Kauai is not sim­ply a va­ca­tion desti­na­tion. It’s a feel­ing, a spirit, a way of embracing life.

DRIFT Travel magazine - - Life + Style - BY: SYLVIA TEN­NANT

As the old­est of the Hawai­ian Is­lands, Kauai, aptly-named Gar­den Isle, is an es­cape for those who wish to ex­plore the un­ri­valed nat­u­ral beauty that ex­tends from the ma­jes­tic peaks of the an­cient Na­pali coast­line to the mazes of un­der­wa­ter reefs where some of the world’s most color­ful species co-ex­ist in bustling me­trop­o­lises.

The Hawai­ian Is­lands are ge­o­graph­i­cally the most iso­lated in­hab­ited land­masses on earth. Kauai is the fourth largest, with over 50 miles of pris­tine white sand beaches and more than 80% un­set­tled land to ex­plore. Li­hue, the main port of en­try into Kauai, is nes­tled on the east­ern side be­tween the North and South shores. There you will find Kala­pakī beach, which is edged by the lush trop­i­cal gar­dens of the Kauai Mar­riott Re­sort. This pro­tected cove is known as one of the most swimmable shores on the is­land. Dur­ing the day, re­lax in a pri­vate shaded ca­bana with a full ser­vice bar at your fin­ger­tips, at­tend a lei-mak­ing ses­sion, or lounge next to the 26,000foot swim­ming pool, which hosts im­pres­sive foun­tains and flow­er­ing lounge ar­eas. In the evening, I sug­gest a can­dlelit din­ner of fresh-caught fish for two ac­com­pa­nied by acous­tic gui­tar in one of the airy gaze­bos. The view over­look­ing this prop­erty is su­perb from the pri­vacy of your din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

For those with only a few days to spare, the beauty of Kauai is also in its ac­ces­si­bil­ity. Trees drip­ping with man­goes and vast cof­fee plan­ta­tion fields are reasons to re­mem­ber why the drive is just as beau­ti­ful as the desti­na­tion. From Li­hue, take the high­way to the South Shore where you’ll find the quaint town of Hanapepe Bay. Set sail to the north from the lo­cal ma­rina into Kauai’s dy­namic seas on a ro­man­tic cruise along­side the

strik­ing an­cient cliffs and val­leys of the fa­mous Na­pali coast. I sug­gest Captain Andy’s luxury cata­ma­rans for ul­ti­mate com­fort, be­cause count­ing wa­ter­falls from a first-class ves­sel is an ex­pe­ri­ence one should not live with­out. Ex­pect re­lax­ing Hawai­ian mu­sic, ex­cel­lent snor­kel­ing, on-board show­ers, fla­vor­ful meals, and en­ter­tain­ing staff per­son­al­i­ties. Take the morn­ing sail, as af­ter­noon winds can make the re­turn trip quite choppy. For the slightly more ad­ven­tur­ous cou­ple, the Kalalau Trail Hike to Hanakapi’ai Beach hosted by Kayak Kauai is a fab­u­lous day hike op­tion that be­gins the trail of the 22-mile jour­ney on foot to the same desti­na­tion. It is just as breath­tak­ing, and the aroma of plume­ria flow­ers com­bined with stun­ning views is wor­thy of the ef­fort.

