The 137 island chain of Hawaii presents so many options to intrepid travellers that narrowing down a holiday into one succinct itinerary can be tough.
When planning a trip to Hawaii, most tourists assemble on the island of Oahu. Known as ‘the Gathering Point’ and home to the capital Honolulu, this is the world’s gateway to the Aloha State and where the main international airport is found. Alternatively, they head for one of the world’s great road trips, the Hana Highway on Maui island, which winds its way to the volcano Haleakala.
The island of Kauai is sometimes overlooked in favour of these heavy hitters, but those that embrace the Garden Isle find a place of pure paradise awaits. Remote, scenic and with luxury accommodation and dining options abound, it’s a place to indulge, splurge and get away from it all, make no mistake. While you’re on the island, here are 6 of the best things to do on your luxury holiday to Kauai, Hawaii.
ENJOY EXCLUSIVE ACCESS TO HAWAII’S ‘FORBIDDEN ISLAND’, NIIHAU
Whilst it feels somewhat remiss to be leaving Kauai as soon as we’ve arrived, if you’re seeking serenity on your Hawaiin adventure, then Kauai grants you access to Niihau, known as the ‘Forbidden Island’.
Privately owned and managed by conservationists the Robinson family and only accessible to family members, relatives and invitees, in recent years the island has experienced a phased opening of sorts. You can now take a private helicopter here (run by Niihau Helicopters, Inc) for a half-day tour. With just 170 residents, if you’re after the luxury of solitude, this could be the place for you.
Contrary to this being a billionaire’s playground (as private islands are so often depicted) Niihau is somewhat different; the island is dedicated to preserving Haiwaain traditions, heritage and nature.
LUXURIATE IN SECLUSION AT KAUAI’S SECRET BEACH, KAUAPEA
Not content with having a ‘forbidden island’, Kauai also boasts a ‘secret beach’, Kaupea, located on the island’s north side. The beach is known as being secret (paradoxically, we acknowledge) because it’s only accessible via an unsigned, unmarked, unpaved track which is famously slippery and treacherous, making access difficult.
Make the effort, however, and you’ll be rewarded with a gorgeous spectacle of sand and surf. At almost a kilometre long, and with high cliff walls, you’re sure to find your own little spot of serenity here.
Alternatively, there are some incredible luxury vacation homes in Kauai, with one overlooking the Secret Beach opening up recently. Boasting a private path to the beach and panoramic views of the ocean, this is the height of luxury on the island. And you did say that’s what you wanted, right?
TAKE A PRIVATE HELICOPTER RIDE OVER THE NA PALI COAST…
Hey, whilst you’ve got that private helicopter we mentioned earlier all to yourself, you might as well make the most of it!
So, next, we’re heading to (or rather, over) the Na Pali Coast, a gorgeous 17 mile stretch of sand and sea on Kauai’s north shore. Since there is no access by road on this coast, car travel is largely out of the question here, so it’s more common than you might think to appreciate the beauty of this rugged coastline from on high.
There are four distinct colours that you’ll see from your formidable vantage point: the royal blue of the ocean, yellow of the beach, brown of the mountains, and green of the trees. An insider’s tip is to wear black clothes during your helicopter tour, since it will reduce a significant amount of glare on the windows and improve visibility during your flight. Alternatively, you could take a doors-off helicopter tour, which is pretty terrifying but the visibility is unparalleled.
If you’re keen to dismount and actually put your feet on terra firma, then a private yacht tour of the Na Pali coast might suit you better…
…OR EXPLORE THE NA PALI COAST BY PRIVATE YACHT
There are two things that you should keep in mind while taking a private yacht tour to the Na Pali Coast. Firstly, timing. Don’t go in June and July as the winds are too strong, making severe seasickness a real threat. Local knowledge recommends packing ginger ale, saltines, and Dramamine motion sickness tablets for a boat trip all year round, as the waters can get choppy.
For the ideal yacht trip, with fine weather and calmer seas, consider checking out the Na Pali Coast in the latter stages of August or later, avoiding monsoon season in the process. Be aware that these aren’t the best waters, any time of year, when it comes to snorkelling.
With all that small print out of the way, visiting the Na Pali Coast and its State Wilderness Park by yacht allows you to enter this most gorgeous part of Kauai from a fabulous vantage point, gaining access to exclusive coves not available to those on foot.
DINE ON DECADENT & DELICIOUS HAWAIIAN DELICACIES AT 5 STAR TIDEPOOLS
The food of Hawaii is as diverse as it is delicious. Savouring the sea’s bounty and taking elements from the cuisines of Japan, China, Korea, and the Philippines, who came in numbers to the island in the 19th Century to work the sugar cane and pineapple fields, dishes are punchy, fresh and packing plenty of citrus and spice.
Perhaps the premier fine dining spot on the island is Tidepools. Here, the restaurant’s dining room is set in a series of thatched bungalows (air hale pili in Haiwaan) that seemingly float over a koi-filled lagoon. Quite the idyllic setting, but rest assured, the food more than matches its majesty. On the menu, you’ll find locally caught fish cooked with respect to Hawaiin traditions but with a modern eye for detail.
Expect hamachi sashimi with chimichurri and ponzu, a Kauai style poke with kukui nut, macadamia crusted mahi mahi served with forbidden rice, and our favourite, seared Hawaiin ahi fish (a type of yellowfin tuna). Just fabulous, and a real glimpse into the melting pot of culinary influences and the freshest local ingredients that come together to produce this celebrated cuisine.
SAVOUR THE SUNSET OVER THE WAIMEA CANYON & THE WAIPO’O FALLS
Dubbed the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’, Waimea is one of the most spectacular wonders of nature in Kauai. Scrap that, in the whole of Hawaii. Scrap that, in the world… We got there in the end.
The canyon (which boasts waterfalls and views of the Pacific Ocean; take that Arizona!) stretches for over ten miles, plunges 3,500 feet deep, and has a mile-long width at some points. Two popular lookout points offer the best views, Puu Ka Pele and Pu’u Hinahina, the former providing a glimpse of the Waipo’o falls and the latter offering the finest views of the canyon itself.
For a luxurious holiday with a difference, why not visit the canyon and falls at sunset, which begins at around 6pm. The view is more opulent than anything a 5 star hotel can provide.