Our game plan for today was to head in the exact opposite direction and head to the other “End of the Road” on Kaua’i with this route taking us up to the North Shore region of the island. Once again we thought we drive to the furthest point initially and then make the return with many stops along the way – however, we didn’t necessarily follow that plan and started taking some detours to various beaches along the route.
It was really fun driving through the quaint Hawaiian villages along the route and definitely plan to return to them and walk around and explore some of the shops and eateries and definitely try the island specialty of ‘shave ice’, not to be confused with the mainland’s sno-cone from what we read! We drove through the historic portion of Wailua, then through Kapa’a before making our first detour out to Moloa’a Beach. Moloa’a means “matted roots” and the relevance of the name is apparent at the river mouth where tree roots are exposed to the elements. It’s a beautiful white sand beach in the shape of a crescent moon and is one of the lesser visited beaches probably due to the black rocks jutting out of the ocean on the left and right side of the beach. We enjoyed a brief stroll along the beach before reluctantly returning to the car and proceeding northward.
The weather was vacillating between sprinkles and sunshine, clouds and blue skies and what we’ve been told is very typical island weather. We decided to take another detour to see Kaua’i’s only lighthouse, at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. This is a National Historical Landmark. The lighthouse originally boasted the world’s largest “clam-shell lens” which could send a beam of light 20 miles out to sea, but was replaced in 1976 with a small high-intensity beacon. The waters along this area are part of the Humpback Whale Sanctuary and also a place to find sea turtles, dolphins, Hawaiian monk seals and a host of birdlife. Also an excellent place for whale watching in the winter months. The scenery and views were just awesome.
Continuing north we decided we’d check out Princeville located on a high bluff with stunning views of Hanalei Bay. This is a 9,000 acre planned luxury homes, condos and a hotel with a view that’s tough to beat. Its modern name stys true to the area’s traditional uses as it was used by the ali’i (Hawaiian royalty) and was home to various sacred heiau. “The pandanus tree grew here in abundance, providing Hawaiians with a valuable leaf called hala that was used for weaving. Because the first Europeans to the area realized the value of the location, the Russian Fur Trading Company built Fort Alexander here, one of the three forts built under King Kaumuali’I of Kaua’i. The only remains are the faint outlines of walls on the lawn in front of the St. Regis Princeville Resort.” We definitely plan on returning to Princeville for further exploration later in our stay. The grounds were incredible with more of the beautiful Hawaiian tropical plants and flowers everywhere and so beautifully manicured and groomed. A visual delight!
But, we still hadn’t reached the ‘end of the road’ and so we pushed on. We stopped at a wonderful scenic overlook where the cliffs meet the land with acres of bright and dark green taro lo’I (irrigated terraces) located alongside the Hanalei River. From our vantage point we also saw some of the stand-up paddling unique to the islands. We then continued our descent into the Hanalei Valley to Hanalei town. What a beautiful setting. The town is backed by prominent green cliffs lined with waterfalls whose numbers are relative to how much rain has fallen in the area. The essence of old Hawaii holds strong in Hanalei, with historic buildings, a mix of homes from small plantation cabins to luxury homes owned by celebrities and a raw landscape; it’s stunning.
By now we were all feeling a bit hungry and ready for a break as well as a bite to eat. We already made reservations for next Wednesday at the Mediterranean Gourmet for dinner due to them featuring jazz music that evening, but thought we’d check it out for a nice bit of lunch. None of us were disappointed in our meals or the view from our ocean side table.
From Hanalei we reached the beginning of the Na Pali Coast or the northern portion of it and what is called the “end of the road”. We stopped at an interesting beach with a huge cave we enjoyed “exploring” along with Linda’s first taste of fresh coconut while we enjoyed watching the gentleman use his machete to split the coconuts open and scoop out the fresh meat with the coconut shell. But we still hadn’t reached the end destination, so we pushed on. And we finally reached the Ke’e Beach – the pot of gold at the end of the road with a natural large swimming pool. Snorkeling here is supposed to be wonderful and this is also the base of the Kalalau Trail. The beach provides full amenities and has a life guard. Steve could no longer resist – he changed into his suit and went in for a swim! Next time we’ll be sure to have snorkel gear with us so we can all enjoy it all the more!
By now it was close to 4:00 p.m. and time to head back. What a fabulous day exploring more of Kaua’i and it only served to whet our appetites to return to several areas to explore in earnest. We are also looking into taking a catamaran cruise to the Forbidden Island of Ni’ihau and seeing the Na Pali coast inaccessible by vehicles.