You’ll need a gameplan to visit Kaua‘i’s North Shore, namely, to enter Hā‘ena State Park—so keep reading. But don’t miss the incredible sites—and sights—along the way!
The drive along Kūhiō Highway 56 is among the island’s most delightful. From Kīlauea to the end of the famous Kalalau Trail, the panoramas along this part of the coastline are indeed breathtaking, and have been made famous by Hollywood films. A thought to keep in mind is that while you’re on vacation enjoying the sights, there are many residents who call this home, so we ask you to please explore respectfully and with care.
You just might notice a beautifully paved path following some parts of the coastline up until Anahola Beach. This is just a portion of the Ke Ala Hele Makala‘e corridor, or Kapa‘a Coastal Path, that’s set to become a 20-mile path between Niumalu and Anahola. It hasn’t been completed yet, but there are portions open to walkers, runners and bikers. Visit kauaipath.org for up-to-date information.
Did you know Kīlauea Lighthouse is credited with preventing a tragedy in 1927? Low on fuel with a disfunctional radio receiver, the “Bird of Paradise” and its two fatigued U.S. Army Air Corps pilots had flown off course and were in danger of bypassing the Hawaiian Islands on its first-ever trans-Pacific flight from California to Hawai‘i. Luckily, the pilots saw the light and made it to O‘ahu to complete the historic flight.
Sitting atop a peninsula at the state’s northernmost point, the lighthouse was decommissioned in 1976, then added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. It’s now part of the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.
The refuge is one of the best places on Kaua‘i to see nesting seabirds; the endangered Hawaiian state bird, the nēnē; plus Spinner dolphins, Hawaiian monk seals and Humpback whales in season.
The lighthouse may not be open to the public, but the grounds are, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tues.-Sat. (closed on major federal holidays). There’s a 0.2-mile walk to Kīlauea Point, visitor center with interpretive dioramas and a bookstore.
Depending on availability of staff or volunteers, guided tours are at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. and 12:30, 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. every Wed. and Sat. Sign up on site, no earlier than one hour in advance; first come, first serve. Admission: Adults $10; kids under 16 are free. (808) 828-1413. Info: fws.gov/refuge/kilauea_point.
Make a pitstop at Hanalei Valley Lookout for a picturesque view of Hanalei Valley with its charming patchwork of taro fields set against Nāmolokama Mountain.
From here on out, you’ll make your way down into the valley and cross the first of seven one-way bridges. Take it slow and practice common courtesy.
Beaches along this part of the coastline are famous—think “Bali Hai” in the movie musical “South Pacific”—and rightfully so with long stretches of beautiful shoreline and gorgeous seascapes. But not all are ideal for swimming. The undercurrent can be very powerful so may we suggest basking in the sun or simply enjoying an easy walk along the water’s edge.
Our best advice is to always check with on-duty lifeguards for ocean conditions and rip currents so it’s advisable to never swim alone and keep the keiki (kids) in your line of sight.
Since the reopening of Hā‘ena State Park to the public—which includes the Kalalau Trail, Hanakāpi‘ai Falls and Kē‘ē Beach—after a 14-month closure, new guidelines have been put in place to reduce congestion and protect cultural and natural resources.
All visitors to the park, including beachgoers, hikers and others are limited to 900 per day. Be sure to make online reservations in advance whether entering by vehicle, shuttle, on foot or on bike. People without a confirmed reservation won’t be able to enter.
You can make advance reservations for Hā‘ena State Park at gohaena.com. A seat on the North Shore Shuttle includes paid entrance to the park; shuttle reservations can be made at kauainsshuttle.com. The route is between Princeville and the park with stops along the way.
Note: there’s no street parking in the neighborhood or parking along Kūhiō Highway in Hā‘ena, and parking fines may be up to $400. Visitors are encouraged to read the Aloha Pledge, alohapledge.com, to ensure a positive experience. Map C.
[A version of this story appears in the December 2019-February 2020 print editions of This Week Kaua‘i]