Kauai, Hawaii: Best Of The Garden Island

I had been to Hawaii several times but this was the first time I was able to visit the garden island of Kauai, and it is certainly one of the most beautiful. It is also an island of contrasts, with lush tropical landscapes, rugged canyons, and a volcanic coastline laced with white sand beaches. And for anyone looking for fun and delicious activities, Kauai doesn't disappoint.

I visited Kilohana, the site of a partially restored 1935 sugar plantation. You can spend the entire day here as they have a variety of activities, including a railroad that takes you around the property and stops to let you feed the wild pigs; a rummery, as someone called it, that makes a variety of Kauai rums; shopping and galleries; an on-site restaurant called Gaylord's; and a fantastic luau (Kalamaku) that tells the story of the first Polynesians to come to Kauai.

For an ocean view, Captain Andy's Sailing Adventures has a sunset dinner cruise that takes you along the coast to see spinning dolphins, secluded bays, and killer sunsets. The food they provided was surprisingly good and I loved their chicken teriyaki. If you are prone to motion sickness, as I am, then it might be advisable to take some medication an hour or so before the cruise.

When traveling I always like to scout out local places to eat and ask for recommendations. One of these was the Kalapaki Beach Hut in Līhu'e. They had a full breakfast with eggs, rice, and Portuguese sausage for only $6.25 and served an addictive juice drink called "POG" (passion fruit, orange, and guava). I bought a gallon of the stuff at the local store and stuck it in my minibar for the entire week.

Another local favorite in Līhu'e is Hamura Saimin — essentially, ramen noodles. This little place was jam-packed, but after a short wait, I was seated shoulder to shoulder with other hungry patrons at a yellow serpentine counter with small stools. I ordered the special and was served a large bowl of noodles, wonton, egg, green onions, and chicken in a delicious broth, all for less than $8.00. Also offered are large portions of barbecued beef or chicken on skewers for only a few dollars.

Kauai is a relatively small island and exploring by car is easy and takes just a few hours to cover most of the major attractions. One of these is the Kauai Coffee Company, just a short drive from Līhu'e. While most have heard of Kona Coffee, not as many may be familiar with this brand that is grown here. In fact, this is the largest coffee estate in the entire Hawaiian Islands. After sampling some of their most popular brands in the open courtyard, you can take a self-guided tour of the property and then stock up for the trip home in their retail gift shop.

As for accommodations, the Kauai Marriott Resort on Kalapaki Bay in Līhuʻe has the largest pool in the state with spouting fountains. You can stroll through their many shops and have breakfast near the beach at Kukui's. For dinner, walk to Duke's for fresh fish and island cuisine.

The Sheraton Kauai Resort on Poʻipū Beach is another fabulous resort with a beautiful beach and sweeping views of the Pacific. Their rooms offer garden or ocean views and their Sheraton Sweet Sleeper™ Beds, magnificent views of the Pacific, daily activities and events, two restaurants, and a poolside bar. Here, I sat on their lawn along with others, saying aloha to the day as the sun turned crimson-orange and slowly sank past the coco palms into the ocean.