by Brooke Obie
More than 2,500 miles off the coast of California is the awe-inspiring island of Kaua’i, Hawai’i.
Boasting lush, majestic mountains, clear blue waters and one of the most famous and pristine coastlines in the world, Kauai's wondrous natural beauty demands attention, stillness and gratitude. It's the perfect place to find spiritual solace.
After a very long flight into Kapa’a from the mainland, I spent my first day in Kaua'i at the aptly named Grand Hyatt resort. Not only is it the largest resort on the island, it’s ANARA Spa is an incredible facility. A lomi lomi (healing hands) massage in an outdoor private cabana with classical sounds of Kaua’i playing in the background was just what I needed to get my mind body relaxed and ready to experience all that the island had to offer.
My first adventure was sailing and snorkeling with Kauai Sea Tours’ Catamaran tour along the Nā Pali Coast. Instantly recognizable for its deeply ridged green and red mountains, cascading waterfalls, dramatic cliffs and azure blue waves, the Nā Pali Coast can only be experienced by helicopter or boat (though parts are accessible on some hikes). The Catamaran tour got me pretty close to the coast and sliding down the Catamaran boat's water slide into the ocean to begin my snorkeling adventure was one of the most memorable experiences of my trip.
The Catamaran was topped on day 2 by Island Helicopter's tour. Leaving from the main airport, Island Helicopter takes passengers over the island in 90 minutes, including Waimea Canyon (the Grand Canyon of the Pacific) and the Nā Pali Coast, which are jaw-dropping from above. But what sets Island Helicopters apart from all other helicopter tours on the island is that it lands at the base of the twin waterfalls made famous in the opening credits of Jurassic Park. Passengers hike a short distance to Jurassic Falls, take photos and try not to get drenched while drinking in the thrilling experience that is likely to be a trip favorite.
If helicopter tours are not your style, there are still plenty of activities and waterfalls to explore. With Princeville Ranch Adventures, you can ride horseback through the jungle and have lunch and a leisurely swim near a waterfall on the ranch's 2,500-acre property.
I stayed at the Westin in Princeville on the North Shore, which was close to all of these activities. Perfect for families or groups for short or longer stays, the Westin resort offers full-kitchen suites so you can grocery stop in nearby Hanalei. One of my favorite meals on Kaua'i was just up the road from the Westin at the St. Regis resort. Every evening, the St. Regis offers a champagne toast for dining room guests who can watch the sun set from its stunning balcony.
While Day 3 in Kauai was significantly less action-packed, it was my favorite day. Getting out of tourist mode, I met and talked with locals at a famous little church in Hanalei, Wai'oli Hui'ia Church. Built by American Christian missionaries in 1834, the church initially banned the native Hawaiian practice of hula as pagan. The Hawaiian language was banned on the islands after the Hawaiian Kingdom was overthrown in 1893. Wai'oli Hui'ia Church is contributing to efforts taking place across Hawai'i in the past few decades to revitalize Hawaiian language and culture. They now incorporate hula into worship services and sing hymns in Hawaiian. I visited Wai'oli Hui'ia on a Wednesday night during choir rehearsal and interviewed their choir director, Naomi Yokotake. One of her family members has lead the choir there for uninterrupted generations of the church's history. Naomi shared how important it is that their pastor, Kahu Alpha Goto, wanted them to honor their culture and share their history by dancing Christian hula. (Check out our interview here.)
To top it all off, the church's wonderful pianist and her choir member husband invited me to dinner at their house and let me nap there while I waited for my long flight out--a gesture so lovely and so full of Aloha that when I boarded my plane, I felt like I was leaving home instead of returning to it.
One of the greatest ways to connect with God is to simply open your eyes. All of the people He placed in front of me on this trip made my experience exponentially better and full of peace and joy. Beautiful people, an incredible place and a willing spirit are the perfect ingredients for a true encounter with God away from home. --Brooke Obie, Senior Digital Editor
Brooke Obie visited Kaua'i courtesy of the Kaua'i Visitors Bureau. The places and activities featured are her favorite experiences from the trip.
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