HANALEI-Puff has apparently deserted his stomping ground, but he’s left a legacy of followers frolicking in the sea here. Hanalei Bay sports one of Kauai’s best beaches, although strong currents in the winter make swimming dangerous. But that hasn’t stopped the burgeoning development of this area and nearby Princeville. In August, a new Sheraton will look out over Hanalei Bay and the highly acclaimed Princeville Makai Golf Course, one of Golf Digest’s top 100 courses in the United States. The new Sheraton Princeville has been designed in the Hawaiian Colonial style of earlier plantation life, and each room will have a view of the bay. With the addition of the hotel and new shops, Princeville hopes to join the ranks of other booming resort destinations. It already has its own airstrip, serviced by Princeville Airways’ twin-otter jet-prop planes.
Kauai has been called the antithesis of Honolulu, and nowhere is that more true than on the North Shore of the Garden Isle Life is laid-back here Don’t look for flaming filet mignon or cherries jubilee. Content yourself with a tropical taco from a roadside vendor on the way to Hanalei Town or fall back on a more traditional burrito at El Cafe, a Mexican joint in Hanalei where you stand up under a banyan tree to eat. More refined fare can be found at Hanalei Dolphin and the Beam Reach restaurant.
South of the Hanalei/Princeville area, the Kilauea Point Lighthouse is a beacon for travelers, just as it was in 1913 when it began operation as the first light that ships from the East saw (and still do) on their journeys across the Pacific. From this vantage point, you have a spectacular sweeping view of Kauai’s fugged coastline. A mile away, in the town of Kilauea, stop by the Kong Lung Co. In this general store, you’ll find the housewares, clothes, gourmet foods and beverages, art, books, antiques, stoneware and wood among other treasures that has led this store to be called “Gump’s in a cane field.” Absolutely charming.
POIPU BEACH–The staff at the Waiohai briefly flinched when strong winds hit the island early this year. For a moment, they remembered the devastating hurricane of 1982. The newly opened Waiohai bore the brunt of much of that disaster. Open to the sea, the Waiohai is built like a giant W. When the water walls came crashing in, the hotel staff gathered all the guests together on the fourth floor of the hotel and watched as the sea pushed in around them, torrents of water flooding through the hotel, out the open-air entry and up into the mountains. The next day, the damage was assessed, and the Waiohai closed down with millions of dollars of damage. Eight weeks later, however, the property reopened and is now the flagship hotel for Amfac in Hawaii. It may be the most opulent property on Kauai-it certainly fronts one of the most impressive beaches on the island.
A few minutes outside of I.ihue, Nawiliwili Bay is another good swimming and sunning beach. The Kauai Surf-one of the Surf Resorts Hawaii-is an 11 floor hotel that sits on this wide stretch of sand. (The Kauai Surf is Kauai’s first high-rise and most likely will remain its last, since current zoning forbids buildings more than four stories.)
DON’T LEAVE KAUAI without rafting down the rivers of the Na Pali coast with the folks at Zodiac tours. The rugged Na Pali coast is inaccessible except by boat or helicopter, and we recommend both. Papillon and Kenai helicopters are two companies that offer outstanding tours. This is true adventure.