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Paradise Unveiled: Unforgettable Golf Escapes on Kauai, The Garden Island

Discover the Best Resorts and Courses on Kauai, a Hawaiian Haven Where Nature Meets World-Class Golf.

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Lush with white sands, tropical flora and fauna, rainforests, and rough mountainous terrain, Kauai offers a wide variety of accommodations and world-class golf in an idyllic Hawaiian island setting, as good as nature can offer.

From the abundantly lush Makai course up north in Princeville to the affordable and the very popular municipal course heading southeast at Wailua as well layouts like Poipu Bay and Hokuala in the south, what these magnificent resort courses as well as affordable independent courses both offer are picturesque challenges where the rough is often lined with lava rocks while mountain ranges loom and ocean views frame the greens.

paradise unveiled-unforgettable golf escapes on kauai-the-garden-island

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paradise unveiled-unforgettable golf escapes on kauai-the-garden-island

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Opened in 1971 as the first solo effort on Kauai by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and completely renovated in 2009 (adding Seashore Paspalum turf grass on all fairways and greens), Makai winds its way around serene lakes, native woodlands and the spectacular coastline with views of Bali Hai and Hanalei Bay. The course plays to a par-72 with four different sets of tees that can be stretched to more than 7,200 yards from the tips. and includes six stunning oceanfront holes. The signature 7th hole plays to 213 yards from the back tees. It consists of a challenging tee shot over scenic cliffs, onto to a green which is surrounded by brilliant white bunkers and surreal views of the mountains and Pacific Ocean. Build up some space ahead of the next foursome because you’ll want a few photos of this beautiful setting.

Speaking of beautiful settings, just down the street offering expansive panoramic views of Hanalei Bay is the magnificent 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay. With its open-air structure, the design seamlessly blends and embraces the local foliage, brilliant daylight, and layered material textures. The thoughtful inclusion of meandering water features transports each guest to a place of solace and serenity upon arrival, evoking a calming pace and focus on the picturesque surroundings. At the same time, the resort offers a wide range of activities including an extensive fitness center, wellness spa and can set you up for just about any water activity you can conjure up. And to fuel those experiences, under the watchful eye of executive chef Mel Fogata, there are several dining establishments that feature both local entrees as well as a special Japanese restaurant.

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For those that prefer a resort stay that include earning points for future holidays, just down the street from the Makai are the Club Wyndham Bali Hai Villas.

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“Club Wyndham is a vacation ownership essentially taking old school time share which has evolved into a points program where a certain number then allow you to experience any club within the Club Wyndham portfolio,” explained Sean Cannard, Director Resort Operations – Hawaii, “There are over 200 different resorts in our portfolio that have different point values and offer a ton of diverse vacation experiences.”

Like 1 Hanalei Hotel, this resort really captures the Kauaian culture and spirit in its design and decor.

“We use plantation-style shutters, ceiling fans, wicker and teak furnishings. Lots of greens and green understated to blend in with the environment,” noted Marc Bennor, the resort’s general manager, “With Kauai being the Garden Island we want to be sure to embrace that. That includes much of the artwork which depict the island and its culture. Additionally, we work with our landscaping team to feature much of the flora native to Kauai.”

In between rounds of golf, really stretch your legs and embark on a daylong adventure hiking the mountain trails of Koke‘e State Park, along the rugged Na Pali coast (from 2 to 12-mile loops or opt for a helicopter tour or boat cruise). Views include highland swamps, tropical rain forests, canyon rims, sheer cliff sides and ocean panoramas that you will never forget.

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Then as you leave the Hanalei/Princeville area and head south along the east coast, make sure to take a break and enjoy the unique views offered by a leisurely bike ride along the coast in the town of Kapa’a called Ke Ala Hele Makalae” (the path that goes by the coast) then relax on the beach taking in the waves and cool off by enjoying a blue raspberry, lemon and mango shaved ice.

The south end of Kauai is where most of the golf and resort options abound.

While Kauai has the most miles (111) of beach per mile of coastline of any island, some of the most pristine are located on the property of the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa which is appropriately named as this resort is massive. Located on Poipu Beach, this is an oasis with lush gardens and many pools and its 50 acres are designed to maximize ocean views, both for dining and rooms.

It is also well-located for guest visits to popular attractions.

“Being on the south shore makes us centrally located on the island for day trips to the Westside – Waimea Canyon, Kokee State Park or to head up to the North Shore. The National Tropical Botanical Gardens is just down the road and an amazing place to visit, across the road from there is Spouting Horn, a seawater geyser,” said Diann Hartman, Director of Marketing Communications at Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa. “There’s lots of golf to be found, including our own Poipu Bay Golf Course.”