The ro­man­tic is­land way of life is present within the up­scale district of Halele’a, which sits on the North Shore of Kauai. The St. Regis Princeville is my top pick within this area for ul­tra-ex­clu­sive ac­com­mo­da­tions. Built into a cliff, this lavish re­sort is con­sis­tently rated one of the top places in the world to be en­gaged, and for good rea­son. From pri­vate beach­side yoga in the morn­ing to the fa­mous nightly cham­pagne saber­ing rit­ual, the details of a St. Regis ex­pe­ri­ence are truly ex­tra­or­di­nary. Have din­ner at the open-air Makana Ter­race over­look­ing Hanalei Bay, which hosts the per­fect view­point of mag­nif­i­cent Kauai sun­sets next to Mount Makana. The lo­cal cul­ture and tra­di­tions of this mag­i­cal is­land are in­te­grated into a ro­man­tic din­ing oc­ca­sion, which serves so­phis­ti­cated, orig­i­nal plates made with lo­cally farmed in­gre­di­ents from an award-win­ning team. It is both in­ti­mate and un­be­liev­able, con­sid­er­ing each ta­ble is dwarfed by ma­jes­tic views of par­adise. Cou­ples seek­ing an in­dul­gent spa ex­pe­ri­ence should con­sider stay­ing here, for the ther­a­peu­tic pri­vate room re­treats are not to be missed.

Ex­plor­ing the lush rain for­est of Kauai is most mem­o­rable on horse­back, and Princeville Ranch Ad­ven­tures hosted what quickly be­came my fa­vorite tour of the trip. Ex­pert guides un­rav­eled the cul­tural his­tory

of the area as we leisurely rode on gen­tle horses through grass­lands and trop­i­cal back­coun­try. A short hike through pic­turesque hala trees brought us to a se­cluded wa­ter­fall, where lunch was served and swim­ming in the clear pools was en­cour­aged. I highly rec­om­mend this tour for the photo op­por­tu­ni­ties, as the wa­ter­fall’s basin is stun­ning, safe and eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble. For those who pre­fer to have two feet on the ground, the world-renowned 18-hole Makai golf course is five min­utes up the road and built along­side stun­ning ocean views.

Slightly west from Princeville lies the beau­ti­ful town of Hanalei. Sur­rounded by cen­tury-old taro fields, it has been said that Hawai­ians travel to this his­toric com­mu­nity to re­con­nect with Old Hawaii and en­joy the sim­plic­ity of Hanalei life.

Dur­ing the day, or­der lunch from the Hanalei Taro and Juice Co. food truck and wan­der down to the fa­mous pier, for­ever im­mor­tal­ized in the film South Pa­cific. The shops in Hanalei are run by warm-hearted lo­cals and filled with color­ful, well-priced, in­ter­est­ing finds. Brands such as Stone Cold Fox and Mara Hoff­mann are stocked at the I Heart Hanalei Beach Bou­tique, which has a beau­ti­fully cu­rated se­lec­tion of stylish beach­wear. Date night is more re­laxed here and should def­i­nitely start at Bar­racuda, which has a re­gion­ally in­spired menu and trendy, open­con­cept vibe. Do your­self a fa­vor and or­der the lo­cal North Shore Honeycomb with goat cheese and Fuji ap­ple which pairs per­fectly with any one of their hand­crafted cock­tails. A trip to Kauai wouldn’t be com­plete with­out a Mai Tai at the charm­ing fam­ily-run Tahiti Nui bar, where wait­resses go from tak­ing or­ders to spon­ta­neously danc­ing the hula to the sounds of live mu­sic. This is the spot to en­joy a ro­man­tic party at­mos­phere and dance the night away. Don’t be sur­prised if you find your­self lined up be­hind a Hol­ly­wood A-lis­ter at the bar- many celebri­ties own prop­erty in Hanalei.

Af­ter a late night with the lo­cals, wake up slow and head into the lush emer­ald Kauai in­te­rior for a re­lax­ing float down the open canals, tun­nels, and flumes of the for­mer Li­hue sugar plan­ta­tion. Sit in a com­fort­able tube, put on a head­lamp, and ex­pe­ri­ence the flow­ing wa­ters orig­i­nat­ing from Mount Wa­ialeale, all while be­ing sur­rounded by re­mark­ably green trop­i­cal back­coun­try. Don’t for­get a wa­ter­proof cam­era, be­cause this tour runs through one of the most pic­turesque se­cluded ar­eas of Kauai.

Hawaii’s Is­land of Dis­cov­ery

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