Hawaii’s best kept se­cret

DRIFT Travel magazine - - Inside This Issue - BY: LESLEY DIANA

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.

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