03 Jan Room With a (Botanical) View: Explore the Kauai Resort That’s Also a Plant Lover’s Paradise
“This place is classic Hawaii,” the guy tells us from across the pool table at Stevenson’s Library at the Grand Hyatt Kauai. He’s a local and has been coming here for years. For Ryan and me, this is only our second trip to the hotel bar — where pineapples are carved into the wood paneling, where the motif is one part adventurist, one part literary — but we’d already gotten in a session on the dancefloor with the Greenstone Project, a band (also local) that knows how to a get a laidback crowd on its feet. (Their cover of “Blurred Lines” has the power to move mountains.)
The Grand Hyatt was also where we, days before, got schooled on the horticulture of Hawaii.
Our exploration of tropical plants started in the lobby, where “warm aloha” takes the form of colorful orchids, bromeliads, palms, banana trees and even parrots that thrive right here in the middle of the atrium.
For our first vacation on the “Garden Isle” of Kauai, we wanted to stay somewhere that was “green” in the sense that it was both eco-friendly and packed with vegetation. Enter the Grand Hyatt Resort and Spa — where, in accordance with local code, no building is taller than the largest coconut tree. Here, the heat from the AC system is used to warm the pools, there’s a dedicated “green team,” and solar panels are installed above the employee parking lot.
Plus, the property is a rambling love letter to plants.
Guests receive leis upon arrival: kukui nuts for the men, and strands of dendrobium (in a shade similar to Pantone’s Color of 2014) for the women. At the front of the property, there are mobs of laua’e ferns, hala trees, glossy ti plants, pink penta flowers and split-leaf philodendrons, their trademark Swiss cheese holes punched in by the sun. Past the lobby and outside, winding down to the ocean, there are jewel-toned gingers and yellow hau flowers that bloom for just a day before they turn orange then red and then drop to the ground. The fragrance of plumeria rides the breeze. Croton hedges come in every shade and combination of green, red and yellow. An amazingly architectural traveller’s palm towers over the pool area, and you can high-five a bird of paradise on your way down the addictive waterslide.
The resort was also kind enough to put us up for a night. On a morning in late November, director of public relations Diann Hartman gave us a tour of the 52-acre, hand-watered property, while busting wide open our preconceptions about Hawaiian plants. For starters, many of Hawaii’s iconic plants — like plumeria, hibiscus, kukui nut trees and taro — aren’t native to the islands; taro, ti and kukui, for example, were brought over in canoes by Polynesian settlers between 300 and 800 CE. And then there are the introduced species that are diabolically invasive and destabilize the native populations, like the African tulip.
“Most things that are native are a little more compact and not as ostentatious as, say, this hibiscus,” Diann says, pointing to a standout bloom.
Below, take a stroll through these magical grounds, where plants — natives and non — live together in hotel harmony. —TH