Lauded for its natural beauty and boundless recreation, the island of Kauai has long attracted travelers preferring a mellow pace. Streets tend to quiet down a bit earlier and nightlife leans toward stargazing on the beach versus raging in nightclubs.
On Kauai’s sunny southern shore, Poipu Beach Resort remains true to form. Rooted in Hawaii’s sugar cane industry, the neighboring Old Koloa Town retains a lifestyle reflecting that sweet past.
But more recently, things have spiced up a bit down on the coast with new eateries, accommodations, activities and even a bit of post-sunset entertainment. Poipu die-hards need not worry, however. The resort’s laid-back demeanor still prevails.
“Poipu truly offers accommodations to suit every taste and budget,” says Poipu Beach Resort Association’s executive director, Jody Kjeldsen. Its primary market remains families, with strong numbers from destination weddings and honeymooners as well.
Augmenting its appeal to those markets—especially since they chalk up high repeat business—is Poipu’s evolving culinary scene. Kjeldsen notes that visitors can now enjoy “everything from a Puka Dog to modern Mexican at Tortilla Republic, an organic market, local beef at Bubba’s Burgers, and Pacific Rim cuisine at Beach House Restaurant or Tidepools at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa.”
Teresa Belcher, founder of Honeymoon Islands in Middleburg, VA, adds, “Especially for our romance clients, Kauai is always in their hearts. I’ve seen positive changes and growth to Poipu mainly with the restaurant selections, which is ever so important to vacationers.”
new & improved accommodations
As Poipu’s final property to reopen after Hurricane Iniki hit Hawaii in 1992, the 121-room Koa Kea Hotel & Resort stands in the original footprint of the former Poipu Beach Hotel. What we found so pleasant about the 3-story, u-shaped boutique retreat is that it’s so unintimidating despite its chic vibe and voguish design.
“Koa Kea seems to cater more to an adult clientele, as it doesn’t have many activities geared toward families with children,” says Judy Oshansky with Travel Collaborative in Cambridge, MA. “It’s ideal for someone looking for a quieter, yet high-end and elegant getaway.”
With tropically inspired accents and patterns, guestrooms and suites are decked out with flat-screen HDTVs, high-speed Internet, mini-refrigerators, Nespresso Espresso coffee makers, L’Occitane bath amenities, safes, iPod docking stations and DVD/CD players. Our private lanais proved prime perches for catching rays and people watching on the grounds below where a large lawn flows out to the ocean.
Guests are also privy to an intimate spa, fitness center, pool, whirlpool and one of Poipu’s newest buzz-generating restaurants. At Red Salt, executive chef Adam Watten dazzles diners with island prawns, spiced seared ahi and lilikoi ginger cream brulee. It serves breakfast and dinner, while the poolside bar handles lunch. Through Dec. 19, nightly rates range from $369 for garden view to $669 for oceanfront deluxe.
For your clients seeking the luxe life in a privileged setting, The Club Cottages at Kukuiula are on target with five plantation-style vacation cottages and another 10 set to roll out over the year.
While living big within the private club community that’s set amid 1,010 acres of former sugar cane land, guests have exclusive access to Kukuiula’s Plantation House with its farm-to-table restaurant, swimming pools, fitness facility, nature-infused spa and Tom Weiskopf-designed 18-holer named “Best New Private Course” in 2012 by Golf Magazine.
Senior marketing manager Veronica Lovesy notes, “Because Kukuiula is a private club, Club Cottage guests enjoy a much higher level of custom services. They’re treated like club members. They can play on an uncrowded golf course with virtually no tee times required.”
With contemporary island-style furnishings and original artwork, each spacious 2,200-sq.-ft. main cottage indulges four with central air conditioning, screened-in living lanai, two master suites with private baths and outdoor lava rock showers, gourmet kitchen, outdoor BBQ and backyard lava rock fire pit. A separate 496-sq.-ft. cottage sleeps two. Available through The Parrish Collection, rates range from $1,000 to $1,500 nightly through 2013.
On the revitalization front, the 50-acre Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa has spruced up its entire 602-room inventory. The non-smoking hotel has also introduced 20 new hypo-allergenic “Respire” rooms as healthy options for guests with respiratory sensitivities. Through Dec. 31, nightly rates are from $680 for garden view to $910 for deluxe ocean suites.
And the 20-acre Sheraton Kauai Resort has completed a $16 million revitalization that welcomes guests with an airier lobby, open-air ocean courtyard, multi-level pool with private cabanas and RumFire restaurant. Through Dec. 25, nightly rates range from $429 for garden view to $1,649 for deluxe oceanfront suites.
pumped-up shopping & dining
Opening in conjunction with Kukuiula, The Shops at Kukuiula has livened up Kauai’s south shore scene with more than 35 art galleries, boutiques and eateries. As we stroll through the village-style ambiance, we’re impressed that the offerings are far from cookie-cutter.
