Paradise Found: Kauai

By Wes Bolyard
First to be formed of the eight main Hawaiian Islands, this “Garden Isle” is so named because it is still mostly preserved in its natural state. With the majestic cliffs and valleys on the western side of the island, including the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”—3,567-foot deepWaimea Canyon, only the northern, eastern and southern areas can be developed. James Michener took 14 pages in his book “Hawaii” to explain the formation of the islands over millions of years. The islands have gradually moved westward since their creation due to the shifting of the tectonic plates upon which they rest. Kauai, Hawaii’s fourth largest island, is the shape of an almost perfect circle and covers 552 square miles. The driving distance from southern Poipu to northern Princeville is less than 45 miles. Don’t let the small size of this island fool you; it has a great deal to offer, especially some of the world’s best golf courses and accommodations.
The Kauai Lagoons Golf Club boasts two Jack Nicklaus designed courses: the Kiele Course and the Maile Course. Owned by the Kauai Marriott Resort & Beach Club, these courses are only a five-minute walk (or shorter shuttle ride) from the resort. Both courses offer beautiful views of Kauai’s natural beauty, and are currently being remodeled with nine holes open on each. Maile is more open (and forgiving) for stray shots with a greater opportunity for success for players of all abilities. Kiele offers more of a challenge via subtle undulations and narrow fairways. When the remodeling is done, Kiele will have more holes along the ocean than any other course in Hawaii.
The Kauai Marriott Resort & Beach Club, just a three minute drive from the airport, has 356 rooms and 11 suites with a very scenic view overlooking the pool area, the Kalapaki Beach and the Hawiliwili Harbor. Marriott also has a Vacation Club wing with 464 rooms for members. As you enter the main lobby, you can’t help but notice the hanging 35-foot dugout canoe built in the period of 1860-1890. Just outside the main lobby there is a pond with a waterfall plus short walking trails to explore. Five restaurants, a fitness center, a full service spa and a 26,000 square foot swimming pool (one of the largest in Hawaii) are just some of the resort’s other amenities. In addition to the Kalapaki Kid Camp for fun and educational activities, the Marriott also offers a full array of daily adult activities starting as early as 7:15 a.m. and as late as 7 p.m.
808-245-5050 or 1-800-220-2925
Golfweek’s top course rankings by state (March, 2008) placed Puakea Golf Course as the seventh best on all the Hawaiian Islands. This may not be evident when you first pull into the parking lot, but after playing the course, you will understand why. Kauai’s newest 18 holes offer a stimulating layout with great bunker placement, just enough water to intimidate your thinking and rolling fairways where your ball needs to stay for a good score. The course was designed by Robin Nelson (known as “Mr. Hawaii”), who is the most prolific golf course architect on the islands. Our group included Paul Ito, the Director of Golf, and Stan Kua, a Puakea employee. Stan is best known around the isle for serving 25 years as a policeman. The fact that one member of our foursome had a hole-in-one on the fourth hole only added to the excitement of playing Puakea with my new friends. Just to theWest of the golf course sits the lush tropical landscape where Jurassic Park III was filmed. In fact, more than 60 feature films have been shot on Kauai.
A northerly drive from Puakea Golf Course to Princeville will take about 50 minutes. The scenic drive meanders through towns and occasionally along the coast. You will pass private houses and condominiums before arriving at the upscale Princeville Resort on the northwest end of city. The resort offers spacious rooms overlooking Hanalei Bay where you can hear the soothing sound of rolling waves. There is a unique feature in the bathroom that allows you to magically change the large picture window from a clear view to an opaque one through an infusion of gas between the panes, giving you instant privacy with the flip of a switch. There are three restaurants within the resort, with the Café Hanalei offering breakfast on the patio. At sunset, a special romantic supper is offered on the beach. A swimming pool is available, and you can also relax on the sandy beach after a refreshing
swim in the bay.
The Princeville Resort is scheduled to be re-branded as the St. Regis Resort, Princeville, and will be the first St. Regis hotel in Hawaii. The multi-million dollar St. Regis re-branding will accentuate “refined Hawaiian luxury, seductive style and a timeless elegance.” The Princeville Resort will close for seven months between September 2008 and April 2009. It will include a complete re-design of guest rooms and meeting function space, renovation of public areas, including the lobby and swimming pool, new restaurant concepts and the addition of a luxury on-site spa.
The two golf courses on Kauai’s dramatic North Shore were both designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Makai Course consists of three separate 9-hole courses, Ocean, Lakes and Woods, each with their own distinct personality. Originally built in 1971, the course offers some stunning views from the tees and requires well-thought-out shots. An example of both is the seventh hole on the Ocean course, a 224-yard par 3 with a carry of 200 yards across a canyon. Take time to listen to the crashing waves below the tee and note the spectacular view of the shoreline. Later this year, Makai will start a facelift program, renovating each nine at a time. Changes will include elevating some tees and updating the irrigation system. All carts at the course are equipped with Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) equipment.
