Makai is Hawaiian for “towards the sea” and therein lays the beauty and the peril of this course. Hole 7, my favorite, is played over the ocean. The tee is on a slight peninsula, and the green, surrounded by bunkers, is 200 yards away on a second peninsula. In between, there is no fairway, just a steep drop down cliffs to the waves. This is where I take a few minutes to puff on my double corona and admire the view of Mt. Makana, which starred as Bali Hai in the film South Pacific.
Your first round is going to take you a bit longer than the usual 18 holes. The only question is which will be your main delay—holes 5, 7 or 12, and maybe 14—of the newly reconfigured Makai golf course on Kauai’s north shore. This Robert Trent Jones, Jr. layout is sure to gain consideration as one of the 100 top courses in the world. The course is more challenging and now has more holes closer to the ocean. (The Prince, Makai’s sister course, already on that list, is closed until March for its makeover.)
You can wake up every morning to a similar view from your plush room at the renovated St. Regis resort. The hotel decor has become more Hawaiian. The lobby floors, for example, are made of coconut palm wood. The design retains some classic St. Regis touches, like the 4,200-piece Murano glass chandelier in the lobby, and the mural next to the bar, this one interpreting a scene in Hanalei Bay, yes, complete with a view of Mt. Makana. Location, location, location.
The hotel is situated on Hanalei Bay, which shelters one of Hawaii’s best coral reefs. Good snorkeling takes little more than going 20 yards into the water. Watch for extraordinarily colorful queen triggerfish and wrasses.
Later, you’ll be able to enjoy the sea’s bounty at the Kauai Grill, a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant, where the chef adapts recipes to feature local ingredients. Grilled black pepper octopus rests on a small hill of Maui sweet onions, the plate accented with a green tarragon sauce. The hapuupuu, or grouper, is slowly cooked and presented in a tomato lemon-grass broth with cilantro seasoning. The braised soy-glazed short ribs with rosemary crumbs and the crispy poached eggs are not to be missed.
Work dinner off the next day in the hotel’s world-class, 10,000-square-foot spa, with a small gym that is free to hotel guests.
Each day in Kauai began with a double espresso, the best I’ve had in any hotel in the United States. That, the impeccable service and the view of Mt. Makana made it easy to start planning the next visit. Bali Hai is calling.