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  1. Features
March 14, 2017

Guide to Kauai

By Olivia Cuccaro

By Olivia Cuccaro

Rich in history and lush with natural beauty, the oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands offers both tropical tranquility and island adventure. On the North Shore, you’ll find waterfalls, white sand beaches and the two-mile Hanalei Bay surrounding quaint towns with exquisite local cuisine. The sunny South Shore is home to up-close wildlife as well as Poipu Beach and sophisticated hotels and restaurants. Explore attractions like Waimea Canyon and the Napali Coast on foot or in the air, relax by the lapping waves, see the site of our March/April 2017 cover shoot and – as always – enjoy the comforts of Elite Traveler’s picks for top suites and private villas.

Where to Stay


A luxury resort community with different types of homes (available to rent and to purchase), Kukui’ula provides unique accommodations with luxury resort amenities. The Clubhouse is a hub for snacks and games within steps of the Makai Pools, where you can take your pick of where to cool off. There’s an infinity pool of freshwater, connected saltwater pools with waterfalls and a sand-bottom pool with manmade beach. A Tom Weiskopf-designed course is sure to impress golfers, while tennis courts are also open for practicing your serve in the Hawaiian sun. For the more adventurous, Kukui’ula employs a team of experts – known as Huaka’i Outfitters – to take guests on a variety of Hawaiian excursions. Book a 32’ Yellowfin boat for ocean expeditions, learn to surf or go mountain biking around the island. To unwind, Hi‘ilani Spa addresses individual goals for completely customizable massages, body treatments and skin care. Enjoy a complimentary Seven Step Wet Ritual as well as daily fitness classes, also available as one-on-one workouts.

Club Villa: One of Elite Traveler’s Top Villas, the 3,200 sq ft Club Villa at Kukui’ula features four bedrooms – three master suites and one guest house – all with private outdoor lava rock showers. An open-plan living area extends to a covered lanai, private garden and plunge pool. The outdoor lounge area seats eight, perfect for utilizing the barbecue grill or commissioning the on-site chef for a private dinner. The villa includes daily housekeeper, gourmet kitchen and access to the Club at Kukui’ula.

2700 Ke Alaula Street, Koloa, HI 96756,

St. Regis Princeville

On Kauai’s North Shore, the St. Regis Princeville combines a spectacular Hawaiian getaway with the luxurious amenities you’d expect from St. Regis. Book a private cabana and relax by the 5,000 sq ft infinity pool, which overlooks Hanalei Bay. Or, reserve a Beach Side Cabana and enjoy the soft sand and calm ocean waters. The Makai Golf Club is on site, offering a beautiful course encompassing lakes, woods and coastline to play to a par 72. For dinner, experience a live Polynesian performance with the Mailani Dinner Show or set up a private Romantic Dining Experience with a four-course menu, wine pairings by St. Regis Sommelier and a candlelit table. In the evening, a sunset champagne ritual at the St. Regis Bar toasts to your tropical vacation.

Royal Suite: Through a private entrance, the 2,400 sq ft Royal Suite features panoramic views of Kauai’s Hanalei Bay and mountain landscapes. The suite includes a master bedroom, entertainment room with sound system, guest powder room adjacent to the living salon, fully equipped kitchen with butler entrance and wet bar. The Royal Spa features a custom-built marble surround whirlpool bathtub, expansive walk-in shower for two and dressing area. Royal Suite guests also enjoy access to the signature St. Regis Butler Service, who will start your day with a fresh cup of Kona coffee delivered to your suite.

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5520 Ka Haku Road, Princeville, HI 96722,

Luxury Retreats

With a personal concierge, villa rental company Luxury Retreats boasts exclusive accommodations with 24/7 service. Bringing a new meaning to exclusive is the Secret Cove property: an oceanfront villa is situated on a bluff above Secret Beach in Kilauea. The four-bedroom property at Secret Cove includes suites with king-size beds, outdoor showers, lanais, ocean views and ensuite bathrooms. Secret Cove features a formal dining area for eight, fully equipped kitchen, sun deck, infinity pool, hot tub, grill and wet bar, with Wi-Fi throughout the villa. An open-plan with neutral tones, high ceilings and large windows make for a tranquil atmosphere in your hideaway villa. The beach is a quick four-minute walk away, or head into town for horseback riding and water sports.

