Hanalei Kauai Hawaii
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Kauai: The Sweet Appeal of Hawaii Island Living

Once renowned for its sugar plantation, Kauai now tempts with its beaches, golf courses, beauty spots, and top restaurants

Perhaps you’ll be tempted to visit Kauai for the world-class beaches, but after experiencing the island’s high end restaurants, shops, and golf—and maybe even its property—you might be tempted to put down roots.

“Kauai seems to emanate a centripetal force,” says Charlie Baxter, a founding member of The Club at Kukui‘ula. “It’s quiet but persistent and ultimately irresistible. I feel more relaxed and in touch with nature here than anywhere else. This is where my wife and I got married, and it kept pulling us back so we decided to have a home here.”

The Baxters are by no means an exception. Susan Higgins, broker at Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers, the exclusive affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate in Hawaii, has seen countless families come to Hawaii‘s Garden Isle for a vacation only to return soon after to buy a property. “People fall in love with Kauai. It’s an absolute jewel, but we feel particularly blessed on the South Shore, not least because we get at least 300 days of sunshine and have some of Hawaii’s best beaches, its most spectacular landmarks, and its most notable historic attractions on our doorstep.”

Merriman's Fish House Kauai
Merriman's Fish House restaurant at Kukui'ula Village Shopping Center on Kauai, which serves locally sourced, regional Hawaii cuisine. Banner image: The beautiful beach at Hanalei, Kauai. Photo: Getty Images

Culturally important Koloa was home to Hawaii’s first commercial sugar plantation and is now a charming little town packed with art, music, and clothes shops housed in plantation-style buildings. It’s also a magnet for distinguished restaurateurs: Roy Yamaguchi and Peter Merriman are among the many award-winning chefs who have restaurants just outside the Kukui’ula community.

Whether you choose to putter in your own garden, relax on the beach, or surf the waves, the island has everything that you need

Poipu Bay, with its world-famous golf course, is a few minutes’ drive from Kukui’ula. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jnr, the course hosted the PGA Grand Slam of Golf from 1994 to 2006, and is not to be missed for its staggering ocean views, water hazards, and wildly varying trade winds.

Poipu Bay golf course
Set on Kauai’s sunny South Shore, Poipu Bay Golf Course boasts 18 championship holes.

Historic Landmarks
Poipu is also where you’ll find Ke Kahua O Kāneiolouma, a 13-acre (5-ha) site where the remains of a 15th-century Hawaii village that once stretched from “mauka to makai” (from the mountains to the ocean) can be seen. Among the shrines, altars, and houses is the only intact Makahiki sporting arena in Hawaii.

However, as Higgins explains, what draws so many people to the Garden Isle is its natural beauty, “and the wonderful outdoor activities they can enjoy, such as hiking, outrigger canoeing, kayaking, surfing, and paddle boarding.”

Totem poles at Mano 'Okalanipo Park, Ke Kahua O Kāneiolouma, Hawaii. Photo: Alamy

Kauai has the only navigable river in the archipelago, and Kukui’ula residents can be in their canoes, heading towards the double falls of Wailua within 30 minutes of leaving their homes. Less than an hour’s drive will also take you to 10-mile (16-km) long Waimea Canyon, where you can spend the day hiking or mountain biking, stopping to have a picnic by the Waipoo Falls—800 feet (244 m) of cascading water.

“Every day brings a different adventure and a different opportunity to enjoy,” says Higgins. “There is so much to see and do. Whether you choose to putter in your own garden, relax on the beach, or surf the waves, the island has everything that you need. Even if people can’t make this their primary residence, there is so much to gain by having a second home here.”