KAUA‘I MAY BE THE REST OF THE world’s image of the serene South Pacific, but this green jewel of an island is Hawai‘i’s drama queen. And why not? It has starred in more Hollywood hits than Harrison Ford, who raided the island seeking the lost Ark. In 1958, the she gods of Shark Reef ran wild on Kaua‘i; in 1993 it was the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park. Most recently, King Kong rampaged through Honopu Valley. Kaua‘i’s star qualities are towering sea cliffs, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Hawai‘i’s only navigable rivers, hundreds of waterfalls, supersize flora, and 43 white-sand beaches on an island 33 miles long by 25 miles wide.
Author Rita Ariyoshi Photography Todd Pearson
DAY THREE / Check out of the Sheraton and make a little detour west on Kaumuali‘i Highway for breakfast at Kalaheo Coffee Company & Café. Try the Island-grown coffee from Kaua‘i, Kona, Moloka‘i, and Maui, and dare the Bonzo breakfast burrito.
Head east on Kaumuali‘i Highway and pick up Kuhio Highway in Lihu‘e. Drive along the Coconut Coast to the spectacular North Shore. Enjoy the vistas of wild ocean and jagged volcanic peaks. Unless you want to shop, take the bypass around Kapa‘a town or risk crawling through tourist traffic.
For one of the finest views in the Pacific, pull over at the Hanalei Valley Lookout. The serene scene is composed of emerald-green taro farms, the winding Hanalei River, and a backdrop of brooding mountains streaming with waterfalls. Nothing has changed much in a thousand years.
Continue on to Hanalei, crossing the one-lane bridge. This little Hawaiian town became a hippie haven in the ’70s and still has an arty, offbeat attitude. Rock solid, however, is Wai‘oli Hui‘ia Church, where Hawaiian hymns ring out on Sunday mornings. Behind the church is Wai‘oli Mission House Museum, built in 1836. Yankee missionary wife Lucy Wilcox gave birth to eight sons in the main bedroom. Check your watch. An $8 clock installed in 1866 still keeps perfect time.
The road from Hanalei town winds along rugged coastline, through tiny villages, and across a skein of old wooden bridges. Just before the end of the road at Ke‘e Beach, turn left, and head uphill to Limahuli Garden, part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden. Two vital ecosystems harbor more than 70 percent of Kaua‘i’s and 59 percent of Hawai‘i’s endangered plant species.
Lunch will be back in Hanalei town beside the river at the Hanalei Dolphin Restaurant. Dine outdoors on artichokes stuffed with garlic or fresh fish.
Drive back up Kuhio Highway to Kilauea Village, on the left. Take Kilauea Road to the end at the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. A classic white lighthouse dominates the promontory. It holds the world’s largest clamshell lens, which can beam 90 miles out to sea. The great frigate bird with its 8-foot wingspan glides along in the air streams, while Hawaiian monk seals haul out on the rocks below for a snooze.
In Kilauea Village, drop in at the Kong Lung Store, an old plantation general store morphed into a barefoot mini-Bloomingdale’s. Look for stunning home décor items, quality aloha shirts, and sophisticated stationery. Walk across the courtyard to Lotus, a jewelry boutique featuring dazzling original creations.
Return to Kuhio Highway and turn right. You’re almost at the Princeville Resort, where you’ll be checking in. Although this lobby has quite a bit of art, it needs none—the panorama of Hanalei Bay and the jagged massifs of Namolokama overwhelm any manmade masterpiece. Before dinner, enjoy a couples massage on the beach in a private cabana open to the ocean.
Dinner will be on the terrace at Hanalei Café because the setting is so grand, but ask to order from the menu of La Cascata, the hotel’s signature restaurant. Try the herb and garlic–crusted rack of lamb. Finish with espresso and moonlight. Then take a spin back down to Hanalei town and Tahiti Nui for industrial-strength tiki culture and Hawaiian music. Request “Hanalei Moon.” Maybe someone will get up and dance.
Maybe you. Rita Ariyoshi is a longtime HEMISPHERES contributor who lives in Hawai‘i.
Surface high pressure in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean produces the familiar east-northeast “trade winds.” The winds are particularly prevalent in the summer, although they can be stronger in the winter. When kona (southwest) winds replace the trades, the weather turns wet and stormy, providing the majority of the southern coast’s annual rainfall. March isn’t as rainy as the core wet season, November through January. Highs in the upper 70s and lows in the upper 60s are par for March.
Weather information is provided by The Weather Channel. For more Kaua‘i climatological details, visit weather.com.
Rent a car—Hawai‘i has some of the lowest rental rates in the U.S. Main roads are well-marked, but it takes longer to get any place than you might guess looking at a map. Narrow, winding roads, one-lane bridges, and traffic dictate a rural pace. A spirit of aloha, backed by law, requires you to yield at the one-lane bridges, so don’t barrel through just because the car in front does. If there’s a line of traffic, let six or seven cars through; then it’s the other side’s turn.
A Kamalani Playground (kamalani.org) At Lydgate State Park. Keiki can spend an afternoon in a tangle of tunnels, slides, caves, swings, and bridges. Beginning snorkelers can meet Hawai‘i’s colorful reef fish in the swimming area.
B Hawai‘i Movie Tours (Tel: 800-628-8432; hawaiimovietour.com) Kids of all ages love seeing movie clips on the van monitor while at the scene of the action.
C Mahaulepu Beach (explorekauai.com) On the South Shore. From November through March, this is a good spot to watch for whales.
D Children’s Discovery Museum (kcdm.org) Kaua‘i Village Shopping Center, Kapa‘a. Interactive exhibits make this a great place for your keiki to meet Island keiki.