Aptly dubbed as the “Garden Isle,” the oldest (geologically) and northernmost of the Hawaiian Islands, Kauai is a timeless gem that has aged gracefully. The years have actually embellished the Island’s emerald embankments, plush rainforests, ribboning waterfalls, and majestic Waimea Canyon. Blessed with spectacular natural beauty, Kauai is also home to Mount Waialeale, the wettest place on Earth that averages more than 450 inches of rainfall every year.
With a total population of 68,000, Kauai is the fourth largest of the Hawaiian Islands, comprised of roughly four areas that are defined by nautical directions. The north and east sides of the island are on the “windward” side of the island, where the winds blow onto the shore. These parts of the island tend to get the most rain, and as a result, are the greenest and most tropical parts of the island. The south and west sides of the island are on the “leeward” side of the island, which receive less rain since most clouds have already dropped their rain on the windward side of the island.
In spite of the recent influx of tourists and burgeoning luxury resort development, thanks to careful legal regulation and heavy involvement from its local citizenry, Kauai has successfully managed to preserve its farming heritage and rich culture, leaving its rural character largely intact. Today, it is the least developed of all the Hawaiian Islands, making it necessary to have/rent a car to get around the Island. Your 48 hours itinerary is likely to be broken into two parts: one day on the North shore and the second day on the South shore. As expected with a tropical paradise like Hawaii, your trip is also likely to be centered around nature, relaxation, food, and overall wellness.
1) Fuel up for your jam-packed day with breakfast at the Grand Hyatt Kauai — stare out at the wide open expanse of the Pacific blue waters while noshing on a platter of fresh fruit and sipping on a cup of local coffee.
2) Go zip lining through the 7 courses in the plush rainforest and experience the breathtaking scenery on a whole new level. Try Outfitters Kauai in Po’ipu.
3) Catch an afternoon break with a rainbow-colored platter of shaved ice. Head over to Gobby’s on Highway 56 and cool off with the icy fruit-filled goodness covered in dollops of coconut/passion fruit/strawberry.
4) Sample a wide selection of street food with stalls and kiosks dotted throughout the Island. Find everything from shrimp burritos to fresh malasadas.
5) Fly around the Island on a helicopter tour and soak up breathtakingly beautiful views of Waimea Canyon, Mount Wai’ale’ale, and the rest of the Island in all her spectacular glory. Try the Waterfall Landing Helicopter Tour with Island Helicopters — it’s the only company that allows you to land near the waterfall and witness its majesty up close. You also get an exclusive look at where certain scenes from Jurassic Park were filmed.
6) Sugarcane roots also run deep at Kilohana Plantation, the former Lihue estate of sugar baron Gaylord Parke Wilcox. Hop aboard the vintage Kilohana Plantation Railway to relive this heyday with a 40-minute ride through the working farm. Adults can boost spirits by sipping sugarcane at its finest in Koloa Rum Company’s tasting room.
7) Stay for the luau extravaganza with live local music and hula dancing and a feast fit enough for a king and queen — try the kalua pig, lomi salmon, and poi.
1) Begin your day with a gorgeous brunch at the St. Regis Princeville Resort. Soaking up the unrivaled panoramic views of Hanalei Bay while sipping on a fresh mimosa sets the perfect tone for the rest of your day.
2) Pamper yourself at the Princeville Spa and take in the spectacular beauty around you. Appreciate the slowness of life and focus on your overall wellbeing.
3) Golf your way through the world-famous courses and mingle with both locals and tourists alike.
4) Hike through some of the lushest and most dramatic terrain on earth along the Na Pali Coast. The epic 11-mile hike caters to all levels, so whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned hiker, you don’t want to miss this visual feast.
5) Sit poolside or head down to the beach to soak up the Hawaiian sunshine.
6) Indulge in the evening ritual of sunset-gazing and champagne-sabering at the grand St. Regis Bar.
7) Start with a cocktail or two at the St. Regis Bar and then slowly head over to Kauai Grill for a stunning platter of sushi. Polish off your meal with a mouthwateringly delicious dessert. Though the menu is seasonal, check if the macadamia nut tart with salted caramel ice cream with toffee bits is on the menu — it’ll be heaven on a plate.
Disclosure: Some of the activities were provided by Hawaiian Airlines and Kauai Tourism, but all opinions are my own and accurately reflect my experience.