Costco Connection July 2021 — Kauai
Kauai is the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands, and some say it might be the most beautiful. The island has emerald mountains; dramatic waterfalls; red rock canyons; a primordial, almost surreal coastline; uncrowded beaches; rain forests; caves; and gentle trade winds often countered with big waves. There’s a good reason that Kauai has been the site of so many films throughout the years, from South Pacific and Blue Hawaii to Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean.
If you’re looking for almost unpara lleled outdoor adventures and a near perfect climate, combined with a truly romantic travel experience, the Garden Island checks all the boxes.
Way before COVID-19, Kauai offered baked-in social distancing—no town on the island has more than 10,000 residents. And no building is taller than a coconut tree (it’s actually a law). That means an uncrowded approach to experiencing the island.
The Napali Coast
Start with a hike along the Napali Coast, a 15-mile stretch of coastline along northwestern Kauai. (Tip: Check to see if a hiking permit is required.) You’ll walk the Kalalau Trail, starting at the trailhead located in Napali Coast State Wilderness Park. The trail itself is 11 miles long, making a complete round trip 22 miles, and stretches of it require careful footing. Hiking to Kalalau Beach, at the end of the trail, requires serious preparation. But first-timers can concentrate on just the first section—especially the first 2 miles—from Ke‘e Beach to Hanakapi‘ai Beach, for its lush jungle terrain and stunning views.
You can also explore the coast on a Zodiac tour. Kauai Sea Tours offers a day trip that also takes you to Nu‘alolo Kai, a remote, permit-only beach where you’ll see archaeological sites that tell the story of this ancient Hawaiian fishing village.
Another trip—offered in the summer only, when the water is calmer—explores the caves of the Nāpali Coast, entering many of the volcanically formed sea caves. And if air travel is your thing, yet another way to experience the Nāpali Coast is by helicopter.
Over on the eastern side of Kauai, the Wailua River is the only navigable river (by a boat larger than a kayak) in all of Hawaii. I recommend the two-hour river cruise to Fen Grotto, a natural lava rock grotto—only accessible by boat—that is lush with native vegetation. (You can also paddleboard, kayak, water-ski, wakeboard, kneeboard or hydrofoil the Wailua River.)
A contrast with the lush density of the rest of Kauai, Waimea Canyon, aka the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, lies just south of the Nāpali Coast. Waimea means “red water” in Hawaiian, and at several lookout points, like the Waimea Canyon and Pu‘uhinahina lookouts, you’ll see the reddish river water for which the canyon is named. My hike of choice? The 3.6- mile round trip to Waipo‘o Falls, which drops 800 feet to the floor of the canyon.
Who knows? You may be inspired to make a movie of your own!
After your Nāpali Coast hike, stop at Pink’s Creamery in Hanalei for their classic: the Hawaiian Grilled Cheese sandwich, filled with kalua pork, Muenster cheese and sweet pineapple.
The Hanalei Taro & Juice Co. at Haraguchi Farm offers taro mochi cake, zesty taro hummus, Hanalei taro veggie burgers and taro smoothies.
In Lihue, the 105-year-old Tip Top Motel, Cafe, & Bakery bakes macadamia nut cookies every morning (the banana macadamia nut pancakes are also a menu favorite).—PG