Special Feature: Products Sally Recommends
Aloha Hawaii! and welcome to Kauai, an island unlike the other Hawaiian Islands I have experienced (Oahu, Maui and the big island of Hawaii). Kauai is more lush, more green and less commercial. One of the eight Hawaiian Islands, Kauai offers the ocean, beaches, waterfalls, palm trees, mountains, valleys and clouds. You can experience an outdoor paradise or a rainy vacation. Known as the "Garden Isle," the island is divided into the North, East, South and West shores. The North Shore is the most beautiful and the most lush. Annual rainfall is up to 400 inches a year. Waialeale, near the middle of the island, is the wettest spot on earth. But, beautiful it is! This is where the movie classic "South Pacific" was filmed, and the inspiration for the popular 60's song "Puff the Magic Dragon" in which the well-known folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary sang about a magical land called Hanalei, deep in the heart of the North Shore.
Kauai's latest tragedy was Hurricane Iniki that destroyed much of the island in the early 1990s. The island has started to rebuild and some of the major hotels are open for business, but others stand idle, either for lack of insurance or funds.
Kauai is lovely and has much to offer the traveler. Recreational activities include: deep-sea fishing, snorkeling, board surfing, kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, horseback, sailing, scuba diving, flying in helicopters and wind and body surfing. Swimming pools and tennis courts are available at most hotels, but you need to be careful about swimming in the ocean as much of the island is unsafe for casual swimming.
Let's talk about the rain. You get the feeling it is a serious problem when your hotel gives you a list of the Top 10 Things to Do on rainy days. One way to help with the rain problem is to stay on the South Shore of the island as opposed to the North Shore.
Although the Princeville Hotel on the North Shore is lovely, I would recommend the Hyatt Regency Kauai. Located 20 minutes from Lihue Airport. The Hyatt occupies 50 oceanfront acres in the Poipu Beach District. You'll find traditional Hawaiian architecture with extensive gardens, open-air courtyards, Hawaiian artwork and no building higher than a coconut tree. Six hundred rooms means that you may be walking a bit, but the walks are lovely. (If you get tired you can always stop by the Seaview Terrace for a Kalaheo Colada, a drink made with Bailey's Irish Cream, fresh banana, vanilla ice cream and macadamia nut liqueur. Very refreshing, and anyone who likes Pi“a Coladas will enjoy something a little different.)
The Hyatt sports the Anara health and fitness spa which offers separate men's and women's facilities. A 25-yard heated lap pool is located in the center of he spa's open courtyard. Each massage room overlooks a private garden. Full spa amenities (whirlpools, Jacuzzis, lava rock shower garden, sauna and steam rooms, weight rooms, facial, herbal wrap and loofah treatment rooms) are available. A restaurant, retail shop, locker room and beauty shop round out the offerings.
The Hyatt has numerous restaurants from which to choose. The Ilima Terrace offers breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Dondero's is open for Italian food in the evening and Tidepools, a series of open-air Polynesian grass-thatched huts on a lagoon, is available for fresh fish and seafood at dinner.
The new Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club opened in the summer of 1995 on the South Shore near the Lihue Airport.
Now, let's get down to what's important: food. Kauai has acres of taro fields, sugarcane lines the highways, tall palm trees are laden with ripe coconuts and colorful mangoes drop from trees. But the real excitement is what people are eating in a few restaurants: Hawaiian Regional Cuisine. Because of Hawaii's multi-ethnic population, you will find dishes from Japan, China, the Philippines, Portugal, Korea and Southeast Asia. In 1991, Hawaii's premier chefs formed an organization to promote their unique blend of Asian and Western Culinary styles highlighted by Hawaii's distinctive cooking ingredients. Finally, globally-influenced culinary arts have come of age in Hawaii.
An airline has even gotten on the bandwagon. Hawaiian Air's first-class has recipes and quality control provided by four of Hawaii's most talented Hawaii Regional Cuisine chefs: Beverly Gannon of the Haliimaile General Store, Maui; Mark Ellman of Avalon, Maui; Peter Merriman of Merriman's, Waimea and The Hula Grill, Maui; and Gary Strehl of the Hawaii Prince Hotel, Oahu.
Roy's Poipu Bar and Grill is one of Roy Yamaguchi's eight "Roy's" restaurants. Roy blends European techniques with Asian flavors and ingredients of the Pacific. For instance, Blackened Island Ahi is served atop a Spicy Soy Mustard Butter Sauce and salmon is offered Grilled Hibachi Style with Citrus Ponsu Sauce. Crispy Lemongrass Chicken, Coconut Beef and Chicken Satay and Maui Onion Salad are a few of his other winners. Do order the Dark Chocolate Souffl» in advance, it takes 20 minutes to prepare. (As their T shirt says, it may just be "better than sex" for some.) If you are traveling and see a Roy's, I recommend you visit. They can be found in: Honolulu, Maui (two locations), Tokyo, Guam, Hong Kong and at Pebble Beach in Carmel, California.)
A Pacific Cafe also offers excellent food. Chef Jean-Marie Josselin is another Hawaii Reginal Cuisie advocate. From the homemade rolls to the innovative dishes, this chef is not afraid to season his food. Peking Duck and Shrimp Tacos are served with a Papaya-Ginger Salsa, Pan-Fried Shrimp and Salmon Dumplings with Sweet Thai Pepper Sauce and grilled fish and meat from the wood burning grill are showstoppers. The Chinese Roast Duck with a Ginger-Lime Glaze is crisp and delicious. Poatoe-Crusted Hawaiian Ono with Tusca Beans is another winner. And the desserts here are special. Profiteroles with Coconut Ice Cream and Mango and Pineapple Cobbler were delicious.
A stop on the road in Haapepe for Mexican food produced another pleasant discovery. Four year old Sinaloa is one of several Mexican restaurants on the island. This Mayan Temple look-alike offers a full range of authentic Mexican dishes. Tasty chips, tomatillo salsa, tortillas, fajitas -- they have it all!
If the hustle and bustle of Honolulu is not for you and you want a more laid-back experience, Kauai just might be the answer. In the months and years to come, the island will get back to what is was before the hurricane. Go and enjoy the natural beauty of the Hawaiian breezes, lovely beaches and lush vegetation.
Hyatt Regency Kauai
1571 Poipu Road
Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club
A Pacific Cafe
in the Kauai Village
Kuhio Highway, Kapaa
(800) STAY ITT (782-9488)
Roy's Poipu Bar and Grill
in the Poipu Shopping Village
2360 Kiahuna Plantation Drive
1-3959 Kaumuali'i Highway