The north shore of Kauai is a piece of paradise where you will find the villages and towns of Kilauea, Anini, Hanalei, Ha’ena and the breathtaking Napali Coast. The little town of Kilauea is home to the Kilauea Point Lighthouse constructed around 1912 to aid navigation. Since Kauai was the first landfall for ships coming from the west, Kilauea’s 180 ft. peninsula served well as a light station. The next significant town headed north after Kilauea is, Anini, a coastal village with around a 3-mile stretch of sandy beach. It is considered as one of the safer beaches to swim at on the north shore of Kauai with snorkeling, fishing, and one of the last boat ramps to access the Napali Coast via boat. Princeville may be thought of as a town but it’s a residential area in between Anini beach and overlooking the Hanalei bay. There is a little marketplace with tiny shops and a grocery store, also housing one of the last gas station before the road ends in Ha’ena. Many residents never have to leave this little community.
The most popular north shore town is nestled in the valley of Hanalei, providing panoramic views of lush green landscapes, including the popular blue waters of Hanalei Bay. The valley sweeps from the mountain to the sea, its stunning waterfalls emptying into what seems like endless wetlands, cultivated with fields of kalo (taro). Hanalei’s 2-mile-long sandy shores are one of the most celebrated beaches on the island, attracting locals and visitors alike. It’s perfect for swimming, surfing, paddleboarding and all water activities. The town’s little community provides the best dining experiences at local eateries as well as surf wear and boutique shopping. During the winter months, the north shore provides a playground for experienced water men and women as they surf the giant winter swells.
The only way to get from Hanalei to Ha’ena near the end of the road at Ke’e beach is over the small historic bridges crossing the many streams and waterways. Waterfalls are found throughout the canopy of north shores rocky mountains flowing into the ocean. Lumaha’i beach is made famous by the 1958 movie, South Pacific, and most importantly its majestic beauty. With a stream flowing through Lumaha’i valley and crossing under the bridge, it provides a place to cool off after attempting to take a swim in the rough waters of Lumaha’i beach. Although, it the most picturesque, this beach is one of the most dangerous beaches on Kauai.
The roads and bridges are one-laned along the coastline, where you get an up-close look at life on the deep north shore through the village of Wainiha. The last stop before the end of the road for any snacks or drinks are at the Wainiha Store. Many times, you will catch the locals congregating, talking story in front of the family-owned store before heading home.
This coastal village has the fresh waters from the mountains as well as the resources in the ocean providing for a relaxed and simple lifestyle. Most of the homes are fortunate to have the backdrop of tropical mountains and the coastal shoreline as a front yard. Hawaii’s 3rd largest private nature preserve is the Wainiha Valley, having one of the largest river systems, magnificent mountain cliffs and portions of the Mt. Wai’ale’ale summit region. Remarkable examples of healthy native lowland forest, rarely found elsewhere in the islands.
The prestigious Ke’e beach is where the road ends and is one of the last accessible beaches on the north shore. One of the best snorkeling beaches and shell picking on the island, is the protected reefs of Ke’e. During the summer months, the water can be as calm and clear as a swimming pool. Ke’e Beach is also the beginning of the Napali Coast and the Kalalau trail that leads to Hanakapiai and Kalalau Beach.
The Na Pali Coast
The Napali coast is inaccessible by road and is truly one of the most pristine, untouched, and majestic island coastlines. It is best visited by sea or air, the 15-mile stretch of the Na Pali coast will give you sights of 3,000 feet-high densely green cliffs that dramatically meet the turquoise blue ocean. Due to the amount of rain, the Na Pali coast contains some of the world’s largest and most beautiful waterfalls. The strong ocean current and crashing waves have played a significant role in creating the coast’s unique topography, which features breathtaking sea-arches and hidden caves.
At the end of Ke’e beach is where the Kalalau trail begins, the first 2 miles lead to Hanakapiai beach (not for swimming) at the base of the Hanakapiai valley. The waters off the Na Pali Coast are a playground for all varieties of sea animals; seabirds, turtles, dolphins, and Hawaii’s humpback whales can be seen during the winter months. Hiking, boating, and camping are the highlights of this coastline, the natural resources are incredibly well-preserved.
By hiking, you have first-hand account of the incredible landscapes By far the most popular way to hike the Na Pali coast is on the Kalalau trail which begins at Ke’e Beach. 11 miles of hiking through both large and small valleys, twisting one’s way around cliff faces, while enjoying amazing views, and pushing through a lot of energy will take you all the way to Kalalau Valley, the official end of the trail. It is a minimum 3-day round-trip journey for most people to hike all the way to Kalalau and back, which means that you have to be well outfitted and prepared for the journey. Though this trail is breathtaking, it is also one of the most dangerous hikes in the world. By boat, you will experience the best view of the entire Na Pali coast without little to no exercise. Spanning 17 miles along, the Na Pali coast is a sacred place well-defined by an astonishing natural beauty. Much of its terrain appears as it did centuries ago when Hawaiian settlements thrived in these deep, narrow valleys.