Sunday, March 21, 2010



In February I returned to Kauai where, like an old friend, it welcomed me. Because of the downturn in the economy there have been some changes, but the important things like its natural beauty stayed comfortably the same. After rediscovering this island 20 years ago with fellow explorer and beach lover, Kay Coon and her daughter, Jennifer, I have returned almost every year. As a travel agent I've earned the title of Kauai Destination Specialist from the Kauai Visitor's Bureau.

To give credit where credit is due Kay and I had some help discovering places on this island from a book left in our Pono Kai condo, Lenore W. Horowitz's, The Kauai Underground Guide. For two weeks it was our bible. I mean we took it EVERYWHERE and were entranced by her wonderfully descriptive writing. For example: "On this lovely, curving beach, the sand and sea are deep gold, as if sprinkled with cinnamon...the waves rise gracefully in long, even lines crested with gold. Each wave breaks and rushes onto the sand in shining foam, and then it rolls back out again to meet the wave coming in, a fascinating ballet, sometimes meeting like dancers in perfect rhythm, sometimes colliding in bursts of spray." Get the picture? We went to that beach, Pakala's Beach, also called "Infinities", and it quickly became our favorite. Kauai, the Garden Island, the oldest of Hawaii's six major islands, and the record holder for the most rainfall is my FAVORITE island. WHY? Let me tell you (do you have a minute??? My friends know me and they say it will be more like an hour, so read on).

First, there are no structures taller than a swaying palm tree ON PURPOSE! Yes, you heard me, no Trump Tower, no high rise condos or hotels blocking your ocean view.

Second, it reminds me of the Old Hawaii. People still have the Aloha spirit here.

Third, I am NOT one for a crowded beach will wall to wall bodies-ten people on the same beach is crowded to me. On just about any day I can find a sparsely populated beach. Now, you might have to be adventurous and hike through a cow pasture to get there, park by houses on residential roads where you don't feel you belong,scramble through some rough houses on residential roads where you don't feel you belong, scramble through some rough terrain, or finally, drive down an old sugar cane road riddles with potholes, but hey! I can tell you it 's worth it. It's always a beach day on Kauai. If you see clouds in one direction, there's always sun in another. This island has 43 white sand beaches-more than any other island.

Fourth, VARIETY is the key word for this island. If you are a foodie, you can eat inexpensively at local hangouts, enjoy fine dining beachside or enjoy the ambiance in a sugar plantation manor house, or cook if y0u have a condo or rental house. Experiment with some of the different fruits and vegetables found in the farmer's markets that are held almost daily in different locations. Try local markets such as BigSave and Foodland, and yes, Martha, there is a Costco and a Safeway so there is something for everyone.
VARIETY can also be found in Kauai's activities. One just doesn't GO to Kauai, one gets INTO Kauai. 90% of this island is inaccessible so a helicopter ride over waterfalls, canyons and the coastline is a MUST,
Hikers can walk the Kalalau Trail over 3,000 foot high sea cliffs or opt for easier trails through Waimea Canyon or other parts of the island.
Kauai is water world for sure. What does that mean? Sail, surf, windsail, snorkel (Tunnels Beach, Napali Coast, or Poipu) dive (off shore from Ni'ihau)ocean or river kayak (Wailua, Hanalei and Kalihiwai Rivers, or Hule'ia stream or Napali coastline), boogie board, fish (both rainbow trout and deep sea), water ski, swim, and whale watch. Are there enough choices for you?
If horseback riding is your pleasure you can ride along sough shore beaches or across pastures to hidden waterfalls on the north and east sides.
Bicycling? All downhill-12 miles from Waimea Canyon to the beach or mountain bike on the Powerline Trail, 11 miles on a dirt road.
Camping-absolutely with a permit from Koke'e State Park to Anini Beach.
Golfers-there are 162 holes including the Poipu Bay Golf Course, home of the PGA Grand Slam.
For the less adventurous there are museums, shopping, beachcombing for shells and driftwood, shopping, spas, more shopping , and coffee tasting on Kauai's plantation, the largest in the state, and a tour of movie locations.
Don't let me forget the zip lines where you can view some of the most beautiful scenery ever below you.

