IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE IN KAUAI

By Janna Graber

With only 69,000 residents, Kauai has a slow, small-town way of life. You’ll see that “aloha” spirit as soon as you land at the airport. Most of the towns on Kauai are tiny. Even Kapaa, the biggest town on the island, has only 10,700 inhabitants. This means that small town friendliness is the norm.

Those seeking big-city experiences won’t them here, but visitors who want to savor the simple pleasures of good food, friendly people and beautiful landscapes will not be disappointed.

The Couple That Plays Together, Stays Together

With more than 50 miles of golden sand beaches and an abundance of hiking trails, the question is where to start your Kauai adventure. The western east side of the island is home to Waimea Canyon, sometimes called “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” while the 3,000-foot mountain cliffs of the Napali Coast are something to see, either by air, by land or by sea.

The best way to explore the island is with an experienced outfitter. They know the island best and that local knowledge goes a long way in creating a memorable experience. Here are a few suggestions: 
Sailing the Napali Coast
Capt. Andy’s has been taking visitors sailing along the Napali Coast for more than 35 years. They offer snorkeling tours, whale watching or sunset sails, depending on the time of year. The catamaran boats are large and comfortable and the captains and crew are well-known for their humor and entertaining commentary. And the scenery? Incredible.

Horseback Riding to Waterfalls
Tucked away in the lush grasslands of the North Shore, Princeville Ranch offers horseback riding tours that meander through rich pastures in the shadow of the dramatic Hanalei Mountains. From there, you can tie up your horse and take a short hike to an 80-foot waterfall for a picnic and a swim. Yes, the scene may look like life in a postcard, but this is everyday life in Kauai.  Be sure to wear your swimsuit under your clothes and take a towel and sunscreen.

Hiking the Napali Coast

If you’d like to see more of the Napali Coast up close – or if sailing isn’t your thing – take a hike along the coast instead. Kayak Kauai offers guided small-group hikes to Hanakapiai beach. Their expert guides are not only fun to be with, but provide insight most visitors would otherwise miss. At the beach, hikers have a picnic lunch and a swim before heading back. Be sure to wear your swimming suit under your clothes and wear good tennis shoes or hiking shoes.

Driving the North Shore  
If you have a car – and we’d recommend you do – be sure to save time to explore the North Shore. The tropical scenery is gorgeous and the small towns on the north shore are just so “Kauai” – with laid back locals, small not-to-miss eateries, art galleries and quirky stores selling everything from surf wear to macadamia nut ice cream. Take it slow on the roads. Much of the road system on the island consists of narrow two-lane roads that you’ll often be sharing with pedestrians (many who will be barefoot) and the ever-present wild chickens that roam the island. The North Shore has many one-lane bridges. Local courtesy is to allow 5-7 cars to cross at a time.

Hit the Beach
You can’t go far in Kauai without finding a gorgeous stretch of beach. But for your safety, it pays to know where to swim. During the summer, there are huge swells on the south shores, while large swells can be found on the north shore in winter. The ocean can be dangerous, especially the rip currents. The safest bet is to swim at lifeguarded beaches. The island has many of them. Some of the best snorkeling and swimming beaches are Ke’e Beach (read our article on Ke’e Beach), Poipu Beach, Haena Beach Park, Anini and Salt Pond. 

Hiking the Napali Coast

If you’d like to see more of the Napali Coast up close – or if sailing isn’t your thing – take a hike along the coast instead. Kayak Kauai offers guided small-group hikes to Hanakapiai beach. Their expert guides are not only fun to be with, but provide insight most visitors would otherwise miss. At the beach, hikers have a picnic lunch and a swim before heading back. Be sure to wear your swimming suit under your clothes and wear good tennis shoes or hiking shoes.

Stand up paddle boarding
Even if surfing is not on your to-do list, stand up paddling is something almost everyone can do. Outfitters Kauai, well-known for their zipline adventures, now offers a calm river stand up paddleboard tour. The calm water part is important for first timers. The slow moving river water makes it easy to learn to paddleboard. After cruising down the river on your stand up paddle board, you’ll take a hike through the tropical forest to a short zipline and picnic lunch. Tip: Wear water shoes; it makes it easier to stand on the board and is good for hiking through the forest.

Stargazing
This last activity won’t cost you a dime; just head outside when it’s dark and look up. Most of the island remains in its natural state, with little development. This means that there is little light pollution on the island, and on clear evenings the night skies are amazing! Just find a beach chair or lay back in the grass and soak in the beauty of the night skies with your love.