Among its culinary newbies, Tortilla Republic Grill & Margarita Bar adds a fresh island twist to updated Mexican classics. With breezy patios and dual-level design, the stylish restaurant presents farm-fresh fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Patrons sip on signature “Hydration” margaritas well into the evening to live music on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a club night on Saturdays.
Pacific Rim cuisine continues to shine in Poipu with its founders showcasing their distinctive culinary talents at Merriman’s Fish House and Josselin’s Tapas Bar & Grill at The Shops, and Roy’s at Poipu Shopping Center. And just beyond on the beach at Lawai, the iconic Beach House Restaurant recently completed a half-million dollar renovation that further enhances its epic sunset-view setting.
While never light on diversions, Poipu has ramped up its recreational roster as well. “I recommend Poipu because of the location,” says Mindy Gilbert with New Jersey-based My Vacation Lady. “It has great beaches and activities, and easy access to Waimea Canyon and Port Allen for the Napali Coast cruises.”
Closer to the resort, Koloa Zipline has debuted an 8-line course that thrills with Kauai’s longest coming in at 2,500 ft. And Outfitters Kauai boosted its existing lines with three tandems soaring above three separate waterfalls.
For grounded adventure, Kauai ATV and CJM Stables have linked for a guided Horse & Buggy trek. Guests rip into hidden valleys on ATVs or Mudbugs, and then change the pace with horseback riding to sheltered beaches and movie set sites.
And to help shutterbugs hone their skills, Photo Safari Hawaii’s new eco-excursion catches all the photo ops at Allerton and McBryde National Tropical Botanical Gardens in Lawai Valley.
getting there & getting around
Kauai’s Lihue Airport (LIH) welcomes nonstop service from the U.S. mainland via United from Los Angeles and San Francisco; American Airlines and Delta Air Lines from Los Angeles; US Airways from Phoenix; and Alaska Airlines from Seattle, San Jose and San Diego. Visitors can also fly into Honolulu International Airport (HNL) and connect on Hawaiian Airlines, Go! or Island Air.
As a rental car alternative, the reservation-based Sunny Poipu Express Shuttle transports passengers from Lihue Airport to Koa Kea and Grand Hyatt Kauai. Once in Poipu, Green Car Hawaii rents hybrid or electric cars on a daily or hourly basis. Traditional rentals are available through Avis at the Grand Hyatt Kauai.
Kauai the Pleasant Way
“Kauai provides the perfect setting to unplug from the hectic pace of home and reconnect with nature and each other,” says Jack E. Richards, president and CEO of Pleasant Holidays. “The moment you step off the plane and breathe in the sweet perfume of tropical flowers, your stress level melts away.”
While Pleasant books all of Hawaii’s major islands, Richards finds that the aloha spirit seems more prevalent on Kauai. “It’s easy to see why films like ‘The Descendants’ chose to shoot here,” Richards says. “Through that, Kauai has received some very positive exposure over the past few years.”
That exposure likely contributed to Pleasant’s 2013 boost in bookings to the “Island of Discovery.” Richards notes that through the end of February, Kauai year-over-year sales figures were up 20 percent and room nights were up 17 percent. “We expect it to increase even more with the new Alaska Airlines nonstop service from San Diego beginning this summer.”
Richards defines Kauai’s top markets as honeymooners and travelers into soft adventure—especially among visitors from the West Coast. “The island is really geared to those who want to do it all or nothing at all.”
In Poipu, Pleasant partners with Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, Sheraton Kauai Resort and Castle Kiahuna Plantation Bungalows. “What agents find with Poipu is an ideal combination of luxurious resorts, challenging championship golf, pampering world-class spas and one of the best beaches in America,” says Richards.
Rather than etched-in-stone itineraries, Pleasant reservation sales agents customize air, accommodations and activities packages suited for a travel agent’s client. “Our sales agents can craft a romantic getaway for two, an active vacation that accommodates the whole family, the perfect destination wedding or a corporate team-building event that keeps an industry leader in top position,” Richards says.
To help travel agents sell Kauai, pleasantagent.com provides access to special offers, promotional materials and training programs. Agents should visit the site to find Hawaii “Hot Deals” value-added promotions that tack on extras like special amenities, upgrades and free Hertz rental car use. Richards adds that Pleasant also hosts quarterly webinars on Hawaii. For more information, call (800) 742-9244 or visit pleasantholidays.com.
CJM Stables: cjmstables.com
Green Car Hawaii: greencarhawaii.com
Kauai ATV: kauaiatv.com
Koa Kea Hotel & Resort: (888) 898-8958; koakea.com
Koloa Zipline: koloazipline.com
Outfitters Kauai: outfitterskauai.com
The Parrish Collection: (800) 325-5701; parrishkauai.com
Photo Safari Hawaii: photosafarihawaii.com
Poipu Beach Resort Association: (888) 744-0888; poipubeach.org
Sunny Poipu Express Shuttle: robertshawaii.com/pbra