The east side of Kauai is much cooler than the other parts of Kauai and often referred to as the windward side. The towns of Kapaa and Hanamaulu are separated by the Wailua River. This river is one of the many waterways flowing from the Mount Wai’ale’ale, one of the wettest spots on earth. The Wailua River is termed as one of the only navigable rivers in all Hawaii. The mouth of the river has several stones with ancient petroglyphs carved in them. After heavy rains the river washes out the large amounts of sand revealing the petroglyphs for a short period of time.
Overlooking the Wailua river, is the Opaeka’a Falls, and it neighbors the ancient ruins of Poliahu Heiau (temple), said to have been constructed by the mystical Menehune. The bottom of Opaeka’a Fall’s is also the eastern edge of the Nounou Mountain also known as the Sleeping Giant. The best views of the Sleeping Giant are from the Coconut Coast in the town of Kapaa. Its silhouette against the sky looks as if it’s taking a well-deserved nap after a long day of providing breathtaking views to all who visit.
Remnants of the world-famous Coco Palms Hotel, neighbors the Wailua River mouth, near the Wailua bridge. The Elvis Presley movie, Blue Hawaii popularized the Coco Palms Hotel, showing off the east side of Kauai’s remarkable sights. The hotel made a big business out of Hawaiian-style weddings for decades, introducing traditional torch-lighting to the resort life. This sunset occurrence would set the tone for the evening’s festivities, whether it’s walking the beach, enjoying the resorts luau, or dining in. Coco Palms was destroyed by the Hurricane in 1992 and continues to lay in ruins among the thriving Coconut trees planted for oil and copra (dried coconut meat) by William Lindemann, a German immigrant in 1896.
Wailua is abundant with vibrant traditions contributing to a wealth of history that still can be found today. Through the many historic sites and rich natural and cultural resources we can appreciate how Wailua brings life to the Native Hawaiian culture on Kauai. Residents are spread throughout the homesteads above the “Sleeping Giant” and the house lots directly below. The Coconut Marketplace is central to the Coconut Coast as it shares a local hula (traditional Hawaiian dance) show weekly. Local restaurants, farmers market and boutiques all surround the main courtyard in the center of the marketplace. With its open-air layout and charming architectural design, the marketplace provides a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere for the visitors and families to explore. From locally made handicrafts, cool boutiques and delicious eateries, there is something for everyone.
The town of Kapaa captivates the appeal of Hawaiian charm with its breathtaking landscapes and vibrant local cultures. Kapaa calls all visitors to immerse themselves into this coastal community that traverses from the mountain to the sea. The mountain residents can commute into the town of Kapaa through the town of Wailua.
Those that reside along the coastline need only traverse throughout the little villages of food trucks and local stores. The beaches along this Coconut Coast are lined with the recently developed bike/pedestrian path. It begins at the beaches south of Wailua and ends at the northern end of Kealia beach. One of the best things about this bike path is its accessibility. Its well-maintained and easy to navigate, making it perfect for riders of all skill levels. It’s a great way to get some exercise, but it also connects you to the heart of Kapaa. Its town’s rich history and cultural significance are profound and interwoven into the very fabric of its charming architecture and friendly locals.
The beaches of east Kauai not only provide the perfect setting for sunbathing and swimming but also opportunities for surfing, snorkeling, and kayaking. Kealia’s long sandy beach is the perfect place to grab a beach towel, kick back and bask in the warm sunshine. The local surfers and shoreline fisherman taking a break from the work grind. Sunrises from the east are breathtaking, with the surf breaking, and the vibrant colors painting the Hawaiian skies. There is never a dull moment on the Coconut Coast, as it is one of the islands more popular towns.
The end of the eastern coastline is at the Kealia beach and heads in the northern direction towards the town of Anahola. This beautiful village circles the Aliomanu bay where the Anahola stream flows from the Koolau mountains. From the mountains to the sea, Anahola is abundant with wetlands in the valleys and agricultural fields along the coastline.
Culturally, Anahola is known as an abundant fishing village, having year-around food sources. Anahola beach is mostly protected by a reef, making it one of the safest beaches on the east side for swimming and snorkeling. Anahola, in the Native Hawaiian language, describes an ancient fishing method which utilized the auhuhu plant (tephrosia purpurea) to poison or stun fish. A variety of fishing traditions are still practiced till today; shoreline fishing, spear fishing, and the Japanese introduced throw-net style of fishing. In Anahola, fishing isn’t just a hobby or a way to put food on the table; it’s a way of life. The fishing traditions here run deep, connecting generations of locals to their island roots.