Robert took to the water the way a boy growing up on Kaua’i inevitably takes to the water—he was led there. Days were spent on the beach, surrounded by aunties, uncles and cousins. Some were relatives, others were family in the way of Kaua’i—part of the tight-knit community, looking out for each other as if they were blood kin. Over time, they taught Robert everything he knows about the ocean.
“I’m not going to say I’m a natural surfer,” he says. “But experience teaches you a lot. You bump into the reef, get some scratches. When you get washed up, the people with experience will see that. See you with the scraped-up knee. The community, they’ll point it out to you. ‘Eh, boy. Wait for the sets,’ they’ll tell you whatever it is you need to know. Giving you pointers.”
Absorbing hundreds of those pointers, hundreds of lessons—both on the water and related to the land—Robert learned the lore and wisdom of Kaua’i. And when he came to Kukui’ula more than a dozen years ago, he helped create the Huaka’i Guides program. He based the outdoor adventure program loosely on his own experiences.
“We want people to enjoy Kaua’i the way we do,” he explains. “There’s a specific way things are done on Kaua’i that isn’t exactly like anywhere else.” Like how to paddle an outrigger canoe along the shoreline. Or how to use weather and water conditions to gauge which beach will be best for snorkeling or fishing at any given moment of any given day. Robert can teach those things.
But most of all, Robert helps guests learn to relax. “We can go to the beach, the first day, and dad is on his email,” he says. “By the end of the trip, he’s done with that. Being here, people realize that in their regular lives, it’s so fast paced, they miss being able to concentrate on their kids.”
So perhaps in the end, the best pointer Robert can give anyone—the lesson that contains the essence of Kaua’i—is how to be present, in the moment, and available. How to open up, unplug and embrace the experiences, memories and life Kaua’i is offering.
Forty years ago, a cruise ship from the mainland sailed into Honolulu Harbor at sunrise. On deck, Roger Peckenpaugh, now the Kukui’ula Landscape & Farm manager, got his first look at the Hawaiian Islands. He was fresh out of college. Had come for the surf. But watching the sunrise, Roger knew he wanted to make Hawaii his home.
“Why you come here and what appeals to you is difficult to explain,” Roger remembers. “But it’s kind of an all-encompassing emotion that overcomes you. And you just kind of go with it.”
With experience growing papayas on Oahu and a degree in tropical agriculture under his belt, he eventually made his way to Kaua’i, long known as the Garden Island for its rich soil, lush greenery and ideal growing conditions. “It was a unique location. I wanted to farm on this island,” Roger says.
Before helping to cultivate Kukui’ula and its farm and gardens, Roger spent 20 years in agriculture on Kaua’i. Ask him to name some of his favorite tropical plants and he can rattle off a long list of island species, both by their Latin and common names. It’s like speaking a second language, especially the florals. Roger was instrumental in establishing the flower industry on Kaua’i.
Now, he heads a team that’s responsible for Kukui’ula’s vast acreage, the centerpiece of which is The Farm, which connects Kukui’ula to its own agricultural heritage. When Kukui’ula was sugar plantation property, The Farm’s reservoir provided the land’s irrigation.
But Roger describes The Farm not just as a place for relaxation, recreation and picking up fresh fruits and veggies. He thinks of it as a kind of time capsule. “We never did any land grading up here,” he says. That’s why the area around The Farm retains its steep contours, rugged hillsides and winding waterways. It’s popular for fishing, boating, hiking, and mountain biking, or just lounging under the monkey pod tree. And if you’re open to it, you can also experience something deeper. Something ancient.
“The feeling you get here is the mana of the land,” says Roger. “The first thing I really noticed was how peaceful and friendly it is. There’s a benevolent harmony, especially on the west end of the property.”
“If you come here, you don’t just take,” he continues, talking now about the life and lifestyle of Kaua’i, which has nourished him body and soul for four decades.
“You find something you can do for the community or the island itself. In gratitude for the gift you’ve been given.”
