Entourage's Jeremy Piven spills all his secrets about his favorite place to get away from it all, Kauai.
This is top secret, for your eyes only: Jeremy Piven's adventures in paradise. He is not supposed to reveal what follows, because we all know what happens to paradise once the world finds out about it. "I feel that I'm a sellout," Piven admits while he's giving up the goods. He is calling from New York, where he is attending the premiere of the fourth season of the Mark Wahlberg-produced hit HBO series Entourage, in which he plays Ari Gold, the fast-talking, BlackBerry-addicted Hollywood talent agent.
For Piven, paradise is doing nothing on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. It's the polar opposite of Chicago, where he grew up. "I went to Kauai with some friends after shooting a movie," he says. "There was a group of us, a bunch of guys I grew up with in Chicago, like eight guys and one girl, in a house. The first thing I did was put my bags down, grab my shoes, and go running." And as he was running, he realized he had found a place to rest: the emerald isle of cliffs, peaks, and rain forests that lies 90 miles of ocean (and a spiritual eternity) away from Oahu.
Kauai is 25 miles long and 33 miles wide, and its second-highest point is Mount Waialeale. More than 5,000 feet tall, it is one of the wettest places in the world, receiving 450-plus inches of rain annually. By law, no building on Kauai can exceed the height of a coconut tree. "They call it Monk Island because it's not like a party place at all," Piven says. "It's a place to kind of get away and be totally present, a very serene atmosphere." There's more, much more, to Piven's Zen-paradise dream of doing nothing. So hold this dossier close to your chest, and keep this between us, okay? Here's Jeremy Piven, slipping way out of character, on the mystical island of Kauai.
Did you know that everything from Blue Hawaii to King Kong to Raiders of the Lost Ark was filmed on Kauai?
I had no idea, to be honest with you. That probably would have taken the allure away for me. I'm going there to get away from all that. I just know that the island itself is kind of a peaceful place. It's known as the Grandmother Island because it's the oldest of the Hawaiian islands.
What's the philosophy of the people on Kauai?
They have a real respect for the land and for each other. It seems to be entrenched in the arts, as well, because the dance movements you see there are kind of organic to their environment. They do the hula dance and that sort of stuff. It's the movement of the wind and the waves and the trees and all of that. It's all kind of intertwined. Their art is, a lot of times, made with materials found there and depicting the life there. I just gravitate toward that.
What do you remember seeing the first time you arrived on the island?
It's really a dramatic setting. From the water, you look up toward the sky and the mountains kind of carve into it at these amazing angles. It's, you know, just as you imagine paradise: clear water and very fine sand. The houses are kind of positioned off the beach so that there is enough really good sand there. I've got a friend there who I met in one of the houses; he just kind of never left. They call it the rock. He has never left the rock since the day he got there. The whole island they call the rock. I'm from Chicago, and [there,] they call a basketball a rock.
Where were you based on that first trip?
I was in a place right around Hanalei Bay. I try not to stay in hotels. I try to figure out a way to rent a house when I'm there. It just feels more secluded and closer to what the island really is.
Hanalei is where it is said that Peter Yarrow [of Peter, Paul and Mary] was inspired to write "Puff, the Magic Dragon," with the lyrics, "Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea/And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee."
It's right there, kind of the beach that engulfs everything, and that's where I like to stay. To be honest with you, I don't know why I'm giving you all my secrets.
It's between us. Can you give me some specifics?
When I first asked, "Where's a great spot to go?" people said, "Anywhere you go is going to be a great spot." This is especially true because you can just kind of get lost. I remember getting lost and finding this place called Secret Beach, and it was just an unbelievable beach. Each spot you go to, there is going to be an adventure. There are no wrong turns. Sort of a metaphor for life. That sounds like a bumper sticker.
What's something only the islanders know about?
I've been to the Blue Cave. It's a stop along the road, and you'd never know it's there, but if you ask the locals, they will take you. You have to dive really far down, and there is a rock that cuts into the water, and then there's a little space where you can dive underneath, and then you come up the other side. There is a cavelike vibe, with this low ceiling, and it's all this kind of amazingly brilliant blue in there. It's like something you've never seen.
