Northern Exposure

Kauai’s north shore continues to enchant visitors with its rustic charms

By: By Marty Wentzel

The Details

What to Do:

Kayak Kauai

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and Lighthouse

Limahuli Garden and Preserve

Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens

Princeville Golf Courses

Princeville Ranch Adventures

Princeville Ranch Horseback Adventures

Silver Falls Ranch

Waioli Mission House

Where to Stay:

Hanalei Colony Resort
The A Rainbow of Savings package includes 25 percent off rack rates (nightly from $240), a seventh night free, 10 percent off spa services and coffee shop purchases and 15 percent off Mediterranean Gourmet meals.

Hanalei House and Cottage
Nightly rates for a six-bedroom, three-bath Hanalei House unit start at $945; nightly rates for a one-bedroom, one-bath Cottage start at $535.

St. Regis Princeville
This property is scheduled to reopen in October and nightly rates will range from $750 to $6,500.

The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas
For its First Anniversary Special, clients who book a room by June 1 for travel by Dec. 25 will receive a 50 percent discount on rates (nightly from $625) and a $50 daily resort credit, as well as a fifth night free.

For More Information:

Kauai Visitors Bureau

Kauai Deals

Click here for more details on great packages and deals to be on Kauai.

The movie “South Pacific,” which first hit the big screen in 1958, did a lot to put Kauai’s north shore on the map for travelers. Filmed in the magnificent northern reaches of the island, it showcased distinctive landmarks like Lumahai Beach, the Hanalei Pier and Mount Makana, better known in the film as Bali Hai.

Kauai// © Kauai Visitors Bureau_b 

Horseback riding is just one activity for
active clients on Kauai.

These days, Kauai’s north shore still draws clients yearning for an exotic destination in a relatively uncommercial setting.

“The north shore, as a whole, has remained largely unchanged over the years,” said Kauai Visitors Bureau executive director Sue Kanoho. “The community works hard to preserve its rural ambience through their one-lane bridges and quaint towns. It’s perfect for someone seeking Hawaii’s natural beauty.”

Along with its waterfall-laced peaks, taro fields and sparkling seas, Kauai’s north shore is further defined by humble towns and heavenly activities. In the former plantation hub of Kilauea, for instance, clients can stroll through Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens, with 240 acres of flora, fauna and forests. They can watch seabirds soar and nest at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, home of a 1913 lighthouse on Kauai’s northernmost point. And, they can settle into a saddle while horseback riding through the pristine inland valley of Silver Falls Ranch.

Over the years, most of the north shore’s development has taken place in the resort area of Princeville. Last year’s big news was the opening of the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas, with 173 upscale accommodations perched 200 feet above the sea. Now, attention is falling on the former Princeville Hotel, which has been closed for renovation. When it reopens on Oct. 1 with 252 guestrooms, suites with butler service, a signature restaurant and an exclusive spa, it will stand out as the first St. Regis resort in Hawaii.

Princeville also provides a particularly good home base for golfers thanks to two stellar courses. While the Makai course is closed for renovation — reopening this fall — the Prince course continues to receive awards and accolades from the golf world. Other Princeville draws include horseback riding, ziplines, kayaking and hiking on 2,500 acres of private lands courtesy of Princeville Ranch.

Down the hill and across a bridge awaits the town of Hanalei, with a sprinkling of restaurants and shops with plenty of charm and character. The iconic Hanalei Pier, built in 1892, serves as a popular gathering place for locals and visitors. For the sporty set, Hanalei is the headquarters of Kayak Kauai, which offers sea kayaking, snorkeling, surfing and hiking. Clients can get a feeling for how early settlers lived during a visit to the Waioli Mission House, a preserved 1837 missionary home. Then, they can experience present-day Hanalei lifestyle firsthand by booking a vacation rental in the area. One option, Hanalei House and Cottage, is located just steps away from Hanalei Bay.

The route from Hanalei onward is a National Heritage Roadway, which means it is protected from big tour buses and major traffic. The last accommodation before the road ends is Hanalei Colony Resort, which is still going strong after some 40 years in the business. The low-rise condominium resort stands by its philosophy of having no phones or televisions in the units, so clients aren’t distracted from the serenity of its surroundings. On property, the Mediterranean Gourmet Restaurant just started a weekly luau, while the Hanalei Day Spa and Na Pali Art Gallery and Coffee Shop add opportunities for relaxation, culture and conversation. The resort also encourages voluntourism with its package in partnership with nearby Limahuli Garden, a native National Tropical Botanical Garden that is rich in history.

The road past Hanalei Colony dead-ends at Kee Beach, where calm summer months provide opportunities for snorkeling and swimming. It’s also the start of the Kalalau Trail, an 11-mile footpath winding along the rugged Na Pali coast.

“One thing that has changed is the hiking on the north shore, which continues to be popular but also requires clients to be more eco-conscious,” Kanoho said. “They can enjoy the area, but they should tread lightly on the land.”

“Clients come to the north shore not so much for what we have but what we don’t have,” said Laura Richards, who has served as general manager of Hanalei Colony Resort since 1986. “We find our guests are well-educated, adventurous and looking for an unforgettable experience. They are seeking a lush, remote destination and an area rich in history and culture. I think over the next 10 years, you will see a stronger emphasis on preserving this area by teaching our visitors more about the sensitivity of this sacred land.”