Photo: Photo: The Meritage Collection

A Kauai Resort Where Locally Inspired Spa Treatments, Exquisite Dining, and Hawaiian Culture Unite

Hawaii Epic Stays
by Jori Ayers Mar 8, 2024

As the the sun started to set on my first day staying at Kauai’s Ko’a Kea Resort on Po’ipu Beach, I made my way to dinner. A worker placed a lei around my neck and I sat in front of one of the many floor-to-ceiling windows. It was too windy to eat outside—palm trees bent to the wind outside—but that didn’t mean missing out on sunset views with my meal while soft music from a local artist played in the background. I found myself feeling like I was in a picturesque scene of Hawai’i straight from the movies. Only, with the flavors of the island in front of me, this scene was even better than what Hollywood could come up with.

Ko’a Kea Resort

the exterior of the Ko'a Kea Resort

Photo: The Meritage Collection

When I first arrived to Kauai, the sounds of roosters greeted me at the airport as I waited for my bags. Confused and intrigued, this was not something I expected, but it prepared me for the endless character and charm of the island.

On the way to the resort, I took in the natural wonders around me. Before I left, and while I was there, there was a steady stream of people who told me that Kauai is the best introduction to the Hawaiian islands. Many also added that it’s their favorite of the island chain. It’s clear to see why. Kauai is nicknamed “The Garden Isle,” and all it took was the drive to the resort to see first-hand how abundantly nature does indeed flourish here.

As we approached the Ko’a Kea Resort entrance, the sun was setting and casting a beautiful glow on the resort and the water. Tiki torches lit the way as the staff greeted me with an “aloha and welcome” as they draped a traditional lei over my shoulders.

Ko’a Kea Resort is a beautiful, serene resort that’s a member of The Meritage Collection. Located on Kauai’s south shores, it was named one of TripAdvisor’s “Top 3 Most Romantic Hotels in the US.” I could definitely feel the love from the start, at least my love for this resort.

Originally called the Po’ipu Beach Hotel, the property was built in the 1960s. It was torn down after the devastating category four hurricane Iniki hit Hawai’i in 1992. It was rebuilt and reconstructed in 2009 as the Ko’ Kea Resort, with 121 rooms with balconies and ocean views, luxury spa offerings, sophisticated dining options, and front-row seats to Poipu Beach.

Rooms at Ko’a Kea Resort

Garden View Guest Room with a king bedPhoto: The Meritage Collection
Oceanfront Guest Room with a king bed Photo: The Meritage Collection
Oceanfront Suite living area with patioPhoto: The Meritage Collection
Ocean View Guest Room Lanai Photo: The Meritage Collection

The rooms at Ko’ Kea Resort have a homey feel. I stayed in an ocean-view guest room with a patio. This room has just enough space and the perfect ocean view. It was so soothing to go out on the patio in the mornings, see the sunrise, listen to the waves crashing, and sit and watch the sunset in the evening.

This room allows for gorgeous views of Po’ipu Beach and the whole resort. The beds are comfortable and perfect for wasting a day in the room. If you would rather lounge around in their comfy bathrobe, all you have to do is take your breakfast, lunch, or dinner on the patio, bask in the sun, and watch the waves. Or you could catch the most beautiful rainbow spanning across the sky.

The resort’s guest rooms offer a similar layout with different views, including of the garden and of a partial ocean view. Larger suites are either ocean front or with a full ocean view.

Amenities at Ko’a Kea Resort

Photo: The Meritage Collection
Photo: The Meritage Collection

Ko’a Kea Resort has a fitness center, pool, tiki bar, sushi bar, and a restaurant called Red Salt. There’s no shortage of things to do, with oceanfront yoga classes and the on-site Hoku Water Sports outfitter and school where guests can learn how to snorkel, surf, stand-up paddle board, and use a traditional outrigger canoe. Resort guests can rent a Tesla from the property to explore the island, knowing that an immaculate spa experience is waiting when they return if they wish.

As it’s TripAdvisor listing promises, the resort also offers many romantic activities. There are intimate candlelit dinners at Red Salt, sunset cruises, seaside couples massages, horseback riding along Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail, micro wedding and elopement packages (as well as for any other “-moon” you’re celebrating), private oceanfront ceremonies, and photoshoots.

