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