For those who love the tropics but don’t enjoy taking to the waves, watching surfers flaunt their skills is the next best thing. So when a local pulls me aside in Kauai to divulge the best vantage point, I listen up.
“Behind the valet parking lot at the St. Regis Princeville—overlooking Hanalei Bay,” the catamaran captain murmurs auspiciously, peering over sunglasses tilted half-mast. “That’s where you see them catch the best waves.” Oddly specific, but also highly accurate. And if you want to one-up that recommendation, book into one of the hotel’s exquisite Pacific Ocean-view suites, which are arguably the best rooms to be found on the island.
Kauai’s famously attractive north coast is beloved by hippies, celebrities, and honeymooners alike and what it lacks in reliable sunshine it makes up for in lush foliage and paradisiacal bays. To get to the St. Regis, drive an hour north from Lihue Airport, skirting the east coast and passing fields brimming bright-green with lū‘au (taro leaves) and winding roads covered with 20-metre-tall tree canopies. Take every opportunity to veer off-piste toward the beach for peekaboo ocean views where unpredictable waves crash on the tawny sands and long-tailed white birds kettle through ancient rock gullies. When you reach the dramatic sculpture of Neptune erupting from a fountain, hook a right into Princeville at Hanalei Bay, a 9,000-acre resort community of tidy golf courses and Americana-style resort dwellings.
The wild beauty of Kauai feels as though it should not be fully tamed.
The 252-key St. Regis is perched at the end of this winding road, like a queen on her cliff-side throne overlooking the concave scoop of Hanalei Bay and distant Mount Manaka. It is not only the area’s most coveted plot, but an oasis of raw, natural beauty to the perfectly-preened Princeville that surrounds it. Indeed, the wild beauty of Kauai feels as though it should not be fully tamed.
Check into anything with an ocean view then beeline down to the pool to stake out a light-green beach umbrella or snorkel the sea off the nearby coral reef. Order the Aloha Mary cocktail from the Nalu Kai bar served with a salty sprig of sea asparagus, an island interpretation of the classic Bloody Mary. Other activities in the area abound—horseback riding, ziplining, waterfall hikes, and so on—but it’s difficult to leave the secluded enclave of the hotel.
If you’ve scored a water-view St. Regis Suite, throw open the shutters for a direct view of the property’s St. Regis Bar. From here, use one of the picture windows as a makeshift private viewing box for the champagne sabering that commences on the bar’s outdoor patio at 5:45 p.m. nightly. Pro tip: Crack a personal bottle of bubbles and drink it in comfort, dressed in a soft robe, with a plate of fresh fruit. Once the sabering is complete, turn your head 90 degrees and shift focus to the surfers, paddling out among the evening swells.
Not be missed is an early dinner—to catch the sunset—at the hotel’s Kauai Grill. The Jean-Georges Vongerichten-inspired menu is executed flawlessly by chef de cuisine Christopher Kim and peppered with locally sourced must-trys like steamed lobster from Kona, mahi mahi in a miso-yuzu broth, and guava-smoked filet mignon. (It’s not uncommon to find yourself dining beside a just-married bride and groom dining at the next-door table, still dressed in their wedding finery.)
When the visit ends, as all good things must, and a valet pulls your convertible around asking, “Would you like the top down?” the answer should undoubtedly be, “Yes.” If only to take one last glance at those surfers.
The St. Regis Princeville Resort, 5520 Ka Haku Road, Princeville, Kauai, HI 96722, +1 808-826-9644
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