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On Walkabout On: Kauai’s North Shore

Basic Information

  • Name: Kauai’s North Shore
  • Where: Hawaii
  • More Info: GoHawaii.com

Narrative

For people looking for a lush tropical paradise the North Shore of Kauai is hard to beat.  This side of the island is filled with spectacular scenery of mountains, waterfalls, taro fields, beaches, and small towns.  Highway 56 from Lihue travels up to the North Shore and makes for an excellent all day driving tour to see all the North Shore’s sites:


Image from Franko’s Guide Map of Kauai.

The site that most people first see when visiting Kauai’s North Shore is the historic Kilauea Lighthouse:

The lighthouse is constructed on Kilauea Point which is the northern most point of the inhabited Hawaiian Islands.  It was constructed in 1913 to warn mariners of the rocky shores on this section of the island.  The lighthouse closed in 1976 and has since then been taken over by the US Fish & Wildlife service as a wildlife refuge.  You can read more about the lighthouse at this prior posting:

The next place worth stopping to checkout is the beautiful Anini Beach:

This beach is where supposedly a lot of rich and famous people have homes at and judging by some of the properties I saw near the beach this is probably true.  However, what I liked most about this beach is that it is large and not very crowded, at least when we went there.  We ended up spending a whole morning here when we visited the beach.  The swimming was great and there is good snorkeling if you swim way out to the reef that protects this beach.  Also from the beach out in the distance we could make out Kilauea Point we had visited earlier:

Further down the Highway from Anini Beach is this lookout that provides some of the most iconic photographs from Kauai of its famous taro fields.  This lookout is filled with cars and thus parking can be a bit tricky but it is worth the effort to park here and take in the incredible views of the Hanalei Valley.  Here is the view from the lookout looking left to right:

Here is a zoomed in look at the taro fields from the lookout:

There wasn’t just hordes of tourists like myself gawking at the beautiful view from this lookout but this chicken as well:

Just about everywhere you go on Kauai you can find a chicken running around.  There are many reasons I have heard for the chickens from them being brought to the island by Captain Cook and running wild as well as Hurricane Iniki destroying a chicken farm and setting the birds free.  Who knows why there are so many chickens on Kauai, but over time they kind of becoming a charming part of the island experience.

Anyway from the lookout we drove down into the Hanalei Valley and stopped to take this picture of this man working in the taro fields:

Working in the fields looks like hard work.  Here is a close up of these beautiful taro fields which provide a food source that is culturally important to Hawaiians:

From the lookout the highway then drops down into the Hanalei Valley and crosses over a one lane bridge.  My wife and I had experience traveling across one lane bridges in New Zealand that we even had to watch for trains coming across them, so these bridges were no big deal.  After a short drive we entered into the small but famous town of Hanalei:


View Larger Map

Hanalei has a variety of shops and restaurants but due to the popularity of this location everything seems more expensive compared to other areas on the island:

The town is absolutely beautiful though with its fixed up historic buildings that definitely gives this place great charm:

Every time we go to Kauai my wife and I eat more than our fair share Bubba Burgers and Hanalei is one of the towns on the island that has one of these restaurants:

The burgers are made from all natural beef from Kauai and are delicious.  I also highly recommend trying the milkshakes as well that are just as good.  Anyway after eating at Bubba’s it began to rain very heavily which really shortened our visit to Hanalei.  It really is a lovely town that we wish we could have spent more time checking out.  We got back in our car and began to head further west on the road to reach the end of the highway at Ke’e Beach.  Along the way I stepped out of the car momentarily to take this picture in the rain of beautiful Hanalei Bay:

The highway passed Hanalei changes its number to 560 and becomes much narrower with many curves:

The next site we stopped at was the Manini-holo Dry Cave:

Manini-holo was supposed to have been the chief fishermen of the ancient Menehune who were the original inhabitants of the islands that are believed to have arrived from Marquesas.  With the arrival of the Tahitians that are the ancestors of today’s native Hawaiian people the Menehune were displaced and killed off and have taken on a folktale like quality today.  Anyway Manini-holo supposedly dug this cave to find a supernatural beast that had been stealing his fish.  No word yet if he ever caught the beast.

Visitors can walk into the cave and I was actually a bit surprised how big this cave was once my wife and I walked into it:

Here is a view looking back towards the cave’s entrance:

Across the street from the cave is the Ha’ena Beach Park:

There wasn’t a whole lot of people hanging out at the beach but it appeared to be a popular place for surfing:

At the very end of Highway 560 is the small, but beautiful Ke’e Beach:

This is really an awesome beach due to the fact it provides really nice swimming in a small cove protected by a coral reef.  This reef also means that Ke’e Beach is a great place for snorkeling.  My wife and I saw many fish and even a turtle while snorkeling in the waters off of this beach.  We spent an entire afternoon swimming and snorkeling at this beach and really had a great time especially since the weather had turned from rainy to sunny and beautiful that afternoon.  Ke’e Beach is also extremely scenic as it is backdropped by rugged volcanic cliffs:

These cliffs are where Kauai’s famous Na Pali Coast begins.  Looking at the cliffs it is easy to understand why a highway could not be built completely around the highway:

It would take one of the world’s greatest engineering feats to make a highway along this coastline.  However, with coastline this beautiful why build a road through it even if you could?  The only way to see the Na Pali coast is either by plane, boat, or if you are up to it by walking.  One of Hawaii’s greatest hikes begins at Ke’e Beach, the Kalalua Trail:

This is lone trail that is towards the top of my list of multi-day hikes I want to complete.  However, on my trips to Kauai I just never had enough days set aside to tackle it.  The trail is 11 miles one way and even longer when side trails into the various valleys along the coast are thrown in.  Whenever I decide to do this trail I want to set aside 4 days to do it to really experience it.

Conclusion

All in all spending at least one day doing a driving tour of the North Shore is a must for anyone visiting Kauai.  There is much more to see than what I have listed here especially if you are into golfing and fine dining.  Princeville is near Hanalei and is one of the richest towns in the state due to the amount of celebrities and wealthy people who have homes there.  All in all the North Shore offers enough for anyone of any income bracket to have a great time experiencing some of the best beaches and scenery that Hawaii has to offer.

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