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Thursday, 14 March 2013 13:03

The Garden Island of Kauai

Written by  Arielle Feger

Kauai, the oldest and fourth largest of the Hawaiian chain certainly lives up to its nickname of the “Garden Island.” There is no parallel to its lush valleys and pristine beaches; the Napoli coast alone is worth the trip. But what really makes the trip to the islands unique is experiencing the truly fascinating culture and history of Hawaii. 

Kauai was the first island to be formed when the Pacific Plate moved over the Hawaii hotspot, and most likely the first to be inhabited by the Polynesians who were in search of new land. In 1778, Captain James Cook landed on the shores of Waimea Bay, which resulted in the introduction of Hawaii to the rest of the world. When missionaries came from the mainland in the 19th century, they realized how perfect Kauai’s land was for farming and brought people from many areas of the world to work the fields. Each wave of workers brought new cultures and customs. Sugar cane was Kauai’s main cash crop up until a few years ago when the last sugar cane plantation shut down. Today, most of Kauai’s economy is made up of hospitality and food services. And it is easy to see why. With its beautiful scenery and integrated cultures, Kauai is the perfect place to come for a vacation.

The 345-room/11-suite Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club is a true island oasis for any traveler looking to relax and have a good time. It’s great for families due to its large pool and recreation area and it’s convenient on-site dining options. 

If you’re looking for a high-class stay on the island, the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Beach Club, located in Koloa, is the place for you. Though it is large (with 602 classic style rooms,) it has the charm and elegance of a small boutique hotel. A main attraction is the Anara Spa, which at 45,000 square feet, is the largest on Kauai. Treatments are given in luxurious open-air hale with private lava rock showers and soaking tubs. The dining options at the Hyatt are also exquisite, offering fresh and delicious cuisine.

The Hanalei Colony Resort offers 48 deluxe condo rentals that are situated on the beautiful Kauai beachfront among the beautiful island mountains. All condos are the same size and floor plan, featuring a full kitchen, dining/living room area, two bedrooms, and one and a half or two bathrooms. Bedrooms are enclosed with sliding louvered doors; leaving them open provides extended living area. With no televisions, stereos or phones, this resort offers a true getaway from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, though wifi is available. With a newly renovated pool area and the beautiful stretch of beachfront, other offerings include the innovative cuisine at the Mediterranean Gourmet restaurant, a coffee shop/art gallery and Hanalei Day Spa.

Another superb accommodation is the Waimea Plantation Cottages, located right along the highway in Waimea. The cottages, used as homes for the sugar plantation workers in the 1900’s, are hidden away on the quiet, western coast. Ranging from the smaller 1-bedroom accommodations to the larger 5-room homes, all have been carefully restored with period-inspired furniture and modern conveniences. Every cottage has a full kitchen and a front porch overlooking the grassy lawn, but each one has a personality and decor all its own.

The St. Regis Princeville Resort is also an elegant, upscale choice of accommodations. The classic service that the St. Regis is known for, in addition to the stunning natural setting, makes for the perfect vacation getaway spot.

Even though Kauai is a bit quieter as compared to the city life of Maui or Oahu, there is no shortage of activities, experiences or sites to see. The Napoli coast, situated on the north shore, is a 17-mile stretch of coastline with cliffs up to 3,000-feet tall, accented with lush green valleys, cascading waterfalls and sea caves. The only way to see this wonder of nature is by sea, air, or by hiking through it.

Blue Dolphin Charters offers a variety of water tours including raft adventures, fishing excursions, and of course, a Napoli coast tour with a snorkeling option. Even if snorkeling isn’t on the agenda, there are many chances to glimpse some marine wildlife. There are often sightings of bottlenose and spinner dolphins, sea turtles, seals, and many types
of birds.

The ultimate Napoli coast viewing experience is by air - on a small helicopter tour. Island Helicopters offers their clients a chance to do something very few have done - to visit Jurassic Falls! Manawaiopuna Falls have become known as Jurassic Falls since being featured in the movie Jurassic Park. Only Island Helicopters is licensed to take tourists there. The majesty and beauty of these falls combined with the knowledge that you are one of the few who have experienced it, makes the whole trip feel magical.

Photo Safari Hawaii operates on several of the islands, but really gets a chance to shine on Kauai. With the perfect natural settings and miles of land to explore, Kauai is a photographer’s paradise. No matter what your skill set - whether you’ve just bought your first camera or if you’re a seasoned pro - there is something to be taken from these workshops. These photo safaris can last from a few hours to a few days. 

There are also several botanical gardens to choose from on the island. Limahuli Garden and Preserve is part of the National Tropical Botanical gardens and gives visitors a chance to learn about the ecology, as well as the history of the island, all while walking through the plentiful gardens framed by the Pacific Ocean.

If you want a more in-depth look at the culture and history of the island, the Kauai Museum is the perfect place to go. Though small, it is packed with any information that
visitors may be curious about. And if you have any questions, the staff is helpful, full of knowledge, and extremely friendly.

The Kilohana Plantation is also a great way to take in some of Kauai’s history. Surrounding the entire grounds is a railway for visitors to ride while learning about the many crops, animals, and other activities the plantation has to offer. A restaurant, a rum shop and luaus every week make this a great spot to spend a
relaxing afternoon.

Kauai isn’t a place you can just tell someone about; to really understand it, one must experience the majesty of the Napoli Coast, take a bite of Lillikoi chiffon pie, or sip a perfectly made mai-tai to the sound of the waves. To me, Kauai isn’t just an island; it’s a true paradise.

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