3/24/22: All Things Hanalei on Kauai!

Family & friends,

I’m not sure this post will persuade people who are on the fence about visiting the Hawaiian island of Kauai because of all the rain we had! However, the rain didn’t deter us from strolling around the pretty North Shore town of Hanalei, hiking a good chunk of a trail in the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge (until the mud got to us, that is!), and walking along the very pretty Hanalei Beach Park. It did put a ‘damper’ on our hiking down the steep trail to Queen’s Bath but I was sort of OK with that after learning bathers had been swept off the rocks and drowned! To drier days ahead …

All the best to you and your loved ones,


Earlier in the day, Steven and I had toured the fantastic Limahuli Garden & Preserve which was part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden. On our way back to Princeville on the North Shore, we stopped in the town of Hanalei. Like most historic buildings in Kauai, the Waioli United Church of Christ was a dark green color. Unfortunately, it was closed.

Adjacent was the Waioli Mission Hall which was established by American missionaries in 1834. The original pole and thatch meetinghouse was constructed by Hawaiians on this site in anticipation of the missionaries. The first meetinghouse was destroyed by fire and the second by wind. This timber building was completed by the congregation in 1841. It is now the oldest surviving church building on the island of Kauai. I read that its lanais – a term used in Hawaii referring to a specific type of porch – and steep double-pitched roof were notable examples of New England building traditions that had been adapted to the state’s culture and climate. The Hall served as the mission church until the adjacent Waioli Church sanctuary was constructed in 1912. 

As we looked back toward Limahuli Valley, we saw a waterfall cascading down the mountain.

Walking back to the car, we managed to find a church caretaker and asked if he would kindly open up the church so we could peek inside. Our timing was great as he was just going to be setting up for a wedding in a couple of hours. Inside we learned that the sanctuary was erected in 1912 to meet the expanding worship needs of its congregation. Designed in the American Gothic style, the building was distinguished by its stained glass windows and a bell tower that housed the original mission church bell that had been brought from Boston in 1843.

Here are some photos from our stroll through the town of Hanalei, the largest town and the gathering place on the North Shore. It was was fun poking into a few of the shops as there wasn’t a single brand name one and no fast-food restaurants.

Though we had just arrived on the island the day before, it was apparent that a mask-wearing policy was not a wishy-washy affair as it was back on the mainland! It was explained that it was imperative everyone wear masks on Kauai because the number of hospital beds was very low.

From the Hanalei Valley Overlook, we had a great view of Hanalei Bay and where we had driven earlier that day to reach Limahuli:

The fertile Hanalei Valley had been planted in taro since about 700 AD except for a century-long diversion into rice that ended in 1960. As I mentioned in the first post about Kauai, many taro farmers here in the Valley were leasing land in this Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge. That helped to provide wetland habitat for four species of endangered Hawaiian waterbirds.

Nene, the Hawaiian goose, is a species of bird endemic to the Hawaiian Islands and found exclusively in the wild on the islands of Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Molokai, and Hawaii. The official bird of the state, its Hawaiian name nēnē comes from its soft call. The nene were almost extinct with just 30 birds left in the wild in 1967 due to hunting and introduced predators. Fortunately, there are over 3,000 statewide now due to Endangered Species Act protections. There were signs everywhere cautioning drivers to slow down for the nene!

Seeing walking sticks propped up at the beginning of the refuge’s Okolehao Trail made us wonder what we were getting ourselves into when we started the hike. Okolehao roughly translates to “moonshine” in Hawaiian.

If we’d been looking for a dry spot to hike, Kauai’s North Shore would NOT be the area one would choose as it’s among the wettest places on the island. Looking on the bright side, though, the vegetation was so thick that no more than a drizzle could get through in most spots to drench us – our shoes were another matter, however, we learned very quickly!

Only recently had we begun carrying hiking poles with us on trips – they came in very handy on this hike for leverage as you can see here!

Ferns, ferns everywhere:

The trail followed the Hihimanu Ridge which was established in the Prohibition era when liquor was distilled from the roots of ti plants. If you read the previous post about the Limahuli Gardens, we first saw ti plants that morning. 

Steven laughed when he noticed my muddy legs but I don’t recall his looking much better!

It’s really hard to tell from the photo but there was a steep embankment at this point. We decided we’d had quite enough of the mud and were worried about slip-sliding down on our derrieres so called it quits and turned around. On a drier day, it would have been fun to climb the hike’s full 1,200 feet to get a 360-degree view of Hanalei Bay and Waioli Valley but that day wasn’t the one.

About twenty feet of the trail was strewn with these pretty, wild orchids.

Going down some of the steep portions made us realize we were smart to turn around when we did as it was really hard to get any traction in the mud. We considered the hike a ‘success’ when we both arrived back at the car in one piece as I had my doubts in a few spots.

We drove back to the resort community of Princeville and headed toward Queen’s Bath where we hoped we could hike down a tropical path that wound down to the oceanfront so we could see a large tide pool that had been carved into the dark lava rock, sort of like nature’s version of an infinity pool. We discovered, though, that the authorities had blocked off access to the trail because of all the rain. Too bad – here we were imagining we were royalty and lazing about in the pool below! I read that every now and again a wave breaks over the barrier, sending some bathers underwater or even swept off the rocks altogether, resulting in drownings. Knowing that, I lost any desire to try and hike down there while we were still staying on the North Shore!

Then it was back to Hanalei for the third time that day to check out what Hanalei Beach Park was like. Like all beaches in Hawaii, it was public which was very attractive. Hanalei Beach had plenty of free parking – something we found out was rare on both Kauai and Maui – and the beach itself was huge, had lovely soft sand, and all with a beautiful mountain backdrop on three sides. It would have been heaven but the weather gods sent out more drizzle so sitting on the beach wasn’t in the cards. 

One advantage to having little hair  – taking a photo after the rain and still looking good!

At one end of the beach was the long Hanalei Pier which was where we’d hoped to watch the sunset. As you can guess, the overcast skies didn’t make this the place to be come sunset.  The historic pier, built in 1892, is a landmark visible from miles across the bay. It became famous when it was featured in the 1957 movie South Pacific.

The surfers didn’t mind the wet weather!

Next post: Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge & Lighthouse.

Posted on April 6th, 2022, from the village of Volcano on the island of Hawaii where we flew to today. Nicknamed the Big Island, it received its moniker for good reason as it’s the biggest island in the country and its surface area is larger than all the other islands combined.


7 thoughts on “3/24/22: All Things Hanalei on Kauai!

  1. All that rain was certainly not what we’d hoped to see but the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge was still a stunner. Kauai is known for its lush vegetation and that only comes from all that precipitate!


  2. Face masks? Oh yes…we’d forgotten all about those ha ha! Some great scenery despite the weather, Annie. Oh, and your “smiling couple” photo…your smiles are both so consistent that I’m beginning to think that you photoshop the background on to the same shot of you two!


    1. Funny you commented about our smiling couple photos as Steven just said the other day all our selfies look identical save the background. Not sure we’re into crazy poses, though, to differentiate where we are!

      Liked by 1 person

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