If you ask anyone who has been to the Hawaii Islands to describe Kauai, it’s always the same. Untouched wilderness. Magical sunsets. Pristine beaches. Lush rainforests. They say it with awe and tell you to go there, immediately.
When it comes to raw natural beauty, Kauai will sweep you off your feet and whisk you away for the adventure of a lifetime. If you’re looking for somewhere to escape the real world with your special someone for a few days, Kauai is calling.
Escape to the rainforest
If you’re a couple that love to get back to nature, make a beeline for the Kauai Backcountry Adventures. Their check in building is just past the airport, and doesn’t look particularly adventurous, but it’s a slick operation so within 20 minutes you’re hopping into a van, with a lifejacket, a headlamp and a helmet, and heading up into the mountains. The drive up through the backcountry is spectacular – you’ll stop at a few lookouts – but it’s the tubing where the scenery gets really stunning. The Mountain Tubing adventure is a half day float through the old sugar cane irrigation channels cut into the rainforest back in the 1870s. You’ll glide silently through dark tunnels, emerging into the dappled sunlight, giant trees and vines towering overhead. The flumes are the only piece of this land that’s been touched by man – all you’ll hear are birdsong and the splashes of your fellow tubers as they tip their heads back to gaze up at the canopy. A rustic picnic at the end of the float awaits, before it’s back into the van and into town.
Head to the coast
Say goodbye to cars and people for a few hours, and hello to windswept hair, dolphins and towering cliffs on a trip to the Nāpali Coast. What’s so special about a coastline you might ask? The 27km long stretch of sea cliffs will take your breath away. Rising up to more than 1,200 metres at their highest point, the cliffs are dotted with waterfalls, nesting birds and down at sea level, sea caves that the brave can enter at low tide on a boat. Not just any vessel mind you. The two hour journey aboard Captain Andy’s zodiac speed boats isn’t smooth sailing; you’ll bounce and jump around on the waves, but the small boats can duck into the sea caves long enough for you to gaze around in wonder and grab a photo before zipping back out on a wave. A visit to the whirlpool-like ‘Washing Machine’ sea cave is just the right amount of adrenalin rush. The pod of dolphins we meet on the ride back to the sleepy seaside town of Eleele on the island’s south was the icing on the cake. It’s a moment you and your special someone won’t forget.
Sun and sand
The southern end of the island is the most popular spot to set out to see the Nāpali Coast, and that alone makes it a great base for a few days, but there’s also the fact that this side of the island is blessed with bountiful sunshine. Head to the small town of Poipu and the sprawling resorts along its coastline for a few days of sun, sand and pool time. The Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort has almost too many pools to choose from, if you can tear yourself away from strolling the rolling manicured lawns along the oceanfront. Head just down the road to RumFire at the Sheraton Kauai, where the tables by the window are designed for loved up couples looking to watch the sunset with a cocktail in hand.
If you’re a couple that’s more concerned with catching waves than sunsets, head north, all the way around the eastern side of the island to Princeville. The region may get a little more rain, but there’s plenty of sunshine between passing showers and some of the best surfing around. Grab a board and head out to world famous Hanalei Bay, where first timers and experts have plenty of space to catch a few waves. If your special someone is heading out on a board but you’re not, walk to the jetty for the best spot to grab a few happy snaps in action – you won’t be alone, there’s always a few photographers out there. After your session, it’s not too far back into town, where a small stretch of the Kuhio Highway has been taken over by juice shacks, art galleries and cafes. The Hanalei Bread Company’s cute cottage is always busy – grab a coffee and a freshly baked muffin and sit on one of the tables nearby for an impromptu picnic date.
After dinner treats
What’s a date without dessert? You’re spoilt for choice in Hawaii – the locals definitely have a sweet tooth. There’s Malasadas doughnuts, mochi ice cream, coconut cake and chocolate covered macadamias, but there’s nothing more iconic than shaved ice? In the cute town of Kapaa, halfway down the east coast, is where you’ll find Wailua Shave Ice. The Winnebago food truck is co-owned by executive chef Brandon Baptiste, who left Michelin-starred New York restaurants to return home and take shaved ice up a notch. He uses fresh fruit juices to create an icy treat that’s just like tasting Kauai in a bowl. Now that’s a sweet way to end the day in Kauai.
Travel in style
Kauai will take you back to nature, but there’s no need not to get there in style. Try out Hawaiian Airlines Business Class for the long haul flight and arrive ready to make the most of all Kauai has to offer – we’re talking lie flat beds and that famous Hawaiian hospitality. If that’s not your style, there’s also Extra Comfort seats in economy, where you can stretch out and make yourself comfortable. There’s extra legroom, priority boarding, power outlets and amenities kits to keep you comfy while you fly. Regardless of where you sit on board, you’ll have a chance to try ‘POG’ – Hawaii’s famous Passionfruit-Orange-Guave juice. It will really help set the mood for your Hawaiian holiday because this tropical juice takes things to the next level.
When it comes to this kind of island paradise, you might think it’s somewhere remote and hard to get to. Not so! Hawaiian Airlines flies direct from Auckland several times a week. There are flights almost every half hour from Honolulu to Kauai, from 5.30am through to 10pm. It’s just an extra 40 minutes flight time to add on to your journey, and you’ll even receive a handy inter island map on board so you can hit the ground running.
Days spent out on the sea with salt in your hair, or up in the mountains soaking up the fresh air, evenings drinking in sunsets and tasting local Hawaiian treats – Kauai is waiting for you.
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Lisa Perkovic was the guest of Hawaii Tourism and Hawaiian Airlines