Kauai: The ultimate Hawaiian experience delivers a perfect break from winter

Deathcare professionals love to travel...and it's my job, in this monthly FuneralWire feature, to help you get the most out of your next destination, especially when it's also the venue for an important industry conference.

For example, if you're looking for sun, fun, relaxation and 20 CEUs worth of solid educational opportunities, head to Kauai for The Foresight Companies' Hawaii Winter Seminar, Jan. 28 – Feb. 2, 2007. Go to www.f4sight.com for more details. This five-day event delivers great content on everything from cremation profitability and business ethics to strategies for avoiding litigation and dealing with personnel challenges. But more than that, it's a chance to explore Kauai, widely considered the most beautiful of Hawaii's eight main islands.

Kauai is known as the "Garden Isle" and it offers a bounty of lush rain forests, beautiful beaches, breathtaking waterfalls, awe-inspiring sea cliffs and other natural wonders. While about the same area as Oahu, Kauai has a population of less than 60,000, compared with 870,000 for Oahu. Instead of Honolulu's traffic jams and other urban hassles, tourists who make the half-hour hop to Kauai enjoy a much more peaceful vibe – and the kind of incomparable, breathtaking scenery that has lured film directors for decades. "South Pacific," "Jurassic Park" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" were all shot on Kauai, either completely or in part. Kauai draws outdoor enthusiasts from around the world, offering some of the most unforgettable beaches, golf courses, kayaking rivers and hiking trails you'll ever experience.

Kauai has more diversity in terrain and weather than you might think possible for an island just 30 miles in diameter. There are four very different areas to explore: the North, South, East and West shores. The key to the "microclimates" that make each of these areas so unique is Kauai's rugged, mountainous interior – 70% of the island is inaccessible by foot. Take a helicopter tour toward the center of the island, and you'll find Mount Waialeale, a 5,148-high volcanic peak that is shaped perfectly for scooping moisture out of the tropical trade winds that blow gently from the north. This creates one of the wettest places on Earth in the heart of Kauai – more than 450 inches of rainfall a year! It embodies the Hawaiian expression, "No rain, no rainbows." Five scenic, navigable rivers – highly prized by kayakers – flow to the ocean from this rain-rich center.

Much of this moisture makes its ways from the mountains to Kauai's lush North Shore, which includes Princeville, Hanalei Bay and Bali Hai, the mysterious area where the movie "South Pacific" was filmed. It is rich with rain-fed waterfalls and mountains that seem to drop right off at unspoiled beaches. The island's East Shore includes Lihue –home to the island's capital and airport – and north of that, the "Coconut Coast," Wailua River State Park, as well as the shopping villages of Kapaa. (Yes, the Hawaiian language has many vowels in each word!) Much of the west side of the island – including the 4,000-foot high sea cliffs of the Na Pali Coast – is too rugged for roads. These areas are mainly visited by helicopter, backpack or boat. Almost none of Wailealea's moisture makes it to the arid, southernmost reaches of Kauai's West Shore, which features the 3,000-foot Waimea Canyon, often called "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific."

But it's on Kauai's South Shore that travelers find the island's best weather and best beaches, including my favorite area, Poipu Beach. That is the home of the Foresight Companies' Hawaii Winter Seminar, at the Sheraton Kauai Resort. The South Shore area offers great views of the mountains and the ocean. In fact, from December to March, Kauai's southern view is a favorite as the annual humpback whale migration takes place. These 100-foot long mammals come to the Hawaiian Channel to give birth and mate. (Some are probably claiming to attend the Foresight Companies' seminar as well.) Whale-watching is a main activity from the beach, from helicopters and from the various tour boats offering 2-3 hour trips. I have been on a cruise where we were able to get within 50 feet of these amazing creatures.

Kauai offers a wide range of fun activities, especially in the Poipu area. Of course you can do nothing but relax on its amazing beaches. If you decide to rent a car, be sure to pack a lunch, check out Spouting Horn – Kauai's answer to Old Faithful – then travel to Gillin's Beach. This mile-long, unspoiled beach on the South Shore has great snorkeling and is little known to tourists. Kauai offers great golf options at many resort hotels and public courses. Of course, there is fantastic scuba diving. If you go, dive with Bubbles Below. Sport fishing is at worst a private whale watching tour, and at best an adrenaline rush without compare. The Kauai Channel is home to some great big fish as well as tasty deep-water snapper.

Indeed, after a morning of sessions and an afternoon of fun, you are going to be ready for some great food – and here again, Kauai delivers. If you like seafood, you're about to taste some of the freshest you'll find anywhere on the planet. Before going far, stop at the Beach House for the best sunset view on earth. The food is wonderful as well, especially the "Kauai Duet" – crab-topped fresh fish and seared scallops. For a taste of old Kauai, go to Gaylord's Restaurant at Kilohana Estate, where you can eat and shop in old-world ease. The herb-crusted rack of lamb, filet mignon and prime rib can't be beat. For casual atmosphere with a top-notch view and great eats, find your way to Brennecke's Beach Broiler. The broiled ahi and ono are especially memorable. And no trip to any Hawaiian island would be complete without a dinner at Roy's. Try the macadamia-nut mahi mahi with lobster butter sauce ... and be sure to save room for the chocolate soufflé!

For most travelers, a flight to Hawaii is a commitment. There are non-stops to the islands from most major hub airports. Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco and a few other cities feature direct flights to Kauai. But no matter how long it takes to get there, remember you can wake up to gentle tropical breezes, grab a delicious cup of Kauai coffee and watch football in the morning! Knowing that your partner is making house removals on a frigid winter morning while you're basking in paradise makes it all worthwhile! And remember: It's better to be on your death bed saying, "I am sorry I went there" than "I wish I would have gone!"

For information on The Foresight Companies' Hawaii Winter Seminar, go to www.f4sight.com For information on Kauai, visit www.kauai-hawaii.com

Miles Togo is a lifelong travel enthusiast and deathcare industry veteran. You can reach him at MilesTogoLAX@aol.com.