Savor the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa at Poipu

It’s a quick half-hour flight from Oahu to Kauai, where a weekend getaway is like therapy for the soul. With its slow-paced lifestyle and residents’ friendly, laid-back attitude, it provides a perfect contrast to the hustle and bustle of everyday life on Oahu.

After landing at Lihue Airport, my husband, Bryan, and I hopped into our rental car and headed south, about a 30-minute ride, to the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa at Poipu. Greeted with lei upon arrival, we checked in to the hotel and were guided to our ocean-view room, one of 602 guest rooms as well as two Presidential, nine Deluxe and 26 Ocean Suites. Once settled in, we decided to take a stroll through the amazingly beautiful grounds – it truly is a “Garden Isle” resort with 50 oceanfront acres of gorgeous, perfectly landscaped gardens and water treatments everywhere your eyes rest. There’s something for everyone here – recreational facilities include a 500-yard white sand beach, expansive saltwater swimming lagoons right on the edge of the ocean, a freshwater swimming area featuring a “quiet” pool, a meandering river pool and an “action” pool with waterfalls, a 150-foot water slide, water volleyball, Jacuzzis and an area for children. For serious swimmers, there’s a 25-foot lap pool at the Anara Spa. The resort offers three day-tennis courts complete with a pro shop and tennis professional, and the 210-acre links-style Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed Poipu Bay Resort Golf Course surrounds the hotel property bordering the ocean and includes a 21,000-square-foot clubhouse with a pro shop, locker room facilities, club storage and restaurant, lounge and snack bar.

Dining options abound with seven restaurants and cafes and six cocktail lounges from which to choose, including AAA Hawaii Four Diamond award-winner for 2009, Dondero’s restaurant.

Charmed by the ambience at Tidepools, a thatched-roof, open-air eatery surrounded by koi ponds with a backdrop of waterfalls where fresh Island fish and “Contemporary Regional Hawaiian Cuisine” are highlighted (and expertly prepared by chef Kenneth Lum), we made dinner reservations and settled in the restaurant’s Hawaii surfer-themed lounge for cocktails. The service is impeccable here and we wanted for nothing. Although busy, nothing seemed rushed; nothing was neglected. From our table we gazed out at the colorful koi swimming around, a charming as well as relaxing way to dine. We began our meal with Sugar Cane Shrimp Cocktail with pickled cucumbers and a pineapple-mango cocktail sauce that enhanced the delicate flavor of the large, very fresh-tasting prawns. Choosing an entree was a bit difficult. The specials – described in detail by our magnanimous server – all sounded delightful, and Bryan was seduced by the fresh grouper, lightly crusted with coconut, topped with crab and served atop a pool of lime-chili sauce. Trying to decide, my eyes kept returning to the Pan-roasted Opah topped with blue crab meat and lobster and finished with a Hawaiian vanilla hollandaise. The slight sweetness of the vanilla in the sauce made the opah sing, and my wine choice, a light, dry ’04 Wolfberger Pinot Blanc from Alsace, brought it all together like a symphony in my mouth. I later learned that it is one of Tidepools’ most popular entrees ever (just thinking about it makes me want to jump on a plane bound for Kauai).

After a comfortable night’s rest we were ready to greet another day. Enjoying a light breakfast in the lobby’s casual Seaview Terrace, complete with an espresso bar, we took a dip, then relaxed by the saltwater pool just a stone’s throw from beautiful Keoneloa Bay – a lovely place reminiscent of a tropical lagoon with a sandy beach surrounded by swaying palms and lava rocks, with comfortable beach chairs and hammocks strung between the palms and a beach bar and cocktail service at your fingertips. While walking along the white sand beach we chanced upon a lone monk seal languishing in the sand, protected in a roped-off area and oblivious to the human activity around him.

Later on we headed to Stevenson’s Library, named for author Robert Louis Stevenson – no, not to read, but for sushi. It’s a unique library/ jazz club/sushi bar with game tables and an atmosphere reminiscent of a Victorian gentleman’s club with its dark woods and upholstered sofas. Single-malt Scotches are a specialty here.

Ready for a little pampering, the next day I met up with Bryan at Anara Spa, where he already was taking advantage of its 900-square-foot state-of-the art fitness center, which is open 24-7 and offers yoga, fitness and wellness classes, personal trainers, whirlpools, Jacuzzis, 12-head Swiss showers, a 25-yard, three-lane lap pool and more.

The largest spa on Kauai and the second-largest in the state of Hawaii, Anara was chosen recently by more than 4,000 readers of Conde Nast Traveler as offering the best treatments in North America and the Caribbean out of a field of more than 1,000 resort spas they visited in the past three years. The spa underwent a multimillion-dollar expansion and renovation last year, adding five open-air hales (thatched roof bungalows), each with its own lava rock shower and mist grotto.

The 46,200-square-foot open-air spa’s luxurious, tropical ambiance fits perfectly with the Garden Island’s natural beauty and draws on the healing powers of nature, offering 70 specialty treatments. Body treatments include the deliciously titled coco mango rain massage, wild ginger sports relief, pineapple papaya hydration and Hawaiian herb aromatherapy. Facials, nails, hair and makeup – all the pampering you could desire is available here.

We were there for the Lokahi Couples Massage ($165 per person, 50 minutes)

Lokahi, which in Hawaiian means unity, harmony, balance, is the theme here, and the spa embraces the three elements of traditional Hawaiian healing: la’au, the Hawaiian tradition of herbal medicine; lomi, the massage of Hawaiian ancestry; and the spiritual practice of ho’oponopono.

There are eight indoor/outdoor treatment rooms, four massage hale (huts), two couples’ massage hale, three indoor/outdoor facial rooms, three herbal wrap rooms, three loofah rooms, two botanical baths and a Vichy hydrotherapy treatment room.

Changing to a comfortable robe and slippers, I relaxed in the spacious locker room facilities, complete with a Turkish steam room, a Finnish sauna, hot tub and lava rock showers. Cool lemon water and iced tea are available throughout the area, where tropical plants and orchids enhance the beauty of the space.

An attendant directs me to the waiting area, an open-air, thatched-roof space in a garden setting with comfortable, cushioned lounge chairs, where I met my husband and our two massage therapists, who led us to our garden hale for a side-by-side, head-to-toe personal massage intended to result in “deep relaxation and a profound sense of harmony.”

Our massage was professional, soothing and everything it promised to be – as was our whole weekend getaway experience on the gorgeous Garden Island of Kauai.