Kilauea, Kauai, HI,

Next, see Where to Dine in Kauai.

Where to Dine

Kaua’i Grill

At the St. Regis Princeville, look out over Hanalei Bay while savoring signature dishes inspired by renowned chef, and Elite Traveler favorite, Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Kaua’i Grill serves steak and seafood in a contemporary Hawaiian atmosphere, complete with a spiraling fabric ceiling in the shape of a nautilus shell with ruby glass hibiscus chandelier in the center. Entrees include regional favorites like kona lobster and pan-seared mahi mahi following a variety of savory starters, while separate vegetarian and gluten free menus ensure a gourmet meal for everyone at the table. Don’t miss the crispy poached eggs with caviar or pan-seared Mero. For a complete experience, order the chef’s tasting menu with wine pairing – also available as a vegetarian or gluten free option.

St. Regis Princeville, 5520 Ka Haku Road, Princeville, HI 96722,

Bar Acuda

For Mediterranean-inspired fare, Bar Acuda invites guests to share tapas plates near the waterfalls of Hanalei. The locally-sourced dishes are comprised of fresh ingredients from island fisherman and organic farmers, ranging from warm endive salad to grilled flank steak skewers with pineapple jam. A handpicked wine list focuses on Rhone-style grape varietals that complement the cuisine, while speciality cocktails like the Ohana Pau Hana and Mai Oh Mai Tai bare a regional influence. Owner and Chef Jim Moffat has also opened the Hanalei Bread Company, an organic bakery and coffeehouse, on the island’s North Shore.

Hanalei Town Center, 5-5161 Kuhio Highway #4, Hanalei, HI 96714,

Eating House 1849

To experience authentic Hawaiian cuisine in an upscale setting, reserve a table at Roy Yamaguchi’s Eating House 1849, based on a 19th-century restaurant. Tokyo-born Chef Roy Yamaguchi is a James Beard award winner, cookbook author and cooking TV show host. The restaurant uses local ingredients for its menu, which includes pu pu (island tapas), salads, noodles and rice, land and sea. Try a classic like the rainbow poke, the 1849 spicy ramen bowl or the Hapa burger made with Makaweli beef, Kulena wild boar and smoked gouda. For dessert, the famous chocolate souffle takes 20 minutes to prepare, but is well worth the wait.

Shops at Kukui’ula, 2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka Road, #A-201, Koloa, HI 96756,

Next, see What to Do in Kauai.

What to Do

Waimea Canyon State Park

Known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon State Park spans approximately 10 miles with a depth of up to 3,600 ft. Breathtaking views of Hawaii’s natural beauty are available from three lookout points at Waimea Canyon lookout, Puu ka Pele and Puu Hinahina, while hiking trails take you throughout the canyon. Take a private, half-day tour of the canyon with Viator to learn about its geological history, observe its color spectrum and view the Spouting Horn blowhole at your leisure with transportation back to your hotel after an exciting day.

Napali Coast

The Napali Coast is hailed for its stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and Kalalau Valley from cliffs reaching up to 4,000 ft in height. The 11-mile Kalalau Trail crosses five valleys and ends at Kalalau Beach, allowing hikers to take in the best of land and sea. For less experienced hikers – or for those who aren’t keen to camp overnight for the full hike – book a Blue Dolphin catamaran tour for a day of snorkeling, whale watching and coastal photo ops. While the warmer months are ideal for coastal activities, it should be noted that the winters often yield rough ocean conditions not suitable for a day trip.

Island Helicopters

To really see it all, a private helicopter charter promises a customizable tour of the island. An Eco-Star fleet from Blue Hawaiian Helicopters boasts “first class” seating and a large cabin with an open design for 180-degree views during your flight. Look down over Hanapepe Valley, Manawaiopuna Falls, Olokele Canyon, Waimea Canyon the Bali Hai cliffs of the Napali Coast and Hanalei Bay. For a one-of-a-kind experience, the helicopter can route to Mount Waialeale – an ancient volcano – and fly into the center of the crater, surrounded by picturesque waterfalls.

Where to Park the Jet

The major airport, Lihue Airport is a short 10 miles from the center of Kauai. Princeville Airport is smaller, but able to accommodate private jet charter on request.

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