Kauai: I Dream of Kauai

Kauai in its all-natural glory  (PhotoDisc)

Remember your younger years, when the goal was to party till the break of dawn? To shop non-stop till the credit cards melted? None of this is Kauai. It is a natural island paradise that offers complete romantic seclusion—which should be exactly what you're really looking for.

Nicknamed "The Garden Isle," Kauai is known for its lush rainforests, dramatic cliffs, tropical reefs, and startling beaches. This opulent scenery makes this northernmost island in the Hawaiian archipelago understandably popular with honeymooners and couples looking to lose themselves in the striking terrain. Those in need of additional evidence should just watch Jurassic Park, South Pacific, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, each of which stars Kauai as its tropical backdrop.

Take in startling, 2,000-foot views of crashing waves and foliage-covered cliffs by hiking the Kalalau Trail at Na Pali Coast State Park, arguably one of the world's classic hikes. Then follow the trail to Hanakapi'ai Beach and end the tour with a splash at Hanakapi'ai Falls. Or swim alongside moray eels while snorkeling at Ke'e Lagoon. Kayak down the Hanalei River or soar to new heights with a helicopter ride to Wai'ale'ale. And once you've had enough action, wind down the day at one of the many beachfront luaus on offer each night.

When it comes to culinary delights, Kauai doesn't force one to choose between exotic scenery and wonderful food. In fact, at these restaurants, the enticing surroundings are as much an attraction as the meals themselves. Visit the Sicilian restaurant La Cascata (5520 K Haku Rd., 808.826.9644) while it's still light out to catch views of the pink-red sunset and the Waialeale waterfalls. Dondero's (1571 Poipu Rd., 808.240.6456), a regional Italian restaurant, offers a varied menu in an enchanting cliff-side setting. For a more casual, low-cost treat try Caffè Coco (4-369 Kuhio Hwy., 808.822.7990). With a garden full of aromatic fruit trees, an unobstructed view of Sleeping Giant Mountain, and a lively Pacific-Rim menu, you'd be well advised to bring your appetite and your camera.

Once you've had your fill of the island's varied cuisine, you'll want to retire at one of these select resorts. Taking ample advantage of Kauai's tropical setting is the Hyatt Regency Kauai Resort & Spa (1571 Poipu Rd.). Ranked as one of the best resorts on the island, the vast 50-acre property boasts a prime ocean-side location overlooking Shipwreck Beach. With large, 600-square-foot rooms, an adjacent golf course, secluded seawater swimming lagoons, and the best spa on the island, it's a haven of unpretentious luxury.

For a more private experience that will make you feel like a true local, check into one of the two-bedroom condos at Whaler's Cove (2640 Puuholo Rd.). Guests rave about the unoccupied pool, home-away-from-home feel, and proximity to the ocean (though know that there's no beach on the premises).

But for a regal place to ruffle the sheets, check into The Princeville Resort (5520 Ka Haku Rd.). The hotel offers royal décor, a full spa, gourmet restaurants, and a prime stretch of beach. Need a nightcap? Head straight for the hotel terrace, order two mai tais, and toast to a good night's rest while gazing at the jaw-dropping vista of Bali Hai and Hanalei Bay. And no use wondering if you'll ever have it this good again—you won't. Unless you come back.

Published: 24 Jun 2005 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in Kauai

$408
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Grand Hyatt Kauai
$349
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Koa Kea Hotel and Resort
$369
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Outrigger Waipouli Beach Resort
$266
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The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas

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