By Patricia Doherty
Aug 13, 2021
FROM THE BACK OF A PICKUP TRUCK, I watched dust fly as we drove along a narrow road through one of Kauaʻi’s last sugar cane fields and past a long-abandoned mill. It was the early 1980s, my first trip to the island and, after a few days in Honolulu, it was quite a change from Waikiki.
Later, I learned that Kauaʻi’s south shore town of Kōloa was home to the first working sugar mill, introducing commercial sugar cane production to the island in 1835. Laborers from the Philippines, China, Japan, Korea and Europe came to work in the fields. About 150 years later, Hawaii’s sugar industry, including Kōloa Plantation, came to an end for a variety of factors that included labor costs, competition and the rise of tourism.
Fast forward to my recent visit to the Garden Isle. In the same town as that first sugar plantation, Kukuiʻula, a resort community of more than 445 hectares, recalls the Kōloa of the past in its architectural design. The historic plantation style is evident throughout the property, particularly in The Clubhouse with its low wide roof, exposed rafters, vertical plank walls, and expansive covered lanai — complete with ceiling fans and rocking chairs. Out back, its vast green lawn reaches to the sea.
We stayed in The Lodge, actually neighborhoods of individual bungalows, cottages and villas ranging from one to four bedrooms, all with full gourmet kitchens, outdoor garden showers, luxurious bedding, and our favorite feature — the large covered lanai, furnished with comfy chairs and a table for dining al fresco. There we relaxed with our morning coffee, afternoon cocktails, and dinner, consisting of salad, fresh vegetables and herbs from The Farm.
Guests staying at The Lodge enjoy unlimited access to the resort’s amenities, which made us feel welcome and as special as the homeowners who own stunning multimillion-dollar residences at Kukuiʻula. The Farm is an example. Guests can harvest the kale, lettuce, tomatoes, herbs, fruits and vegetables for their meals or take advantage of the convenient self-serve stand near the Clubhouse. On a visit to the 4-hectare farm, we chatted with the farmer and saw the pristine gardens and nearby lake.
Wellness is a focus of all that happens at Kukuiʻula, from the organic farm to the Hi’ilani Spa with an adults lap pool, steam and sauna, hot and cold plunge pools, and expert treatments. The Signature Water Ritual, a specialty at Kukuiʻula, is a rejuvenating experience that includes the dry sauna, cold shower, wet steam and scrub, and dips in the hot and cold plunge pools. It’s perfect in combination with a fitness class like yoga, barre, pilates or cross-training. For the keiki (kids), there are saltwater pools, waterfalls and a waterslide, as well as a sand-bottom pool that leads to the beach.
Courtesy of Kukui’ula Resort (2)
While the pace is relaxed, there’s plenty to do. The 18-hole Tom Weiskopf golf course is a golfer’s dream, and for tennis fans, there are four new Rebound Ace-surfaced courts. The resort’s Huakaʻi Guides can arrange paddleboards, kayaks, snorkeling gear, bikes, or a private cruise on Kukui’ula’s 10-meter Yellowfin boat. For shoppers, the nearby Shops at Kukuiʻula offer apparel, gifts, original art, and national brands like Tommy Bahama, Reyn Spooner, Quicksilver and LuluLemon.
While Kauaʻi has changed since my first visit nearly 40 years ago when there was only one traffic light on the entire island, Kukuiʻula has captured the atmosphere of the past. Kauaʻi’s residents also keep the island’s history alive. Each year the era of sugar plantations is recalled during Kōloa Plantation Days, an annual celebration where visitors learn of the island’s cultural diversity and its past with music, food, rodeos, games, parades, and nature walks. This year’s festivities took place July 23 through August 2, and activities included a guided walk along the Hapa Trail, once a link between Kōloa and Poʻipū, the island’s popular beach area.
Driving through the property at Kukuiʻula, we noticed several homes under construction and many spectacular homesites available. While owning a residence on Kauaʻi is just a dream for most of us, we felt fortunate to be relaxing on our lanai and enjoying the same view, amenities, and Hawaiian hospitality as Kukuiʻula’s homeowners.
lodgeatkukuiula.com; contact for rates and reservations.