Old Hawaii Preserved: Anahola, Kauai
This sleepy region on Kauai’s northeast coast, with a population of just over 2,200, offers lush tropical surroundings with mountain views and quiet, scenic beaches, perfect for those seeking a secluded getaway. Its other claim to fame: the first scene in the 1981 movie Raiders of the Lost Ark features a view of Anahola’s Kalalea Mountain, also known as King Kong’s Profile.
Taro terraces dotted the Anahola landscape historically, and between the 1880s and 1980s, many of its residents worked in sugar production in nearby Kapaa. Because properties in the area have been set aside as Hawaiian Home Lands since 1957, Anahola now has the largest population of native Hawaiians on Kauai.
Beautiful Anahola Beach Park enjoys popularity with locals on the weekends but is often quite empty during the week. Its offshore reef creates calm waters for swimming, and its restrooms, lifeguard stand, and shade trees make it an excellent choice for families. At the north end, surfing and body boarding are an option, as is fishing in the Anahola River.
The north portion of Anahola’s Aliomanu Beach has golden sands and gorgeous views, while the southernmost section includes a lagoon where swimming and snorkeling are possible on calm days. Less than a 10-minute drive from Anahola leads to Kealia Beach Park, which has a lifeguard, restrooms, picnic tables, showers, and a half-mile of white sand, along with good conditions for surfing, body boarding, and swimming. Less than a 15-minute drive north leads to Larsen’s Beach (which is not ideal for swimming or snorkeling but offers a remote, lovely, approximately two-mile stretch of sand) and Waiakalua Beach (which also has rip tides but may provide an even more breathtaking place to lounge in the sun).
Visitors can reach the 260-acre Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens in under 15 minutes from Anahola, for guided tours through formal gardens, a wild forest garden, a children’s garden, Kulihaili Canyon, and Kaluakai Beach. The Sleeping Giant Trail, also less than 20 minutes away, is a four-mile round-trip hike showcasing spectacular views of inland Kauai, the east coast, Mount Waialeale, and the Wailua River. Kamokila Hawaiian Village, accessible in 20 minutes, gives visitors a chance to tour a replica of a traditional island village, take a canoe or paddleboard trip down the Wailua River, and see attractions such as Secret Falls and Fern Grotto.
Less than a 15-minute drive from Anahola brings visitors to Kapaa, a fun and funky town with surf shops and other clothing stores, gift shops, local eateries like Mermaids Café, and more upscale restaurants such as Trees Lounge. In under 20 minutes, visitors can access the quaint town of Kilauea, with its chic boutiques, art galleries, and dining possibilities such as The Bistro. Less than a 25-minute drive allows visitors to experience shopping at Princeville Center and restaurants like Hideaways Pizza Pub and Makana Terrace (at the St. Regis resort).
In Anahola proper, Kalalea Juice Hale serves breakfast fare such as coffee, acai bowls, and smoothies, while Moloaa Sunrise Juice Bar serves smoothies, salads, and sandwiches. Other choices include the Garden Island Sandwich Company, the deli in Whaler’s General Store (which has options like sushi and poke), and Duane’s Ono Char Burger (which has uniquely local topping selections such as pineapple and teriyaki).
Every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Kalalea Anahola Farmers Market offers fruit, baked goods like mango bread, plate lunches, and Hawaiian crafts. Speaking of crafts, on the final Saturday of each month from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., the Kilauea Night Market features work by Hawaiian artists, food trucks, and live music. Live music, live hula, crafts, and food are also provided at the Prince Kuhio Day Celebration at Anahola Beach Park each March, as well as the Coconut Festival in Kapaa each October.