Last updated: 06:30 AM ET, Fri January 01 2016

Rejuvenating on the Garden Isle

Kauai invites visitors to power down -- or power up -- amid its natural beauty

Vacation Agent | Destination & Tourism | Mimi Kmet

Rejuvenating on the Garden Isle

PHOTO:Poipu Beach. (Photo courtesy of Kicka Witte/Kauai Visitors Bureau)

When the Hawaii Tourism Authority developed its “brand essence” marketing campaign a few years ago, Kauai adopted the brand essence of “rejuvenating.” It was the perfect word for the Garden Isle, considering the fact that 97 percent of visitors said in a recent survey that their time there provided rejuvenation and relaxation, according to the Kauai Visitors Bureau (KVB).

“It’s the idea that, when you get to the island of Kauai, there’s all this beauty. You can hit your reset button and find the iconic Hawaii here,” says Maile Brown, the KVB’s director of marketing. “The typical clients are people who are traveling to escape the busy-ness of life,” she adds. “They want to get away. They want to go at their own pace. They want to explore and know what to do but don’t want to go 100 miles an hour. They appreciate beauty and nature.”

To that end, the KVB is using iconic Kauai images like Wailua Falls, Waimea Canyon, and the Napali Coast — pristine areas that are unique to the island — in its marketing. “The No. 1 thing people appreciate is our natural beauty,” Brown says.

And there are plenty of ways to take in that natural beauty, like ziplining, horseback riding, hiking, flightseeing, sailing, and four-wheel driving, as well as stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking on Hawaii’s only navigable rivers. “Part of the message is getting through to people that you can rejuvenate in different ways,” she says. “There’s spa and beach but also ziplining. That too can be rejuvenating, because people can leave their inhibitions behind.”

That’s easy to do on an island with only 3 percent of its 552 square miles developed for commercial and residential use, and with a pristine interior, thanks to the fact that its 69,000 residents live and work primarily in the coastal areas. But that doesn’t mean the beaches are crowded; Kauai boasts 43 white-sand beaches spanning more than 50 miles combined. That’s more beach per mile than any other Hawaiian island, according to the KVB.

Kauai also is becoming more known for its regional, sustainable, farm-to-table cuisine. To wit: More than a dozen food trucks roam the island, serving up a variety of cuisines, including tacos, pho, burgers, vegetarian dishes and Hawaiian delicacies, using local ingredients. Tasting Kauai, a local company that offers food tours and a restaurant guide, recently launched the Royal Coconut Coast Tour, which includes a visit to a family-owned taro farm and tastings at some of the best farm-to-table restaurants on Kauai’s East side.

PHOTO:The Napali Coast. (Photo by Kicka Witte/Kauai Visitors Bureau)

The Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa on the South Shore has converted one of its tennis courts into a hydroponic garden, growing lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and other fresh produce for use by the resort’s restaurants and events. And award-winning chef Roy Yamaguchi has opened Eating House 1849, serving regional fare that blends plantation-era flavors with haute cuisine, at The Shops at Kukuiula in Poipu.

Sustainability goes beyond food, as other hotels and attractions introduce environmental stewardship practices. For example, the 18.5-acre Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas on the North Shore has installed a cogeneration plant, which produces more than 90 percent of its electricity onsite. And the North Shore’s 17-acre Limahuli Garden and Preserve has launched the Sustainability Tour, which explores the garden’s flora through the lens of modern sustainability challenges.

So, if you’re looking for sizzling nightclubs, designer shopping emporiums and bustling beaches, Kauai is not the place for them. But if visitor numbers tell the story, more people are looking for rejuvenation and experiencing what is also known as the Island of Discovery. According to Brown, Kauai’s visitor numbers through August 2015 are up by 4.6 percent over the same period last year.

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Vacation Agent Magazine

A version of this article appears in print in the November 2015 issue of Vacation Agent Magazine.