The Club at Kukui`ula

The Club at Kukui`ula

Paradise may well mean many things to many people, but there are a few places about which there can be near universal agreement on granting such a designation and by my estimation Poipu Beach would almost certainly have to be one of them. And that is coming from someone who readily confesses to not being what I like to call a traditional “water and sand” lover.

Tucked away on the southern side of Kauai, the fourth largest and one of the least populous of all the Hawaiian Islands, Poipu Beach is also one of the best kept secrets of the Aloha State. While the beaches of the more bustling islands like the “Big Island” (Hawaii) and Oahu may be among the most familiar to most travelers, Kauai tenders more remote treasures. You might even characterize the island, which is sometimes referred to as the “Garden Isle”, as sleepy. Almost preternaturally green and lush, this tropical outpost is perhaps best known for being endowed with an embarrassment of natural beauty throughout, and yet, even amidst such bounty, Poipu Beach stands out.

Not the sort of destination you visit if you want to party into the wee hours or shop until you drop, Poipu Beach is a place you trip off to when escape is at the pinnacle of your agenda. It is where you go when you long to dress simply, take in spectacular sunsets, loll about on white sand beaches, indulge in your favorite outdoor activities, sip cool cocktails while enveloped by warm breezes and marvel at quirky local spectacles like the wild chickens you seem to come across at nearly every turn. In short, Poipu Beach, is a haven in which to indulge in the art of relaxation. And one of the best places to begin that journey in this sliver of paradise is The Club at Kukui`ula, a private membership club set against a surreal postcard-perfect backdrop where luxe is delivered wrapped up in the laidback spirit of aloha.

Summon up your vision of tropical paradise and The Club at Kukui`ula will likely surpass it.  Swaying palm trees, acres upon acres of perfectly maintained greens in every direction, quiet, traffic-free roads, the unbroken silence that attends the calming whir of the wind and the fragrance and beauty of local flowers in bloom are all just part of The Club experience. Fortunately, though it is a private community in which the homes are privately owned, there is no need to sign a new mortgage in order access the privileges of The Club as the benefits of membership at Kukui`ula can be readily accessed via a stay at one of the sumptuous two or three bedroom club cottages which can be arranged through the Parrish Collection, a local purveyor of vacation rentals across Kauai and the exclusive guest manager for Kukui`ula.

Parrish Collection - The Club at Kukui`ula

Club Cottage, The Parrish Collection – The Club at Kukui`ula

Each of the club cottages is a breathtaking new construction boastinga minimum of 2,000 square feet and bursting with all the luxuries of home, right down to wine coolers, state of the art gourmet kitchens with granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and well-stocked fridges for those so inclined to request them in advance. A minimum of two master suites with king beds, walk-in-closets, outdoor lava rock garden showers, and pedestal tubs, private backyards with gas lava rock fire pits, flat screen televisions throughout and spacious, open living and dining room plans, seal the proverbial deal. Some of the cottages even have separate guest cottages with their own private lanais, while others have private pools and all are brimming with exquisite new furnishings, island antiques and objets d’art. I like to think of a stay at these cottages as island life 2.0 – all the peace of paradise combined with all the luxuries of modern life (and then some).

Speaking of luxuries, that is also exactly what comes along with a stay at one of the Kukui`ula Club Cottages vis-à-vis the club itself, which is a mini-paradise within paradise. As it is a world unto itself, you could feasibly arrive at your cottage and spend your entire getaway between the luxury of your accommodations and luxuries of the Kukui`ula Club, without ever setting foot off the property and still experience the pure bliss of Poipu.

The Plantation House is the heart of the club from which most of the magic of the property flows. Within the confines of the sprawling structure you’ll find dining in abundance, including all sorts of cleverly tucked away complimentary treats like ice cream and fruit, a game room with pool tables, 3-D movies and video games galore, a great lawn for outdoor games like volleyball and horse shoes, and the Makai Pool where a wading pool with in-water loungers meets soaker tubs, waterfalls, lagoons and beaches that offer the penultimate in privacy. There’s also a spa with numerous spaces to relax, a splendid water ritual and gym (access to all of which is complimentary) along with an award winning-golf course. Talk about membership having its perks. Groucho Marx may not have wanted to be a part of any club that would accept him but I can’t help but think that this is one club that, in all its easy splendor, might have proved an exception to the rule.

