A Good Day At The Beach
By Craig Altschul
suppose if you're going to travel with me through this column you'll get
used to a serious flaw in my travel-writing character. I have a major league
preference for the Hawaiian Islands when it comes to vacation travel.
it's because these little dots in the ocean were once known as the Sandwich
Islands. Show me a bad
and I have been making annual treks to one Hawaiian island or another for a
good 20 years. OK, a very good 20 years. Last time we met in this
cyberspace, I mentioned we were heading for the Garden Isle of Kauai at a
time when the clouds or some angered Hawaiian War Lord unleashed some 46
consecutive days of drenching rains.
fretted about those who worry over whether to stay home or go. I suggested
the only option was "go" because a bad day on the beach is always better
than a good day in the office.
faith paid off for us. Just a little shower on one day; then sunshine for
the nine other days. I knew you'd want to know that.
Herewith, then, is my guide to Kauai in case you are planning your own visit
to paradise in the Pacific. Kauai is, without a fraction of a doubt, the
quietest, most restful of all the major islands in the chain. It's the
farthest island in the chain and sticks out there in the unbuffered ocean.
So, once in a while, these "100-year storms" settle in or hurricanes decide
to try and wipe it out. Kauai always pops back like a bantamweight fighter
and says "hit me again."
pick and choose from staying on three major parts of the island – all
connected by two highways. You won't get lost. You'll arrive at Lihue
Airport and you can stay within a few miles. Best bet is the Marriott Kauai
Beach Club, a combination one and two-bedroom timeshare villa and hotel
property with arguably the most beautiful grounds in Hawaii. There are three
good (one great) restaurants in the resort, and it's an easy drive in either
direction to reach the other sections of the isle. Other good hotel choices
in the Lihue area are the nearby Radisson or the Aloha Beach Resort,
recently renovated oceanfront cottages.
turn one way, you'll drive through a bunch of funky, low-key, and historical
towns on the south side of the island, eventually arriving at Princeville
and the tiny town and beach of Hanalei. You'll recognize the “stage set” on
the beach as long as you can remember how to sing Bali Ha’i from South
Pacific. That's where the zipline is (and, as far as I'm concerned, that's
where it can stay). The Coconut Marketplace is on your way if that's an itch
you or other members in your party need to scratch. I travel with one of
those. The new Marriott Courtyard there is a nice surprise option.
the other way and head to Poipu Beach, a spot a bit safer from the rainfall,
on the South Shore. You won't go wrong here if you stay at Hyatt Regency
Kauai Resort and Spa or the Sheraton Kauai Resort…which also happens to
offer a great buffet breakfast. Look to the new Marriott Waiohai Beach Club
if you are looking for low-rise fully-equipped villas for the whole family.
keep on going, you can head up to Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the
Islands. There are plenty of hiking trails and it's certainly worth the
drive. You may not do it a second time, but if you've been to Maui, you
already know that sort of thing after making the trek to Hana. Same idea,
but not nearly as taxing a drive.
north shore features the Napali Coast – very possibly the most beautiful
spot on the face of the earth. Ask King Kong. You can hike to it or see it
on a Napali boat tour – but you can't drive there. That's a good thing.
ready to go? Here are my bests for Kauai:
Restaurant: Everyone who wants to impress you will say The Beach House
in Poipu. Make your reservations before you arrive. It's that "must eat"
place. Very good. Very beautiful if you get a table before the sun sets.
Excellent service. Fine food. The best? Nope.
honor goes to the Portofino Café located in Nawiliwili overlooking the water
at the Kauai Marriott at Lihue. Giuseppe Avocadi's restaurant has more
awards than you can count. The service is impeccable, but the atmosphere is
casual. There is no better Italian restaurant on the islands; perhaps no
restaurant any better at all. Try to get a table on the outside deck for the
Shopping: The Coconut Marketplace is fun, unpretentious, and has a
collection of shops that range the gamut from t-shirts (both Crazy Shirts
and Sgt. Leisure are there) to fine baubles. You won't run out of
Luau: Don't sneer. You know you're going to go to a luau. The Smith
Family Luau is a must. Forget the hotel luaus. This is it. Is it the best in
the islands? Very possibly. The family has been honing this thing for 20
years (Grandma still welcomes you) and it runs like clockwork. The imu
ceremony starts it. Got to get that porker out of the ground. There's an
open bar for an hour with enough Mai Tais to make Bloody Mary happy (but
they won't knock you out). The dinner spread is all you could ask for, even
down to the poi. OK, skip the poi. Move on to the outdoor amphitheatre for
the "Golden People of Hawaii" show that is a delight. Arrive early to stroll
around the beautiful grounds along the Wailua River.
Boat Ride: You can't leave without seeing the Napali Coast, so get a
reservation (don't just show up) and head to Port Allen. All of the
catamaran operations are well-done and fun. They all tour the coast as close
as you can get (which is very close) and they all stop for snorkeling,
swimming, or bagging the rays. We took the five-hour morning tour, including
lunch. No booze is served until the ride home, after snorkeling and
swimming. My vote goes to Holoholo, but others we talked with found Capt.
Andy's tours equally rewarding.
Tour: If you can't get the scenes from “Jurassic Park” out of your
head, sign up for the Movie Tour and head into the island's rain forests
where the movie was shot. The gate to Jurassic Park is still there and
you'll jump whenever anyone steps on a twig.
my story and I'm sticking to it.
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