Sep 21, 2010

Kauai: 3 excellent medium-cost resorts

I’m just home from Kauai, where I checked out three beautiful beach-front resorts. In two locations I had a large ocean-view suite; the third was a captivating antique cottage surrounded by coconut palms and just a few steps from the water. All three had fully-equipped kitchens and can be categorized as mid-price. Stock the fridge so you can enjoy a few meals in—even if it’s just breakfast—and your overall cost will plummet.

If you have one eye on the budget but don't want to give up luxurious touches and nice amenities, these choices are hard to beat:

Located on the island’s western side near the foot of Waimea Canyon, this resort’s 1900-era cottages were once home to the families of sugar plantation employees. Beautifully restored, they range from one- to three-bedrooms in size. Each cottage is architecturally unique and furnished with flowered Hawaiian fabrics and period mahogany, wicker, or rattan furnishings. This was my second visit here, and I like it even more than I did the first time.

There’s a lot to do without leaving the resort. The beach is beautiful, rimmed by palms, and on a long walk you may not see anybody. Or pick tropical fruit from the gardens, stroll the black sand beach, enjoy a KavaKava scrub at the resort’s Hideaway Spa, drop into on-site Waimea Brewing Company for a brew or something to eat, go for a bout of beach yoga, browse the in-house art gallery, go snorkeling or hang out at the pool. While I was there a moonlight concert was held beneath the palms featuring singer-songwriter-guitarist Nathan Aweau. Part rock star and part traditional Hawaiian balladist, he had flown in from Honolulu for the event and drew a crowd.

Not far away is tiny Waimea town, with a couple of grocery stores, restaurants, and Jo-Jo’s—famous for its crushed ice treats. You can also arrange at the front desk to do a myriad of other Kauai activities, including horseback riding, scuba diving, helicopter tours, and more.

In Kauai, as in most tropical getaways, rates depend on the time of year or “season” (high season, when demand is high, or low season when it’s not). Waimea Plantation’s 1-br cottages with garden view range from $215-359 per day; ocean-front 1-br cottages run $316-396.

Castle Kiahuna Plantation & Beach Bungalows

In the Poipu Resort area on the island’s southern side, Kiahuna Plantation’s 333 units offer a wide choice, from the lowest-priced garden rooms to the ocean-view and beachfront suites. Situated on a gorgeous lagoon, this tropically-landscaped resort comes with all the amenities you’d expect.

I stayed two nights in an ocean-view suite, and I couldn’t have been happier. It was beautifully decorated, big and bright and airy, had a fully-equipped kitchen and even a washer and dryer. From my second-floor lanai (top floor) I had a stunning view.

Amentiies include free high-speed internet, swimming pool, tennis courts, BBQ areas, cable TV, daily maid service, in-room safe, private lanai, swimming beach. Golf course nearby. Two on-site restaurants, many others nearby.

Depending on the season, rates for the 1-br with garden view run $310-345 per night; the 1-br ocean view, $445-525. Take advantage of packages, military discounts, and other bargains (for example, right now the 1-br garden-view rooms are going for $169 per night through 12/23/10—a terrific value).

 This place is really something special. When I entered my large, 2-bedroom suite for the first time and meandered into the sunny living/dining room with its spectacular water views, I thought: “They’ll have to kick me out, because I’m never, ever going to leave here!”

Trust me: the small Hanalei Colony Resort is that kind of place. First is the location; on Kauai’s glorious north shore, HCR is a few miles and a one-lane bridge from storied Hanalei Bay (where parts of South Pacific were filmed). Backdropped by brilliant emerald mountains, the resort rests on a turquoise lagoon rimmed with powdery white sand. The sound of surf is a constant companion, accompanying you through the day and sending you off to sleep at night.

This is, to say the least, a most peaceful getaway. The rooms contain no TV or phones (although all rooms offer free internet access). On site are a pool, the Hanalei Day Spa, and a wonderful restaurant, The Mediterranean Gourmet, that fuses Hawaiian ingredients with Mediterranean techniques. Once a week the resort throws an old-fashioned Luau. A short drive in one direction brings you to the base of the strenuous Na Pali Coast trail; in the other direction is Hanalei Bay and the few shops and restaurants in Hanalei town.

All suites have 2 bedrooms and fully-equipped kitchens, with four rate categories based on season and closeness to the ocean. On the low end, a garden view suite runs $255-275; on the high end, the premium ocean view goes for $395-440. Stay six nights and the 7th night is free. Other packages and savings are often available (check the site).

So there you go. Enjoy, and Aloha!

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