Take a drive through Kukui’ula this summer and you’ll notice something – several recently completed custom homes, and many more under construction. In addition to more traditional homes reflecting the Plantation aesthetic, there are several homes incorporating a style that is being identified as tropical modern architecture. These new homes embody what the Wall Street Journal refers to in their recent feature of Tropical Modern architecture as, “laid-back, low-key luxury,” the timeless and functional design of these homes has, “taken on a much more glamorous and seductive high-end feel.”
The clean lines and subdued color palates of these Tropical Modern homes are given a sense of place with the addition of warm, traditionally Hawaiian touches such as hip roofs, wooden posts and lava rock accents. The Tropical Modern design incorporates an abundance of large windows and doors to allow the views of the ocean and garden to pour in, and to let the home breath with the flow of the trade winds coming off of the mountains.
Tropical Modern architecture has gained a following throughout the world. Yet, few people have the opportunity to enjoy one of these homes in the island setting that inspired their design like our Members do here at Kukui’ula. Lucky for you we have several new homes at Kukui’ula that embrace the Tropical Modern aesthetic – all of which are ready for you to call your own.
Frequent travelers will love the convenience and ease of ownership of our Kainani Villas. These beautiful new condominium units have expansive covered patios that enable the home to expand outward, yet can be lock and go when you are not in residence. Golf (and sunset) enthusiasts will enjoy gazing across the third and fourth fairways as the sip their afternoon cocktails on the lanai of their Kainani Hale. For those who want to wander down to the orchard to pick their morning papaya or summer mangoes, Kahalawai Custom Home 38 and Kahalawai Custom Home 40 are exactly where you need to be.
On Kaua’i, it is a sign of great respect to call someone a waterman, because it means much more than just being good, or even an expert, at activities like surfing or diving, fishing or paddling. To be a waterman (or a waterwoman) means to have knowledge and to understand the ways of the water—ways that are often passed down through ‘ohana.
In this sense of the word, the Huaka’i Guides of Kukui’ula are all true watermen. According to Robert Miguel, the head of the Huaka’i Outfitters program, that’s what makes the Guides so special. They understand Kaua’i. And they can all, “Connect guests to the island.”
“This isn’t San Diego or Maui,” Robert says. “Those places have their own ways. It’s different here. So we fold people into the culture of Kaua’i.”
“Like, in the course of going surfing,” Robert explains, “ there are all these other things that are part of the culture here. We’re definitely going to pick some mangoes. We’re going to get a bite to eat somewhere in town. And we’re going to meet up with friends and talk story in the water.”
By the same token, learn to throw net at Kukui’ula and you won’t just learn technique, you’ll learn history, lore and story. Like about oloana, the natural fiber that, like taro, is a revered plant on Kaua’i, once grown and harvested specifically for net making. Or about time-honored techniques fishermen practice to help ensure a good catch. Or the different types of fish you can catch along the shore, the rocks or the reef. Want to know how best to enjoy the flavors of each one? Ask your Guide.
And then take your catch to Chef Ben who’ll prepare it for you—just a nice little extra perk to help you savor Kaua’i.
Chef Ben Takahashi grew up on Oahu in a family of avid cooks, so it could be said that he was born to be a chef. In fact, he credits his grandparents for teaching him his first recipes. Every Sunday night, they hosted a family potluck dinner, and the flavors on the table hailed from the far-flung corners of the globe that originally came together on the Hawaiian sugar plantation.
“It could be kalbi one week,” Chef Ben remembers. “It could be pulehu chicken.” Kalbi? That’s Korean-style barbecued short ribs. Pulehu simply means ‘grilled,’ usually over charcoal, making the chicken dish similar to Japanese yakitori.
