Hanalei, Hawaii Guide

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Address , Hanalei, HI 96714
Complete guide to the city of Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii.

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• General: Educational • General: Guide
• General: History

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Guide Series: Hawaii City Guides
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Hanalei Location


Hanalei is a small town located on the north shore of Kaua'i, surrounding the famous and popular Hanalei Bay. To the east is the resort town of Princeville and if you travel to the west you'll end up in the Haena area. Getting to Hanalei is easy, just take the island's main road, the Kuhio Highway, which circles much (but not all) of the island.


On that note, there is one thing you'll need to know when driving to this area and that's a lesson in one-lane bridges. Yes, one lane for both directions. The local etiquette here is simple, all vehicles on one side of the bridge cross together. When they're done, the other side then crosses. You don't take single car turns like you would at a stop sign, you cross in groups.

Hanalei History


The town of Hanalei is quite small but the area was a popular place for ancient Hawaiians to grow taro (some of which is still grown here today). Around the 1860s, the popular crop to grow was rice which was then shipped to Honolulu on the island of O'ahu. The now famous Hanalei Pier was built in 1892 to help farmers move their crops to market. In 1958, Hanalei and its Hanalei Pier became famous as they were featured in the popular film South Pacific.


In 1824, King Kamehameha II's royal yacht, Pride of Hawaii, sank near the Wai'oli River in Hanalei Bay. The crew had run into a shallow reef around a hundred yards offshore. It's rumored that the captain and crew were drunk at the time but we'll skip the Exxon Valdez jokes for now. In 1844 a huge section of that ship's hull washed ashore during a winter storm surge but the bulk of the ship is still buried offshore today. Around 1995, Smithsonian archaeologists excavated the wreck and recorded over 1,200 artifacts. At the same time, they found a 40 foot section of the stern but re-buried it after documenting the find.

Hanalei Attractions


Hanalei is a very interesting place to see and it often feels like time stood still here. One of the most popular attractions here is Hanalei Bay and the famous Hanalei Pier. The bay is actually made up of four separate beaches which (starting from the east and moving to the west) are Hanalei Beach Park (Black Pot Beach), Hanalei Pavilion Beach Park, Wai'oli Beach Park (Pine Trees), and Waikoko Beach.


If you're looking for a photo opportunity, checkout the nearby Hanalei Valley Lookout for amazing mountain and taro field views. If you're after a more serious adventure, the Alakai Swamp Trail might be for you.


If you'd like to soak in a little more culture, visit the Waioli Mission House And Church and have a look at Hoopulapula Haraguchi Rice Mill which is Hawaii's only remaining rice mill (and on the list of National Register of Historic Places).


The "main street" area of the town is also home to many popular eateries, art galleries, and shops and not to be missed.

View all that Hanalei has to offer here.

Hanalei Fun Facts


The name Hanalei means "lei making" but it also means "crescent bay" which is also the shape of the of Hanalei Bay.

In addition being put into the spotlight by the film South Pacific as mentioned earlier, Hanalei has also been a popular spot for other movies such as The Descendants and Pirate's of the Caribbean: At World's End, just to name a few. If movies and TV are your thing, be sure to also read Popular Movies & TV Shows Filmed In Hawaii.

Remember the song "Puff, the Magic Dragon" by Peter Paul & Mary? It's been suggested that Puff's home, called "Hana Lee", is actually the town of Hanalei and a place renowned for its marijuana. Some even say the cliffs on the side of the beach look like a dragon. The song writers say this isn't true, but with Medical Marijuana In Hawaii being so popular maybe it's not so far fetched.

Matt A
Joined: Feb 2013
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Everything you need to know about Hanalei, Kauai.
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