the island’s trees — including some from the tunnel. Thankfully, the trees grew taller and stronger and have since thrived. Today, they are a fragrant, mile-long stretch and top out at over 100 feet high.
Visitors head to the South Shore for countless reason: To spend the day adventuring at Poipu Beach (once named America’s Best Beach by The Travel Channel), to seek the curious Spouting Horn anomaly along the rocky coast, to hit the most popular retail experience on the island at the Shops at Kukuiula, or to check into any number of world-class resorts and hotels. Others are simply on their way up the highway to go hiking through Waimea Canyon or to discover the singular beauty of sailing along the Na Pali Coast. Wherever they may be headed, the wonderful Tree Tunnel is there to welcome them to the South Shore, offering up a dazzling green entryway that whispers “Aloha, friends — come on in!”
Ready for your own unforgettable Kauai vacation? Come let us treat you like family at our award-winning Koloa Landing Resort, a little corner of paradise. The Tree Tunnel welcome is just the beginning.
Erica Karlin — Koloa Landing Resort