As Chef Ben learned around his grandparents’ table, family meals create bonds and deepen relationships. So at Kukui’ula, he continues to serve guests a family-style meal every Sunday night, with dishes that reflect all the different cultural influences on Kaua’i. You might find salmon lomi lomi, a dish with Western roots, introduced to the islands by 19th century sailors. Or a Chinese preparation of fresh opakapaka (locally caught by Chef Ben’s go-to fisherman, Abe) steamed with ginger, green onion and shitakes. And for dessert, malasadas; Portuguese doughnuts that Orly, the Kukui’ula pastry chef, stuffs with lilikoi curd.
The lilikoi, or passionfruit, grow up on The Farm, where Chef Ben often starts his day by grabbing fresh produce for the kitchen—and maybe a mango off the tree for breakfast. Under the broad canopy of The Farm’s monkey pod tree, he also likes to set up long tables for farm-to-table feasts. For these, according to Chef Ben, he’ll typically work with one or several different farmers from the area, spotlighting farm fare and local ingredients like North Shore goat cheese or Kaua’i-raised beef in contemporary dishes that allow him to demonstrate his finesse and technique—and the flavors of Kaua’i. In between courses, Chef Ben and his farming friends talk about the long history of agriculture on the island, and how eating local helps sustain Kauai’s relationship with the ‘āina.
“It’s called being a locavore, getting food from within a 100-mile radius,” Chef Ben explains. “It’s our philosophy.”
Early morning, when the air is still cool, is an ideal time for a run between Kukui’ula and Spouting Horn. The road winds past the golf course. Surfers line up for the break at PK’s. For the most part, it’s a flat run, good for speed work. But the view invites a slower pace. You’ll find runners of both persuasions. Among them, you may encounter Tiffany, who infuses her massage services at Hi’ilani Spa + Fitness with the same grace and athleticism that informs her stride as a runner.
Daily life on Kaua’i revolves around play, no matter how old you are. Hiking, surfing, trekking, swimming—they bring joy and balance. Growing up on Kaua’i, spending time in the mountains and ocean, Tiffany never decided to be an athlete. She just was one.
In the same way, massage was always a part of her life. “My Auntie used to massage us,” Tiffany remembers. It’s how she first encountered lomi lomi, the Hawaiian massage technique that grew out of traditional Polynesian healing practices. At Hi’ilani Spa, it’s her signature service. She offers two forms: traditional lomi lomi, characterized by long, flowing strokes; and lua lomi lomi. “It works a little bit deeper. It’s more of a warrior stance than a broad stroke,” Tiffany says, referencing how the lua style was associated with an ancient form of Hawaiian martial arts, intended to bring a warrior’s energies into balance. Equally relaxing for the recipient, both forms are intensely physical for the practitioner, involving breath work and elements of hula.
That connection to dance is evident when Tiffany bounds toward Spouting Horn Park. Her gait is rhythmic and efficient. This September, she’ll complete her 9thKaua’i Half Marathon, which begins in Poipu and passes Kukui’ula on the last mile before the finish line.
“Being an athlete and a runner gives me a better understanding, especially when people are injured,” she says. “It makes it easier for me to help them because I’m so aware of the body.” Every massage session begins with a few questions: Do you have pain? How physically active are you? How is your body moving?
“Being active makes me a little more aware, and it also helps me know what I can do—and what I can’t do. Because everybody’s body is different.”
The tranquil, quiet atmosphere of the spa brings balance to Tiffany’s active lifestyle, something she cherishes. “Living in balance is important anywhere,” she says. “It’s just easier to find balance living on Kaua’i.”
When 11-year old twins Lauren and Will Baxter get to Kukui‘ula, the first thing they do is go hunting for staff member Willie.
Well, for Willie—and for Willie’s famous cookies.
“They’re, like, double, double chocolate chip,” Lauren explains, but the words are barely out of her mouth before Will chimes in. “They’re like those chocolate lava cakes… gooey… but a cookie!” The memory makes Lauren close her eyes in ecstasy. “Sometimes Willie makes them fresh,” she murmurs. “They’re warm and they’re like… Oh, my gosh.”
