Kauai Magic

Extraordinary Golf and Wellness Merge at PRINCEVILLE MAKAI GOLF CLUB AND 1 HOTEL HANALEI BAY

By George Fuller and Marcie Carroll

The North Shore of the Hawaiian island of Kauai is famous for its unforgettable scenery. Towering green mountains and plunging waterfalls lead down to white sand beaches and the warm blue Pacific Ocean, where palm trees sway in the prevailing breezes and colorful flowers abound. This ideal mix of tropical scenery has served as the backdrop for dozens of films over the years, including “Jurassic Park,” “King Kong,” “South Pacific” and many others. This splendid panorama also serves as the setting for the Princeville Makai Golf Club, as well as the groundbreaking 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay, with its focus on wellness, healing, and tropical splendor. If you’re looking for that “best new” Hawaiian destination retreat in 2024, head to Princeville.


Makai means “toward the ocean” in the Hawaiian language and true to its name, a wide expanse of the Pacific is enjoyed from nearly every hole. 

If Cypress Point is golf’s Sistine Chapel, the Makai course is its Garden of Eden. The fairways are lush green meadows lined by mature eucalyptus and pine trees, bright red and yellow flowers dot the landscape, and the view plane stretches for miles in every direction.

The course is a joy to play. Traversing rolling green landscape on a plateau above the Pacific, scenic hole after scenic hole presents itself, with six oceanfront holes — three on the front, three on the back.

The most spectacular stretch on the front nine includes Nos. 6 – 8, all of which play along oceanfront cliffs. After your drive on No. 6, you play “makai” on your second shot to an infinite green that appears to drop off into the Pacific. Don’t be distracted as soaring albatross showcasing their seven-foot wingspan gracefully glide to their nearby nesting area.  

From the green of No. 6 and tee box of No. 7, players gaze from a 300-foot-high vantage point down to the waves washing into shoreline coves, migrating humpback whales during winter months, and the famed Mt. Makana (also called Bali Hai after its starring role in the 1958 film, “South Pacific”) across Hanalei Bay. Par or other, this hole is an Instagram moment. Not only is this location spectacular for golf, but it’s a magnificent and popular backdrop for weddings and special events.

On the back nine, your oceanfront experience continues on holes 13 through 15, with Anini Reef and its shallow waters and deep turquoise pools reflecting the sun’s rays, and Kilauea Lighthouse standing out in the background.

“The course is certainly magnificent,” said PGA General Manager Michael Neider. “It can give better players a run for their money. But we need to have a broader vision these days to make golf more accessible to everyone, families included.” 

To that end, Princeville Makai offers six different sets of tees that can be stretched to more than 7,200 yards from the back, but also includes a set of Koa tees that combine the best scenic views from the various tee boxes. 

A 1971 design by architect Robert Trent Jones Jr., the course remains one of his finest efforts, bolstered by immaculate playing surfaces that earn Makai regular “best of” accolades and awards from national and international media. 

The dreamy scenery is not only enjoyed by golfers, but resort guests can opt for a sunrise yoga class on the golf course, or a sunset tour by golf cart.


1 Hotel Hanalei Bay — formerly the St. Regis Princeville — is a nowadays a world-class wellness retreat. The awesomely spectacular Kauai setting — spilling down a seacliff with Hanalei Bay spread out below, framed by Makana point on one side and open to the full Pacific — is a fitting start to a recharge, as vacation respites should be.

The resort makes a break with its “elegant” past, with a reassuring effort to achieve a soothing tropical sense of place. Gone are the imported marble, crystal chandeliers, elaborate meeting rooms, and liveried attendants — replaced with tropical natural wood finishes and fiber arts, neutral colors that complement Hanalei’s spectacular nature, a rooftop food garden, a lobby with a stream running through it, fans where AC used to prevail and a Hawaiian cultural presence. 

That’s not to say the natural approach isn’t every bit as expensive as the former opulence — just much more appropriate. And not just on the inside. The stark white hotel exterior has been painted green to hide within living vines and other greenery.

“Wellness” is taken seriously here. Your choices go way beyond the traditional spa at the resort’s multi-level wellness layout, known as Bamford Spa. Sample a variety of icy or heated treatments, or maybe a warm honey wrap (The “Bee team” paints you with honey and leads you to the steam room). 

Go very hands-on in your treatments — Bamford magic or Hawaiian traditional lomilomi massage — or just go straight for the no-touch, high-tech-holistic effects that are possible these days to heal your woes and prompt your very best.

For instance, don’t miss the Somadome Meditation Pod, a great way to let the world slide away. Don the headphones, pull down the brightly lit dome lid horizon to your comfort point. Sink into the luminous blue. Listen: you can hear your own heartbeat, a constant through all that follows. Cool, vaguely other-worldly sounds swirl, then give way to a gradual crescendo of birds, then a trickle, then a river of rushing water. This 20-minute meditation-booster promises to aid physical wellness, mental performance, inner balance. Motivation, openness. Peace. Whatever. P.S. … you’ll want to take this one home.

For a companionable experience, follow attendant Lauren to the four-seat, Amazon Prime- and Alexa-enabled Hyperbaric Chamber.

No longer just a lifesaver for divers, this marvel of oxygenation is the real deal with protective rules — no external metal jewelry (Pacemakers are okay); no pregnant clients (moms-to-be have other specially designed wellness options); no recent Botox (wait at least two weeks); no recent ear troubles. Consult your physician if you have any questions about your health conditions and timing.

Then enter, get comfortable as they lock the seal, secure your oxygen nosepiece; you’ll be plunging the equivalent of 33 feet under the sea. Click your ears, pinch your nose, take a deep breath … and feel your head clear. Potential benefits are said to include relief for sore muscles, healing wounds and skin problems, not to mention the infamous divers’ nitrogen-bubble “bends” it was created to ease.

There’s much more at the 1’s wellness spa — creative therapies based on colors, crystals, other stones, vibrations, not to mention Hawaiian plant medicinal rituals for couples. But if what you want is transformational wellness, head Within.

The “Within Wellness” program is now available for an elite clientele. Six suites and 17 specially equipped rooms accessed by separate entry, form a more private haven for guests who want four- to seven-day programs, and or à la carte choices. 

Here the high-tech holistic therapies ramp up inside a controlled environment that begins at the curb. Infusions and other special treatments, amenities including infra-red massage mats, a variety of crystals, SmartGoggles to help with sight for sore eyes, specialized nutrition, and hot or cold therapies promise transformative retreats. Medically trained personnel will be on hand as well in the Vitahealth Medical spa.

With all these choices to improve your inner self and your outlook, the most wondrous is right outside your window — the mesmerizing beauty of North Shore Kauai.


Princeville Makai Golf Club
(808) 826-1912

1 Hotel Hanalei Bay
(808) 826-9644