Hawaii’s lush island of Kauai showcases postcard-perfect beaches, top-notch accommodations and restaurants offering stellar wine and food. Despite that it’s intensely rural—its biggest town, Kapaa, has a population of less than 11,000—Kauai is the fourth-largest island and feels surprisingly familiar, even for those who have never visited. It’s because more than 60 movies have featured its pristine nature, including The Descendants (2011), Avatar (2009) and A Perfect Getaway (2009).
Lodging: Don’t miss the jaw-dropping views of Hanalei Bay—a two-mile crescent of sandy beach and mountains—from the floor-to-ceiling windows in the bar and in most of the rooms at the St. Regis Princeville Resort. In the lobby of this stunning resort, which is located on the North Shore of Kauai’s Princeville at Hanalei Community, hangs a chandelier featuring 4,200 droplets of Murano glass inspired by one of the island’s many waterfalls.
At the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa, you’ll find the 45,000-square-foot Anara Spa, the island’s biggest. Treatments take place in the various thatched-roof huts, outdoor lava-rock showers and soaking tubs surrounded by waterfalls and gardens. Hawaiian design motifs, like wood carvings and metalwork of sugarcane stalks, wood headboards carved with ferns, and bed sheets with a paper-mulberry-bark pattern, abound at this hip hotel overlooking Poipu Beach.
Around Town: Roberts Hawaii Movie Tours is a perfect way to explore Kauai’s top spots, such as Wailua Falls and Hanalei Bay. During a six-hour drive on a minibus, you’ll visit various film locations while watching dozens of movie clips that feature the island.
One sight you won’t get a glimpse of on the tour bus is the Na Pali Coast, which is Hawaiian for “the cliffs”—a stunning 15-mile stretch of rugged coastline on the northwest shore of the island. While mostly inaccessible by car, you can boat there with Capt. Andy’s Sailing Adventures. A packaged trip includes snorkeling, a dolphin sighting session and lunch. If you’re craving a challenging hike, admire the coastline by trekking the 11-mile Kalalau Trail (or just watch it in the film, A Perfect Getaway).
Wine & Food: At Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s restaurant, Kauai Grill in the St. Regis Princeville Resort, Asian- and French-accented dishes are created by using locally sourced seafood like lobster and hamachi. Try the five-course tasting menu ($77), which features wine pairings from the 158-bottle list. Also of note is the moi—a local fish once reserved for royalty—prepared with a hazelnut, peppercorn and sesame seed crust and served with Truchard’s 2009 Syrah. Sip a pineapple mojito or mango Bellini at the St. Regis Princeville Bar, which celebrates the sunset with a Champagne-sabering ceremony on the terrace facing the breathtaking Hanalei Bay.
At Beach House Restaurant, the fabulous Poipu Beach oceanfront setting matches the Pacific Rim food, which includes locally sourced beef, coffee, fish and produce. Try the lemongrass- and kaffir lime-crusted sea scallops dish, served with saffron rice, Maui upcountry baby bok choy and sweet Thai chili aioli, or the ceviche of island fish, scallops and tiger prawns, served in a coconut shell with a Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay. Since Hawaii is one of 50 states to grow cacao, take a Garden Island Chocolate Co. tour and visit gourmet chocolate bars, which offer tastes of pure Hawaiian chocolate flavored with macadamia nuts, coconut and spicy pepper as well as tropical fruit. Don’t forget to stop for lunch at the famous and rustic Tahiti Nui, where George Clooney’s Oscar-nominated movie, The Descendants, was filmed.