Kauai Bliss: Find Your Bliss on the Magical Garden Isle
By Laura Arden
Even the air feels enchanted in Kauai from the moment I step off the plane. My soul breathes a sigh of relief and I set off to explore the juicy secrets of the Garden Isle. What strikes me most about Kauai is that it's sort of perfect. It's shaped like a hibiscus flower, with more diversity packed into this relatively small island than most large countries. It whispers a warm welcome in the breeze and invites you play. From lush green mountains to the amber desert colors of Waimea Canyon, beaches and rivers, hiking trails and snorkeling galore, Kauai has a ton of fun in store.
Kauai can in some ways be best described by what it's not in relationship to its beautiful sisters. It's not as crowded and tourist oriented as Maui. It's not as bustling as Oahu and boasts none of Honolulu's nightlife or shopping. It's far more lush and diverse than the Big Island. It's known for being popular with couples and families, nature lovers and adventure seekers. I was there alone and never once felt alone. Both those who live there and fellow visitors in search of Kauai Bliss were warm and welcoming, open and well...strangely blissful. The place just does it to you.
Juicy Kauai Hotels
Hotels and other lodging on Kauai offer something for everyone assuming you are not looking for bling and bustle. If you're looking for true Hawaiian spirit and an authentic experience in a jaw droppingly beautiful setting you're in the right place.
St. Regis Princeville
The St. Regis (formerly the Princeville Hotel) is an elegant blend of island warmth and St. Regis tradition, in the hands down most beautiful setting on the island. The hotel cascades down the hillside looking over magical Hanalei Bay, stunning jagged mountains literally dripping with flowing waterfalls seen from nearly every window in the hotel. The views literally take your breath away as you step out of the elevator in the hallways, sip a signature Aloha Mary in the richly decorated bar or soak up the sun on the lovely beach. The resort is tucked back at the end of the Princeville golf course area, about a ten minute drive into Hanalei town. A luxury guest car is available for a ride in and out of town, making popping down to dinner in town a snap.
The spa is newly renovated, tucked off of the lush lobby in it's own tranquil universe. The treatment rooms are decorated in muted earth tones with a fitness center attached to the spa area. The spa offers a full range of massage and beauty treatments, inspired by local ingredients.
Perhaps the most fun way to experience the jaw dropping view is from the sexy shower/bath in the suites which have clever windows that change from opaque to clear with the flip of a light switch. Not surprisingly the folks on the beach are regularly surprised to look up and see a guest in the shower who hasn't realized they need to flip the switch. It's probably the only thing on the island which can compete with the gorgeous view of Hanalei Bay. With a two person soaking tub and shower combination, set at the end of a large marble bathroom, the suite bathrooms alone are worth the jump up to a junior suite. There are also two flat screen TVs, a large desk area and a comfortable sitting area. The dining table for two is perfectly situated next to the large sliding window, the perfect spot for an extra good room service meal.
In-room dining hails from the talented kitchen which also services the sublime Kauai Grill. The food is excellent and makes the perfect partner to the stunning view. It's a deliciously juicy experience to tuck into a private meal in these cushy suites, with Hanalei Bay below, waterfalls spilling from the lush mountains beyond, and a nice bottle of well chosen wine thoughtfully supplied in your wine refrigerator. I had the Thai inspired grilled steak salad with crunchy local veggies and a light, perfect dressing. Lettuce wraps were also light and fresh, packed with local goodies and a zingy dipping sauce. Breakfast delivered to linger over in your suite is also a treat, with perfectly prepared eggs, local fruit and best of all, the junior suites come with the perk of being able to request french press coffee delivered by your attentive butlers. Daily newspapers are also delivered with your coffee and the perch above the bay is the perfect spot to plan the day's adventures. The room service breakfast is so perfect, it's hard to peel yourself out of your sumptuous suite to play outsie. It's worth noting however that the junior suites do not have balconies. The larger suites do have large lanais.
The Hollywood crowd often stays here during filming and just for fun. It's by far the most posh resort on the island, with one of the best restaurants on the island, Kauai Grill.
The junior suites are lovely and well worth the bump up in cost, most notably because besides the sexy view tubs, they also come with butler service. The butler staff comes from a long line of impeccable St. Regis training and tradition, attentive and available to your every need. I needed cough syrup one evening, and within 15 minutes my butler had dashed into town to find it for me, thoughtfully inquiring if I had a favorite flavor. I also had the happy luxury of handing off my dirty laundry to my lovely butlers, who called a bit later to inquire about a missing gym sock (which of course I had). Do butlers fit in suitcases to bring home? I wish. All of the staff exuded warmth and quiet posh service, managing to do both in classic island style.
The pool overlooks the beach, a perfect white sandy private feeling beach with plenty of azure lounge chairs. Even look at one and the matching sea blue clad staff arrives with towels in hand to get you set up and comfy, a drink en route, sunscreen available and nearly anything else you need just a glance away. The cheerful lime green umbrellas frame the view from your luxurious perch which is so beautiful it's nearly impossible to do anything but allow yourself to stare unabashedly for hours at a time. Of course, look up at the hotel if you need a jolt to catch a glimpse of unwitting bathers gawking at the same view!
Grand Hyatt Kauai
If you want a big resort experience, the Grand Hyatt is the clear winner. With a massive swimming pool happily meandering through the property complete with waterfalls, private jacuzzis in lava outcroppings, islands and bridges, this is the "fun" pool of the island for both kids and grown ups. It never feels crowded because it's so large and spread out, with tons of lovely seating areas scattered around its curvy edges. The rooms are spacious with thoughtful touches like a refrigerator and large stylish bathrooms. Undergoing renovations as of this writing, the new digs are a notch up in style and snazz. The staff is beyond gracious at every level, exuding the best of what Hawaii is known for, open hearted warmth.
