Kauai's North Shore

The North Shore of Kauai is tranquil and draped in velvety green with waterfalls cascading from heaven into a verdant valley, with the sounds of gentle surf. At the top of Mount Waialeale sits Alakai Swamp.   From this wetland, streams of water flow to the beaches below.  Along its journey, the water engraves deep, lush valleys creating a fertile landscape for the cultivation of various crops on Kauai’s North Shore.  The Hawaiians divided this area into three land divisions: Koolau, Halelea, and Napali. 


The rural communities of Moloaa and Kilauea lay in the ahupuaa of Koolau.  Due to its isolation, the beach community of Moloaa is often overlooked by visitors.  Just ten minutes north of Kapaa, Moloaa Bay is a great place for swimming, snorkeling or reading a book.  Unlike the rocky beaches of Kapaa, Moloaa offers golden sand and turquoise water. 

Kilauea is a former sugar plantation town.  The most frequented visitor attraction here is the Kilauea Lighthouse.  The lighthouse is located on a 203-acre national wildlife refuge.  Many migratory birds such as the Pacific Golden Plover, the Laysan Albatross, and the Nēnē propagate here. Sometimes you may even see humpback whales, Hawaiian monk seals and spinner dolphins.


Six small beach towns make up the district of Halele‘a. Kalihi Wai is the first and is primarily known for its surf break.  Kalihi Wai means “with a stream” and how fitting being that it’s next to one.  Spend an afternoon kayaking up Kalihi Wai stream.

Anini Beach is just across the river.  A bridge once connected the two towns until a tidal wave washed it away in 1957.  Vacation homes line the beach here and the ocean stays relatively calm due to a wide fringing reef surrounding it. Windsurfing is very popular here.  
Up the road is Princeville, the Bel-Air of Kauai.  This lavish town sits on a plateau that extends from the upper mountains to lower sea cliffs.  A short hike down one of these cliffs will take you to Queens Bath, a large protected saltwater pond.  Princeville offers many amenities that Hanalei doesn’t (like a gas station) so fill’er up and head on down to Hanalei.

Hanalei is what Kauai probably looked like in the 1800s.  Make sure to stop at the Hanalei Valley lookout,  where you’ll find acres of taro fields covering the valley floor. Be on the look out for Beefalo (half cow, half buffalo).  Hanalei has become a popular destination for visitors and surfers and offers some of the largest waves on the island.  The water is temperamental so take heed to any posted warnings.  If you can’t swim in the ocean, the Hanalei River feeds into the bay and provides a short but sweet kayak adventure.
The valley of Wainiha is believed to be the last hideout of the Menehune, a race of little people.  Along this narrow valley lie the remains of old home sites, heiau and taro patches.

When you’ve reached the end of the road, you’ve reached Haena. Explore the wet and dry caves of Waikanaloa, Waikapalae and Maniniholo (dry).   View Ka Ulu a Paoa, a distinguished hula heiau and discover the underwater sea caves at Kee Beach.  More than likely you’ll end up spending more than a day here. 


For the truly adventurous, the district of Napali is only accessible by foot.  The majestic park and coastline consists of streams, cascading waterfalls, dramatic sea cliffs, lush verdant valleys and amazing views. If you plan on doing the 22-mile round trip hike to Kalalau Valley, be prepared.  First and foremost, secure a camping permit.  Second, pack your bags rationally and third train!  If 22 miles is a bit too adventurous, there are many enjoyable day hikes around the area.  Remember, always check the weather conditions before going anywhere.    

As featured in Kauai Traveler magazine

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