It may be the most dramatic vista anywhere in Hawaii: from the bluffs above the eastern tip of Hanalei Bay, on the North Shore of Kauai, you look out on a crescent-shaped beach. Tireless waterfalls spill from jagged cliffs in deep green valleys. Clouds hover and vaporize. A rain shower rolls across the far side of the bay while the sun blazes down on you. Anchoring this ridge is the recently renovated St. Regis Princeville Resort, 252 spacious rooms carved into a cliff. On one side of the property is the Makai Golf Club, one of Hawaii’s most famous courses. On the other, after clambering 100 feet down a steep, rocky trail, you’ll find a more private piece of paradise: Pali Ke Kua Beach, where the only other living creature might be a sea turtle laying her eggs. Nature still calls the shots on Kauai, something you’ll notice whether you’re hiking the Kalalau Trail, which clings to the Napali Coast for 11 miles of views and switchbacks; kayaking through rain forests with Outfitters Kauai; or dining at 22° North, a restaurant in Lihue that uses ingredients sourced from its own two-acre farm. Perhaps that’s why you always feel like a better version of yourself when you’re in Kauai, and why you’ll keep returning.
Kauai Affordable Tip: On the sun-drenched western coast, the Waimea Plantation Cottages are scattered around 27 acres of wide lawns, coconut palms, and empty hammocks—pure old-school Hawaiian aloha. Doubles from $215.
Kauai Family Tip: Stop for a delicately flavored shave ice—the beloved island version of a snow cone—at Wishing Well Shave Ice, a stand in Hanalei. Shave ice from $4.
Kauai: World’s Best Scorecard
No. 8 island overall
No. 2 island in Hawaii