Hawaii’s best kept secret
Idiscovered the beautiful island of Kauai many years ago, completely by accident. While on vacation, we grew tired of the hustle and bustle of Oahu, and wanted to explore another island. The next plane was going to Kauai, so on a whim, we bought tickets and off we flew on an adventure to an island that would continue calling me back for years to come. I even considered relocating there at one point. Then, work got in the way. It took 25 years for me to finally go back with my son. As soon as he stepped off the plane, he also realized that there is something magical about Kauai.
After landing in Lihue, we rented a car (a must if you want to explore the island) and headed to the tunnel of trees, the gateway to Poipu, to stay at the Sheraton Kauai Resort. The stunning resort is situated on 20 acres of Kauai’s southern shoreline with access to pristine white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters. One of the few hotels grandfathered in, the hotel is situated right on the beach, with two fresh-water pools, a hot tub, and two incredible restaurants: Lava’s on Poipu Beach and Rum Fire Restaurant. Everything we needed was at our fingertips. We were lucky enough to be the first occupants in the newly renovated beach-side ocean view rooms, just what everyone dreams of when they book a tropical vacation. The hospitality was nothing short of outstanding. Dining at Rum Fire at sunset is an awe-inspiring experience. The brussel sprouts are a must-try item on their diverse menu, and once you put one in your mouth, you’ll understand why. Rum Fire Poipu Beach offers a modern Kauai dining experience with spectacular 180-degree ocean views. Rum Fire’s menu serves locally sourced cuisine with a global influence, featuring selections that will please even the most discriminating palates. Highlights of the menu include the Maui Nui venison tartare (local venison) and any of their freshfish dishes, such as the wasabi peacrusted ahi or the crab-crusted fresh catch of the day. The ahi poke flatbread dish is a twist from your typical poke dish and for dessert, the Bibingka waffles with locally made green tea ice cream or the Baked Kauai – their take on Baked Alaska, torched tableside is worth saving room for.
The Sheraton Kauai Resort is an involved member of its community, with several charitable programs set up at the resort to give back to the island. When dining at Table 53 in Rum Fire or when you book Bungalow No. 5 poolside for full-day access
to the amenities, the proceeds go directly to Charity Walk Kauai to benefit more than 60 non-profit organizations providing critical services on the island.
There is something special about the air, the scenery, the mountains, the sea, the people, and the stories in Kauai. It’s almost as if you’ve stepped into a different world. One that is underdeveloped, with no skyscrapers blocking the view of the natural beauty of the island. Kauai was the last island to join the Hawaiian Islands. In the end, it took diplomacy, a royal kidnapping, and an arranged marriage to bring Kauai into the kingdom of Hawaii. Compared to the other islands, Kauai is smaller, less populated, more rural, and more laid back. Visitors come to explore the island’s natural wonders and whitesand beaches that provide ample opportunity to surf, snorkel, scuba dive or just relax by the water. Tourist development reached Kauai much later than the other islands, so the island has a larger proportion of timeshares, condominiums, and bed and breakfasts. Also, a strict cap on building heights (hotels can be no more than 40 feet high), prevent the development of the megaresorts and towering skyscrapers found on the other islands. The local rule is that nothing can be built taller than a coconut tree.
One look at a map will show you an important difference between Kauai and the more populous islands of Hawaii. Due to the massive Waimea Canyon and Na Pali Coast, no roads circle the island. Once you’ve made the drive along the south shore to Waimea and seen the canyon, the only options are to go west on dirt roads to Polihale Beach or turn around and go back to Princeville and Na Pali on the north shore. However, the island is compact enough that both ends of the road can be seen in the same day. But, the Garden Island cannot be enjoyed or appreciated if you are pressed for time, and along many of Kauai’s streets and main highway there are wild roosters, chickens and cats that may slow down your travel.
I’ve never been one for taking
tours while on vacation, but since I was writing an article about our Kauai adventures, it seemed like the perfect time to try, and I’m so glad I did. The tour guides are very knowledgeable, and I learned some interesting facts about the island. What fascinated me most was how much land philanthropists have given back to the island to prevent Kauai becoming overcommercialized like many other tropical islands.
Kauai is a golfers paradise. Walter Mcbyde, a sugar magnate and golf fanatic, built the Kukuiolono Park and Golf Course that only charges 9 dollars a day for unlimited play. When Walter died in 1930, he donated the course to the state of Hawaii so the locals can have a golf course that they can afford to play on. Expect wind sweeping over the terrain, lots of trees, a few fairway hazards, and maybe a wild chicken pecking at the greens.
For our first tour, we woke up at dawn to take the Kauai Sea Tours on a Deluxe Catamaran Snorkel Trip to experience the majestic Na Pali coast, on the spacious 60-foot, custom designed catamaran. As we headed up north to Napali along the southwest coast of Kauai we got to see playful spinner dolphins skimming and leaping out of the waters, sea turtles, sea birds and Humpback Whale watching in season (December – April) and more.
Our experienced captain was entertaining with history and legends of Kauai, marine life ecology, and tales of all the land that has been given to the island. He also points out where feature films and TV series were shot, the last battle place, and where Jacqueline Kennedy went to recuperate after JFK’S assassination. We then stopped to swim and snorkel enjoy the underwater sights of a variety of fish and turtles swimming by.
Our next adventure was Kauai Backcountry Adventures’ Mountain Tubing experience. We learned about the island’s history, culture, and natural environment, while we visited spectacular lands with breathtaking vistas and fantastic scenery. We grabbed a tube, donned a helmet with a headlamp, and jumped into the gently flowing waters through open canals and tunnels hand-dug a century ago by plantation workers. The waters originate near the top of Mount Waialeale, one of the wettest spots in the world.
Many filmmakers have been inspired by Kauai’s beauty using the stunning backdrop for epic stories, from “South Pacific” to “Jurassic Park: The Lost World.” You can take a movie tour to learn about the more than 60 feature films shot on location in Kauai or you can discover them for yourself. I found it very interesting to see the list of movies and TV series filmed on the island, including: “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Blue Hawaii” “Fantasy Island”, “South Pacific”, “Honeymoon in Vegas”, “Lilo & Stitch”, “Lord of the Flies”, “Throw Mama from the Train”, “King Kong”, “Six Days/seven Nights”, “Hook”, and “George of the Jungle”, to name a few.