Ganapathy Kumar /  Unsplash

Ganapathy Kumar / Unsplash

Hanalei Travel Guide

Spencer Lowe

If you’re on Kauai's North Shore and are looking to escape the resort vibe of Princeville, you might consider Hanalei, located about 10 minutes away. Whether you’re looking to spend a day or your entire vacation there, this town has lodging, local restaurants, attractions and a picture-perfect pier.

Places to Stay 

Hanalei Kauai Travel Shaka GuidePhoto by Jason Weingardt on Unsplash

There are several awesome places to stay in Hanalei, most of which are upscale resorts. If you’re looking for a resort experience, Hanalei Colony Resort is a mostly open-air establishment, which means you can take in Kauai's beautiful weather! 

For a traditional resort experience, you can try Hanalei Bay Resort on the east end of town across the Hanalei Bridge. If you’re looking for somewhere with a more beachy vibe, look into Hanalei Surfboard House. For a more affordable cottage experience, you might check out Hanalei Dolphin Cottages. 

Places to Eat in Hanalei

There are plenty of places to eat in Hanalei, where prices are slightly more affordable than in neighboring Princeville. You’ll find almost any cuisine you could hope for in the downtown and surrounding area from Mexican to Italian to a variety of Asian foods. Here is a list of available eateries to check out:

  • The Dolphin Restaurant
  • Post Cards Cafe
  • Cafe Tumeric
  • Trucking Delicious
  • Tahiti Nui 
  • Hanalei Wake Up Cafe
  • Kalypso Island Bar & Grill
  • Chicken in a Barrel
  • NorthSide Grill & Sushi
  • Hanalei Bay Pizzaria
  • The Hanalei Gourmet
  • Federico’s Fresh Mex Cuisine
  • Hanalei Poke
  • Pat’s Taqueria
  • Bar Acuda
  • AMA Restaurant
  • Hanalei Bread Company

Getting Around Hanalei

For a few months at the end of 2018, Hanalei was somewhat difficult to reach from certain areas following a landslide that covered several sections of Kuhio Highway, however, the town is now fully accessible once again.

For getting around town, rideshares like Uber and Lyft are able to get you from point A to point B without any trouble. However, if you’ll be leaving town, you might consider a car rental, since you might not be able to get a rideshare back into Hanalei once you’re dropped off. Kauai also has a public bus system that costs $2 per ride, but we still recommend renting a car as the easiest way to travel around Kauai. 

Things to do in Hanalei

Hanalei Kauai Travel Shaka GuideHanalei Bay at dusk | Photo by Jarred Decker

There’s plenty to do in Hanalei and the surrounding area. From surfing to beach hopping, here's a list of things to do in this quaint Hawaiian town. 

1. Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay is a great place to spend some time. Waioli Beach Park takes up most of the bay’s shore and features two miles of beach and coastal lava rock ridges. The swimming at Hanalei Bay is usually excellent since the crescent shape helps calm the waters. However, during the winter, swells do increase to the point of being dangerous causing strong riptides and currents to form.

2. Hanalei Beaches

Kauai’s North Shore, where Hanalei is located, is full of outstanding beaches. Keep in mind that most of these beaches are not swimmable during the winter when swells create dangerous conditions. You can find the aforementioned Waioli Beach Park right in the center of town. Across the Hanalei Bridge on the east end of town, you might consider Hideaway’s Beach, which has excellent snorkeling. 

Waikoko Beach just west of town isn’t as long as others, but it’s also not as crowded. Just west of Waikoko, Lumaha’i Beach is absolutely gorgeous, but conditions are rough year-round. Even further west you’ll find Tunnels Beach, named for the underwater lava tubes that protect tropical fish for some of the best snorkeling on the island. 

3. Hanalei Surfing

During the summer, Hanalei Bay is a great place to learn to surf, since the bay’s crescent shape protects it from larger waves. During the winter, the bay becomes a favorite surf spot for more experienced surfers since even the crescent shape cannot hold back the roaring winter swells. If you're traveling during the winter, stop by to watch the pros catch some waves. 

4. Hanalei Pier

If you’re looking for a great place to take a walk, the views from Hanalei Pier are breathtaking. You can sit beneath the pavilion and take in the coastal ridges or even jump in for a swim when the conditions are right.

5. Hanalei Farmers Market

Farmers markets have become a huge part of Hawaii’s culture, and the Hanalei Farmers’ Market is an excellent example. You’ll find a large array of locally grown foods and handmade crafts from 9:30 am to 12:00 pm every Saturday. 

Hanalei Weather

In general, Hawaii has two seasons: a rainy winter and a dry summer. The winter occurs from November to March and the summer lasts from April to October. Average high temperatures during the winter range from 78 to 80 degrees and from 82 to 84 degrees during the summer. You’ll want to keep in mind that the northern part of the, where Hanalei resides, is quite a bit rainier than southern areas like Koloa or Poipu. 

Traveling Past Hanalei? 

If you're traveling past Hanalei towards Haena State Park - home to the Kalalau Trail - you'll need a reservation. In addition to a reservation to enter the park, you'll need a parking or shuttle reservation. Parking costs $10 per car and entry is $5 per person. Round trip shuttle service and entry costs $35 per person. You can make your reservations up to 30 days in advance here

Please note, due to a recent landslide Kuhio Highway, the road that travels beyond Hanalei towards the park, is undergoing maintanence and therefore there is limited access. You should expect long delays and plan to leave extremely early before the morning closure towards Hanalei. Learn more about the road closures here

RELATED: Poipu Beaches for Morning, Noon and Night and 10 Ways to be a Safe and Responsible Traveler in Hawaii

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