Also on the North Shore is the Prince Course—Hawaii’s No. 1-ranked course according to Golf Digest, 2007-08 Best in State. Sitting high up in the 60,000 square foot clubhouse with a majestic view overlooking the course and the Pacific Ocean, you will wonder what challenges await your golfing prowess. In addition to the ladies and men’s locker rooms, the clubhouse contains a very well appointed golf shop, spa, fitness room and a restaurant which overlooks the course. A driving range and putting green will help prepare you for one of the most interesting rounds of your life.
While the Prince Course is beautiful with breathtaking views, it is also very demanding. Starting with the opening hole, you are faced with an interesting decision—try to fit a perfect tee shot into a narrow landing area, or lay back with a safer tee shot and have a long second shot over an expansive hazard. The course routing continues over undulating terrain, through and over ravines, terrific bunkering and some tees perched high above the fairway. Robert Trent Jones, Jr. said this was “one of the top five courses I’ve ever designed.”
The Prince Course has several signature holes that standout from the others. Number 7 is a long par 3 across a tree-covered ravine, and number 12 is perched high (100 feet) above a barely visible fairway that is lined with dense jungle. The 13th hole is possibly the most interesting hole on the course with a landing area 200 yards off the tee (you’re not sure where you’re going as there is thick jungle on the right and a lateral hazard along the right side). Once you get to the green you are rewarded with a beautiful waterfall behind it. Overall, this might be one of the most challenging courses you’ll ever play. The difficulty can be tempered by choosing the most appropriate of the multiple tees available. Be sure to include a camera in your bag. The course will be open during the resort’s renovation.
The southern end of Kauai is where you will find the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa and its renowned Poipu Bay Golf Course. This luxurious 602-room, 37-suite resort is spread out over 50 meticulously groomed oceanfront acres. A well planned design gives seventy percent of the rooms an ocean or partial ocean view. As you enter the foyer, you are offered the opportunity to learn about and experience Hawaiian cultural crafts. An atrium displays three parrot stations for all to enjoy. There are 12,000 square feet of retail shops offering fine art, fashion apparel, fine jewelry, gifts and sundries. Seven restaurants and six lounges should fulfill almost any culinary desire. The resort activities are designed with the entire family in mind. Children’s programs abound. Water activities, if you so desire, include an expansive saltwater swimming lagoon (and of course the ocean with 500 yards of white sand beach), a fresh water swimming area featuring a quiet pool, a meandering river pool, an “action” pool with waterfalls and a 150-foot water slide. For the adults seeking relaxation, there is the award-winning ANARA spa. This 45,000 square-foot facility includes eight indoor-outdoor massage rooms, two couple’s bungalows, special treatment rooms and a full service beauty salon.
Poipu Bay Golf Course hosted the PGA Grand Slam of Golf from 1994 through 2006. This Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design is an ocean links style course with stunning vistas. To help distract you from your shot making are 85 bunkers, five water hazards, exceptional landscaping, ocean views and wind. The course will challenge and reward you at the same time, but you can still come away with a sense of accomplishment. With all the beauty around you, it’s difficult not to enjoy your round. This course offers an array of great holes, but holes 15 through 17 will distract you with their ocean views and then 18 hits you with its blind tee shot and water hazard at the green. The 71,000 square foot clubhouse includes a golf shop, locker room facilities, snack bar, restaurant, lounge and club storage. When you are finished with your round, you can either take the shuttle to the Grand Hyatt or enjoy a short five-minute walk along paths of foliage.
The Kiahuna Golf Club on Kauai’s South Shore contains a heart warming story. In the early 2000’s, the course came under disrepair and wasn’t being maintained as well as several of the local homeowners thought it should be. In 2003, nine of them bought the course, buildings and all. They immediately went about making the necessary changes to restore the 144-acre Robert Trent Jones, Jr. course. Changes included extending the yardage from 6,400 to 6,900, adding both junior and championship tees, plus enlarging and reshaping the bunkers. Most significant was replacing the Bermuda fairways with Seashore Paspalum, which ismore drought and salt-tolerant. This has reduced the club’s dependence on water from an average of 300,000 gallons to approximately 9,000 per day. The lighter lime green color and different texture provides an attractive contrast to the Bermuda rough. At this time, it is the only course on the island with this type of grass. Prior to the upgrade, the course earned the nickname of “the longest short course you’ll ever play.” This was due to the abundant water hazards and challenging, prevailing trade winds. Trust me, hitting off the tee on number 18 is definitely a challenge. Of special note is the cave (lava tube) entrance on the second hole. The tube runs about one-half mile under the course and houses the “Koloa Blind Wolf Cave Spider.” Real estate is available for sale on the course.
While some members of the family play golf, an abundance of other activities are available on Kauai including scuba diving, kayaking, horseback riding, zip-lining, hiking, sailing, windsurfing, fishing, helicopter rides and cycling.
As you travel around the island, you will fall under the spell of its beauty. A wonderful cornucopia of flora and fauna will enthrall your visual senses while your inner being will be enhanced by the Mana you feel—the Island’s life force. So enjoy your visit, take many photos to capture your memories and start planning your return trip.
Traveling to Kauai by air will bring you into Lihue airport on the southeastern side of Kauai. Some airlines offer direct flights from a few West Coast cities, or it’s a quick “island hop” of just 30 minutes from Honolulu. Arrival by inter-island ship is also available.