Finally, there is VARIETY in both the climate and the terrain. Geographically, Kauai is like a little America. Think of it as a circle with three main tourist areas. Princeville and Hanalei to the north, Poipu to the south, and the Coconut Coast from Lihue to Kapa'a to the east. Each area has its own flavor.
The North Shore is the most dramatic and rural featuring deep valleys, waterfalls, the Hanalei River, rugged mountains and beautiful beaches. Rain falls the most often here. To quote Lenore again,"magnificent cliffs reach to touch the sky, and the foaming, churning surf crashes against the rocks. Here rain showers freshen the air, dance among the flowers, and make the coastline sparkle." Can you beat that?
Flat, leeward South Shore is sunnier and drier with more protected swimming and is home to mega resorts and condos.
The mostly undeveloped West Shore is sunny, arid and is characterized by historical towns. Found here is the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea, and great beaches for walking. At the road's end is the incomparable Polehale backing up to the Napali coastline. Remember where you parked your car because the sand dunes will hide it from view.
East stands for action, the Coconut Coast, where royalty was born, restaurants, beaches and shopping. In my opinion it is the best location being halfway between Poipu and Hanalei. Hotels are more moderately priced here as well as B&B's and condos.
Have I piqued your curiosity and whet your appetite for Kauai? I hope so. My promise to you is that Kauai will never bore you.PART II: HOW TO SEE KAUAI IN 7 DAYS
I usually start in Kapa’a, the East side. You will have to adjust this schedule to your starting point, your appetite, stamina, etc. Days can be altered such as Weds is the best Farmer’s Market in Kapa'a, you might not be able to get your tour on the day specificied, or you might have to adjust your schedule to get Friday Night Art Night in. This is just a suggested guide if you want to cover the main and memorable sights of Kauai. Be spontaneous! Enjoy and relax if that is your main purpose. On your outings be prepared with swimsuits underneath clothes or in a beach bag in case you want to so an unplanned beach stop, a hat, sunscreen, and a light jacket for higher elevations like Waimea Canyon.

DAY 1- Settling In
Arrival at Lihue Airport. All visits begin and end here at Kauai’s only airport. Renting a car is a necessity on this island. Because there are only 3 main 2 lane roads (no freeways and few traffic lights) it’s pretty easy to get around. (Rt. 56 Kuhio Hwy goes No from Lihue to Wailua, Kapa’a and Anahola. Rt 56 curves west toward Kulauea, Princeville, Hanalei, and Ha’ena. Rt 50 Lihue south to Poipu and W to Waimea. Drivers here are polite and yield often TIP: Avoid driving between 4 and 6:30 because of commuters.

Depending on your arrival time Day 1 might be an acclamation day i.e. shop for groceries, check in, find a place for dinner. Make reservations for a Helicopter tour or any other expeditions you choose as depending on the season they fill up quickly. I recommend Sunshine Helicopters in Lihue, 3-3222 Kuhio Highway #10, 1-888-245-4354 from mainland or on island 808-245-8881. Their safety record and expertise is excellent. 11 AM is usually a good time and for a copilot seat up front the extra fee of $50 if you are a photographer will be worth it
Depending on when you arrived, if you are up for going out to eat you might want to try one of my suggestions in the other days below . There are many choices in Kauai and many different price levels. .