What beach do you like best?
I would say that Secret Beach is probably my favorite beach.
Secret Beach - where is that?
If I told you, it wouldn't be a secret, my friend.
Is that the name of it?
Yes, it's called Secret Beach. You just have to ask the locals when you get there. I wish I could tell you more. But Hanalei Bay - in terms of swimming, you can't beat it. It's just incredible.
Are you a surfer?
Laird Hamilton has a home on the island, and Laird knows Kauai as well as anybody. He's smart enough to live there with his beautiful wife, Gabby, and their daughter, Reece. He put me on a longboard one time and gave me a paddle. They all sat down and passed around some popcorn to watch the little actor boy fall to his death, but I disappointed them. I was on the longboard, paddled around, and didn't fall. I severely disappointed all of them. I think it was 10 to one that I was going to go down immediately.
Have you had any other adventures in the ocean?
Well, I remember one of the first things we did after we went running: We jumped in the water. I had been a lifeguard while growing up, but I was in this one area where - I'd never felt an undertow like this, because it was completely unpredictable. It would pull you back out and smash you immediately, and there was no rhyme or reason to this one drag they had out there. I just remember being caught, and I was really far out. It was pretty tricky to navigate in those waters. [Later,] when I was in a helicopter, it was like, "We're over Dead Man's Cove. There are more fatalities in that cove than anywhere else on the island." So I got really lucky. You've got to be really careful when you go there. Just ask the locals about safe places to swim. You don't want to just jump in anywhere.
A lot of the culture on the island is based in and around the town of Princeville, right?
Yeah. The town has just, like, great little healthy places to eat, and shopping, and there are a lot of amazing local artists. I bought some art from there. The indigenous people are incredibly talented. The people of Kauai are some of the best drum makers I've ever seen. They make ukuleles. The ukuleles from Kauai are some of the most beautiful I've ever seen - just really great craftsmanship. The people are kind of an eclectic group, really interesting people. One native was a helicopter pilot who put me on this journey during which I just learned so much about everything. He was really, really cool.
Oh, tell me about that.
We'd go over really pristine land that no one knows about or over waterfalls or places where people hide - you know, to camp out, to live. Then people come and find them, and they all scurry away. We flew over Waimea Canyon [which Mark Twain called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific] and the Na Pali Coast, which is as dramatic as it gets. It's just these sharp rocks and cliffs that kind of jut out from the ocean. During certain times of the year, you can take kayaks down there, but only during certain times, because it can be kind of dangerous.
What restaurants are on Kauai?
For lunch and dinner, there is a place called the Blossoming Lotus. You can sit up at the counter. It has an outdoor patio, open air, and great vibes, an eclectic menu, and amazing fish and stuff. A great place for anything healthy really fast - like for running in and grabbing shakes and stuff like that - is called Lotus Root. It's part of the Blossoming Lotus. The Lotus Root has a wide variety of blended drinks, like healthy shakes. That's in Princeville.
Where would you go for a great dinner?
My favorite restaurant there is Postcards Café. It's a place that sells fish. It's one of those places that are open, with screen doors, and it's all wood inside, and the food is really fresh and healthy.
Tell us about one great night you spent on Kauai.
The last time I went there, I went to an outdoor festival. It was in this open field, and there were a bunch of reggae bands. There are no clubs; it's not that kind of a place. If you're looking for a club scene, you can go to the Big Island or somewhere else. I talked to one of the bands afterward and invited them to my house the next night. Kauai is the kind of place where you can arrive on a Sunday night, invite some people to come over on a Monday night, and they'll actually all show up. They came over, and the singer got on the mike. We had fire dancers and DJs - it's not that kind of an island, so people were really talking about that party afterward.
Okay, I need a few more places to go. A few more concrete places.
A few more concrete places - yes, sir. Do you want me to call my friend who is great with names and then you call me back in 10 minutes?
[10 minutes later]
Okay, what did he tell you?
He told me to stop talking to you. He is interactive with a kahuna there who is a medicine man. They are very tapped-in people. That's part of the culture. They are a very layered culture. He said to me that he felt the universe was telling me to stop talking. He felt that you had enough information.