Thursday, December 1, 2011

Kauai ... A True Paradise

If there’s paradise on earth, it would be Kauai. It is without a doubt one of the most sublimely serene and beautiful place I’ve had the pleasure of traveling to.

Kauai offers everything a traveler could want or need for an ultimate vacation experience: breathtaking beaches, lush forest, majestic cliffs and emerald valleys, and as if the breathtaking scenery wasn't enough, surrounding you always is the majestic Pacific Ocean, by turns coral blue, crystalline green or shimmering golden with the light of the setting sun.
Although the island is only 562 sq. miles in diameter, it offers a great diversity in landscapes, and depending on what you're looking for, there are plenty of gorgeous beaches and nature to explore and discover.

Renting or having access to a car is a must, as there is so much to see around the island, and as all the guidebooks will tell you, the southern coast tends to be sunnier while the northern coast is not as developed; hence, the landscape more lush and scenic.  However, as it only takes a little over an hour to get around the island, no matter where you're situated, it's easy to get around the island.
I’ve read in a travel guide that there are nearly 70 beaches on the island of Kauai.  Surprisingly, each of them offered different atmosphere and scenery as well as advantages and highlights. However, I must admit that my favorite is Ha'ena Beach. Nestled along the romantic North Shore of Kauai, Ha'ena Beach is a near perfect, two-mile long half-moon of golden sand with a dramatic back drop of mountain laced with lush forest. Hollywood could not have designed a more perfect beach.
On top of the beautiful surroundings, what makes Kauai truly special is the diversity in culture and people, which is also reflected in the unique variety of cuisines you will find on the island, and there is a great variety of restaurants that will sure to satisfy any and all appetites.

Recommendations in/near Princeville & Hanalei:
  • Hanalei Dolphin Restaurant - has good lunch menu and the atmosphere is nice and relaxed; unfortunately, the service can be quite moody and the food a bit pricy
  • Hanalei Taro & Juice Company (food truck) - definitely a "don't judge the book by its cover" kind of place, as the food taste much better than it looks (highly recommended, the pull pork plate), and the mochi cake, although tiny, is absolutely divine
  • Nanea (at Westin Princeville Hotel) - I'm not a big fan of hotel restaurants, but I was pleasantly surprised by this restaurant. The seafood dishes were cooked to perfection, and desserts were heavenly!
  • Postcards Cafe - offers a perfect mix of great ambiance, beautiful outdoor seating area overlooking the courtyard as well as the indoor space that feels like a place back in time, a great selection of wine, and most importantly, delicious food!
  • Snack Shop - has a good selection of breakfast items and baked goods, at a reasonable price
  • Worth noting, Big Save & Foodland has a nice selection of to go sandwiches.
Anini Beach - Being at the Anini beach is like being on a deserted island, miles and miles of isolated beach with no one around, surrounded by beautiful scenery and gentle waves so calm that it felt like being at the lake.
Ha'ena - If I could created an ideal beach, this would be it. The only downside is that during the winter months, the waves are quite high and the tide can be quite dangerous.

Hanalei Bay - The waves at this scenic bay is gentle enough for children to play in all day, and it's easy to park right on the beach.
Also, Hanalei is a wonderful little town where its picturesque main street are with filled with a great selection of shops and restaurants, and the sunset at Hanalei Bay is definitely not to be missed.
Ke'e Beach - An ideal beach surrounded by gorgeous scenery.  Also, there is a great hiking trail that offers a breathtaking overview of the Napali Coast. The only downside is that parking lot is extremely small; so, get there early or be prepared to park about a mile away.
Lumaha'i Beach - less known to tourists but nevertheless a stunning beach frequented by the locals
Recommendations in/near Lihue & Kaapa:
  • Ono Family Restaurant - No longer a local hangout, Ono still offers a good selection of breakfast & brunch items. The only downside is that it closes at 2pm, and the wait/line is always long. highly recommended, the shaved ice stand next to the restaurant
  • For reasonably priced grocery items, Lihue & Kaapa has the best selection of stores: Walmart (Lihue near the airport), Foodland & Safeway (Kaapa)
Poipu is a sweet little town tucked away in the southern coast of Kauai. The sunsets here are gooorgeous ... you won't see a better sunset anywhere else on the island. Also, there are quite a few shopping complexes, my favorite being Old Town Kailau, that offers a good selection of restaurants, and don't miss the free Polynesian dance performance at the Poipu Shopping Village on Tuesdays & Thursdays at 5pm.
Recommendations in/near Poipu:
  • Living Food Market - although relatively expensive, there is a good selection of ready-made meals, esp good are their daily specials and fish tacos
  • Puka Dog - tasty hot dogs, esp. great with local specialty sauces.
  • Port Allen Sunset Bar & Grill - Located in Hanapepe (about 30min from Poipu) this place is definitely off the beaten path, and you won't see too many tourists here. If you want to experience the generosity and vivacity of the locals, this is the place to be ... and it's so much fun!
Poipu Beach Park - great place for children, as there is a shallow lagoon, where children can swim safely; also, there's a play structure near by.

About 10 percent of Kauai is accessible by road. That's great news if you enjoy hiking, because it means there's a lot of island out there waiting to be explored on foot, and the sheer amount of outdoor activities on the island is remarkable, everything from backwoods hiking through Waimea Canyon to kayaking up the Wailua River. Kauai is a mecca for all things outdoors and all persons looking for adventure.
Waimea Canyon
Like all of the Hawaiian islands, Kauai's scenery is ever changing as you head around the island's coastal roads. Your surroundings are certainly never boring ranging from sugarcane fields to rainforests, pristine beaches to ranch lands.
Kauai is considered to be semi-tropical and is home to a variety of micro-climates depending on your location around the island. So, it's very common to be in rain one minute on Kauai, and in full sun the next, which of course makes up beautiful rainbows.
double rainbow!
The best part of vacationing in Kauai is that it’s a wonderful place for an entire family, especially ideal for families with small children. Unlike other swanky beach destination in Mexico or the Caribbean, Kauai tends to attract more family-oriented travelers. It offers not only an array of kid-friendly hotels, but everywhere you go, you are genuinely welcomed and feel welcome as parents. However, if you're traveling with family or children, I highly recommend renting a condo, as it will enable you flexibility to cook or dine out.

Here are family-friendly hotels & places I recommend.
Westin Princeville
  • Westin Princeville – A collection of studio and 1 bedroom condos that has all the amenities of a hotel but has fully equipped kitchen. Also, the collection of swimming pools including a kiddie pool with slides and waterfalls that makes this a real kids' paradise.
  • Hanalei Colony Resort – These spacious two-bedroom condos close to our favorite Ha’ena Beach come equipped with full kitchens. Management has badminton and croquet sets on hand for the whole family, as well as toys, puzzles, and games for the kids.
  • Marriott Resort & Beach Club – Simply the fact that they have the largest pool (26,000 sq. ft.), in in Hawaii should say it all, but in addition, there a new kids' pool, lagoons, waterfalls, fountains, a 5-acre circular swimming pool (the largest on the island), and a terrific stretch of beach.


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