Sunny South Kauai may be one of the most underappreciated travel regions in Hawaii. Many travelers opt for postcard-pretty Maui, glamorous Oahu, and even the lush landscapes of its neighbors above, north shore Kauai. Yet South Kauai avoids much of the rain that hits the north, enjoying more than 300 days of sunshine each year along with some of the most beautiful beaches. Plus, the last few years have seen a strong development of luxury accommodations in South Kauai. Here’s why a vacation in Kauai should be your next move.
THE LODGE AT KUKUI’ULA IS A WORLD OF ITS OWN
Coastal Koloa, near Poipu
From the moment you arrive at The Lodge and staff members greet you by name, you understand the team’s goal is to do anything they can to make you happy. Everywhere you go on the resort, team members are standing by ready to apply their time and energy toward creating an incredible experience for guests. If you want to explore off-property around South Kauai, staff can send an Island Host with you to show off their favorite poke shop or off-the-beaten-path beach spot. And if you simply want to hang at the clubhouse, lay by the pool, or relax at your villa, the team is on hand to lift a finger or two so you don’t have to. “A vacation here is a vacation at your own pace,” says the resort’s Marketing Director, Hillary Sandbach. The resort is built to be social, a place for fellow South Kauai travelers to mingle at a members mixer, a weekly chef’s table dinner, or a game of volleyball. Yet, the company at The Lodge embodies quality over quantity. “At Kukui’ula, you’re never wedged into a pool chair next to someone talking too loud on their phone,” says Sandbach. “Instead, you’re in a place that’s fully refined, with people that are like-minded — but only maybe one or two of them. It’s social, but the crowds are tiny.”
The Lodge at Kukui’ula is so much more than a sit-back-and-relax resort. For guests that crave high-octane fun, its pristine South Kauai oceanside location allows guests unique adventure experiences, from sportfishing at the Kukui’ula Harbor to surfing on world-class breaks. What you may not realize until you arrive is the secret ingredient to the Kukui’ula experience: The Huaka’i Outfitters. The Lodge’s renowned excursion team is made up of eight to 10 luxury adventure concierges — locals at the top of their athletic fields. All a guest has to do is walk into the facility and tell them what they want to do. Ask about the swell, and they’ll describe the day’s surf conditions, fit you with a board, and get you out on the water with, say, the woman that won the World Surf League competition two years ago. Interested in canoeing? They’ll pair you with the champion canoe racer that hand-built all the facility’s canoes. The Outfitters craft a fully customized itinerary where the guest benefits from expert-level experience and local knowledge. “It’s a benefit of being here,” says Sandbach. “Everything you do, you get the best of the best.”
One of the most unique perks of The Lodge at Kukui’ula is a 10-acre lush oasis within the resort grounds referred to simply as The Farm. Tended to by five full-time employees, the land grows fresh produce, fruit, flowers, and more — and everything that grows there finds its way into The Lodge’s restaurants or into the hands of its guests. Visitors to The Lodge have full access to The Farm; there are virtually no rules. Guests walk, hike, bike, or drive through the grounds on their own, or can opt to have a staff member guide them through as they pick vegetables for a homemade salad or berries for a morning smoothie. Want to strap on a pair of boots to lend a helping hand during harvest? You can do that too! Perched on a hilltop in the middle of The Farm, a single dining table, which can be reserved, provides 360-degree South Kauai views, with the golf course on one side and the ocean (with whale-spotting opportunities) on the other.
A Vacation in South Kauai: Stay at Kukui’ula
The 1,000-acre Lodge at Kukui’ula has three distinct neighborhoods of vacation homes. Guests have the choice between Club Bungalows, Club Cottages, and Club Villas, each with the same exclusive access to the club’s amenities and adventures. Club Villas provide the most high-end, spacious option. These island dream homes emphasize the breezy indoor-outdoor living style for which Hawaii is known. Perfect for multi-family parties, the villa layout consists of a three-bedroom main house flanked by a single-bedroom guest house with its own private lanai. The villas each have their own swimming pool with ocean and golf course views. Each of its spa-inspired bathrooms come with a lava rock outdoor shower. Club Bungalows come in three styles: one-, two-, and three-bedroom authentic plantation-style retreats. The tropical three-bedrooms have ample outdoor living space and barbecues for an alfresco dinner. The two- and one-bedroom versions have lanai spaces on either side of the homes, inviting guests to sip a morning cup of local coffee with golf course sightlines. Club Cottages are the simplest versions of the villas, in garden-like settings. Outdoor dining, a fire pit, and plenty of green space allows guests to embrace their panoramic island views. There is a two-bedroom cottage option which features twin masters, or a three-bedroom option split between a main house and guest house.
Luxury Retreats Hawaii Market Manager Edward Puglia says The Lodge at Kukui’ula is providing unmatchable value right now: “Considering the lifestyle, the product, and the exclusivity, plus its current entry-level rates, there’s simply nothing else like it.”