DAY 2 –The Dramatic North Shore
Up and out to breakfast @ 8:30 and head east and north today. My favorite breakfast place both for menu and price is the Ono Family Restaurant, Kapaa by the Pono Kai. There is usually a line outside (which goes quickly).
Heading up the east side enjoy the scenery until you arrive at your first stop, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, the most northern part of the island and home of the town, Kilauea. Distinguished by a historic lighthouse it gives you great views of nesting seabirds, coastline, and often whales. This small town has the distinction of having the island’s best bakery in the Kong Lung Center on Lighthouse Road.. Their tropical pastries, breads, and breadsticks are famous and sell out quickly. YUMO! Pau Hana Pizza, by the bakery, has the most imaginative pizzas ever. Take time to browse the works in the shops there by Hawaiian artisans and stop in Island Soaps and Candles for souvenirs.
Continue North toward Hanalei passing scenic lookouts and beaches (not all are visible from the road). Princeville will require a turn off and is the home of the ultra ultra St. Regis Hotel, condos and a shopping center. This is also a good place to stop off on the way home for a drink in the hotel’s outside lounge to view the sunset depending upon the time.
Back on the highway toward Hanalei stop at the Hanalei Valley Lookout for a Kodak moment. Be sure to stop and stroll in this quaint town with its unique shops and restaurants. If you are hungry this is a great place either for lunch or depending on your time. dinner. The Hanalei Gourmet, a great deli, in the old schoolhouse has super sandwiches. Tropical Taco has the best fish burritos on the island (you might see their trucks around the island also). Tropical Tantrum is a must for additions to my Hawaiian wardrobe. My all time favorite in this town is the Postcards Café. The generous servings of healthy, island ingredients (try the taro fitters for appetizers), and desserts are fabulous.
Continuing north until the road ends at Ke’e Beach you will see some dry and wet sea caves. At this beach snorkeling can be good but the lifeguard stations are indications that it is not always gentle. Its popularity will require an early arrival if you plan to park and spend the day. The Napali cliffs will be on your left. If you are adventurous and have time by all means at least hike ¼ mile for great views.
You may want to be in the Kilauea area before nightfall as there are no street lights and negotiating the one lane bridges coming home can be tricky in the dark. If you didn’t stop for dinner in Hanalei or grab a pizza at Pau Hana there are many restaurants in Kapa’a (see list of my fav’s below).
After a full day of sensory stimulation from all the beautiful sights, you return to your hotel or condo.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: For a more leisurely day you could split this into two parts. After Kilauea, enjoy the beach at Anini(1 mile east of Princeville) or Pu’u Poa Beach in Princeville, Hanalei Bay, Lumahai Beach (location beach for South Pacific but a hike) or Tunnels Beach, alias Makua Beach, my personal fav. Then you could head back to your hotel and save Hanalei north for another day.


Today is your day for touring by helicopter since 90% of this island is inaccessible and the waterfalls, peaks, and valleys will astound you. If you can only afford one splurge on this island then this is the one. Begin with breakfast at your hotel, condo or eat at TipTop Café, Lihue (close to the helicopter pick up point). TipTop has great prices, yummy pancakes, omelets and homemade pineapple and guava jam. 3173 Akaki Street, 6:30A.M.-2.
If you have time to kill before or after your ride souvenir shopping at the Wal-Mart nearby is a best bet. The helicopter office is on the corner by Hilo Hattie’s. From there you will be shuttled to the airport-enjoy.
After your ride, while you are in Lihue, lunch at Hamura’s Saimin, a local institution is a must. This is a tiny building with horse shoe shaped counters with stools. This is some of the finest saimin around (like a soup with noodles, veggies, and meats-an island specialty). You can take it out to the beach with you or eat in. The spiced barbecued beef or chick sticks are super and do try a piece of the lilikoi (passion fruit) chiffon pie. 2956 Kress St, 10-10, 245-3271.
The afternoon will be perfect for a beach day. Close by Lihue is the Marriott with the island’s largest swimming pool and the tallest high rise (2 stories). Take Rice St through Lihue and turn left into the main entrance of the Kauai Marriott. Pass the main lobby and turn right at the first street following it down the hill to the beach access parking lot. There you will find beautiful Kalapaki Beach, a natural harbor with a wide sandy beach and some of the best swimming on the island. If there is a cruise ship in port you might want to opt for a less crowded beach. Hungry? Duke’s Barefoot Bar serves lunch, informal dinner and munchies all day is adjacent to the beach. Duke’s Canoe Club for dinner is great to watch the ocean and listen to Hawaiian music.

