Newspaper article International New York Times

36 Hours In: Kauai, Hawaii

Newspaper article International New York Times

36 Hours In: Kauai, Hawaii

Article excerpt

A quick trip around the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

These days, Kauai sits firmly on the tourist radar, an indisputable rival of its famous neighbors, Oahu and Maui. But upon first glance at its unspoiled natural splendor, you'd never know it. A closer look at one of the oldest (geologically speaking) and arguably most beautiful of the major Hawaiian Islands reveals a blossoming culinary scene, a rooted arts community and a smattering of resorts. But thanks to careful regulation (by law, building heights max out at 55 feet) and a certain amount of pushback from residents (in 2007 protesters quickly quashed high-speed ferry service between Oahu and Kauai), most of the island still feels like the world's most stunning backwater.

Friday 6 p.m.

Art and literatureKauai's small but enthusiastic community of artists clusters in Hanapepe, with its dozen or so galleries housed in buildings along Hanapepe Road that, although reminiscent of America's Wild West, were built by Asian immigrants around the turn of the 20th century. Every Friday, the galleries and other shops leave their doors open late for Hanapepe Art Night. You can browse through exhibitions at galleries like Island Art Gallery, at 3876 Hanapepe Road (islandartkauai.com), and Amy-Lauren's Gallery, at 4545 Kona Road (amylaurensgallery.com), which feature local artists taking inspiration from the landscape and culture of Kauai. Craft and food vendors selling Hawaiian barbecue and tacos also set up shop along the street. Reserve time to browse the pleasantly musty stacks of new and used books at Talk Story Bookstore, the only dedicated bookstore on the island -- and it is a charmer.

8 p.m.

Dinner With SugarKauai's sugar industry once dominated the landscape, and the footprints of its sprawling plantations continue to shape it today. Towns founded to serve plantation workers now serve shoppers, and many former cane fields are now places for tourists to play. This is especially true at the Kilohana Plantation. Here, in what was once a 16,000-square-foot home, bedrooms have been converted into shops selling items like jewelry and pottery made by local artisans; the inner courtyard is now the elegant Gaylord's Restaurant. After a couple of years of tinkering, the menu has settled on a by-turns familiar and adventurous approach -- the island caprese ($14) is a refreshing twist on the salad standard, while the sesame seared fresh catch ($29) reimagines classic Hawaiian seafood dishes.

Live guitar players in flowery shirts sing beachy rock standards, providing just the right dose of Hawaiian kitsch.

Saturday 8:30 a.m.

Coffee at the source Load up on hearty egg, vegetable and rice dishes (about $10) at Kalaheo Cafe & Coffee Co. Wash it down with a local blend, then head to the source. The Kauai Coffee Company got its start in 1987, taking over land formerly used for sugarcane. Since then, it has survived encroachment from the tourist industry to maintain its oceanfront headquarters, 3,100 acres of coffee trees and status as the largest coffee plantation in Hawaii.

The self-guided tour is short and interesting, and connoisseurs will get a kick out of the many varieties to sample inside the visitor's center.

10:30 a.m.

Hikes with views Kauai is more than five million years old -- plenty of time for nature to carve out some dramatic contours. Perhaps most dramatic is Waimea Canyon, a chasm over 3,000 feet deep and composed of a thousand shades of brown, green and red. Take Highway 550 to Koke'e State Park, then continue on, stopping at lookouts along the way -- those past mile marker 9 are particularly majestic. At the very end, both Kauai topographies loom side by side, the dusty hues of the arid south against the intense greens of the lush north. A number of hikes accommodate a wide range of ambitions. The Cliff Trail, near mile marker 14, is an easy two- mile round-trip trek to a sweeping overlook. Look for Halemanu Road, where the hike begins. …

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