North Kauai’s Heavenly Haena
Just down the hill from the exclusive resort area of Princeville, visitors pass acres of scenic taro fields and cross a historic one-lane bridge to enter Hanalei, a charming small town reminiscent of old Hawaii. Situated at the northernmost end of Kauai’s Kuhio Highway, Hanalei and the neighboring region of Haena are surrounded by lovely beaches and mountains with plentiful waterfalls. Their lush, untouched beauty made them the ideal location for the filming of scenes from movies such as South Pacific, King Kong, Jurassic Park, and The Descendants.
Along with striking natural beauty, Hanalei is known for its quaint downtown, featuring a variety of restaurants, shops, and art galleries with a laid-back vibe. Visitors can begin their day in a morning session at Yoga Hanalei, try an acai bowl breakfast from Hanalei Harvest Market, take a stand-up paddleboard or kayak trip down the peaceful and picturesque Hanalei River (through Kayak Hanalei), and then linger over lunch at Hanalei Bread Company. After a stroll through unique galleries and boutiques like On the Road to Hanalei and Yellowfish Trading Company, a mai tai at Tahiti Nui may be in order, followed by a casual dinner at The Hanalei Gourmet (also known as Big Tim’s), delicious tapas at Bar Acuda, or outstanding sushi and seafood at The Dolphin Restaurant. On Saturday mornings, get a true glimpse of small-town Hawaii by stopping in at the farmers’ market for locally-grown produce.
Head north from Hanalei towards Haena to find quiet, breathtaking beaches like Bali Hai and Lumahai. Just past these two gems, visitors can pick up snacks and beverages at Wainiha General Store, or drive just a little farther to find Napali Art Gallery & Coffee House, Opakapaka Grill and Bar, and even some pampering at Hanalei Day Spa. Tunnels Beach (known for its excellent snorkeling) comes next, followed by Haena Beach Park (which allows camping and has a lifeguard station and bathrooms), Maniniholo Dry Cave, and Limahuli Garden and Preserve (which provides an opportunity to see endangered plants and birds native only to north Kauai).
At the end of Kuhio Highway lies Haena State Park, the Waikanaloa and Waikapale caves, and Ke’e Beach (a fantastic spot for snorkeling in the summer when the ocean is calm). The Kalalau Trail, an 11-mile hike along the stunning Na Pali coast that draws visitors from all around the globe, also begins here.
The north shore areas near Haena and Hanalei also host a number of notable events throughout the year. The Princeville Night Market, which includes live music, local food vendors, and work by a variety of local artists, takes place in Hanalei’s neighboring town every second Sunday, and in the nearby town of Kilauea on the last Saturday of each month. Each March, the nearby town of Anahola holds a Prince Kuhio Day Celebration, which involves live music, hula performances, food, and craft booths. The annual Hanalei Bay Swim Challenge, named one of the top 100 open water swims in the country, takes place each July.