DAY 4 –Sunny South Shore

Getting there begins with a drive through the Tunnel of Trees, a mile long stretch of eucalyptus trees whose branches form a canopy. From Kuhio Hwy merge right onto Hwy 50 then eight miles later turn left on Maluhia Rd. At the end you will find Koloa Town, with its quaint wooden sidewalk, art gallery, restaurant, grocery store and a few shops. Having been a sugar plantation town there is a walk through historical exhibit worth seeing.
Continuing on to Poipu you will prove if it merits its reputation for always being sunny. If you are ready for a beach stop in front of the Sheraton and Kiahuna Plantation is swimmable with a wide swatch of sand. Poipu is a popular resort area as you will see by its abundance of condos, luxury homes, and hotels like the Hyatt and Sheraton. Shopping and lunch at the Poipu Shopping Village near Kiahuna is next. There are jewelry, home decor, clothing stores as well as being home to Roy’s and the famous Puka Dog, the Hawaiian version of the hot dog. A hole is made in the bun which is filled with your choice of condiments including relishes of star fruit, mango, papaya, etc then stuffed with your choice of sausage. Adjacent to the shopping center is a great place for lunch or dinner, Keoki’s Paradise. The South Pacific décor will relax you and the reasonable prices will please you as well as the good food. Everyone opts for their famous Hula Pie, Oreo crust with macadamia nut ice cream and chocolate sauce.
Continue farther up the coast in Poipu to Spouting Horn, a lava tube that forces sea water as high as 50 feet with its unique sound. on the walk to the viewing area is the daily outdoor market with great finds for souvenirs. We bought strands of fresh water pearls for $6.
On your way back you will notice that Kauai has its first round-a-bout at the junction of Poipu Rd and Lawai Rd. It leads to the newest shopping center, Kukui’ula Village, anchored by Kauai’s newest restaurant, Merriman’s from Hawaii. Merriman’s Cafe is the more casual. Stop in to the admire the brush strokes of James Hoyle at his gallery, the Kauai Van Gogh, and beat the heat with an ice cream from Lappert’s.
A stellar, famous restaurant here in Poipu is The Beach House. After being washed away by two hurricanes it has been rebuilt in its superlative beachside location. Be sure to make reservations at least a day or two in advance and ask for a window table at sunset. Pacific Rim cuisine is the name of the game here and while pricey you won’t be disappointed. Spouting Horn Road, 742-1424.
An alternative, more informal, and less expensive restaurant with equally good food would be Brennecke’s Beach Broiler. Great salad bar and family friendly. It’s located across from Poipu Beach Park and again, to avoid the line, make reservations. Ho’one Road, 742-7588

DAY 5 – Hang Loose (Best if this is a Wednesday)

Today enjoy a more leisurely pace starting with breakfast. The Kountry Kitchen in Kapa’a is another of my favorites (yes, I know I have a lot). They have terrific food, generous portions and reasonable prices. Their unique omelettes are more like a crepe, thin egg pancake wrapped around filling of your choice. The macadamia nut pancakes huge (two people could split a breakfast here) are yumo. 1485 Kuhio Hwy, 822-3511.
From there head for two more secluded beaches (here we go again-my all time favs) either Anahola Bay or Moloa’a. Anahola ‘s bay is so wide that it takes an hour to walk from end to end. Turn right off hwy 56 at Aliomanu Road and follow it to the mouth of the stream.
A little farther north is Moloa’a Bay, very few tourists go here. At the end of the road is a gate in the middle of some houses attached to a fence but do not be put off. Park on the shoulder, walk through the gate, cross the stream and hidden by the homes is this beautiful bay. Stay to the right of the stream. This too is a great bay for walking and good for snorkeling in the summer. If you are lucky and there at 5pm sometimes horses come to the stream to drink. Take Rt 56 to Kuamo’o Road, ½ mile north of 16 marker and turn right at Moloa’a Road.
No visit to the island is complete without attending a Farmer’s Market where locals pull up their trucks and cars and sell their harvests. There is one everyday somewhere on the island. One of the biggest is Wednesdays at 2:45 in Kapa’a behind the Armory. Take Kukui Rd off of Rt 56, turn right at the end, next right on Kahau Rd, park on the left. Get there early and bring lots of $1 bills. Things to try are the Manoa lettuce, apple bananas, star fruit, and samples are freely given. Don’t leave without a Sunrise papaya, ice cold coconut milk from the half shell and other goodies like flowers or leis. Even in a hotel room you can make a green or fruit salad and enjoy fruit for snacks and breakfast. Two other large markets are in Koloa Mondays at noon and Lihue Mondays at 3.
Choices for dinner…hmmm… foodie me always has recommendations, yes? A consistently good restaurant in the Kauai Coast Resort in Kapa’a is the Hukilau Lanai. Every table has a view, local musicians often play and the fresh island fish and Pacific Rim cuisine is terrific. The house specialty dessert is the Chocolate Macademia Cheesecake. It is located behind the Coconut Plantation Marketplace, 822-3411. Another choice is the Lemongrass Grill and Seafood and Sushi Bar, a more Thai oriented Pacific Rim Cuisine. We make a meal out of ordering several of the appetizers. In Wailua, 4-885 Kuhio Hwy, 821-2888.

