A glorious stretch of sand awaits at Polihale State Park in Kauai. (Dennis Flaherty / Getty…)
Beautiful Kauai can get crowded. Here are 10 ways to ditch the crowds (and save some money).
Get your gear on: As you leave Lihue Airport, stop at Kalapaki Beach at Kama'Aina Surf & Sport, owned by Miguel (Migz) Graham, a former pro surfer, Kauai born and bred. Rent a cooler (yes, you will need one), a surfboard, Boogie boards, snorkeling gear, stand-up boards and dive gear at prices that probably will be less than that at the hotels and shops near the tourist areas. The über-friendly staff also will give you or your kids private surf or stand-up board lessons, and if you are an expert surfer, Graham will take you to Kauai's best breaks. The shop also runs private guided adventures all over the island and avoids crowds. 3486 Rice St., Lihue; (808) 241-5229, http://www.ksshawaii.com
Find the sun: If sunshine is part of your Hawaiian dream, consider staying at Poipu Beach. It's not exactly remote, but it is on the sunniest side of this often- wet island. To escape the crowds at the densely packed hotels, consider the villas at Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu Beach/Wyndham Grand Resort. With more privacy than at other resorts, this large property has one- to four-bedroom tastefully furnished villas with full gourmet kitchens, washer-dryers and two giant pools. Because it's new, the resort is offering deals for 2012. Some packages come with a free rental car. Accommodations start at $299 a night. 2641 Poipu Road, Koloa; (888) 317-0205, http://www.koloalandingresort.com.
Quiet beach: Not far from the Kilauea Lighthouse, where throngs of tourists end up, is a long stretch of white sand called Hideaways that most visitors don't know how to reach. Getting there requires a short, steep hike, but it's worth it. Ask a local about currents before you get in the water. http://www.lat.ms/R7uv1O
Shop that speaks volumes: The Talk Story Bookstore is in a historic 1930s clapboard store in the historic town of Hanapepe. The secondhand bookstore has 70,000 titles to impress the discerning reader. And the best part, every book is half off the cover price; if you buy five, you get one free. On Fridays the store stays open late while the town hosts a lively street fair from 6-9 p.m. with bands, food trucks and street stalls. 3785 Hanapepe Road, Hanapepe; (808) 335-6469, http://www.talkstorybookstore.com.
Be a swamp thing: Try the Alakai Swamp Hike in Kokee State Park, a rugged 31/2 miles one way, so it is for the fit and sure-footed. (Get a map at the Kokee museum.) Drive to the end of the road up the mountainside park and hike to the lookout. Keep going until you reach the Swamp Trail signs. Gorgeous foliage, and the farther you go, the fewer people on the trail. The views are the best on the island. http://www.lat.ms/TUYNZM.
Most important meals of the day: Kalaheo Café & Coffee Co. is next to Highway 50 west of Poipu. The place hops from dawn to dusk. Outstanding pastries and French toast; all ingredients are sourced locally and are organic. Also open for dinner and lunch. Try the ahi fish tacos if you head there for dinner. 2-2560 Kaumualii Highway, Kalaheo; (800) 255-0137, http://www.kalaheo.com.
When day is done: I think the best sunset is at Polihale Beach (or Barking Sands Beach). At the end of the road on the western side of the island is this glorious long stretch of beach at Polihale State Park. If you have a four-wheel-drive you can speed along the sand in time to catch the picture-perfect sunset. Info: http://www.lat.ms/TV1rP9
Deep down relaxation: With a team of masseurs that will come to your hotel, house, condo or apartment, Kauai Massage charges $85 an hour, a bargain compared with what most hotels and day spas charge. (808) 651-2572, http://www.kauaimassage.net
Heavenly hike: Right behind the golf course next to the Hyatt in Poipu, find the unmarked dirt road above Shipwreck Beach. It leads east along some of Kauai's most dramatic lava rock ocean cliffs. Two miles in you are rewarded by the lovely and welcome sight of Mahaulepu Beach, a long stretch of virgin white sand. Wear your bathing suit, walk to the end of the beach and float in the water. Heaven.
Light bites: Josselin's Tapas Bar & Grill is at the Koloa end of Poipu. There's a chichi shopping center with several great restaurants, but Josselin's is my favorite. The word tapas does not mean Spanish-style food, merely small plates with an Asian-fusion bent. Wherever you are staying on the island, it's worth the trek to eat the heart-stoppingly delicious scallop pillows in coconut broth, beet slice "ravioli" with pumpkin seed pesto, 36-hour braised pork belly or roasted feta cheese. Kukui'ula Village Shopping Center, 2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka St., Poipu; (808) 742-7117, http://www.josselins.com.