Sunset, Poipu Beach

Sunset, Poipu Beach

There’s even a picturesque farm, the Upcountry Farm and Lake, where guests and members pick fruits, vegetables and fresh flowers to take back to their cottages or simply visit to enjoy a picnic under a tree on the banks of the lake. And, yes, it’s all pretty spectacular. From the dazzling sweep of the Pacific visible from all points at the Plantation House (and even some of the cottages) to the vibrant red earth of the farm to the brilliant green of the golf course, The Club at Kukui`ula is a  spectacle of color and experiences that could not recommend Poipu more favorably.

Another option for accomodations, just down the road from The Club at Kukui`ula  would be the Villas at Poipu Kai, which are steps away from Poipu’s popular, and more rustic Brennecke Beach, where the sea turtles are one of the main attractions year round.  The Villas at Poipu Kai offer spacious one, two, three and even four bedroom villas featuring plantation style furnishings, master suites with king beds and master baths with soaking tubs, full gourmet kitchens, private lanais and an array of other amenities including a swimming pool, hot tub, and fitness center all at a budget friendly price point that screams accessible luxury.

In between these two choice accommodation options, sit the relatively new Shops at Kukui`ula, a village of boutiques, restaurants and galleries, which is probably the most happening spot in all of Poipu Beach, aside, of course, from the massive Grand Hyatt located just a little further down the beach and home to both one of the best views in Poipu Beach and the beloved Tidepool’s restaurant among a bevy of other restaurants, bars and nightclubs. For those who feel the need for congress with the outside world, though again I must say there is little reason for it, the Shops at Kukui`ula, offer plenty of welcome diversions, food being one of the most prominent among them. Josselin’s, a particular favorite, offers an eclectic array of tapas and tableside sangria in a festive, modern setting, while Merriman’s serves seafood in an upscale casual environment and Tortilla Republic blends a hint of aloha with Margaritas and a menu of South of the Border favorites. On the more casual side, Bubba’s Burgers, is another local favorite that lives up to the hype that precedes it. Do, however, prepare to be patient as the team at Bubba’s works on ‘island time’ and proudly claims not to be Burger King or McDonald’s, which means every order is, in fact, cooked to order and dearly so.

The Coast - Poipu Beach

Poipu Beach

More local culture awaits nearby at the Poipu Village Shopping Center wherein awaits the delectable pleasures of the Puka Dog, a Hawaiian-style hot dog doused with garlic lemon sauce in varying degrees of heat (you choose) and served with lilikoi mustard and your choice of an assortment of fresh fruit relishes made of mango, pineapple, papaya, coconut, banana or star fruit (or not). It sounds a little strange, I know, but with a tall, cool glass of tantalizing sweet fresh-squeezed lemonade, this dog makes for a quick, casual and inexpensive lunch near the beach. Another treat back in the town of Lihue is the no-frills Hamura Saimin stand, the Zagat-rated, hole in the wall, that has been around for four generations serving up delicious bowls of saimin, a Hawaiian noodle soup akin to ramen, that keep locals and regular island visitors coming back to slurp down more.

Lastly, because there is more to Kauai than Poipu Beach and much of it is remote, one of the best ways to actually see the island in all its natural glory is by air, which makes a helicopter tour ideal.  Book an afternoon eco-tour with one of the local tour operators (Harbor Mall in Lihue is a popular place)and arrive early for a late breakfast at the Feral Pig and be sure to try to Tiki Moco, a specialty of the house that combines kalua pork, eggs, rice and brown gravy. It’s definitely a cheat day kind of breakfast, but that’s the other good thing about paradise…every day is a cheat day.

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