DAY 6 –West Side Story

Today’s journey begins on Hwy 50 after breakfast of your choice. Bring walking shoes today. The drive to the top of Waimea Canyon is a great day trip. Driving along Koke’e Rd (Rt 550) from Rt 50 takes about 45 minutes. Be sure to stop at the scenic outlooks, especially Kalalau Lookout, for great views as you travel along the rim.
At Koke’e Lodge stop for lunch if you are ready-great soup and sandwiches. Visit the little museum there to pick up trail maps. Try to take at least one short hike. Some include waterfall sightings. On the way back stop in the town of Waimea which has a definite Western flair. A great stop for souvenirs is Auntie Lilikoi’s for jams and syrups. If you didn’t eat lunch at Koke’e Lodge, stop at Aston’s Waimea Plantation Cottages and grab a bite at the restaurant there. You will enjoy the grounds, a 27 acre coconut grove fronting a black sand beach with a variety of early 1900 Plantation Cottages that have been restored. If you hiked you might like to take advantage of their day spa with massage services.
Continuing back home enjoy a history break at the Russian Fort Elizabeth State Historical Park located at the mouth of the Waimea River. Fort Elizabeth was named for a Russian czarina and Russia’s once held interest in Hawaii is marked by these ruins. Returning to Hwy 50 our next stop is Salt Pond Beach Park where you can either take a dip, explore the tide pools and/or view the ancient salt ponds where sea salt is still harvested. Turn left on Lele St and take the first right onto Lokokai Road continuing to the parking area.
If you have time you might want to sample Kauai’s coffee at the 4,000 acre plantation. At the visitor’s center local coffees are roasted and you can enjoy free samples and purchase to take home.
Stop in or call the Hanapepe Café in Hanapepe for reservations for dinner on Friday night Art Night. 5 pm or 8pm is a good time because the art walk begins at 6.
For your evening repast you might want to go casual and opt for Bubba Burgers –yummy burgers and be sure to try the “frings” in Poipu or Kapaa or dine more upscale at one of my most favorite restaurants, Gaylord’s at Kilohana, one of the island’s most special dining experiences. This is a restored sugar plantation estate house with a romantic garden setting for dinner (also lunch). Great food, but pricey. Reservations usually required, just west of Lihue on Rt. 50. 245-9593 11-3 for lunch and 5-10 for dinner. Sunday brunch 9:30-3 and weekly luaus (avoid this on cruise ship nights).


