I was thrilled that I recently got the opportunity to take a much-needed Hawaiian vacation to Kauai’s South Shore since Hawaii has always been one of my favorite places to relax. I flew Hawaiian Air to Honolulu, where I boarded a connecting flight to Līhu‘e, Kaua‘i. The flight from the States was great and relatively easy, although a little long at just under five hours. My disappointment was that they only served a small snack, and I definitely wished it had been a full meal or that I had remembered to pack some snacks. My bad. A savvy traveler plans in advance!
As soon as I arrived in Līhu‘e, Kaua‘i, I immediately remembered why I love Hawaii so much and can’t believe it has been over 13 long years since I last visited. I picked up my rental car, while enjoying the wonderful weather, perfect blue skies and loving the gentle breeze of the trade winds that characterize Hawaii. You can wear shorts or a sport’s coat and still feel comfortable year round, making it unlike anywhere else in the world! Once on the road, I was officially off on my adventure, ready to enjoy the beauty of Hawaii and taking in the gorgeous scenery of the lush tropical surroundings. I followed the directions given to me, which included driving through the “Tunnel of Trees” and finally made it to the Aston at Poipu Kai where I planned to stay for the first part of my trip.
My condo at the Aston was absolutely luxurious! It was huge (probably at least 1200 square feet) with two bedrooms and fully furnished with a very functional kitchen and a lanai facing both the beach and the pool. The lawn was perfectly manicured with all sorts of tropical flowers such as birds of paradise, hibiscus and all the tropical favorites one would expect. The smell of tropical flowers was intoxicating. Staying at the Aston felt like I wasn’t really a tourist, but more like a resident of a lovely, tropical neighborhood. Although I was on vacation I definitely felt comfortable in this homey atmosphere and it is somewhere I would stay again and highly recommend.
Līhu‘e, Kaua‘i has a reputation for being a little country and pretty laid-back — much different from the hustle and bustle of Honolulu.
I was happy to see that although it hasn’t changed much in the 13 years, the island now has several big stores, like Costco, K-Mart and Macy’s. This is great for the island economy since the developments definitely add both commerce and employment opportunities, not to mention convenience for both tourists and locals. However, it was funny to see that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Outside of K-mart, there were all sorts of chickens running around everywhere!
While staying at the Aston I booked several activities including a bike tour through the Kōloa Heritage Trail. It travels through four districts on the south shore and was an excellent way to get a great workout and also learn about the history of the island thanks to our wonderful tour guide. I also took advantage of a helicopter tour, which took me and my traveling companions around the island of Kaua‘i. Words fail to describe the beauty of the spectacular Hanapēpē Valley and the Manawaiopuna Falls, commonly referred to as “Jurassic Park Falls”. We flew past the Olokele Valley before moving on to the eye-popping Waimea Canyon, the famed “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. We continued to the sculptural masterpiece of the Nāpali Coast which gave way to the Makana Mountain (Bali Hai). The pristine blue waters of Hanalei Bay and the Princeville Resort area were postcard beautiful. Finally, we flew over the jaw dropping Wailua Falls and then on to Mt. Wai‘ale‘ale. The heart of this ancient volcano is one of the wettest spots on Earth. This was undoubtedly a spectacular way to see the island, and was very enjoyable to say the least.
Another vacation highlight was the “Group South Shore Dinner Sunset Sail” by Holoholo Charters. It was a peaceful and relaxing sailing experience coupled with delicious food and scenic views. The isolated Makaokahai Point and the enchanting Lāwai Bay with its secret blowhole only visible from the ocean were inspiring. Lush valley views surrounding beautiful Allerton Bay and the National Tropical Botanical Gardens made a perfect way to end the day!
After staying a few days at the Aston, I headed over to the Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i Resort & Spa where I stayed for the remainder of my vacation. The atmosphere at the Hyatt was totally different from the quaint homey feel of the Ashton, but equally as wonderful. It was a stunning resort and so big that I almost got lost walking around the property. During my time there I indulged in an outstanding massage treatment called the Hawaiian Lomi Lomi at the Anara Spa. This traditional Hawaiian healing massage has been historically passed from generation to generation. The massage embraced my entire being, body and soul, with rhythmic flowing strokes that released several months’ worth of muscle tension.
I enjoyed many other memorable activities and dinners in Kaua‘i including a fabulous group dinner a the Plantation Gardens Restaurant, where my companions and I were surrounded by glowing tiki torches and the beautiful greenery of Moir Gardens at the Kiahuna Plantation resort. The dinner featured Pacific Rim cuisine with regional Hawaiian influence. Part of a historic plantation, this restaurant had a menu that reflected the cuisine of Old Plantation Hawai‘i, celebrating the abundance and beauty of the Hawaiian Islands. All of the vegetables were grown organically and picked fresh on local farms. The fresh fish, caught off the waters of Kaua‘i by local fishermen was delicious!
Not to be missed was another favorite dining experience, the Lappert’s Hawaii. This place had an amazing assortment of ice cream, gelato and coffee (over 200 flavors)!
Another great adventure was the Waterfall Mauka Tour given by Kauai ATV. I explored the island on one of their rented All Terrain Vehicles, riding through a preserve of almost 22,000 acres on private dirt roads and trails. The views included breathtaking mountain and coastline overlooks, private waterfalls and unspoiled tropical landscapes inaccessible to the general public. The cost was about $155 per person for the day, but the experience was worth many times that amount.
When the time came to finally head back, I was so sad to pack up. Kauai’s South Shore was one of the most gorgeous and tranquil places I have ever been…I can’t wait to visit again soon!