Kauai’s east side serves a diversity of delicious food, especially during the annual Taste of Hawaii festival. // © 2018 Taste of Hawaii
Feature image (above): Smith’s Family Garden Luau keeps the culture alive on the Royal Coconut Coast. // © 2018 Smith Family Garden Luau
More than ever before, Kauai’s Royal Coconut Coast is enjoying its day in the sun.
Hugging the island’s eastern shores, it recently earned TripAdvisor’s top spot among trending U.S. traveler destinations for 2018 — and it’s the only place in Hawaii to make that list.
With the town of Kapaa as its anchor, Royal Coconut Coast showcases a mix of accommodations, dining and pastimes that are resonating with today’s travelers, according to Hilmy Dole, president of the Royal Coconut Coast Association.
“We’re seeing strong interest in Kapaa’s culture, attractions, lodging, food and activities by both our visitors and our kamaaina (locals),” Dole said.
Here are five reasons it’s time to book a trip to the Royal Coconut Coast.
Thanks to $37 million in renovation projects, hotels and resorts along the island’s east coast are raising the lodging bar. Kauai Shores Hotel, Castle Resorts & Hotels’ Mokihana Resort, Pono Kai Resort and Hotel Coral Reef Resort are among the properties revitalizing their accommodations and public areas.
Courtyard by Marriott Kauai at Coconut Beach is scheduled to begin a remodeling of its guestrooms, meeting spaces, lobby and courtyard in August. These upgrades follow rejuvenations last year at Kauai Coast Resort at the Beachboy and Castle Resorts & Hotels’ Kaha Lani Resort.
Annual Food Festival
The Taste of Hawaii event is nicknamed “The Ultimate Sunday Brunch,” but the yearly culinary bash boasts more than just pancakes and eggs. Held at Smith’s Tropical Paradise in Kapaa, the annual fundraiser for local causes dishes out delectable items concocted by many of the state’s best chefs.
Guests can savor gourmet nibbles while rubbing elbows with fellow food lovers. Beer and wine from more than 15 beverage vendors and live music by 10 groups add to the fun, as does an online silent auction. It’s slated this year for June 3 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Each week, the Royal Coconut Coast is ripe with farmers markets, where clients can see and buy ultra-fresh produce, meat and other Kauai-sourced edibles and souvenirs.
On Monday and Friday afternoons, crowds head to Kealia Farm Market in search of the day’s harvest and baked goods. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, Coconut Marketplace turns festive with just-picked fruits, vegetables and flowers. On Wednesday afternoons, the market at Kapaa Ball Park touts appealing organic crops and Kauai-made items.
Luau Times Two
The Royal Coconut Coast lays claim to a pair of high-quality luau options celebrating Polynesian culture. The Smith Family Garden Luau, a decades-old tradition, features four generations of a local clan who sing, dance, talk story and prepare luau food with family ties. It’s offered from three to five nights per week.
Luau Makaiwa, open since October 2015, takes place at Courtyard by Marriott Kauai twice weekly. Fronting the ocean where ancient royalty once played, it serves tried-and-true luau fare, plus specialties such as green coconut curry mahi-mahi, kaffir lime-scented rice and papaya-mango rice pudding.
Through the heart of the Royal Coconut Coast runs the Wailua, Kauai’s largest navigable river. It sets an idyllic stage for activities such as boating and hiking tours.
Kayak Kauai helps clients explore the region during a five-hour excursion combining paddling, hiking to a waterfall, swimming in streams and munching on a picnic lunch. Guides describe the history and legends of the area and point out highlights like age-old rock-wall terraces.
For the less adventurous, Smith’s Kauai presents its beloved, open-air boat ride up the river to Fern Grotto. Staffers share songs, stories and a hula lesson along the way. Visitors have booked this tour for decades, and it never feels out of date.