If this is your last day you might need to eat leftovers for breakfast, revisit your favorite breakfast place or try a new venue. Then take a trip to the location made famous, The Fern Grotto. Ukulele music plays from the tour boats as they drift gently up the Wailua River where you will disembark to view the natural cathedral framed by ferns. This is sort of hokey but it is a spot that made Kauai famous (think Hawaiian Wedding Song at Dano’s wedding). After that you can drive alongside the river on the highway to view ‘Opaeka’a Falls which rushes down to the river. Since this won’t take much of your time you could add this to another day and opt for an adventure. Be sure to save some energy for tonight. You will want to be on your way across the island to Hanapepe before traffic starts.
You might choose a kayak trip. One option is the kayak river tour of the Hule’la River where Indiana Jones was filmed through the Hule’ia National Wildlife Refuge with . Another would be the Secret Falls Kayak/Hike Tour with family owned Ali’i Kayaks,, 241-7700, Guides lead the way as you go down the north fork of the Wailua River, through the valley where you will start a short hike through a tropical rainforest ending at Secret Falls. A third option would be down the Hanalei River ending up the sandy beach by the St. Regis for a dip. You could also try horseback riding. Silver Falls Ranch in Princeville takes you to a waterfall where you can swim in the mountain stream and enjoy a picnic lunch. 828-6718 and in Poipu, CJM Country Stables, where you ride through a working cattle ranch and down by the beach with a guide., 742-6096.
Whichever you pick plan to be in Hanapepe, Kauai’s biggest little town, by about 4:30 pm. This is the town where Thorn Birds was filmed. It doesn’t take much time to walk through but you do want to explore the Swinging Bridge and visit the small local Taro Ka chips factory at the beginning of the street and taste a sample or two or three. Small bags are for sale. This local place has survived two hurricanes and the second generation now operates it.
If you are having dinner before the Art Walk starts enjoy your vegetarian mean at the Hanapepe Café. At night there is way more atmosphere with little twinkly lights and local musicians. There are only about 8-10 tables with a tiled counter, but the food is fresh and excellent. The vegetarian lasagna is superb and the portions huge. We each had soup and split the entrée. 335-5011. After Dinner (or before depending on when you eat) all the galleries in the town open up to display their wares. Wine, punch, and pupus are served to all along with the opportunity to chat with all the artists with a variety of craftsmen from photography, pottery, jewelry, oils, clothing, and watercolors etc. Outside the shops is a little street fair with tables displaying local baked goods and crafts and different bands and strummers strategically placed on both sides of the street. Well worth the time for this is truly country Kauai.

Day 8 –Departure?
If you have more time there are certainly more tours, adventures, beaches, and restaurants to visit. If not you are packing, turning in the rental car, and heading back to the Lihue airport where your adventure began. But… you will be back. Each time I return I explore a new restaurant, location, beach or store. If you only have 7 days and your trip ended…. You will have to decide what to leave out. If you are not a beach person then perhaps you can give priority to something else. I hope this has helped and you definitely will know Kauai if you accomplished all that I set out. Aloha….


Here are helpful (hopefully) websites and phone numbers :



  • Kountry Kitchen 808-822-3511
  • Ono Family Restaurant 822-1710
  • Hanalei Gourmet 826-2524
  • Postcards Cafe 826-1191
  • Beach House 742-1424
  • Hanapepe Cafe 335-5011
  • Hukilau Lanai 822-3441
  • Ono Burger 822-9181
  • TropicalTaco 827-8226
  • Bubba's Burgers 823-0069
  • Hamura's Saimen 245-3271
  • Tip Top Cafe 245-2333
  • Gaylords at Kilohana 245-9593
  • Keoki's Paradise 742-7534
  • Roy's 742-5000
  • Duke's Canoe Club Restaurant & Beachfront Bar 332-5858
  • Lemongrass Grill 821-2888
  • Brennecke's Beach Broiler 888-384-8810
  • Pau Hana Bakery 828-2020


  • Aston Waimea Plantation Cottages 866-774-2924,
  • Outrigger Waipouli Beach Resort & Spa (high end condos), 800/outrigger
  • Sheraton Kauai,808-742-4074
  • Outrigger Kiahuna Plantation , 800-688-7444
  • Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa
  • Vacation Rentals by Owner, (search for anini beach,moaloa bay, anahola beach, poipu etc)
  • Pono Kai Resort 800-456-0009


  • Kayak Alii Kayaks 877-248-alii
  • Smith's FErn Grotto/Wailua River Cruise 8821-6880
  • Outfitters Kauai-zipline and kayak,,888/742-9887,808 742-9667
  • Sunshine Helilcopters 1-888-245-1354
  • Silver Falls Ranch-horseback riding,828-6718 or
  • CJM Stables 742-6096

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