|St. Regis Princeville has a 5,000-square-foot infinity pool overlooking the Hanalei Bay.|
We’re just back from Kauai, and we say this island has it all — challenging hiking, posh spas, top accommodations and pristine beaches.
Kauai can be added onto a larger Hawaiian vacation, but we think it’s an excellent option for a short vacation like a girls’ weekend, romantic getaway or family escape. We did the whole island in just five days and four nights at a relaxing pace.
Fly into Lihue, a short plane ride from Honolulu, and head for the south side of Kauai, home to the stunning Waimea Canyon, a.k.a. “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Do continue past the canyon for more scenery, hiking trails and for a look at the lodge. Ready for more adventure? The longest white-sand beach in Hawaii, Polihale Beach is nearby. Simply continue west, past the town of Waimea to Polihale State Park. To actually reach the beach you will have to travel down a dirt road for about five miles. Don’t be discouraged: Our low-to-the-ground rental car made it down the dirt road just fine, but it was a slow and bumpy journey. However, the rough ride was well worth the view of miles of white beach, rolling blue waves and the occasional surfer (there wasn’t another tourist in sight).
|The Lodge at Kukui‘ula’s Plantation House is a gathering area for dining and lounging by the pools.|
After a day at the canyon and beach it was sweet to retreat back to modern comforts at The Lodge at Kukui‘ula in Koloa. This ultra-luxurious establishment now welcomes overnight guests, who get full access to the club and all the services and amenities that were previously just for residents. The Lodge includes a collection of island-style cottages, bungalows and villas. Cottages work well for families, and it’s possible to get a cluster together. (On our visit, we saw several children riding scooters and bikes.) Even though kids are welcomed and encouraged at the lodge, the Kukui‘ula environment remains calm and tranquil. We suggest guests take advantage of the relaxing atmosphere and visit one of the three pools, hit the green on the Tom Weiskopf-designed golf course or ask the staff to prepare a traditional Hawaiian pig roast in the authentic imu pit.
Not interested in the pig roast? Dine on the deck of the open-air plantation house, complete with views of the ocean (think fresh mango smoothies, fresh fish and sunsets).
The Spa at Kukuiula has a meditation garden, relaxation pool and six treatment rooms. The “Wet Ritual” is a must before any treatment. First, a steam will open the pores then your hair will be conditioned in a deluge shower, followed by another steam complete with a Kukui nut oil scrub. The last step will get your heart racing as you step into the cold plunge and hot dip. After your massage, take advantage of the posh spa products provided, including the sunscreen, which kept us protected from the sun the rest of the day.
After our afternoon at the spa, we headed north to our next stop, Princeville. Along the way we stopped at Wailua Falls, just north of Lihue. These falls, which are used in countless movies and shows, are hidden down a small road, but the falls are completely visible from the road, so there is no hiking required. We arrived to the falls midday; there was a steady stream of tourists, but it wasn’t packed.
|The Makana Terrace at St. Regis Princeville offers casual all-day dining, and the menu is created with Asian influences.|
Posh travelers will want to stay at the St. Regis Princeville, a stunning resort that overlooks Hanalei Bay. The large, opulent lobby is complete with a chandelier that reminded us of a floating jellyfish, and it set the mood for the rest of the resort (which was just as memorable). The Hanalei Bay is the focal point of this resort — as it should be with its bright blue waters and bobbing sailboats. Our room, No.1001, had a full view of the bay through a large, sliding window (the view was one of most impressive we’ve seen yet). When the windows are opened the air-conditioning automatically shuts off, allowing guests to hear the water and to enjoy the fresh air, and a privacy screen can be turned on and off in the bathroom, so guests can even enjoy the view while showering.
|At Kukui‘ula (here), guests can enjoy views of the Spouting Horn from the Plantation House.|
For dinner, both the Kauai Grill and Makana Terrace at the St. Regis are excellent options. Kauai Grill’s cuisine is created by acclaimed Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, using fresh ingredients in dishes like the nut and seed crusted mahimahi and grilled Makaweli tenderloin. Makana Terrace offers casual all-day dining, and the menu is created with Asian influences (the signature dish is a seafood medley with scallops, clams, bok choy and more). After dinner, we suggest strolling along the pool and beach and watching the sunset (the poolside bar is also a great place for a Mai Tai). In the morning, the beach at the St. Regis offers some of the best snorkeling on the island, so that shouldn’t be missed. During the summers, the North Shore waters are calm and perfect for snorkeling.
Another activity that adventure seekers out there will not want to skip on the North Shore is the famed Kalalau Trail that runs along the Na Pali Coast. This trail offers some of the best views of the coast available. The complete path runs about 11 miles and can be treacherous. We opted to do a popular segment, which is about a four-mile, round-trip hike to the absolutely exquisite Hanakapiai Beach. This portion of the hike does have steep inclines and will get your heart racing, but the rare views of the coast line are well worth it; we even saw pods of dolphins in the ocean. Children are able to do this portion of the hike, but they may need assistance stepping over large boulders and a stream.