Travel tips for your Kauai golf vacation

By Brandon Tucker, Managing Editor

LIHUE, Hawaii -- Hawaiians are the most isolated people on Earth. So traveling to their string of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is going to have its own little nuances you won't find back home.

Prince golf course at Princeville
You'll encounter some of the best courses in Hawaii on Kauai such as the Prince Course.
Prince golf course at PrincevillePuakea Golf Club - hole 17Poipu Bay Golf Course - No. 16Kauai Lagoons Golf Club - No. 5
If you go

The "Garden island" of Kauai is especially unique. Of the four most populated islands of Hawaii, it's the least populated, and it's also the oldest ecologically. "Development" can be a dirty word to some, so it's done its best to curb growth compared to Maui and Oahu.

Here are a few things you should know about Kauai while planning your golf vacation:

Kauai's golf and resorts keep getting better

Kauai is an island that likes to keep things very slow paced. That's a big reason why people love it so much.

But in recent years, existing resorts and golf courses have been ambitious. Formerly 36 holes, Jack Nicklaus-designed Kauai Lagoons Golf Club is finalizing its transition to a 27-hole property this year and is open for play. Poipu Bay Golf Course just reopened after closing for most of 2010. The Prince Course at Princeville at Hanalei is currently closed to finish up renovations and will reopen in October of 2011.

Kauai doesn't have many courses, but what they have tends to climb to the top of Hawaii golf course rankings, and it appears they plan on keeping it that way.

Each side of the island is a little different

Kauai is the oldest of the chain of Hawaiian islands, and it's an ecological wonder. But each part of the island has evolved over time given its location. Waimea Canyon dominates the western side, and there aren't many residents here either, mostly steep mountains, state parks and wilderness.

The south shore, home to Poipu Bay, is drier and can be pretty windy at certain times of year. The north shore, where Princeville is located is more lush and green.

Because of such drastic shifts in environment, each golf course tends to look a lot different than the next. There are no two similar plays on Kauai.

The golf courses will reward you if you come back

Kauai is small enough that it's easy to play all the golf courses on the island on one trip. That's convenient for you but competitive for the courses, so they'll do what they can to keep you at their club.

A popular trend in Hawaii is for courses to offer a discounted rate if you come play the course several times during your vacation. Kauai Lagoons Golf Club, for instance, offers a "member for the week" special that comes with unlimited golf and other goodies for $495. Or take advantage of their "Hana Hou" rate of $95, good for a week after playing your first round at regular price there.

One top course that never charges over $99 is Puakea Golf Course near Kauai Lagoons. A step above the municipal Wailua Golf Course and a shade below the resorts, this course offers local-type rates but destination-worthy shot values and views.

It's "aloha rules" on the road

The only way you wouldn't rent a car during your vacation is if you choose to stay at a property in Lihue, the largest town on the island and within easy drive to the airport. Otherwise, it makes more sense to rent a car to get around the island.

If you're a little more adventurous and packed light, you could also consider a moped as your method of island transportation.

As for getting around the island, don't expect any four-lane highways here, it's "aloha" driving rules: yield to others and share the one-lane bridges. If you're planning to drive from Lihue to Princeville, you could run into some traffic, so plan accordingly.

You can't drive entirely around the island's perimeter, either. The mountainous northwest, entirely state parks and preserves, is too rugged to get through.

It's easy to get to Kauai

Kauai's Lihue Airport is mostly open air and pretty low key with just a few gates. But the runway is big enough to receive planes from the mainland. So don't think you have to connect through Oahu or Maui to get to Kauai. Presently, San Francisco, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Seattle service Kauai direct from the U.S. mainland.

If those hubs don't work, frequent connections from Honolulu take just 25 minutes in the air.

Brandon TuckerBrandon Tucker, Managing Editor

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.

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