Hawaii Travel Guide: Kauai
Why one of the rainiest places on earth just happens to be the greatest place to take a little R&R.
We’ll cede that the Grand Canyon is bigger, but with Waimea Canyon, you get not only the once-in-a-lifetime vistas, you also get cascading waterfalls, lush green foliage and vertigo-inducing views of the Pacific crashing into the Napali Coast. The newly paved road, relatively traffic-free by Grand Canyon standards, starts at the ocean and goes up, up, up, such that after 25 kilometres you’re at 1,200 metres above sea level. And you’re still only 50 kilometres away from the pristine beaches of Poipu. When you’re 50 kilometres away from the Grand Canyon you’re…still 50 kilometres to the Grand Canyon.
It seems odd to visit plants and shrubs on vacation, but the McBryde National Botanical Garden is not a garden-variety garden. This is a living repository of both pre- and post-contact Hawaii and it’s the perfect place to grab some solace from the hustle and bustle of Poipu’s beaches.
There are plenty of foodie destinations worth the drive, no matter where you’re staying. Bar Acuda, Hanalei, is run by hotshot San Fran chef Jim Moffat—he left home to chill in paradise and this is the amazing result. Ishihara Market, Waimea, is the best source for cheap poke and amazing make-your-own picnics. Kauai Ono, Hanalei, is a nightly pop-up; bring your own wine to communal, outdoor seating while they do the whole locavore thing better than anyone else. And then there’s Kauai Grill in Princeville (Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s temple to tropical haute cuisine is the most elegant—and the most pricey—spot on the island), Kalaheo Café and Coffee Company in Kalaheo (a short road trip from Poipu for excellent big breakfasts with relatively small bills) and Living Foods Gourmet Market and Café in Poipu (where the best biscuits meet the best strawberry jam for the best deal on the entire island).
Where to Eat, Stay and Play in Oahu
Your friends at home will want the ubiquitous chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, but a number of local shops specialize in unique items for true memories of Kauai, not just tiki-themed tchotchkes. Head to Yellowfish Trading Co. for fabric bags constructed from vintage Hawaiian fabric, mid-century modern antiques and, for your carry-on, lava rock pumice stones. Pop into Hanalei Strings for an impulse buy of a ukulele (which you’ll surely not regret later) or find a handmade, single-note xylophone.
The St. Regis Princeville is happily ensconced at the top of the hotel food chain. This is, simply put, the most perfectly situated hotel in any of the islands, with a price tag to suit (rooms can hover in the $1,200 range). But every room comes with the perfect overhanging view of Hanelei Bay and a private beach to snorkel the days away.
Surfers hitting offshore breaks, green cliffs falling into the sea—and the whole scene is anchored by the most perfect crescent of sand we can imagine. Find ideal snorkelling just off the beach, which you’ll share with only a handful of other visitors.