The oldest and most northern of the Hawaiian islands, Kauai also has a great collection of beaches that should dissuade anyone from spending too much time at the pool. But the two resorts that top our list both have questionable ocean frontages — one too used, the other too rough.
Grand Hyatt Kauai: This is one of the few places in the islands where a great pool area is forgivable. The resort fronts Shipwreck Beach and unless you have come to Hawaii to break an arm or be pulled from strong currents by a lifeguard, it is for looking only. Guests can get a sense of salt water in the 5-acre lagoon. The big draw is the meandering four-foot deep channel that runs down the hillside to a small waterslide. Along the way are hidden grottos and bends in the course flanking thick gardens. It all makes you feel like you are in a swimming version of the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland. There's a large, more traditional pool at the bottom for hanging out or playing a little pool volleyball. My only caveat: The river pool might be a bit much for the youngest swimmers to handle alone — it's 4 feet deep in parts, the current is gentle but consistent and your kids will soon be out of sight around the next bend.
Kauai Marriott: This is the greatest of the pre-watermark style pools in all the islands. A huge flower-shaped extravaganza is the largest single-level pool in the state. The numbers are staggering: 26,000 square feet with 300,000 gallons of water. Statues of animals double as fountains, spouting powerful plumes of water into the pool. One of my favorite stress-busters after an hour of traffic in nearby Kapaa is to stand under the plume and let it pummel my tense shoulders. The Marriott's location was picked out early in the tourism boom, and it's been hurt and helped by its proximity to the airport and port (I stay here my first night on the island before venturing farther afield). Marriott has decided to enter the water park wars with a new kids-oriented pool, complete with slides, slated to open early this summer. But for me, the appeal is swimming a very long circular lap around the main pool, then slipping into one of the hot tubs constructed underneath the columns supporting balconies overlooking the pool. Oh yeah, there's Kalapaki Beach a few feet away.
Honorable mention: The classy pool at the recently renovated St. Regis Princeville, perched on top of a hill overlooking the north shore of Kauai.
PICTURED: A large pool featuring animal-shaped fountains invite guests in for a swim at the Kauai Marriott Resort in Kauai, Hawaii. (Mindy Schauer/Orange County Register/MCT) INSET: The Kaanapali Hyatt Keiki Lagoon, a water playground with a sand island, slides, water fountains that sprout 10 feet high, a rope bridge and a picturesque view of the Pacific Ocean in Kauai, Hawaii. (Mindy Schauer/Orange County Register/MCT)