Where to Eat in Kauai

In Hanalei, head to BarAcuda for tapas and wine with friends. If you’d rather have something fast, stop at the food truck called Hanalei Taro & Juice Co. for yummy authentic Hawaiian food such as laulau, kalua pig, poi, lomi salmon, and kulolo. The Wishing Well Shave Ice truck (right across from the Hanalei Taro & Juice Co truck) is also something you’ll want to visit. Try the shave ice with macadamia nut ice cream inside. If you want to catch some local music and vibe, get some pizza or just a beer at Tahaiti Nue, also in Hanalei.

The Eating House 1849 in Poipu is prominent Hawaiian chef Roy Yamaguchi’s latest creation. Eating House 1849 pays homage to Hawaii's vibrant culinary heritage with locally-sourced dishes like Plantation Paella, 1849 Spicy Ramen Bowl (it’s huge and the flavors are incredible) and Chicken Kamameshi. Don’t miss their signature chocolate soufflé.

Our pick for the most romantic dining spot on the island goes to Makana Terrace at the St. Regis. The outdoor dining patio offers such a wide view of beautiful Hanalei Bay with the mountains in the background that it almost seems surreal. Go for their buffet breakfast or if you can, at sunset when the skies are filled with dark pinks across the blue colors of the bay.

Where to Stay in Kauai

Kauai Marriott
Lihue
If incredible pools are your thing, the Kauai Marriott Resort on Kalapaki Beach might be right up your alley. The resort has an enviable location right on Kalapaki Bay, so you can swim and snorkel right from the resort’s beautiful beach. Golfers will like the 19-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed course at the adjacent Kauai Lagoon Golf Club. The Kauai Marriott Resort is large and airy, with five open-air restaurants to choose from. Each room offers the usual Marriott luxury touches and has a balcony to enjoy that great Hawaiian weather.

Ko’a Kea Resort
Poipu Beach
Those who prefer smaller boutique hotels might want to stay at Koa Kea Resort, which opened in 2009. Located in Kauai’s famous Poipu Beach area, the 121-room resort has a small beachfront, tidy pool, and upscale luxury rooms featuring modern design. Red Salt is the resort’s oceanfront restaurant, serving fresh Hawaiian produce and cuisine.

The Cliffs
Princeville

If you’re the type that likes to cook your own meals and have a little more room and privacy, you might want to check out The Cliffs at Princeville. The resort offers one to two-bedroom condos on the cliffs overlooking the North Shore. Units can be rented by the day or week, and some of the units are even available as a timeshare exchange (if you are a timeshare owner).

Like many homes and accommodations in Kauai, The Cliffs condos don’t have – or need – air conditioning. Though the air may be warm outside, huge windows and ceiling fans allow the trade winds to keep the condo cool day and night. Each unit has a lanei with large table so you can enjoy most of your meals outdoors. There are BBQ facilities throughout the resort. Wild chickens wander the resort, adding to the cacophony of bird sounds that awaken you each morning. Banana, coconut and avocado trees dot the grounds. Lounge in the Adirondack chairs along the cliff and watch for whales or if you time it right, you can watch the sun set over the sea.

St. Regis
Princeville

The St. Regis Princeville is one of the finest properties in Hawaii – and this is the place to consider if you’re planning something very special, such as an engagement, vow renewal or even a wedding. (Some 85 weddings are held here each year.) You can even arrange to have your own private dinner on the beach with your sweetheart.  

The St. Regis Princeville is classy and sophisticated, but never stuffy or overdone. This is Hawaii, after all. Nature’s beauty takes center stage, with huge windows and open architecture taking advantage of the resort’s incredible location overlooking Hanalei Bay. The rooms offer unparalleled luxury and creature comforts, from bath salts to daily butler service available with certain room levels. Have dirty shoes from hiking Napali Coast? No worries. Your personal butler will ensure the shoes return to you looking almost new. With pampering like that, you might never want to leave.

The Halele’a Spa at St. Regis Princeville has romantic spa treatments for couples, including the Napali Ritual of Energy and Balance, which includes a couple’s scrub, facial massage, couple’s soak and a couple’s massage. Oceanfront couple’s massages are also available in a cabana right on the beach.

No matter what your style and taste, you’re sure to come back from Kauai with many cherished experiences – and memories. Visitors to Kauai often come back and again, and chances are, you will too. Although you may travel to Kauai to celebrate the woman or man you love – you may just end up falling in love with Kauai as well.

If You Go

Kauai Visitors Bureau
KauaiDiscovery.com


Author bio: Janna Graber is managing editor at GoWorldTravel.com. She has covered travel in more than 40 countries. Read more of her work at JannaGraber.com or follow her on Twitter @AColoradoGirl

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