Cody Meyer doesn’t look like your average farmer. His long blonde curls cascade from a leather cowboy hat. The sleeves of his flannel shirt are rolled up to reveal tribal tattoos on his tanned forearms. And instead of denim, he’s dressed in board shorts covered in swirls resembling blue waves of the ocean.
Early this morning, as the low sunlight filters through the leaves of giant palms overhead, bathing his garden in shimmering gold, Meyer—or Farmer Cody as he’s known at Timbers Kaua’i Ocean Club & Residences—is pulling up a bushel of the most beautiful carrots I’ve ever seen. They look like something out of Peter Rabbit, brilliant in their orange hue with long stalks of flowering stems trickling down from Meyer’s hands like a verdant waterfall. It appears this surfer dude has quite the green thumb.
“I learned how to grow lettuce a few years ago from an old kahuna farmer,” Meyer says as he hands me a long, fat carrot speckled with bits of brown-red earth. “His methods taught me to grow everything—beets, carrots, flowers. He was very traditional and so everything we grew was simple and organic. And now, here at Timbers, that’s our ethos, too.”
In the beginning, it was just shovels and buckets of water and reused tree waste, Meyers explains. We’re standing on a swatch of farmland located within the 450-acre Hokuala Resort on the eastern side of the island, with easy access to the airport. Just a year ago, this land was a golf course, and if you look closely you can still see evidence of its former life: The gently rolling hills on which Meyer has planted acres of mango, banana, and papaya trees bears the perfect slope of a long fairway, and the rows of cabbage and cherry tomatoes could have easily been a sand dune once upon a time. But now, this green paradise has a new purpose—one that gives Timbers, and Kaua’i at large, the opportunity to be more sustainable than ever.
The simplicity of Meyer’s—and Timbers Kaua’i—goal is fitting when you consider Kaua’i. The island is Hawaii as one imagines: pure in both its landscapes and motivations. There’s a sense little of the modern world has caught up with this pristine speck of land on the northern end of the Hawaiian chain. Rather than packed with shopping malls and Starbucks (though on occasion you can find both), it’s all surf stores and shave-ice stands, with roosters clucking and birds chirping all the while, as if the entire island itself was a farm. In between the little villages—which are at once old-school and new-school, with ukulele shops rubbing elbows with well-curated fashion boutiques—it’s nothing but miles of palm trees and golden beaches. From upscale Poipu in the south to bohemian Hanalei in the north, these exotic island hamlets serve as punctuation marks between long strings of sweeping canyons, towering green mountains, and dramatic cliffs.
There’s no better way to explore all of these unforgettable travel experiences than by Jeep. The drive from Timbers Kaua’i to the north shore is less than an hour, and as we set out with the top down and the sun high, the journey begins to feel more important than the destination. Every few miles, there’s another memorable lookout point or public beach, and we stop at almost every one because they’re simply too picturesque to pass up.
Just past Wailua, we turn left and take an impromptu hike at Sleeping Giant, a green mound winding higher and higher until we discover 360-degree views of the entire island. In Kilauea, we veer right at a sign bearing a picture of a lighthouse, and follow a quiet road to the end, where a centuries-old lighthouse perches majestically on the edge of a cliff. Back in the Jeep, we drive across a curving bridge canopied by the stencil-like leaves of giant Moluccan albizia trees before arriving in Hanalei for a shave-ice pit stop at Wishing Well, an old truck pairing organic flavors like passion fruit and banana with the creamiest macadamia nut ice cream we’ve ever tasted. It’s worth the long drive to slurp on the frozen treat while wandering past shops hawking trucker hats—still very much de rigueur around here—and tank tops scrawled with the popular island saying, “Slow Yourself Down.”