The resort sits on a lovely beach which is not good for swimming, but fantastic for walking and staring off into the lovely blue hues of the technicolor ocean. With the far above average pool to play in, the lack of a swimmable beach is not a deal killer. The hotel itself cascades down the property towards the ocean, with most rooms offering anything from direct ocean views to partial ocean views. The garden views are quite nice but the ocean views are worth the jump up.
With three restaurants on property as well as a pool bar serving lunch and snacks, good food is available without getting in a car. However, the location on the southwest shore of the island is rich with fantastic restaurants and you could choose a new one every day for a week without running out of great options.
Set on the lovely Nawiliwili Harbor's white sandy beach scattered with all manor of beach toys, the Kauai Marriott is a solid choice if you want a comfortable resort at great rates. The setting really is lovely and on Thursday's you're got prime views of the cruise ships coming to visit for the night.
The rooms have been recently stylishly refurbished and are bright and sunny, with hip colors and extra comfortable beds. Guest rooms are spread over two towers which frame the largest single level swimming pool in Hawaii which feels a bit like a massive greek water playground. White columned gazebos jut out over the massive water area, with fountains, swim to jacuzzis and the postcard view of the harbor from pretty much everywhere. One thing I loved about the Marriott is that they offer self-parking near the elevators, so you could easily come and go without having to valet park your car every time.
Waimea Plantation Cottages
If you're looking for old Hawaiian charm in a quiet setting, this is your winner. Set on a former plantation, the original plantation houses have been comfortably refurbished with charming small kitchens, lanais and most importantly, a sense of place. The names of the families who lived in the houses greets you at the door on a charming small sign. The cottages range from one to five bedrooms, and also vary widely in character. The beach is not a swimming beach, but is great for walking and contemplating the beautiful blue horizon.
There is a small but adequate pool just at the edge of the beach. This is the kind of place you either love or don't connect with, and those who love it come back year after year. One thing I love about this property is that it's as popular with locals as it is with visitors. I stayed here for a week and really never wanted to leave. It's that kind of place if that kind of place is your thing. While the cottages are not upscale, they are comfortable and charming, offering a sweet home away from home vibe.
Islander on the Beach
A solid budget choice, the Islander on the Beach sits on a long stretch of beach (alas not swimmable but very walkable) with plenty of well priced rooms facing the ocean. Rooms have tile floors, mini-kitchens with a microwave, sink and a fridge. While not luxurious, the rooms are comfortable and the central Coconut Coast location makes it easy to get anywhere on the island. The property sits right against a pretty beach with a small pool and lively pool bar.
Just out the front door is one of the few nightlife spots on the island, Trees Lounge, a fun spot for live music and drinks. Nearby is the Oasis Grill, which occasionally hosts concerts and live music. Also just next door is one of the better restaurants on the island, the popular Hukilau, with nice outdoor seating, an abundance of local produce and products, and nightly entertainment. The Islander on the Beach is one of the many solid, budget minded Aston properties on the island including the Aston Makeiwa which is just up the road. The Islander has better ocean view rooms, but the Makeiwa is also comfortable and a good fit for the budget minded who mostly want to go play on the island anyway.
Aston at Poipu Kai Condominiums
There are many condos on Kauai and finding a good one is the trick. You're sure to find something that works at the fantastically located Poipu Kai Condominiums, an Aston property. It sits on the other end of the beach from the Grand Hyatt, with Poipu beach on the back side. In other words, it's pretty much surrounded by lovely, accessible beaches on the warmer, sunnier side of the island. Units range from one to five bedrooms, including several vacation homes, spread out over quite a large property. Buildings range from two to three stories and are situated in such a way that you generally have something pretty to look at.
I stayed in a two bedroom/two bath unit which would have been perfect for a family or two couples. Both bedrooms had their own bathroom and either a King or Queen bed. The kitchen was upscale with all the modern amenities, beautiful sea green granite counters, stainless steel appliances and best of all, the kitchen and living areas all face the ocean, with a massive lanai to hang out on. The comfy master bedroom bed faces the impossibly blue ocean with sliding doors to the lanai, making getting out of bed a hard choice. It's a fantastic bedroom for people who love to sleep with the sound of crashing waves. On the third floor with a direct ocean view, this is one of their best deals and most popular choices. There are tons of great restaurant choices nearby, plenty of parking and a quiet, comfortable vibe.
Kauai Vacation Rentals
There is an abundance of vacation rentals on Kauai, with a huge range of price and lux quotient. Juicy Hotels works with the Kauai vacation rental guru who manages the best of the best properties on the island, ranging from one bedroom to seven bedrooms, and from $300-$7,000/night. From stunning one bedroom cottages with outdoor showers overlooking Secrets Beach to massive house envy producing perfect villas often rented by the Hollywood crowd, there is a vacation rental for every budget and every sized group.
Each vacation rental we book comes with a property host who can arrange anything from a private chef, guided hikes, in house yoga, massages, private surf lessons and more. They also team up with Green Car Hawaii and will pick you up at the airport in your Green Car which is hybrid SUV outfitted with a preloaded iPad with local restaurants, things to do and more.
All vacation rental houses we book are through by far the juiciest rental company on Kauai. They manage the very best 70 properties on the island and are sure to have the perfect one for you.
Talk to us about booking the perfect rental. We will connect you with our Juicy Kauai rental agency.1 of 4