While Hawaii is one of my favorite travel destinations, I took my first trip to Kauai in January. Dramatically different than the arid sprawl of the Big Island, Kauai is smaller and much more lush. I had wanted to check out Kauai to check off the four large islands of Hawaii and I am glad I did.
I stayed at the Waimea Plantation; located on the southwest side of the island at the base of Waimea Canyons. The town itself is a 45 minute drive from Lihue airport (the only commercial airport on the island). You drive through various jungles, next to canyons, and past coffee groves. The town of Waimea itself is small and seems to be stuck in the 1950s. The next town over is Hanapepe, known for it’s art galleries. While you will find tourists here; there are no large resorts on this side of the island.
Waimea, both the Plantation and the town, are what my friend calls “the real Hawaii”. The “resort” itself is made up of dozens of 100 year old cottages that once housed the employees of the sugar cane plantation. Some of the cottages are original to this land, others were brought in from neighboring plantations. These accommodations are not the Four Seasons. There was one window mounted air conditioning in my cottage, which I never used because there was a constant breeze from the nearby ocean. There was no carpet and the floor was well worn. The bathroom had not been updated in at least 50 years. Various wildlife called the cottage home… lizards, mice, even a cat stopped by one day. Not to mention the hundreds of feral chickens that run around the property. Again, this is not a 5 star resort. But once I “lived into” the cottage, I loved it. I didn’t miss the central AC. The furniture was comfortable, the sheets clean, the towels new. The one complaint was that they only came and cleaned every third day (and during my stay they missed on of their cleaning visits).
The grounds are also not luxurious but I will say I have never felt so relaxed as I did during my stay at the Waimea Plantation. Many an hour were spent on the deck of my cottage; watching chickens, reading, and sometimes just staring off into the trees and ocean beyond. There is a swimming pool that I went in once for about 30 seconds; it was cold and nothing special but there is a pool. The beach, which was literally 100 feet from my cottage, was sandy but un-swimable. Great for walks but not for boogie boarding. There is a decent restaurant on site that has a bar and large menu.
Overall I would recommend the Waimea Plantation IF you are looking for a place off the beaten path to relax and not be pampered. Know what you are getting in to. Before visiting I had read reviews. Some that rated the property as the best they had been to. These people were excited for a slow pace, rustic getaway. The people that left bad reviews were wanting something more — soaking tub and good smelling soaps, spotless rooms, new furniture. You won’t get this here, but that is okay. This, after all, is the real Hawaii.