Upcoming Events on Kauai’s Coconut Coast:
Sept. 6-9: Aloha Festivals. As cultural events take place around the island, visitors to the Coconut Coast can attend the Hale Pule, a traditional Hawaiian church service at the Kapaa First Hawaiian Church on Sept. 6 (808-822-9931). On Sept. 9, Smith’s Tropical Family Luau welcomes guests — including the Kauai Aloha Festivals Royal Court — to a luau-style dinner and Polynesian show. 808-821-6895
Sept. 22-26: Kauai Mokihana Festival. This island-wide annual event presents a variety of visitor-friendly options. Kauai’s east side does its part with a concert at the Aston Kauai Beach Resort at Makaiwa (Sept. 22), Hawaiian music mini film festival at the Hilton Kauai Beach Resort (Sept. 23) and hula competition at the Hilton (Sept. 24-26). 808-246-5515
Oct. 3-4: Coconut Festival. For the past 13 years, this festival has grown into the east side’s signature event. Clients can immerse themselves in all things coconut; entertainment on a main stage; cultural displays; a gathering of Kauai artisans; a children’s theater; kooky coconut games; cooking demonstrations by Kauai’s best chefs; pie eating and cooking contests; and lessons on the uses and byproducts of this unusual seed. 808-651-3273; www.kauaifestivals.com
Kauai’s Accolades Grow
Kauai may be the oldest major island in the Hawaiian chain, but it’s creating a lot of buzz these days.
For instance, it was voted Best Island in Hawaii and fourth Best Island in the World by readers of Travel + Leisure magazine, who based their decision on natural attractions, activities, sights, restaurants, food, people and value.
“Kauai’s incredible beauty and diversity matches the demands of Travel and Leisure’s discerning readers seeking a memorable vacation,” said Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau.
On TravelChannel.com’s list of Top Ten Hottest Hotel Pools, the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa weighed in at number seven in the world. The hotel was lauded for its 150-foot water slide and combination of freshwater pools and saltwater lagoons. The same resort was chosen #11 on the list of Hawaii’s Best Resorts in the Travel + Leisure poll.
Wings Over Kauai was rated the number-one activity on Trip Advisor’s list of America’s Top Ten Tours. The site noted that the flightseeing tour is the ultimate way to experience Kauai, providing unforgettable views and a chance to see the entire island.
Stephen P. Leatherman, also known as Dr. Beach, recently named Kauai’s Hanalei Beach as the Number One Beach in America. Leatherman bases his choices on 50 criteria including water and sand quality, safety, facilities and environmental management.
As a longtime resident of Kauai’s east side — dubbed the Coconut Coast — Kauai Visitors Bureau executive director Sue Kanoho is one of the area’s biggest fans. She and her husband, Solomon, moved there 20 years ago and, to this day, she loves its homespun feel, ocean views and easy access to work and recreation.
Sunset on Kauai’s Coconut Coast // © 2009 Kauai Visitors Bureau
“For visitors, the number-one selling point for the Coconut Coast is its location relative to the rest of the island,” said Kanoho. “It’s close to beaches, shopping, river activities, hiking and plenty of other draws. The weather can move around the island, so a home base in the middle gives clients quick access to one side or the other. And, it has a great selection of accommodations, from hotels and condos to timeshares, vacation rentals and bed and breakfasts.”
The newest accommodation in the area, the Outrigger Waipouli Beach Resort and Spa, opened in late 2006.
“I’ve spotted more than a few residents getting pampered at the Outrigger’s new Aveda Spa, right alongside visitors,” Kanoho said.
The Coconut Coast’s nickname pays tribute to the area’s landscape, notable for its clusters of sleek, statuesque palms. Century-old groves are particularly abundant in front of the Aston Kauai Beach at Makaiwa and the historic Coco Palms Resort, which has been closed since 1992’s Hurricane Iniki with no specific plans for reopening.
Thanks to its central location, the Coconut Coast attracts travelers at once adventurous and eager to get to know Kauai better, said Kanoho.
“Clients staying on the Coconut Coast usually get a rental car so they can see the rest of the island,” she said.
One of the area’s natural highlights is the Wailua River — Hawaii’s longest navigable river — where kayakers can paddle past lush tropical landscapes and sacred sites. Clients can opt for a Wailua River cruise to Fern Grotto, a decades-old activity run by the island’s venerable Smith Family. The Smiths also run a botanical garden and evening luau at their location on the east side.
Kanoho described Kapaa — the largest town on the Coconut Coast — as “a little of this, a little of that.” There, residents and visitors alike intermingle at hangouts like Small Town Coffee and Pizzetta’s Italian Family Restaurant. A new eatery called The Eastside presents live music on most evenings, while Scotty’s Beachside Barbeque draws crowds with its views as well as its food. Coconut Marketplace, a major shopping center in the destination, continues to prove popular with visitors despite the fact that its movie theater closed in 2007.
New on the Coconut Coast is Ke Ala Hele Makalae (The Path That Goes by the Coast), a federally funded 17-mile, multi-use trail system that will eventually connect the island’s main city of Lihue with Anahola to the north. An activity company called Coconut Coasters recently began renting bikes and bike accessories for visitors to take advantage of two completed portions of the bike path, including 2½ miles in Lydgate Park and 4½ miles to Kealia.
Kanoho said the Coconut Coast visitor industry is keeping competitive in the face of the economic downturn.
“The recent brand switch from ResortQuest to the well-known and respected Aston Hotels & Resorts name put a lot of smiles on people’s faces, since there are three Astons in this area,” she said. “The Kapaa Business Association has been meeting more frequently, recognizing that road improvements are important for both residents and visitors. And, some properties are viewing this dip in the economy as a chance to make improvements.”
As Kanoho considers the success of initiatives like Ke Ala Hele Makalae, she feels positive about the future of the Coconut Coast.
“My hope is that the area keeps its small-town flavor while continuing to improve with projects that add to its character,” she said.
Kauai Visitors Bureau