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Kauai’s west side doesn’t try to wow its visitors. In fact, clients looking for sophisticated shops, upscale restaurants and evening hotspots can cross this destination off their list. Instead, travel agents should suggest west Kauai to clients searching for a naturally beautiful setting, a place where folks slow down the pace a notch and where aloha is evident around every corner.
West Kauai is like the Peter Pan of Hawaii destinations. It’s making no major effort to grow and change with the times because it’s great the way it is. With a rich historical and cultural story to tell, it honors old traditions. Its primary hotel, Aston’s Waimea Plantation Cottages, accommodates visitors in renovated 1900’s sugar-worker dwellings that provide a lovely, timeless ambience. The area’s major attractions — like the ancient Hawaiian salt ponds just west of Hanapepe and Fort Elizabeth, a 19th-century Russian fort — tell their stories with unassuming charm.
Following are five special ways to enjoy the unique allure of west Kauai:
Take a Snorkel CruiseOne of the best things about west Kauai is its unspoiled nature, and that extends to the waters embracing it. Clients can book an excursion on one of the many seafaring tours that depart Port Allen and run along the statuesque Na Pali coastline, with stops along the way for snorkeling. Spinner dolphins and turtles often put in an appearance, as do winter’s humpback whales. Capt. Andy’s provides particularly exciting tours with great service.
Capt. Andy’s Sailing Adventureswww.napali.com
Browse Homespun HanapepeWith its swinging footbridge, distinctive wooden dwellings and crowing chickens, Hanapepe — dubbed Kauai’s Biggest Little Town — has one foot firmly planted in the past. Its historic buildings and eclectic storefronts have played a role in several feature films over the years. Clients who stop by the town on Friday evenings can meet local artists and other residents during the weekly art night, complete with food trucks and strolling musicians.
Walk Around WaimeaThe last king of Kauai made his home in Waimea, and British captain James Cook made the town his first Hawaii stop in 1778. Today, visitors can explore this west Kauai burg and learn about its unique history during a two-hour walking tour with the West Kauai Technology and Visitor Center. Each Friday the center also offers a cultural class in activities like poi pounding and lei stringing, providing fun for the whole family.
West Kauai Technology and Visitor Centerwww.wkbpa.org
Catch the Views from Kalalau LookoutFrom Waimea, the long and winding road upcountry leads past Waimea Canyon, nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Keep climbing and you reach Kokee State Park, a marvelous place for high-country hiking. Near the end of the road awaits a true natural treasure: Kalalau Lookout. Perched at the 4,000-foot elevation, this viewpoint provides panoramas of Kalalau Valley, with its magnificent sea cliffs and a sparkling sea stretching to eternity.
Kokee State Parkwww.kokee.org
Dig In and Tune Up at the GroveLocated at the entrance to Aston’s Waimea Plantation Cottages, the Grove charms diners with its wooden floors, open-air lanai and old-fashioned decor. The menu reflects the many ethnicities drawn to work on Kauai’s former sugar plantations while calling on fresh local ingredients. Clients can enjoy an island-brewed beer or signature tropical cocktail and listen to live Hawaiian music most nights of the week. It’s a real slice of west Kauai aloha.
Snorkel cruises are popular. // © 2012 Capt. Andy's Sailing Adventures
Hanapepe is also known as Kauai’s Biggest Little Town. // © 2012 Hawaii Tourism Authority/Tor Johnson
British captain James Cook made Waimea his first Hawaii stop in 1778. // © 2012 Coconut Wireless/Flickr
Located at the entrance to Aston’s Waimea Plantation Cottages is the Grove. // © 2012 Aston Waimea Plantation Cottages