Hanalei, meaning ‘lei making’ and ‘crescent bay’ in Hawaiian is the perfect base for an adventure. The small town on the North Shore of Kauai is surrounded by Mount Na Molokama, Mamalahoa and Hihimanu and as a result, it’s a place of natural beauty and has a charm that draws you in and makes you want to explore.
You’ll quickly see and feel the relaxed buzz around Hanalei. A mix of tourist and locals alike, hanging out in coffee shops, wandering the main street with a shaved ice or eating tasty morsels from nearby trailer takeaways. Hanalei appears versatile in that it makes the ideal destination for a relaxed break or an adventurous getaway. You can do as little or as much as you like. I would be doing as much activity as I could including bicycling, trekking and paddle boarding, amongst others.
Walking Kalalau Trail & Hanakapi’ai Falls
One of the most noteworthy walks on Kauai, Kalalau Trail to Hanakapi’ai Falls. A great way to see a little more of the North Shore and the scenic landscape surrounding Hanalei. A top notch walk of 8 miles (4 miles there, 4 miles back) which follows the Na Pali coastline and inland to the 300 feet Hanakapi’ai Falls – a waterfall of the highest calibre. The river crossings, boulders and weather all play their part on this walk, consequently making it fairly challenging. Therefore ensure you have good footwear, ample drinking water and food to be prepared. In addition, if you’re interested in walking the Kalalau Trail to Hanankapi’ai Falls more information is available here: http://www.travelinspired.co.nz/travel-articles/hanakapiai-falls-hawaii/
If you’d rather explore on 2 wheels, it’s possible to hire bicycles from Hanalei town and cycle. Follow the North Shore towards the Na Pali coast for as short or long as you wish, a very scenic ride – stopping off at viewpoints and caves en-route. For the super keen fitness fanatic, you could cycle the 12 miles to the start of the Kalalau Trail along the Kuhio Highway, walk the trail and cycle back into town. If you don’t wish to cycle all the way back into Hanalei, accommodation is available along the Kuhio Highway. It’s best to pre-book the accommodation.
Back in Hanalei why not try your hand at paddle boarding? After my first experience of paddle boarding on the Hanalei River I was hooked! As you paddle up the river, keep an eye out for birdlife, fish and turtles. The turtles sunbath on logs at the river’s edge and quietly glide back into the water as you approach. A great way to spend a couple of hours, whilst getting a good workout. You’ll also get to see more of the incredible landscape around Hanalei and as an added bonus, if you fall in, you get to cool off!
If you’re more of a saltwater type of person, surfing at Hanalei Beach is a popular pastime. It’s perfect for newbies and pros alike. For the real beginner, like myself, organise lessons at one of the many surf shops in town. You could be riding those waves in no time! The shallow and calm waters near Hanalei Pier make a great spot to learn to surf whilst getting tips from the friendly guides.
Finally, as the sunsets Hanalei Beach is the place to hang out. Locals and tourists head to the beach for a beer, BBQ, surf or for a stretch of the legs. It’s the perfect way to cap off the day. Walk from one end of the beach to the other, watching the sunset over the ocean. In addition, make sure you check out Hanalei Pier and watch the fishermen or chat with the locals, before heading back into town to pick one of the many excellent cafes, restaurants or trailer takeaways. Over dinner you can prepare the action packed day of adventure in Hanalei.
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Hi, I’m Adam Constanza, freelance travel content creator living, working and supporting tourism in Timor Leste, South East Asia.
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