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As winter really begins to set in over most of the country with freezing conditions, it’s time to start considering some sunny destinations where you can earn and use your points. That’s why this week’s Destination of the Week is: Kauai.
Kauai is the northernmost and oldest of the Hawaiian Islands. Though it has a ton of hotels, it’s not quite as developed as Oahu or Maui, so it still feels like you can have an authentic Hawaiian experience without hordes of tourists ruining your vacation.
Because of the lush rainforests that cover the interior, it has been dubbed Hawaii’s Garden Island, and has a variety of gorgeous landscapes for travelers to visit including the rugged Waimea Valley (known as the Grand Canyon of Hawaii), the scenic cliffs of the Na Pali Coast in the northwest, and the gentle beaches of Poipu on the southern shore. Then again, you can just relax by the pool or on the beach, spend an afternoon swimming, snorkeling or sailing, and enjoy a fireside luau in the evening.
If you’re interested in learning more about the island, its history, landscapes and particular destinations, the Hawaii tourism board has a great page devoted to with tons of information and resources for travelers.
Just a reminder, these Destination of the Week pieces are not meant to be comprehensive guides to destinations since we don’t have the time or funds to visit all these places in person and report back to you. Nor are they instant endorsements of all the hotels we mention. They are simply roundups of top destinations that we have specifically pinpointed for the opportunity they present to use your miles and points to get to and stay there.
As always, we welcome your comments to help enrich the content here, provide opinions and first-hand experiences of any or all of these destinations.
Everyone has a story about how their vacation on Kauai was ruined by rain (I even have one from my own childhood—my family left after 3 straight days of rain one March and went to Palm Springs). The good news is that it’s usually the interior of the island around Mt. Waialeale that’s the rainiest (in fact, it’s the rainiest spot on the planet with over 400 inches a year), but it’s usually not so bad on the coast, and when it does rain, it’s usually at nighttime and over quickly.
December-March are the rainiest months—just when most folks hope to go there to escape winter weather—and though the north and east shores get a fair amount of rain, the southern (Poipu) and western (Polihale) sides of the island are the driest.
Kauai’s main airport is Lihue (LIH). Though small, the airport does receive direct flights to six US Mainland destinations: Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, Seattle and Phoenix. Otherwise passengers must transfer through Honolulu Airport on Oahu (about a half-hour flight) or Kahului Airport on Maui (about an hour-long flight). Lihue is serviced by the major US carriers including Alaska (starting at 20,000 miles each way), American (starting at 17,500 miles each way), Delta (starting at 20,000 miles each way), Hawaiian Airlines (starting at 20,000 miles each way), United (starting at 20,000 miles each way) and US Airways (starting at 35,000 miles roundtrip), meaning you can use miles from any of the alliances to get here, or use these long flights from the Mainland to rack up frequent flyer miles.
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa: One of the island’s highest-end properties, the Grand Hyatt recently redid its 565 guest rooms and 37 suites. All have private lanais, pillow-top beds, flatscreen TV’s, and rain showers in the bathrooms. The hotel has a saltwater lagoon where guests can swim and kayak, two freshwater outdoor pools connected by swimming “rivers” and a huge sundeck, plus three tennis courts, and the next-door PGA Grand Slam Poipu Bay Golf Course. The resort has a whopping 11 restaurants and bars, the fanciest of which is Hawaiian-Pacific fusion Tidepools on the lagoon, and a 45,000-square-foot Anara Spa set in tropical gardens with waterfalls and a lava rock soaking tub. The lowest rates we could find in February were $510 for a Garden View Room. This is a Category 6 hotel, so free night redemptions require a minimum of 22,000 Gold Passport points for standard rooms, 27,000 for club rooms, and 33,000 for suites.
Marriott has five, yes five, resorts on Kauai, three of which are Marriott Vacation Club properties.
Kauai Marriott Resort and Kauai Beach Club: This is the classic Marriott hotel on the island, located not too far from Lihue on the southwest coast, so it’s usually pretty sunny over here. This is a very family-friendly resort, so guests can swim at Kalapaki Beach, and in Hawaii’s largest single-level outdoor pool (a perhaps dubious distinction), play at the Kauai Lagoons Golf Course, or relax in the Alexander Spa & Salon. There are also local excursions to Waimea Canyon State Park, Wailua Falls, and adventures like ziplining. Though the buildings are a little dated, the guest rooms look like they’ve been redone recently with crisp white linens and red-orange accents like throw pillows and sofas, and the bathrooms, while they seem small, do look nice with designer-ish sinks and full shower-tubs. It’s also got six restaurants and cafes including a sushi bar. There are also Marriott Vacation Club Villas onsite at the Marriott Kauai Beach Club, in studio, one- and two-bedroom categories with full-size living rooms including fold-out beds, plus kitchenettes. Rates for guest rooms at the hotel right now are starting at $269 a night, while villas at the Beach Club are starting at $234 a night. Both are Category 5 redemptions, requiring between 20,000-25,000 points for free nights, and when booking four consecutive nights using redemptions, the fifth night is free.