Forbes: The New Exclusive Place To Stay On Kauai
I hadn’t been back in Kauai in 20 years but I vividly remembered how beautiful this island was —the towering cliffs of the Na Pali Coast, the reddish Grand Canyonesque Waimea Canyon, a sprinkling of waterfalls amid terraced green hills. I also remembered that there was very little development aside from the big hotels along the sunny South Coast. Visiting a few weeks ago, though, I saw that all that has changed, a completely opposite version of a plot in the film “The Descendants;” George Clooney’s character decided not to sell ancestral land to developers but in real life many others have. The 700 acres on the North Coast, the former Kahu Aina plantation, that Mark Zuckerberg recently bought for a reported $100 million will remain private but on other land, the Discovery Land Company is planning the Hanalei Beach & Golf Club on 8000 acres on the island’s North Coast and Timbers Resorts is transforming a 450 acre stretch with knockout views of the mountains and the ocean into a combination private residence club/hotel/Jack Nicklaus golf course development, Hokuala, slated to open in 2017.
On the South Coast, near the town of Koloa, the 1010 acre private club Kukuiula, which opened its Tom Weiskopf golf course in 2010, and several homes the following year is also expanding and just opened The Lodge at Kukuiula, allowing nonmember overnight guests for the first time. Aside from the golf course, one of the acknowledged best in Hawaii, there are a number of reasons to stay on this beautiful property, formerly a sugar plantation, instead of a hotel. The two and three bedroom 2600 square foot Club Cottages, where I stayed, are furnished in appealing, rustic Old Hawaii style and have state of the art kitchens, lush backyards and guest houses, the four bedroom Villas have straight on ocean views and plunge pools, the one to three bedroom Club Bungalows, due to be completed later this year, have contemporary décor, high ceilings and sleek dark wood cabinets and floors.
Guests in all have access to the Plantation House with its excellent dining room with dishes such as steamed grey snapper with Asian vegetables in mushroom broth with crispy ginger and cilantro containing ingredients grown in the development’s farm, game room where teenagers in particular hang out (and so do adults for the snacks on display—jars of cookies and candy, a freezer of ice cream among them) and concierge to make appointments and arrangements, possibly at the nearby restaurants in The Shops at Kukuiula—notably Hawaiian culinary stars Peter Merriman's Merriman’s Fish House and Roy Yamaguchi’s Eating House 1849—both exceptional. There’s also an 18,000 square foot spa for customized treatments.
And for off property adventures, Island Pursuits’ patient, knowledgeable manager Robert Miguel can teach you to surf, paddleboard, kayak, take you fishing for marlin, on a road trip around the island, enlightening you on each area’s personalities and history, or book you with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, a particularly well-organixed, safety oriented company for a tour in the air—recommended for the staggering views and the inaccessibility of many of the most scenic locations any other way.
Underlying all, though, the real pleasure of staying here is the familial feeling of being part of a club—particularly getting to know the staff who look after you in a more personal way—even if you’ve only been there one night.