Historic Sites and Natural Beauty Delight Hanalei Visitors
Set amidst the splendor of Kauai’s dramatic north shore, Hanalei Town is one of Hawaii’s most charming small towns.
On your way to Hanalei, before heading down the hill from Princeville Resort make sure and stop at the Hanalei Valley Lookout alongside the highway to enjoy great views of the valley including the expansive taro patches alongside the Hanalei River.
At the bottom of the hill is the historic Hanalei Bridge, considered the “gateway to Hanalei.” This historic one-lane truss bridge was originally built in 1912 and is the first of seven one-lane bridges along Hawaii’s north shore.
After you cross the Hanalei Bridge glance to the left and look for rare Hawaiian waterbirds in the taro fields. If you turn left after the bridge on Ohiki Road you can park and really a get a good look. Numerous native birds are often seen right in this area.
Just a short way down Ohiki Road is the Haraguchi Rice Mill which was built in 1930 and has now been fully restored. Tours of the historic rice mill can be arranged by appointment.
Four very endangered Hawaiian waterbird species are commonly seen in the Hanalei taro fields – the Hawaiian duck (koloa); moorhen (‘alae ‘ula), coot (‘alae ke’oke’o), and Hawaiian black-necked stilt (ae’o). The stilt is easiest to spot as it uses its tall and skinny pink legs to walk through the taro ponds.
Also commonly seen in the taro fields are flocks of nene. The nene, or Hawaiian goose, is Hawaii’s official state bird.
Proceeding along the road to Hanalei you will feel embraced by the verdant mountains and patchwork of taro fields on one side and the meandering Hanalei River on the other. Hanalei Valley and other nearby valleys grow most of Hawaii’s taro which is milled into poi, still a staple of the traditional Hawaiian diet and also a favorite food at an island luau.
Soon you will reach Hanalei Town. The first building on the right features some boutiques and gift shops as well as the Hanalei Dolphin Restaurant known for its fresh fish. Then you will see the Bike Doktor, a great little bike shop owned by John Sargent who takes care of the town’s mechanical needs, including boats.
The next building on the right is the office of Coldwell Banker Bali Hali Realty. Also located here is the Quicksilver surf shop and Roger Kennedy’s renowned Tropical Taco which sustains the populace with great burritos and fresh fish tacos.
Now you will know that you have entered Hanalei proper as you see John Ferry’s 1948 International Woody parked in front of Bali Hai Realty. In characteristic Bali Hai fashion the classic car serves not just as welcome to Hanalei but also has a Food Bank donation sign requesting charitable donations for those in need.
Next is the Hanalei Liquor Store, a local institution, and a few doors down is the Tahiti Nui lounge which is the town’s most famous watering hole. Here local musicians play regularly, hula breaks out spontaneously, and Hanalei residents as well as visitors gather to talk story. George Clooney recently filmed scenes here for The Descendants.
The center of Hanalei Town has lots of boutique shops, art galleries and restaurants. On the right is Ching Young Village which features various gift shops, restaurants, and a grocery store.
On the other side of the road is the Old Hanalei Schoolhouse, which is home to Hanalei Surf Company as well as the Gourmet Restaurant, a great place to grab a burger and beer. The old schoolhouse building was constructed in 1926 near the current Hanalei School (which is just down the road) and then later moved to the center of town.
Just beyond the Old Hanalei Schoolhouse is the Wailele Building which is home to Yoga Hanalei, various shops and boutiques, and two great restaurants, Neide’s Salsa and Samba, and Bar Acuda. You can also cool off at Shave Ice Paradise or enjoy a cup of coffee on the lanai at Java Kai.
Just past the Hanalei Town shops is the Hanalei Post Office and the Hanalei Poi Company. Then you will see the expansive Waioli Park which is the site of the Hanalei soccer fields.
The whole Hanalei Town area has stunning views of three prominent mountains – Hihimanu on the left, Mamalahoa on the right, and in the middle the enchanting Namolokama known for its huge, cascading waterfall. During strong rains all three of these massive mountains come alive with dozens of waterfalls.
Just past the Hanalei soccer fields is the picturesque Waioli Hui’ia Church built in 1912 in the American Gothic style with beautiful stained glass windows. The church was built by the Wilcox brothers in honor of their missionary parents Abner and Lucy Wilcox.
Behind Waioli Hui’ia Church is the original Waioli Church built in 1840 and now Kauai’s oldest surviving church building. Adjacent to the building is the Waioli Church Belfry which held the church bell that was brought from Boston in 1843 and now hangs in the Waioli Hui’ia Church bell tower.
Behind these church buildings is the Waioli Mission House built in 1834 and home to Abner and Lucy Wilcox. All of these historic structures have been meticulously restored, and guided tours of the Waioli Mission House are offered to the public.
Just one block over from Hanalei Town is the gem of Hanalei Bay, a three-mile long crescent of golden sand bordering clear blue waters that are great for swimming, surfing, bodyboarding, kayaking, and stand up paddle boarding.
Other common Hanalei Bay activities include fishing, volleyball, and peaceful beach walks to the end of the bay where there is a private cove. Hanalei Bay is considered by many to be one of the finest beaches in all of Hawaii.
At the east end of the bay is Hanalei Pier, originally built in 1892 and later rebuilt several times. In olden days inter-island steamers docked at the pier to bring supplies and carry away beef cattle and other local products. During Hanalei’s rice era around the turn of the century the pier was used to transport rice to market.
Numerous movies have featured Hanalei Pier including Bird of Paradise (1950), Pagan Love Song (1950), Miss Sadie Thompson (1953), Beachhead (1953), South Pacific (1957), and Jack Lemon’s 1960 Wackiest Ship in the Army.
Adjacent to the pier is Black Pot Beach Park named in honor of the big black iron pot that was once used there to cook up fish. Large quantities of fish were often caught during the hukilau when fishermen used seine nets to trap huge schools. The community gathered to help pull in the catch (huki means “to pull”) and then everyone shared in the bounty.
There are many enjoyable beaches along Hanalei Bay from Black Pot Beach on one end to Waikoko on the other end. No matter where you are in the lovely town of Hanalei you will be surrounded by scenic beauty with the mountains and waterfalls on one side and the pristine bay on the other side.
Hanalei Town is a delightful mix of residents and visitors, and always full of smiling and friendly faces.
Also please feel free to give us a call. The Bali Hai Realty staff will be happy to answer any questions you may have about Kauai real estate and vacation rentals as well as Kauai activities and attractions.