As the oldest and one of the smallest of the Hawaiian islands, Kauai is a charming and exotic choice for a laid-back getaway. With few roads, miles of beaches with eye-popping views, and various landscapes to explore, you’ll instantly feel your stress melt away.
Central to the island’s diverse ecosystem and geography is Mount Waialeale. The north is lush and green, with seaside cliffs, gushing waterfalls, and the beaches of Hanalei. The sun-soaked south is dry and home to the popular (and more crowded) Poipu beach.
Sleep: If the bustling and bright south side fits your tastes, our favorite place to stay is the Koa Kea Hotel & Resort, one of the island’s only boutique hotels. Located on a beautiful stretch of Poipu beach, the property is a more sophisticated retreat than its neighboring megaresorts.
The secluded beachside condos of the Hanalei Colony Resort on the north shore are a prime place to unplug and take in the natural beauty of the landscape. The traditional plantation-style architecture is complemented with tropical décor and is designed to capture the stunning views, island breezes, and ocean sounds.
Looking to splurge on something more luxurious? We swoon over the Banana Beach House, which sits along the beach of the north shore and makes an idyllic group rental.
Eat & Drink: The hot spot in Hanalei is Bar Acuda, which serves hearty tapas dishes and an international wine list to the local food-loving crowd.
Savor the islands local fish at Josselin's Tapas Bar & Grill. Tucked upstairs in the Kukui’ula Village Shopping Center in Poipu, the James Beard nominated chef, Jean-Marie Josselin, presides over his wood-fire oven. Don’t miss the sangria bar.
On the eastern shore, experience farm-to-table dining at 22° North. Housed in an elegant plantation estate, the classic American menu is infused with locally grown ingredients.
Play: To see the island in all its glory, begin your getaway with an aerial perspective aboard Wings Over Kauai’s G-8 Airvan. The breathtaking views from this small aircraft, and the stories and knowledge offered by the highly experienced pilot, Bruce Coulombe, will leave you informed and with a greater sense of direction for driving around on the island. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/tyarab77)
Once you’ve seen the spectacular sights from above, get out and hike the island to see one of the many waterfalls, Waimea Canyon, and Na Pali coast.
Or you can take to the water and kayak on the Wailua River or sea kayak along the coast. A six-hour guided tour runs you along the scenic shoreline and into various coves. In the later winter months, keep an eye out for the migrating whales that have arrived from Alaska to eat and play. Take their cue —enjoy yourself and do the same on this beautiful island.
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