Hawaii’s ‘Garden Isle’ home to acclaimed golf and astounding beauty
Close your eyes and imagine turquoise waves crashing. Waterfalls cascading down lush mountains. Sun-kissed breezes caressing the skin. This is Kauai – where no building can be taller than the tallest coconut tree and the vibe is sensual. Combine its stunning beaches, abundant flora, top resorts, and award-winning golf courses and you’ve got a special place.
Kauai is home to some of the country’s best courses. Along the island’s southern shore lies Poipu Bay. A Robert Trent Jones II design, this amenity of the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa recently earned “America’s Greatest Courses by State, 2017-18” distinction from Golf Digest magazine. Featuring dramatic topography on 210 acres and stunning ocean frontage, Poipu Bay’s finishing holes dramatically perch above the Pacific as they cascade to a rousing finish.
Winding its way through mango and guava groves to dramatic seaside cliffs, MSN Travel called the Ocean Course at Hokuala one of the world’s 12 most beautiful courses. It’s little wonder that the list of accolades for this Jack Nicklaus Signature track is long, much like the string of holes that hug the sea. This continuous stretch of oceanfront golf is the longest in golf-rich Hawaii. Recent enhancements include a world-class practice facility.
Twenty minutes up island, Puakea and Wailua golf courses are favorites among travelers and locals alike. These standalone daily fee courses are appreciated for their well-regarded layouts and value. Wailua has hosted three United States Golf Association championships and is recognized as one of the best municipal courses in America. Coconut trees and Pacific Ocean views proliferate at Wailua, which traces its origin back to the “Golden Age of Golf Course Architecture” (1900-1930).
Puakea was devised by Robin Nelson, an underrated golf architect who designed or redesigned one-third of Hawaii’s roughly 95 courses. Puakea construction was halted in 1991 by Hurricane Iniki. After clean-up and post-Iniki recovery, the course owners at the time opened Puakea with 10 holes. Nelson played the truncated oddity many times before AOL Founder Steve Case purchased the course from the original owners and authorized its completion. Nelson used the insight he gained – the prevailing trade wind directions, for example – to revise the original 10 holes while building the remaining eight.
Located on the North Shore of Kauai is Princeville Makai Golf Club, another of the island’s must-play courses. Brilliantly conceived by Trent Jones II, Princeville Makai has garnered countless honors for its excellence. A brilliant layout, immaculate conditions and astounding views define the playing experience. The par-3 seventh hole plays across an ocean cove, with Mount Makana – of mythical “Bali Hai” fame, featured in the classic film “South Pacific” – standing gorgeous sentinel across Hanalei Bay and stretching into the Pacific.
Golf travelers can choose from many island lodging options. Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa’s many amenities help guests enjoy their own beachfront retreat on the sands of Poipu. Uniquely situated on Kalapaki Bay, Kauai Marriott Resort is surrounded by lush, tropical rainforests where visitors can both surf and golf in one convenient location. Courtyard Kauai at Coconut Beach is a relaxing oceanfront hotel close to the great golf of Wailua and Puakea, as well as Kapaa Town, a place where shopping fans have many places to peruse.