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kauai head Mike Shaw/Flickr

By Air, By Land, By Sea

Covered in tropical rainforest, cut with canyons and craters and surrounded by a jagged cliff perimeter, Kauai is quite possibly the most beautiful Hawaiian island. But fear not, ladies of leisure--it’s also a luxurious spot to just sit back with tropical drink in hand. Here, the best way to explore it, whether your mode of transit is a chopper, a pool chair or a hand-carved kayak.

Where to Stay

So luxurious, you’ll feel like Hawaiian royalty

St. Regis Princeville

Perched on a cliff overlooking the storybook Hanalei Bay, the decadent St. Regis cascades down to tropical gardens, a 5,000-square-foot infinity pool and a private beach cove with cabana boys at the ready. Hungry? Dine on Jean-Georges Vongerichten cuisine at the Kauai Grill or St. Regis Bar. (Psst…you’ll get the same quality for a better deal at the bar.) Feeling romantic? Treat yourselves to an oceanside couples massage, a Hawaiian torch-lit dinner or a retreat to the whirlpool tub in your well-appointed suite.

What to Do

Pick your chariot

Kalalau Trail

Accessible only by a narrow, 11-mile footpath, this section of Kauai's coast traverses five lush valleys and dramatic sea cliffs and offers access to some of Hawaii’s best beaches. Halfway there, most people hang a left at the river to see the waterfall, but shake the crowds and head onward toward the hippy commune. (Just don’t be alarmed if you see a topless hiker.)

heli Blue Hawaiin Helicopters

Helicopter Grand Island Tour

Just when you think Kauai couldn’t get any prettier…you call in the chopper. Flying over Waimea, “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” and hugging the curves of the Na Pali coast, a helicopter offers the absolute best perspective on the island. Step up the adventure and fly "Doors Off" with Jack Harter Helicopters.

sailing Island Sail Kauai

Sailing Canoe Excursion

Explore Hanalei Bay in a traditional Kuupaaloa boat, hand-carved by a Hawaiian native. Take the morning snorkel trip for calm waters and a chance to spot dolphins and turtles, or sail in the afternoon to get an oral history of Hanalei from your guide.

 

Where to Eat

Go where the fish is fresh and the drinks are kicky

Bar Acuda

Quite possibly the trendiest and most coveted restaurant on Kauai is Chef Moffat’s upscale tapas bar. This island spin on Spanish cuisine serves up roasted ahi tuna with shaved fennel and deconstructed tapenade, North Shore honeycomb with Humboldt Fog cheese and crisp Fuji apple and local delights that change with the season.

beachhouse Beach House Restaurant/Facebook

The Beach House

Watch the sun go down with a pineapple mojito in hand at this unrivaled sunset spot on the South Shore known for food as good as the views. On the menu: wasabi-encrusted mahi mahi with lilikoi lemongrass beurre blanc and warm molten chocolate cake that pretty much oozes all over the place.

coco HollanHawaii/Instagram

Caffè Coco

This health-conscious café nestled among the fruit trees of a former plantation offers island-grown produce, wild-caught fish and organic meats, all in the service of simple yet gourmet meals. Try a purple sweet potato samosa with banana chutney or the catch of the day with coconut cream and jasmine rice.

What to Skip

Day tours are for suckers

The Bus Tour

While it's tempting to revel in your resort and just loop the island on a day tour, renting a car is key on Kauai. There is beauty and adventure at every turn--and you don’t want some cheesy guy with a microphone governing your photo stops. (Plus, he doesn't like two-hour picnics.)

What to Pack

boardshort Roxy

Board Shorts

Hey, Surfer Girl. Yeah, we’re talking to you. Look the part (while covering your bikini-clad bum) with mid-thigh-length shorts in a tropical pattern.

Roxy ($38)

sarong Bloomingdales

Sarong

No garment could be more useful or appropriate for this stretch of sand, transitioning seamlessly from cover-up at the beach to pretty dress at the tiki bar.

Echo ($58)

polaroid CNET

Polaroid Cube

Want to document your surfing (OK, boogie boarding) adventures? This compact, easy-to-operate action cam shoots video in 1080p, but isn't nearly as expensive as other GoPro options.

 

Polaroid ($100)