Lauren and Will can’t recall a time when Kukui‘ula—and the cookies, and Willie (officially a part of the Hi‘ilani Spa + Fitness team; unofficially, a provider of hugs, warm cookies and even warmer greetings)—wasn’t a part of their lives. Their parents, Jinee Tao and Charlie Baxter, are founding members of The Club at Kukui‘ula who bought property in 2005, when the vision for the community was just a collage of images hinting at the sense of the place.
Growing up, Charlie’s family vacationed all over the Hawaiian islands—at first on the Big Island, then on Maui before buying a home on Oahu. So his love for the Hawaiian lifestyle runs deep. But it wasn’t until Charlie and Jinee started to look for an island-wedding destination that they both fell under the spell of Kaua‘i. The two were married almost 20 years ago at the Waimea Plantation Cottages not far from Kukui‘ula. And after that, they kept returning.
“Kaua‘i draws you in,” Charlie says. “It’s an outdoor adventurer’s dream, of course. But I feel more relaxed and in touch with nature here than anywhere else. Kaua‘i seems to emanate a centripetal force, quiet and persistent.”
Hooked, Jinee and Charlie purchased a second home on the South Shore almost fifteen years ago, and that eventually led them to Kukui‘ula. Enchanted with its open fields, ocean-view pools and sense of freedom, they knew Kukui’ula was the kind of place where their kids could have the sort of free-range childhood experiences Charlie and Jinee fondly remembered—something hard to do in the hills of Northern California, where the family resides.
They were right.
“When we’re at home, we never get to do this,” Will laughs, talking about roaming around Kukui‘ula with his sister. “We never get to just wander off without our parents knowing where we are.” He and Lauren have the run of the place. They tool around the 1,000-acre property on their bikes, head off on adventures led by the Huaka’i Guides, play golf or take on other kids they meet at The Club in games of pool or shuffleboard. They take surf lessons and have totally fallen in love with the sport. “In California, where we are, it’s really cold and there’s a lot of sharks,” says Will. “So we surf almost everyday when we come here.”
“Here, we have a chance to be as active or as relaxed as we each want, everyday,” says Jinee. “It’s so easy to put together memorable group adventures, especially with the Guides from The Club. But we can also just do our own thing, and come back together to share a meal or relax. I like that—the independence, the flexibility and the balance.”
Waving to friends as you pass on the highway or talking story when you see your neighbor in the grocery store are parts of the charming everyday life on Kaua‘i, long since forgotten in busy cities. Potluck dinners at the beach to watch sunset aren’t only for special occasions; gatherings with relatives and coworkers occur simply to enjoy the beauty of the island. Keiki run and play under the watchful eyes of many parents as each child is treated as their own. Kaua‘i maintains the laid back qualities of old Hawaii where family and friendship are the most important parts of life.
Kaua‘i’s one-lane highway is a country road compared to most cities, and provides a scenic tour of the island – winding through towns with stunning mountain views or just feet away from the Pacific Ocean. With the majority of the population living along the outside edge of the island, the proximity of the highway ensures that no one is more than a short drive to one of Kaua‘i’s many pristine beaches.
There is no shortage of things to do on Kaua‘i. With little development of the interior land, this island is a favorite for avid hikers, and trails can be found for any skill level. Uncrowded beaches give sunbathers and whale watchers plenty of space, and seasonal swells allow surfers a wide variety of waves to ride. With an average winter temperature of 72 degrees, paddling and swimming are year-round activities.
Amazing scenery and an Aloha Spirit can be found on all of Hawaii’s islands, but Kaua‘i truly has a rhythm of its own. It transports you to a quiet and peaceful existence filled with wonder for the beauty of nature, and gratitude for the diverse people with whom you share it.
