Kauai, Hawaii: Vacation Island

2 beach chairs under a tree, on a beach in Kauai

When you live in Hawaii, where do you go for a quick get-away? Often, the answer is a neighbor island. I mentioned online that we were going to Kauai for Thanksgiving and many locals responded, “That’s my favorite island!” Now I know why.

I’ve heard since we arrived here that each island has its own personality. I can now compare two: Oahu and Kauai. Oahu is the center of government and commerce — it’s like the big city that you travel to for shopping or entertainment or doctor’s appointments when you live in a small town on the mainland. If you want a sampler of all that Hawaii has to offer, it’s a good choice.

In contrast, Kauai is the summer vacation you took as a kid, either with the family or at summer camp. There are parks to camp in that reminded me of Colorado but to a fellow student they seemed like upstate New York — whatever your memories are of pine, rocks and hiking trails, they will fit. Some fellow philosophy students stayed in a fairly rustic cabin in the woods near many hiking trails. It was also near the fabulous Waimea Canyon — a breath-taking view many compare with a mini-version of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Rick and I stayed in a nice, moderately-priced Kauai hotel on the Coconut Coast. It was popular with young people and families. Many middle-aged (and older) couples walked the nearly deserted beach hand-in-hand, perhaps enjoying a second honeymoon. The beach was a stone’s throw from the hotel but shopping and restaurants were just across the parking lot. Our flight back was delayed and we spent an additional night in a more upscale hotel (thanks to Yaling and Bruce). It was full-on resort: a Vegas-style pool ringed with hot tubs, massage tents on the beach, golf course, beach/poolside restaurants and bars. While you could walk to nearby stores or restaurants, you might not want to.

I would not recommend Kauai to someone who wants to include high-fashion shopping (there are plenty of souvenirs, clothing, and fine art, but it does not compare with Honolulu). Someone wanting to take in a bar-scene, urban art gallery hopping or nightclub entertainment might also be happier on Oahu. But if you think vacation get-away — personal time for rejuvenation or recharging, quality time with the kids or rekindling romance — it’s on Kauai. We returned so relaxed that the island pace of Oahu seems rushed!

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