The Spa at Ko’a Kea focuses on treatments using natural indigenous ingredients for a true Hawaiian experience. I experienced the Wai Nui Oceanside massage, which was a dream. The oceanside part of the massage is self-explanatory: it takes place in an outdoor oceanside cabana where the sounds of the waves hitting the beach are never far. The temperature was a mild 74 degrees with a bit of a wind, and the waves in the background were the perfect combination. Have I ever gone to sleep on a massage? No, but did I on this one? Absolutely yes. Did I catch myself snoring? Yes. And was I embarrassed? No.

Other options include deep therapy and hot stone massages, as well as pregnancy and couples massages. Various facials are also offered, such as the La’au facial, the Maliha sun-soothing facial, and the Honua experience facial — all of which center Hawaiian ingredients.

Red Salt

Photo: Photo: The Meritage Collection

Red Salt is Ko’a Kea’s primary restaurant. Executive chef and Kauai native Noelani Planas created a delicious and mouthwatering menu for Red Salt that’s inspired by her upbringing on the island — with a twist.

On the first night, I tried the Red Salt Burger, and boy, was that a REAL burger. The wagyu beef patty is complimented by Kona lobster, pineapple, applewood smoked bacon, caramelized onions, aged cheddar, truffle, and garlic aioli with a side of truffle waffle fries. When the burger came out, I didn’t want to touch it because it looked so beautiful, but I was starving, so I quickly took a picture and dove right in. I usually don’t like using a phrase like “explosion in your mouth,” but the burger was just that.

The next night, I sampled the prix-fixe paʻina dinner menu. It’s an event as much as dinner. The ever-present sounds of the ocean are nearby, and the dinner includes a lei greeting, live music, five courses and complimentary wine pairings with each dish. Ricotta made in-house, butternut squash soup, grilled pear salad, blue crab, hoisin-braised short rib, and a passion fruit creme brulee were on the menu on the night I dined there, paired with French sparkling and still wines.

Things to do and activities around of Ko’a Kea Resort

Po’ipu Beach

What’s Kauai without laying on the beach and soaking up the sun in the sand? Po’ipu Beach is a well-known beach that is famous for a reason. With its golden sand and crystal clear waters, Po’ipu offers both relaxation and adventure. Spot sea turtles and seals from the shore, or snorkel to to see life below the surface. Boogie boarding and surfing are also accessible. It’s also a great place for family and friends outings for picnics, lawn games, and other small celebrations.

Kauai ATV Backroads Adventure Tour

If you’re looking for adventurous activities while in Kauai, take an ATV ride with the Kauai ATV Backroads Adventure Tour. This three-hour tour is breathtaking and informative. Riders will see ocean views, the Wilcox Tunnel, famous filming locations, and the greenery and beauty of the Waita Reservoir. It’s a chance to see a bit of the island from the ground, just know that you will get dirty. But that just makes the experience so much more enjoyable.

Shopping and Spouting Horn

Many shopping plazas are nearby Ko’a Kea Resort if you want to walk around and shop. There is the Poipu Shopping Village, The Shops at Kukuiʻula, and the cute and quaint Old Kōloa Town. I had the chance to visit and walk around, explore the shops, and try some of the delicious shaved ice from The Fresh Shave.

If you’re looking for more Kauai sites, Spouting Horn is about three miles from the resort and a 10-minute drive from Old Kōloa Town. The burst of water shooting up from the volcanic rock is iconic, just know that the beauty is a draw for many others as well and it can get crowded.

Blue Hawaiian Helicopters

View the whole island from above on a helicopter tour with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. Whether I was left speechless from the beauty or the heights is still to be determined, but it’s an excellent opportunity to see a wholistic view of the landscape. Highlights include Waimea Canyon, the 3,000-foot-tall sea cliffs of the Na Pali Coast, and beautiful waterfalls and valleys.


For an off-property dinner, make it a point to try the much-talked-about Hawai’i fine-dining chain Merriman’s. Chef and owner Peter Merriman has been a pioneer of Hawai’i regional cuisine for the past 30 years, and his restaurant is Hawai’i’s first carbon-neutral restaurant.

I started with the signature mai tai topped with a honey lilikoi foam — a small drink with a powerful punch. It’s hard to go wrong here, but don’t miss appetizers like smoked taro hummus and poke. Venison and shrimp were my favorite mains, while the full range of desserts are worth saving room for.

How to get to Ko’a Kea Resort

Those arriving to Kauai by plane land at Lihue Airport, which is 20 minutes away from Ko’a Kea Resort. Rideshare services and taxis offer the most convenient options for transportation to and from the resort, as Ko’a Kea does not offer guest transportation apart from the rental Teslas available during your stay. However, the concierge can provide recommendations for shuttle services if needed.

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