Historic Road Along Kauai’s North Coast Provides Scenic Wonders
One of the most scenic drives in Hawaii is found along Kauai’s northern coastline. You will know you have reached the north shore when you come to Kilauea, home of the Kilauea Lighthouse perched on a peninsula bluff that is the northernmost spot in all of Hawaii.
Driving west from Kilauea you will begin a journey along an amazing stretch of coastline where protected ocean bays are cradled by verdant mountains. This whole north shore is lined with golden-sand and and white-sand beaches that are among the most picturesque beaches in all of Hawaii.
Driving Along the North Shore
Just past Kilauea is the turnoff to Kalihiwai Bay where a legendary surfing spot beneath the cliffs is for experts only during the winter months. Kalihiwai Beach is a favorite for families with children who often play in the waters near the rivermouth of the Kalihiwai Stream.
A bit farther down the main highway is the turnoff to Anini Beach, a three-mile stretch of pristine white-sand that is one of the prettiest beaches in Hawaii. The reef-protected waters of Anini often take on deep shades of blue and aquamarine, and the calm waters are enjoyed by snorkelers and swimmers as well as windsurfers. Surfers often find good waves to ride just outside the reef.
After Anini will you come to the resort community of Princeville with its championship golf courses, residential areas, and the elegant St. Regis Princeville Resort overlooking Hanalei Bay. Princeville also has a shopping center with a grocery store, boutique gift shops, art galleries and restaurants. Across from the shopping center is the Hanalei Lookout where you can look over the expansive taro fields of Hanalei Valley.
Hanalei by the Bay
From Princeville the road leads down to charming Hanalei Town where there is more shopping and dining opportunities as well as numerous beaches spanning the shores of beautiful Hanalei Bay.
Set beneath the monumental peaks and ridges of the north shore mountains, the huge crescent-shaped Hanalei Bay is popular among swimmers, runners, surfers, and standup paddle boarders. Of course many vacationers simply enjoy the luxurious sunbathing on one of Hawaii’s most scenic beaches.
Families with children also like Hanalei Bay as the waters are particularly calm during the summer months. There is a Lifeguard tower at Pavilions Beach Park and another farther along the shore by Waioli Beach Park. The east end of the bay near Hanalei Pier usually provides the calmest waters, often with very small waves that are good for learning to surf.
Romantic Lumahai Beach
Beyond Hanalei the road winds around the bend to Lumahai Beach, one of Kauai’s most expansive beaches with white sand more than one hundred of yards wide in some areas..
There are two sections to Lumahai Beach, one reached by parking atop the hill and hiking down on a trail, and the other end reached directly by a pull-off alongside the highway. While Lumahai is one of Kauai’s most beautiful beaches it is not recommended for swimming due to potentially strong currents, large waves, and no lifeguards.
Enchanting Haena by the Sea
Just past the 6-mile marker you will find the lovely community of Haena. Here the mountains are much closer to the sea than in Hanalei and you are truly nestled in a tropical paradise lined with some of the Hawaii’s finest beaches.
Tunnels Beach – Makua
Right after you pass the 8-mile marker you will come to Tunnels Beach, known in Hawaiian as Makua. This is one of Kauai’s best snorkeling beaches due to its protecting offshore reef as well as lots of underwater caverns and ledges providing exciting explorations with abundant tropical fish and other marine life.
Haena Beach Park
Just past Tunnels is Haena Beach Park where there is a lifeguard tower, camping area (permit required), and a beautiful beach although no offshore protecting coral reef so the waters can be treacherous if there is surf (e.g., most of the winter).
Also in this area you can see the wet caves called Waikapalae and Waiakanaloa along side the road across from the beach park.
Limahuli Garden and Preserve
Beyond Haena Beach Park and just past the 9-mile marker is Limahuli Garden where you can see a stunning example of ancient Hawaiian agricultural terraces on the hillside where taro was grown.
Limahuli provides guided as well as self-guided tours through the botanical gardens where many native and Polynesian plants are cultivated to help preserve Hawaii’s unique species.
Ke’e Beach at the End of the Road
Last but not least on this lovely Kauai north shore drive is Ke’e Beach at the very end of Kuhio Hwy. (Rte. 560). This idyllic beach in paradise is set beneath the cliffs of Makana (Bali Hai) and protected by a coral reef that creates a protected lagoon where the water is often crystal clear.
Ke’e is without a doubt one of Hawaii’s best beaches for its picturesque beauty and great snorkeling. There is a also a Lifeguard tower.
When visiting Kauai’s beaches follow all proper ocean safety precautions, and be aware that the winter months often bring high surf to the north shore making exposed beaches inappropriate for swimming and snorkeling. Always check with lifeguards to find out which areas are safe for snorkeling. Also see Kauai Ocean Safety Tips to stay safe on your Kauai vacation.
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