The Essential Travel Guide to Kauai
What to pack, see and do on the oldest Hawaiian Island
One of the smallest in the chain of Hawaiian Islands, Kauai is without question the underdog. (Let’s be real, people, everyone goes to Maui.) But with scenery so mind-blowing--it’s actually the backdrop to movies like Jurassic Park and The Descendants--Kauai is officially on our must-visit list for 2016.
Take, for example, the velvety emerald-green mountains of Hanalei that seem to pop up around every corner, or the hidden waterfalls at the end of a winding hike along Secret Falls. Whatever it is, the undeniable spirit of Kauai is palpable to all who visit.
We partnered with euphoria Calvin Klein to present you with our guide to this spectacular vacation paradise (FYI, their euphoria campaign was shot on this very island, so they’re kind of experts). Consider your spring-break plans handled.
What to Pack
With an average high of 78 degrees in January, Kauai has no real off-season. However, the island is also one of the wettest locations in the world, so be prepared for a brief rainstorm each day. For this reason, you’ll need layers--a lightweight sweater and a nylon anorak will have you covered. A travel-sized bottle of euphoria Calvin Klein evokes the spirit of the island, while a pair of sneakers and a small backpack are essential for trekking into Waimea Canyon. Be sure to leave room in your suitcase for souvenirs: The island’s signature chocolate macadamia nuts will become your new trail mix.
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Where to Stay
Ko’a Kea, a boutique hotel on Poipu Beach. Yes, you may have to share the (world-class surfing) waves with a few more tourists than you would at, say, the secluded beaches along Hanalei Bay. But this part of the island, the South Shore, is considerably dryer than the North Shore, where more of the locals reside. Plus, with your choice of pool or ocean, snorkeling or sunbathing, and sushi or tiki bar, it’s kind of a no-brainer.
Ko’a Kea Hotel & Resort (starting at $299 a night)
What to Eat
Ko'a Kea is conveniently home to one of the South Shore’s most popular restaurants, Red Salt. Start with the poke and edamame dusted with red Kauai salt, and then finish your meal with the cotton candy “cloud” dessert. Should you take a day trip up to Hanalei Bay on the North Shore, stop by the farm-to-table food truck Hanalei Taro & Juice Co. for a kaula poi bowl (pulled pork topped with poi) and a mango fruit smoothie.
What to Do
Because the island is fairly small--only about an hour-and-a-half drive from north to south--it’s probably in your best interest to rent a car (available right outside the airport). With that squared away, plan a scenic drive up to Hanalei Bay (see above) and its pristine beaches. Pro tip: Sweet-talk the valet at the St. Regis into letting you park for free and ask him for directions to Hideaways Beach. He’ll lead to you to a little trail that ends at the most unbelievable beach you’ll ever set foot on (zero people, crystal-clear water and sand that feels like silk). If you’re looking for a little more adventure, plan a trip to Waimea Canyon ortake an ATV tour with Kipu Ranch to see the filming locations of Jurassic Park and Raiders of the Lost Ark.