Kauai Drives, The Road to Hanalei and the Na Pali Coast
Hanalei is magic! Hanalei is a glimpse into old Hawaii. The drive along Kuhio Highway (Hwy. 56, which becomes Hwy. 560 after Princeville to the end of the road) is guaranteed to take your breath away. Just before you reach Kilauea, you enter the North Shore. You will now discover why this is the most beautiful spot on earth. It is as if time stopped here. Roll down the windows and feel the air, smell the flowers and listen for the waterfalls. Watch for the roadside fruit stands, the historic little stone church in Kilauea, two roadside waterfalls, and the long bridge over the Kalihiwai Stream with its green river valley. You are now surrounded by jungle and history.
Visit the Guava Kai Plantation, (808-828-6121), at the end of Kuawa Road, for a refreshing treat. You can walk through the Guava orchards and see what a guava looks like on the tree (so you can spot them later on jungle hikes). Taste the juice of this exotic tropical fruit. The plantation is open daily from 9am to 5pm.
Next stop, the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, a mile north of Kilauea, and the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge, along Ohiki Road, at the west end of the Hanalei River Bridge. The Kilauea Wildlife Refuge is the best place to spot whales. The ranger service provides binoculars and several knowledgeable volunteers answer questions. Many species of exotic birds nest here. Giant Sea Turtles swim here. The surf crashes on the surrounding rocks. Here – life is good. Imagine the job of the rangers housed here – what a hardship! Kilauea is a historic mission town that is a fitting entrance into the quiet, historic and awesome north shore. Keep it in mind for the wonderful Farmer’s Market on Thursday at 4:30 and Saturday at 9:00.
Back on Hwy 56, the jungle grows dense and the emerald ridgelines of Mount Namahana jet upward. The two-lane coastal highway rolls through pastures of grazing cattle and past a tiny airport used for helicopter tours. Adjacent is the “Landing Pad” Bar where famous retired rock stars frequently meet to jam.
Five miles past Kilauea is the upscale planned community of Princeville, built around two world-class golf courses. Built up on a jungle bluff, vast areas of jungle land were designated to remain uncleared greenbelt. Vacation rental condos here are a real find! This is where you’ll find Sealodge, Alii Kai, Pali Ke Kua and Puu Poa, all with incredible oceanfront views from the edge of a bluff. All are surprisingly private and quiet. Princeville, from the entrance, to the end of the road where the only north shore hotel, the Princeville Hotel reigns, is only two miles.
The Princeville Hotel is amazingly beautiful. Plan to be here for sunset. Staying at the Princeville hotel is very expensive (nearly $500/nt for a no view room) but enjoying the magnificent beauty of the hotel and the setting is unforgettable. For one-fifth the cost of the hotel, you can enjoy an entire upscale condo at Pali Ke Kua with the exact same view. Call 866-922-5642 for reservations for vacation rentals in the Princeville Resort. Discounts for golf are available to those staying in rentals within Princeville. Several wonderful restaurants are located in Princeville, as well as the Foodland Grocery Store.
If you are staying on the north shore, this is the place for groceries. Be sure to get the Makai Card so you can enjoy the local’s discount. Outside the Foodland is a booth that sells CD’s of local Hawaiian musical artists. The music fills the air. Pick up a CD to play in your condo and rental car. After you return to the mainland, the memories from this vacation will be inspired by the music you listened to in paradise.
Just past the Princeville Shopping Center, on the left, is the Hanalei Valley Lookout. Get out of your car and look over the edge into the 917-acre Hanalei River Valley. You will instantly notice the many shades of green. Patchworks of extreme shades of green were created by the rice fields, taro fields, jungle, streams and the ponds that back up to green-velvet Bali Ha’i cliffs. There is just something renewing that flood over your soul as you observe such natural beauty.
Winding down the mountain, a hairpin turn presents views of Hanalei town. Next you cross the Hanalei Bridge. The truss bridge was erected in 1912 and is now on the National Registry of Historic Landmarks. This rusty, one-lane bridge isn’t big enough for a tour bus to cross and so remains the north shore – stagnant in time, preserving incredible history and beauty. On this drive you will cross seven one-lane bridges. Proper etiquette is to stop and look. All the cars waiting to cross, cross together, then the cars on the other side cross.
You’ll drive slowly past the Hanalei River banks where kayakers paddle. Hanalei is truly magic! Puff The Magic Dragon still frolics in the morning mist in this town of Hanalei. Complete and often double rainbows form on the mist that fills Hanalei in the early morning. Visit the shops in the old school building. Enjoy a Shave Ice. The town of Hanalei is a must. Just past Tahiti Nui right before Zelos, turn right on Aku Road, then take a right on Weke Road. Hanalei Beach Park, one of Hawaii’s most gorgeous beaches, is a half block ahead on your left. Swimming is excellent year-round, but especially in summer, when Hanalei Bay becomes a big, placid lake. Walk out to the end of the pier where local children dive and play.
Continuing down the highway, the next 7 miles of coastline presents several spectacular beaches. Lumahai Beach is where South Pacific was filmed. Tunnels Beach, where the 1960s puka-shell necklace craze began, is one of the places you must snorkel. Haena Beach Park is a fabulous place to enjoy the waves. You will discover that as you drive, as you cross each one-lane bridge along the narrow road, the jungle grows increasingly thick.
Continue to the end of the road. At the end of Highway 56, the spectacular Na Pali Coast begins