Kukui’ula is excited to welcome James Beard nominated chef, Marco Canora from New York City’s beloved restaurant, Hearth. For two exclusive Kukui’ula events, Canora will share his culinary talents with our community. The options are limitless for this farm to fork experience. Spend your late morning and afternoon on July 28th in an exclusive farm luncheon and cooking demonstration hosted by Chef Marco and learn his approach to fresh, healthy cooking. Then on the night of July 30th experience Chef Marco Canora’s menu featuring Kukui’ula’s farm fresh produce and Kauai’s savory seafood.
As a chef, restaurateur and cookbook author, Marco Canora has earned critical acclaim for his Italian-inflected cooking. In the more than a decade since Marco opened Hearth, the restaurant has become an enduring presence in the New York City dining scene. In January 2016, Marco reinvented the 12-year-old restaurant with a fresh new look and sharpened commitment to transparency and simple, clean food. The menu focuses on real food and nutrient density, offering quality fats, freshly milled grains, grass-fed butter and sustainable, local fish, all influenced by Marco’s Italian heritage.
With a newfound commitment to mindful, nutritious eating, Marco opened his takeout window, Brodo, in November 2014. Adjacent to Hearth in the East Village, Brodo serves nourishing, sip-able bone broths out of coffee cups with customizable add-ins such as ginger juice, freshly grated turmeric and shiitake mushroom tea. Marco has been recognized by many as a pioneer of the bone-broth trend that continues to spread across the nation.
Marco’s first cookbook, Salt to Taste, was a major success and nominated for a James Beard award in 2010. Clarkson Potter published his second, A Good Food Day, a testament to fresh, healthy cooking, in December 2014, followed by Brodo: a bone broth cookbook in December 2015. Marco has been profiled in The New York Times, Serious Eats, and The Huffington Post. He was a finalist on The Next Iron Chef and a judge on Chopped and Top Chef as well as made numerous appearances on Today, The Chew, Good Morning America, Martha Stewart and Nightline.
In Hawai‘i, the most popular nonverbal gesture is the “Shaka”, which involves making a fist, extending your thumb and pinky finger and waving your hand from side to side. Often identified with early surf culture, the shaka symbol’s popularity grew in the late 1960s and became as iconic to Hawai‘i as surfing in Waikiki, Duke Kahanamoku, and hula dancers in grass skirts. The shaka is sometimes referred to as a way to symbol to others to hang loose or relax.
However, the shaka symbol is much more meaningful than just a wave of hello and goodbye. The shaka is a symbol of the Aloha Spirit, which is known as the widespread friendly attitude of friendship, understanding, compassion and solidarity of Hawaiian people and Kama‘āina (locals). To show the shaka symbol to someone, you are expressing gratitude, saying thank you, or even saying “howzit” (hello).
The origin of the shaka is one that has long been debated. The most credible story is of a local Hawaiian hero named Hamana Kalili from La‘ie, Oahu, who lost three fingers on his right hand in a sugar mill accident at the old Kahuku Sugar Mill. After Kalili lost his fingers, he no longer could work in the sugar mill and became a security guard on the train that traveled between Sunset Beach and Kaaawa. One of Kalili’s jobs was to keep children from jumping on the train and riding from town to town. To get around Kalili, the children began signaling each other that the coast was clear, by waving their hands in the same two finger out gesture that Kalili would wave.
Kalili’s wave became well known through his community involvement for the Mormon Church in Lā‘ie. He was the “moi (king) of the festivities” at an annual hukilau, a large community event that involved the gathering of fish, a luau, and hula show. His signature shaka was photographed in all the historic photos of this grand event.
The term “shaka” however, was not coined until the 1960s, when local TV and movie host Lippy Espinda signed off at the end of a used car advertisement by flashing the hand gesture and said “shaka braddah.”
Since then, the shaka has since become a symbol of greeting, to show aloha, to say thank you, or to express that something is alright. It’s a reminder of the easygoing, relaxed lifestyle in Hawai‘i and the welcoming attitudes of the local people so don’t be afraid to throw a shaka or two while out in the community