Kauai is known for the natural beauty of its sandy beaches, majestic cliffs, and cascading waterfalls. People come to Kauai to experience old Hawaii. Much of the island remains untouched by human development, allowing a large playground for exploration.
Eat where the locals eat. A 2006 James Beard Foundation honoree, Hamura Saimin has been a mainstay in Kauai for decades. The wooden stools and formica counters look like they have been there for just as long. With counter-only seating, the menu is as unassuming as its decor. Get there early, as locals and tourists alike wait in line for the steaming hot bowls of saimin. The special includes pieces of pork and vegetables along with won ton mein. The teriyaki barbecue chicken skewers are a must-do with the Chinese hot mustard. Just when you think you can’t eat anymore, order a slice of their famous lilikoi chiffon pie and savor it.
Take it all in. After a satisfying meal of comfort food, drive 15 miles to Poipu Beach, the southernmost point on Kauai. Poipu Beach was named America’s Best Beach by The Travel Channel. Though it hardly ever rains in Poipu, Mt. Waialeale on the west side of Kauai averages of over 39 feet of rain annually and is the rainiest and wettest spot on the planet. Walk along the beach with the sand between your toes inhaling the crisp salt air. If you are lucky, you will see a Hawaiian monk seal basking in the sun.
Burn it off. Waimea Canyon, often called "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific," measures 10 miles wide and more than 3,000 feet deep. The canyon was formed by a deep incision of the Waimea River arising from the extreme rainfall on the island’s central peak, Mt. Waialeale. The canyon cliffs and picturesque views go on for miles, and what better to experience the beauty than on a bike?
Outifitters Kauai offers a Waimea Canyon Bicycle Downhill excursion beginning at 3,600 feet traveling 12 miles to sea level. After a brief safety lesson, travel by van with ten of your closest new friends for an hour to Waimea Canyon Lookout, where you view the beauty of the canyon first hand. The bikes are unloaded a short distance from the Lookout and you begin to head down.
Two guides from Outfitters Kauai accompany you the entire way, one on a bike and the other in the van following the caravan of riders. The bikes are similar to beach cruisers; they are easy to ride and operate. There are two hills where light pedaling is necessary, but most of the way, your feet can rest on the pedals as you glide gracefully down the canyon.
Feel the fresh mountain air and smell eucalyptus trees as you zoom by at speeds of up to 25 miles an hour. You will take intermittent stops for photo opportunities and for a snack. Your snack of juice and Kauai Kookies will be a welcomed stop.
Your guide may be able to harvest some hard-to-find pineapple guava, a perfect balance of sweet and sour encased in a small lemon-sized fruit. The sun will begin to set as you head down the last stretch of pavement, where you are able to let loose, and go as fast as the bike will take you. Your exhilarating ride will end at a local market at sea level where you can purchase bottled water and juice. Heading back to Poipu, the skies slowly turn orange as the sun dips peacefully into the Pacific.
Refuel. Check into the Sheraton Kauai on Poipu Beach and meander along the beach to the Point, the hotel’s lounge with panoramic views of Kauai’s southern coastline overlooking the crashing waves. Drinks garnished with paper umbrellas seam to taste better on the beach.
On certain days of the week, you can enjoy live Hawaiian music and a free mai tai hour. Sit at an outdoor table and enjoy the evening tradewinds with a glass of wine from the lounge’s wine by the glass list. The Point’s food menu offers casual fare such as kalua pork nachos and pupu style prime rib. Healthier options include tofu & seared ahi salad and huli huli salmon sandwich.
Share a slice of their version of Hula Pie, made with vanilla and coffee ice cream on a chocolate cookie crust topped with chocolate fudge sauce, whipped cream and macadamia nuts. The ultimate end to this perfect day is a cup of 100% Kona coffee or a fine port. Splurge and go for the port (or two!)—it is just a short walk to your room.
What & Where:
Hamura Saimin (2956 Kress St, Lihue; 808-245-3271)
Sheraton Kauai (2440 Hoonani Road, Koloa, HI; 80…, www.sheraton-kauai.com)
Outfitters Kauai (2827A Poipu Rd, Poipu Beach, HI; 80…, www.outfitterskauai.com)
Theresa Sigo is a New Orleans native currently living in Hawaii. She has traveled all over the world visiting such locales as Italy, Spain, Scandanavia, St Petersburg, Mexico, the Greek islands, and most recently Tokyo. Theresa enjoys traveling and experiencing new food and cultures. She has returned to Honolulu after living in on the mainland (Monterey, Chicago and Houston) for 8 years.
We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment. -Hilaire Belloc