CHILLING & EATING
PREPARE FOR A LAID-BACK VIBE, ENDLESS BEACHES AND NO-FILTER PHOTOGRAPHY. OH, AND LOTS OF FOOD!
KAUAI TO MAUI
When it comes to peaceful, natural beauty, the Hawaiians are spoilt for choice. It’s no wonder they all seem so chilled – it’s difficult to be stressed when there’s sun, sea and surfing outside every window. Even the world’s worst photographer couldn't fail to take a decent shot – I know, I’ve tried. It’s something about the dramatic mountain skylines, the astoundingly clear blue sea (a result of minimal plankton) and the swaying palm trees that make everything look Photoshopped. So prepare to use #nofilter unsparingly. And to lose friends.
Although none of the islands are exactly ugly, Kauai is hard to beat – there’s a reason it’s known as the Garden Island. Less busy than Maui and Oahu, it’s a lush, green isle full of chickens. Yes, really. They escaped from their runs after a hurricane in 1992 and, as there are no natural predators, have populated the island.
We fly into Kauai (via Oahu, where all international flights into the islands begin and end; onward domestic flights are quick and efficient) to take in Hawaii’s oldest island. We drive from Lihue airport to the town of Hanalei in under an hour, having fallen in love with its endless beach, which made more than a cameo in George Clooney’s 2012 film, The Descendants. After a white-sand stroll, we have a passionfruit martini (or five) at Tahiti Nui bar, which also featured in the film (lots of regulars appeared as extras). It has a local feel, with live acoustic guitar music and traditional Hawaiian songs, and serves its own mai tai recipe for $10 a glass.
If it hadn’t been fully booked we’d be staying at the quirky Hanalei Surfboard House, just moments from the sand and decorated with a rainbow of vintage surfboards. As it is, we have a nose around instead: you can rent the Elvis or Cowgirl suites (more tasteful than they sound), or maybe the Love Shack, which has a vintage Hawaiian style and private patio.
From Kaui, it’s a 45-minute flight to Maui, one of the most popular islands, thanks to its combination of buzzing artist communities, thriving yoga scene and (there’s a pattern emerging here) beautiful beaches. We immerse ourselves for three nights in the warm, Glastonbury-like vibe of hippie-packed Paia on Maui’s north coast, just a 15-minute drive from Kahului airport. It’s a small, lively town of quirky boutiques and bars, where surfers and Grateful Dead fans compete to see who is the most laid back. Despite being only really two streets long, we find multiple yoga studios and a hip kombucha bar, Nourish, where the owner has rigged beer taps to run with jewel-bright pints for $5 a pop.
We return to Island Fresh Café for breakfast (from $10) three days on the trot for the açai bowls and nectar-sweet banana-bread French toast. We gorge on whopping pizzas at the Flatbread Company (from $12.75) and, the following day, mahi mahi burritos ($17), a local white fish served slightly charred, at buzzy restaurant Milagros. We stop for macadamia-nut ice cream at Paia Gelato, before downing pints of locally brewed beer at Willie Nelson’s favourite bar, Charley’s. This is not a calorie-light week.
The Mangolani Inn is a five-minute walk from the centre and has several adorable apartments. The tree house, tucked into the canopy of an ancient mango tree, is the best, and I love it from the moment we arrive. It’s part of a house, with a back-to-basics shower open to the elements – the slightly festival vibe is part of its charm. And Glasto doesn’t have a hot tub or ocean views.
THE MODERN HONOLULU
NOURISH HEALTH BAR
HANALEI SURFBOARD HOUSE