Travelers can bike and walk along Kauai’s scenic east coast, following a historic rail line. // (C) 2012 David Allio
Susan Tanzman of Martin’s Travel and Tours in Los Angeles has visited Kauai at least 50 times so, on her most recent trip, she chose to focus on activities that she had never done before and places that were new to her.
“I encountered some real gems during my visit — activities and attractions that blew me away,” she said. “It was just fantastic.”
As Tanzman discovered, Kauai is teeming with pastimes perfect for clients who think they have been there, done that. The Kauai Visitors Bureau (KVB) stands ready as a resource to help travel agents deepen each client’s experience and personalize it beyond the normal tourism options.
KVB’s marketing director Maile Horner and sales manager Brooke Miller keep in close contact with travel agents and destination specialists, guiding them to what’s new and telling them about the unique experiences awaiting travelers on Kauai.
“Any time agents can add a special twist to what is already available on the island, it makes them stand out to their clients,” said KVB executive director Sue Kanoho. “Suggesting new tours, festivals and events, unique foods or a new restaurant or shop makes clients feel that their agent is going the extra mile for them.”
One of the eye-opening stops on Tanzman’s itinerary was Hanapepe Art Night, held each Friday evening in the tiny westside town. Brightly-lit galleries and shops open their doors to passersby. Sidewalk vendors sell their wares, and musicians — from string trios to rockabilly bands — play to the crowd. Roadside trucks satisfy appetites with the likes of tacos and Thai food.
Heading to the north shore, Tanzman enjoyed a two-hour guided tour of Limahuli Garden and Preserve, led by a highly knowledgeable docent. Along the way, she saw lava rock terraces built by the island’s ancient residents, found out about native and indigenous plants of Hawaii and opened her mind to the area’s fascinating legends.
“I learned more about Hawaiian culture and history than ever before, simply by going on that tour,” Tanzman said.
KVB’s Kanoho offered several more recommendations for travel agents who want to experience and sell some of Kauai’s less-frequented lures.
Among them is the Kauai Museum, which is actively courting travelers with activities that enliven its collections. A case in point is Ohana Day, held on the first Saturday of each month, with discounted admission for visitors. Each Ohana Day focuses on a different cultural theme and features family-friendly fare such as singing, hula, arts, crafts and storytelling. The February 2012 event, for instance, showcased the Chinese influence on Kauai with tai chi demonstrations, a watercolor demonstration, lion dancing and Chinese cooking classes.
Another less-promoted pick is the Lawai International Center, an archaeological and cultural marvel on the west side. In 1904, Japanese immigrants built 88 hillside shrines there, but over subsequent decades the natural elements took a toll on their condition. Volunteers are working to bring the shrines and the surrounding valley back to prominence as an international center for compassion, education and cultural understanding.
Clients who visit a tranquil upland forest in Wailua will discover the Kauai Hindu Monastery, a 458-acre sanctuary. There, a temple is under construction using millions of pounds of granite. Visitors can see the growing white sanctuary — which will eventually measure 100 feet long by 45 feet tall — during self-guided tours of the peaceful retreat.
Active clients can take their own road less traveled on the paved, multi-use Ke Ala Hele Makalae (“the path that goes by the coast”) on Kauai’s east side. The four-mile section of the route leading north from Kapaa follows a historic rail line originally used to haul sugarcane and pineapples. An additional 2½-mile path winds through Lydgate Park. Current construction will soon connect the sections to create an eight-mile coastal walking and biking path.
For clients looking to shake up their evening plans, Kanoho suggested heading west to Aston Waimea Plantation Cottages, whose Grove restaurant now offers karaoke on Tuesdays and Sundays. On other nights, the friendly island-style hub presents live music by island entertainers.
Kanoho also advised to time trips with one of Kauai’s unique annual events. One of her personal favorites — the Kauai Mokihana Festival in September — features island-wide celebrations where visitors can mingle with residents while learning about the local lifestyle, history and culture.
As Tanzman reflected on her recent travels to Kauai’s off-the-beaten-path attractions, she encouraged her fellow travel agents to do the same.
“Whenever agents experience and talk about things that their clients have never heard of, their clients will use those agents again and again, and they will refer other people to them as well,” said Tanzman. “That’s how we grow our businesses.”