Kauai: How to Get Hooked on Hawaii’s Garden Island

One taste of Kauai's forbidden fruit (aka shave ice) and you'll no doubt be powerless against the persuasions of this island temptress

Kauai’s Waimea Canyon, nicknamed “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific” is a stunning 10 miles long

Hawaii’s fourth largest island, Kauai is a veritable Garden of Eden draped in emerald valleys, sharp mountain spires and jagged cliffs. It’s even got its own forbidden fruit that’ll keep you coming back again and again

I was jonesing for shave ice and the only place for the real deal, in my book, is on Hawaii’s geographically eldest island, Kauai, also known as the Garden Isle.

The sweet treat is practically a staple in this garden paradise, and it will have you hooked at first bite.

Jo Jo’s shave ice (not ‘shaved’ ice) is what our Canadian blue or red flavoured snow cones would be if they grew up.

Shave ice starts with a hefty layer of ice cream (macadamia nut, please) in the bottom of a cup, covered by mounds of lofty shave ice and the choice of tropical syrups (go for coconut, lilikoi, guava….when in Rome, right?) plus sweet cream drizzled on top. Magnificient.

Getting to Kauai

Getting to Kauai when the craving hits is easy. WestJet offers direct, non-stop flights from Vancouver to Lihue, Hawaii, on Saturdays, and return flights are also on Saturdays – so planning a week away is easy.

Where to Stay in Kauai

Kaua’i Marriott Resort on Kalapaki Beach

The Kaua’i Marriott features one of the largest family resort pools in Hawaii, plus 18 holes of Jack Nicklaus golf

This large ‘n’ lovely beachfront resort is ideal for families and couples. Notable is the massive, circular swimming pool and multiple hot tubs, plus the open-air bar that overlooks it all, morphing in the AM into a coffee-and-breakfast-sandwich grab ‘n’ go spot. Duke’s Barefoot Bar for a Mai Tai served in a tiki glass, is a must.

St. Regis Princeville Resort

The legendary brand’s first resort in Hawaii introduces an unparalleled level of sophistication and serene luxury

The hotel brand known for chic luxury does it up right in Kauai, with beautifully appointed guest rooms designed with just enough tasteful tropical décor to remind you where you are.

Impeccable service comes with a sky’s-the-limit yet low-key attitude. Private butler? Sure, they’ve got ’em. Breakfast buffet? Of course, and it’s outdoor patio-style with a view of Hanalei Bay so idyllic you might be fooled into thinking it’s a drop-down mural. For dinner, celeb chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Kaua’i Grill is world-class. Count on this for your go-big night out.

Koloa Landing Wyndham Grand Resort

This brand new condo development, with additional phases still in the works, is a stunner. Beautifully designed (and twice as large as the average condo in Vancouver) two-bedroom suites with huge kitchens, laundry, and patios with a view make for a luxurious home-away-from-home vacay. Check in, go buy some groceries, and settle in for some serious R ‘n’ R.

The Kama’aina Surf & Sport cabana located on-site is your go-to for booking island snorkel or dive outings, plus surf or stand-up paddleboard (SUP) lessons.

What to Do in Kauai

If you’re starting at Jo Jo’s in the town of Waimea, while you’re on the southwest side of the island, drive up to Waimea Canyon, nicknamed “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.”

The canyon, which is 10 miles long and almost 4,000 feet deep, was formed by erosion and the collapse of the volcano that created Kauai. The view? Stunning and dreamy. Take in this vista, breathe deeply, and you’ll swear you can feel your blood pressure getting nicely lower.

Need a little more adrenaline? Then try:

  • A Napali Coast catamaran tour with Captain Andy’s Sailing Adventures. There’s a reason Jurassic Park was filmed here. You’ll be jaw-dropped at the 3,000-foot cliffs off the Napali Coast, let alone the dolphins you’ll likely see swim-skipping alongside in the surf as you sail. Spoiler alert – watch for baby dolphins – there won’t be a dry eye on deck if you see some. Plus, a BBQ lunch and snorkeling is all part of this fabulous day at sea.
  • Mountain tubing with Kaua’i Backcountry Adventures. Grab an inner tube and let the gentle current pull you through tropical waterways consisting of miles of open ditches and tunnels, especially fun with your headlamp, and most thrilling when you get to switch off your light and float through one tunnel in complete blackness. 

Finally, if you need something a little more substantial to fuel your daytime adventures, stop in the sweet little town of Hanalei for an authentic Hawaiian plate lunch from the Hanalei Taro & Juice Co. food wagon. Locals love it, and I’ll now consider myself honorary since I’m hooked.