Huddled around the serene Hanalei Bay directly west of Kauai's iconic Na Pali Coast, this laid back hippie enclave of surfing oldies, yoga lovers and ukulele players has long been one of the less touristy stop offs on the way through Kauai's North Shore region. Far removed from the built up beach resorts of Poipu, Hanalei town is a quaint and chilled out patchwork of cultural hotspots and exotic scenery, where life is all about relaxation and recreation in the extreme. The nearby Hanalei Bay beach is popular among local swimmers and wave riders looking to avoid the visiting crowds, while the stunning backdrop of mist-shrouded mountains and sprawling fields of Hawaiian taro crop envelopes the town in a capsule of welcome isolation. The most popular route in is by car from Lihue, where the airport has great connections to most all of Hawaii’s other islands.
The go-to place for beach lovers looking for a little peace and quiet, the Hanalei Bay Park is a place at once calm and jaw-dropping. Think extinct volcanic rises overshadowing long horseshoe sand stretches, a paradise for walkers, swimmers and surfers alike. Don’t miss the Hanalei Pier, which has been something of a local icon since it was decommissioned as a port in 1933.
As an authentic relic of old Kauai culture, the Waioli Mission House enjoys a spot on the National Register of Historic Places for its well-preserved interior and grounds, both of which communicate a raw picture of what life was like for 19th century Christian missionaries on these islands. From the volcanic chimney to the age-defying and time-perfect clock indoors, there are a number of curiosities that will make this one well worth your while.
This cultivated terrace preserve in the shadow of the Makana Mountain is a conservation center and botanical garden, where the displays are largely made up of Kauai’s indigenous plant species. It presents the perfect day out for interested plant-lovers or for those seeking a little solitude in the lush green hills of the island.
Now open in both Hanalei and Poipu, the Dolphin has long been a local favorite in Kauai. Fresh fish, surf ‘n’ turf, and sumptuous sushi forms the backbone of the menu, while many come to simply enjoy a cocktail while watching the sunset. Don’t miss the adjoining food store, where patrons can buy the freshest local ingredients straight from the fishing boats.
Set in the serene coconut groves around Hanalei Bay beach, the bungalows and suites at this surf-themed guest house are set to the placid sounds of the Pacific swell. There really is no better way to get a flavor for the Kauai’s north coast character, than with a stint at this bodacious lodging.