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Backed by lush emerald mountains and sculpted from a rolling plateau eight stories above the Pacific Ocean, Poipu Bay Golf Course boasts 18 championship holes with seashore paspalum greens that are as visually stunning as they are challenging. Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., Poipu Bay meanders along a rugged coastline and features 85 bunkers, five water hazards and wildly varying trade winds, all of which combine to make the course one of the most intriguing and spectacular golf experiences in America.

Just a few minutes drive away is the par-70, 6885-yard Kiahuna Golf Club which features ancient remnants of a Polynesian village that was carefully integrated into Robert Trent Jones Jr’s design. Thus, players will encounter unusual obstacles such as lava walls and stone structures.

Set at the base of Mount Ha’upu, the Puakea golf course at just under 7,000 yards, offers splendid views of the Pacific and is built amid volcanic cliffs, gargantuan sinkholes and ravines all within a very lush setting.

If splendid views of the Pacific are a high priority in choosing your accommodation, you’d be hard-pressed to improve upon the Whalers Cove Resort.

“(So named) because a very deep cove adjacent to the property allowed a lot of the ships to come right up to the old railway that used to be here and also is a safe place for the humpback whales to come in and give birth,” said Marianne Martin, the resort’s manager.

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Whalers Cove offers a real home away from home feel, but with bonuses like falling asleep to the sound of ocean waves just about a pitching wedge below your feet. One can cook in the well-appointed kitchen when you want to and enjoy the meal on your balcony overlooking the sea or enjoy the popular Merriman’s restaurant just a few minutes away.

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Within a short drive to several of the aforementioned golf courses, this is a popular place for seasoned players to stay on this island.

“Whalers Cove has a large percentage of return guests, several that come back twice a year,” noted Martin. “We have many golfers stay with us and often send us their clubs in advance.”

Not far away is a course that needs no advance praise, for The Ocean Course at Hokuala is already widely known as one of the world’s most spectacular layouts. Offering breathtaking coastal views, it is set on the longest stretch of oceanfront golf in Hawaii. Designed by Jack Nicklaus, it truly is the definition of golf in paradise.

Now when you put it all together – golf, accommodations, dining, spa services, onshore and offshore experiences (from snorkeling and pickleball to horseback riding and hiking) – The Lodge at Kukuiʻula, an oceanfront luxury resort nestled within the exclusive 1,010-acre Kukuiʻula community on the southern shores of Kauai is hard to top.

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The Lodge at Kukuiʻula offers nightly reservations of one- to three-bedroom bungalows, two- to three-bedroom cottages and four-bedroom villas. All accommodations feature indoor and outdoor living areas, spacious modern kitchens, and spa-inspired bathrooms with private outdoor showers.

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To provide an example of a place that has it all, a guest can bring friends out on the lodge’s own boat for some deep-sea fishing catch ahi or mahi or snapper and as Brian Hallberg, the resort’s general manager says, ‘our chefs can filet it up and serve for your dinner’.

And veteran chef Ben Takahashi is never worried about creating a new twist on his menu.

“It is so unique because we have a farm and we have a boat. Those dynamics get a chef’s juices flowing. Creating. Fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs as well just caught ahi tuna, snappers, ono and mahi. Super fresh just right up the street. That is a very helpful component.”

With all the activity including a challenging golf course designed by Tom Weiskopf, another helpful component to a guest’s stay here is a state-of-the-art spa that offers a multitude of services. And its’ director, Sienna Creasy, who has spent years traveling the world learning many different wellness treatments, is in-tune with the overused muscles of a weekend golfer who strains to play multiple rounds while on holiday.

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“I am a big believer in Thai Yoga Massage for the golfer because they are going to get the stretch as well as the physical manipulation,” explained Creasy. “In golf, the body is moving in so many different ways, so the therapist can stretch you in various directions with the goal of trying to create more space in the body so there is more freedom of movement. Stretching, traction, elongation, and energetics with a connection to balance, that is what Thai Yoga Massage does so well for the golfer. “

While Kauai does golf so well, and is home to great elements of nature including majestic waterfalls, dense jungle, soaring sea cliffs, green mountain peaks, vast canyons and beautiful beaches, there’s a pervading awareness about a true component of Hawaiian culture in how visitors are treated which is perhaps best summed up by Kukuiʻula’s Hallberg when he said:

“The heartbeat of our staff is Ho’okipa, a Hawaiian sense of stewardship, taking care of guests. Taking hospitality to the next level.”

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