Poipu Kapili makes a good base for exploring the South Shore.
Beginner's guide to Kauai
It's only 33 miles wide, and just 67,000 people live here. But Kauai is its own world. Centered on Po'ipu, the island's South Coast has broad white-sand beaches. The lusher northwest side holds the rugged Na Pali Coast, green Hanalei Valley, and the resorts of Princeville.
St. Regis Princeville Resort. Overlooking Hanalei Bay on Kauai's North Shore, the St. Regis is one of the Islands' most luxurious resorts--with room rates to match. Swim, snorkel with a marine biologist ($50/hour), golf, and get a Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage at Halele'a Spa or oceanside. Just as impressive is dining at the resort. From $475; stregisprinceville.com.
Poipu Kapili. This hotel is located on the South Shore, within walking distance of Po'ipu Beach. The resort has 60 attractive low-rise condo units. From $225; 3-night minimum; poipukapili.com
Island Helicopters' Jurassic Falls Landing Adventure. One of the many companies that offer flights touring the island. This one includes a stop at 400-foot Manawaiopuna Falls, famous from Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park. (No velociraptors, though.) Other highlights: the Na Pali Coast and Mt. Wai'ale'ale. From $349; islandhelicopters.com
Nalu Kai Grill & Bar. If you sip but one cocktail on Kauai, make it the cucumber-ginger margarita at this luxe bar in the St. Regis Princeville hotel.
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa. Need more than one cocktail? Try the mai tai at this resort in Koloa (grandhyattkauai.com).
Kauai Grill. France meets the Pacific with superb results at Jean-Georges Vongerichten's restaurant in the St. Regis Princeville. You can sample small-plate versions of the menu at the St. Regis Bar. $$$$; closed Sun-Mon; 5220 Ka Haku Rd.; 808/826-9644.
Mermaid's Cafe. Located on Kuhio Highway between Lihu'e and Princeville, drop in for some tropical ahi tacos, wraps, and lots of vegan and vegetarian choices. $; 4-1384 Kuhio Hwy., Kapa'a; 808/821-1604.
Small Town Coffee. Just down the road from Mermaids, they have possibly the best lattes in the world--no wonder the locals flock here. $; 4-1495 Kuhio Hwy., Kapa'a; 808/821-1604.
The Grove Cafe at Waimea Brewing Company. A great spot for beer and Hawaiian pub grub. $; 9400 Kaumuali'i Hwy., Waimea; 808/338-9733.