But such sage advice is hard to follow when there are so many extraordinary destinations to explore. We circle back south and stop in Kapa’a, a hipster’s paradise where cold-press juice shops and poke trucks are run by young yogis and surfers. At Shipwrecked, a small boutique wedged between a bamboo furniture store and a coffee shop, we browse pieces by island designers—asymmetrical silk dresses, tanks emblazoned with, “Hanalei is My Bae”—before sidling up to the bar at The Local for a kombucha cocktail.
But it’s just one drink and then we’re back on the road, heading down to Kalaheo to check out Warehouse 3540, a new collective featuring local makers like Shannon Hiramoto, whose Machine Machine is an explosion of colorful clothing. Hiramoto studied fine art before opening her boutique, where her artist’s tool is a sewing machine, piecing vibrant patterns together for beautiful dresses and hats. Her father Charlie, a former firefighter, runs the T-shirt press sitting just beside her. “I started this because it was a way to make money; fine art just wasn’t,” Hiramoto says as she sews two Hawaiian floral fabrics together. “And after my dad retired, he got really into what I was doing. Now he makes all the T-shirts in the shop.”
Indeed, the homegrown vibe is catching; nothing at Warehouse 3540 falls into the category of contrived souvenir shop. At another boutique, Hawaii Says Hi, the skincare products are made from local ingredients like coconut, fig, and even Kona beer. Elsewhere in Warehouse 3540, artists run bespoke galleries, coffee shops use island-grown beans, and dessert-enthusiasts enjoy artisan shaved ice. “We’re taking it next-level,” says owner Daniel Soules as he turns a vintage hand crank to churn out tiny chunks of ice that will be mixed with homemade flavors like açai and coconut. “I’ve gotten requests from people all over the world trying to replicate what we do.” (Indeed, the shop with the mustache logo has even been featured in Vogue.)
As we wind our way back to the Timbers Resort, our bellies full of too much shaved ice, we continue our roving tour of detours—a beach stop here, a photo opp there. By the time we reach our home base, the sun is low enough to flood our lanai with golden light. And though we’re tempted to stay in for the night, the bounty from The Farm at Hokuala—which is slated for an expansion—beckons: Executive Chef Jafet Tellez of Timbers’ Hualani’s restaurant has promised us a preview of his tasting menu.
An hour later, the moon is high, the stars are bright, and we’re three courses in when Meyer’s gorgeous carrots make an appearance on our plates. Roasted along with pumpkin and squash, and served with a juicy cut of steak and crisp tabbouleh salad, they’re a perfect reminder of Timbers Kaua’i’s commitment to simplicity. So are the other dishes of the night: poke served atop a crunchy pad of fried rice, speckled with fresh sesame seeds and green onions; a vibrant beet salad nestled into a mini tostada with crisp greens; and to drink, an Empress gin cocktail topped with the fragrant needles of rosemary. It’s delicious yet simple and even a bit humbling—in other words, just like Kaua’i itself.
Kauai's local-food movement is in full swing. Here's a short guide of top spots to dig in (and drink up):
BEST TASTING MENU
Timbers Kaua'i Ocean Club & Residences' oceanfront restaurant Hualani's is just the right amount of fine dining for casual Kaua'i. Farm-fresh ingredients are expertly prepared yet unadulterated with heavy sauces or butter, and every course comes with a back story and briefing on where it was sourced.
THE LOCAL KAUA'I
Surfer culture meets mixology at this Kapa'a bar and restaurant The Local, where the exotic cocktail menu is full of intrigue with ingredients like activated-charcoal-infused vodka, lilikoi juice, and soursop.
"Broke da mouth" is a Hawaiian term that essentially means really good, and at this no-frills cafe—Kountry Kitchen—focuses on locally sourced ingredients, the mouths have been breaking since 1972. You might be tempted to go for a tall stack of macadamia-nut pancakes, but if you're in the market for something super-local, it's all about the loco moco.
"Drink coffee or die!" is the motto of the Kapa'a coffee house Java Kai. The 100-percent Kona coffee is like liquid gold in these parts—and you can even bring a bag of the superb house-roasted beans home for you.