TIMBERS KAUAI IS A HOLISTIC TAKE ON THE ISLAND
Pacific Hokuala, near Lihue
Timbers Kauai is the island’s newest luxury resort, having opened in the summer of 2018, and its collection of oceanfront vacation rentals are as welcome on the island as they are welcoming for its guests. Just 10 minutes from the Lihue Airport, you’re saying Aloha in no time upon touching down in South Kauai — that is, unless you’re speechless. “You feel swept away as you drive up the entrance to Timbers Kauai,” says Director of Marketing & Hospitality, Ivie Parker. “There are breathtaking views, plus you can hear the ocean and see the waves breaking along the shore — it’s just stunning to see.” Just as quickly as the staff will make you feel at home, they’ll also make you feel like a local. Timbers’ location along the cliffside of the Pacific, eastern shore of Kauai, makes the resort a launch pad for visiting the rest of the island, places like Waimea Canyon or Hanalei Bay. Their team’s philosophy is that people visit Kauai to explore the island, so the resort makes that a central part of its hospitality, creating a holistic experience. “Kauai is a magical place,” Parker says. And that’s why Timbers not only brings its guests around the island — it also brings the island to its guests. “Timbers Kauai embraces the authentic Hawaiian style of living — it exudes a sense of place for our guests. This place is our take on the island of Kauai.”
The Ocean Course at Hokuala landed on Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play list in 2018, and was named Hawaii’s Best Golf Course 2018 by World Golf Awards. Some new developments helped bring Hokuala to the forefront of Hawaiian golf: New TifEagle grass putting surfaces, fresh white silica sand bunkers, and three new golf holes. But the Jack Nicklaus design has always had the Golden Bear mojo. A half-mile stretch of oceanfront golf — in fact, it’s the longest in all of Hawaii — takes place between holes 13 and 16. The front nine takes place mainly inland, winding through mountains and ravines. Which is the signature hole at the Ocean Course? “Every hole is our signature hole,” says head golf professional Kellie Hines. Not that you’ll ever get tired of one postcard-worthy hole after another, but there’s more to the golf club than just its 18 holes. For golf trippers pegging their tees at Timbers, the Ocean Course team can organize your tournament, handling every detail from tee times to prizes to post-round meals. The club’s teaching team can help you find your game or sharpen your skills with a private lesson. And while you thought Hawaii surfing was reserved for its oceans, golfers can ride the course on a newfangled GolfBoard — an electric scooter that carries players and their bags across the fairways. From tee to green, this Nicklaus track is the perfect ally to your South Kauai vacation at Timbers.
Where do we start? The array of activities waiting for guests at Timbers — plus those not yet arranged — are enough for far more than a single vacation. Their bread and butter is customizing itineraries filled with top picks hand selected by their expert team of locals. This could include a guided hike to a lesser-known spot with a local or cultural learning session with a Hawaiian native. “We tailor your Kauai experience to your preferences,” says Parker. “Our team prides themselves on connecting with guests on a personal level so we can deliver truly exceptional experiences while they’re here.” And that’s a promise you won’t just see, but taste. Chefs can work with guests to build an entire menu based on preferences or dietary restrictions, or even custom-create a meal with local produce for them to cook themselves in their residence kitchen. Of course, if guests want less of a hands-on approach, there is plenty to do without staff guidance, beginning with a swim. The Kaiholo pool is the place to relax, where the two-tiered infinity pool seems to spill into the ocean. The Maliula Ohana pool is a gathering place for families, and kids just love the waterfalls and nearby game lawn. A trail system runs throughout the property so getting around — whether walking, jogging, or biking — is easy and fun.
A Vacation in South Kauai: Stay at Timbers
Timbers Kauai has 47 different residences ranging from two to four bedrooms. Each is spacious, features an open floor plan and a private lanai, and includes high-end conveniences like a washer and dryer, and a barbecue grill. There are two distinct residence types: Kaiholo (meaning “movement of the sea”) three- or four-bedroom homes, and Maliula (meaning “enveloping in Aloha”) two- or three-bedroom homes. In the Kaiholo residences, lanais extend from sliding glass doors to ocean’s edge. To the east, the Ninini Point Lighthouse is visible without obstruction. An outdoor grill is the place to host an alfresco meal and take in the island panorama. The Maliula Residences nestle up to the sweeping fairways of the Ocean Course, enjoying the same ocean views as the golfers passing through. As far as outdoor living is concerned, does it get much better than the Maliula properties’ three lanais? We think not. Each of the residences is a celebration of its destination. With large windows providing sweeping vistas, plus color palettes featuring watery hues and earth-toned greens, the interiors embrace their South Kauai environment.
Luxury Retreats Hawaii Market Manager Edward Puglia says: “This chic, hip club is great for young business travelers or honeymooners. My favorite feature is the protected bay where you can do watersports and swim without actually being in the ocean — it’s something that doesn’t exist elsewhere in Hawaii.”
“Our secluded cliffside resort community is extremely welcoming and in no way pretentious” says resort director Parker. “You can see the whales from the lobby and a beautiful mountain range to your right — and there’s nothing obstructing your view.”