GPS: 21°58N; 159°20W
Lihue (lee-hoo-ay), an old sugar-mill town on the island of Kauai, has a prime location between heavenly Kalapaki Beach—perpetually ranked as one of the world’s finest stretches of white sand—soaring mountains, and the 3,000-foot (914-meter) deep, jungle-fringed Waimea Canyon.
The protected waters of Kalapaki Beach are ideal for swimming and bodysurfing (free and open to the public). Or sign on with Outfitters Kauai and kayak Hawaii's largest tropical river, deep into the rain forest of central Kauai, to 100-foot (30-meter) Wailua Waterfall (www.outfitterskauai.com).
For breakfast, Tip Top Motel Café & Bakery combines Macadamia nuts—a Hawaiian staple—with their banana pancakes (+1 808 245 2333). Mark’s Place, tucked away on Haleukana Street, serves up enormous portions of Hawaiian-style beef stew and chicken katsu (+1 808 245 2522).
The modest, family-run Garden Island Inn is just across the street from Kalapaki Beach (doubles from $99; www.gardenislandinn.com).