Paradise found

LIHUE — Kauai, take a bow.

The Garden Isle recently earned a No. 2 ranking on TripAdvisor’s list of the 10 best islands in the United States, according to the website’s 2013 Travelers’ Choice awards.

Kauai was bested only by San Juan Island, Wash., but placed ahead of Maui, 5, and Hawaii Island, 8, as the top Hawaiian island to crack the list.

Good news, those around Kauai said.

“It keeps us front of mind for travelers who are going to book vacations,” said Diann Hartman, spokeswoman for Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa in Poipu. “I think that kind of thing is always good for business.”

TripAdvisor is a travel website that offers users directory information and reviews on travel destinations. The site’s award doesn’t come with a trophy or medal, but the reward is worldwide exposure.

It listed the Na Pali Coast, Waimea Canyon and Kalalau Trail as the island’s top three attractions, but also 421 other things to do, including golf courses and slack key concerts.

It also ranked best beaches, hotels and other destinations separately and Poipu Beach Park ranked 13 on the top-25 beach list and Hanalei Beach earned 21.

A nice nod of recognition, said Randy Francisco, Kauai Chamber of Commerce director.

But as far as top rankings for destinations, Kauai is recognized routinely. In July, Travel and Leisure magazine naming Maui and Kauai among the world’s best islands in its 2013 World’s Best Awards.

It “reminds all of us about how fortunate we are to be on an island that, while it is the oldest of the Hawaiian islands, provides everyone great experiences to enjoy, from having family picnics and ocean sports recreation to hiking and discovering the natural history of our unique isolation,” Francisco wrote in an email.

With all the accolades, the cat may be out of the bag as far as Kauai being a secret paradise.

“It surprises us because it’s supposed to be a secret island,” said Paul Nelson, who has been visiting the island from Washington state with his wife, Rita for 20 years.

But the high ranking makes sense, the couple said, based on sheer beauty and outdoor opportunities. Plus, more flights fly directly to Lihue.

Sue, visiting from San Francisco who didn’t want to giver her last name, said she was impressed so far on her inaugural trip to Poipu.

 “People told us to make sure we have a full agenda each day,” she said.  

“There’s a huge variety of things to do here.”

But other locals, including one 51-year-old woman who didn’t want her name printed, said they have mixed emotions when their home makes such lists.

It’s a fine line between being proud of their home versus recruiting more people here, which makes sustainability, culture and prices more difficult to maintain.

“It’s bittersweet,” the 51-year-old said.

But so long as people are traveling, people will keep finding Kauai, especially since its beauty is hard to hide, others said. And tourism is a major economic engine for the area.

“Anytime Kauai gets recognition from Reader’s Choice type awards, it reminds us we are connecting with our visitors and are being appreciated for what we offer as a destination,” Sue Kanoho, Kauai Visitors Bureau director, wrote in a statement.

Kim Pit, of Haena, agreed.

“Great,” she said of the ranking. “It’s what we need to get more people here.”

Nathan Decker, sales and marketing director of The St. Regis Princeville, also agreed the news was good.

 “It’s a testament to the island’s natural beauty and gracious aloha spirit,” he said in a statement. “This recognition should motivate more people to come and visit.”

On the island list, Marco, Fla., Anna Maria, Fla., Maui, Sanibel, Fla., Chincoteague, Va., Hawaii, Amelia, Fla., and Key West finished 3-10, respectively.


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