Looking for a casual, mostly shady, Kauai hike? Some may call it a walk rather than a hike, but it leads to some spectacular views and an area to snorkel if desired. I am calling it the Hanalei Plantation Hike as it starts at the end of the paved Hanalei Plantation Road, just outside the Princeville community. This piece of land, stretching out on the Princeville side of the Hanalei River has quite a history.
In 1961, the Hanalei Plantation Cottages were built on this peninsula. Standard rooms were $42 per night. The deluxe cottages’ rate was $58. Elvis Presley reportedly stayed here during this time. The original plantation house was the location for the Frenchman’s house in the movie South Pacific. Later, in the seventies, Club Med took over the property. Unfortunately, Hurricane Iwa devastated the whole area in November 1982.
After the hurricane, a developer bought the land and started construction on numerous, luxury townhomes with projected views across the bay. Then Hurricane Iniki hit in 1992, so the project was never completed. Today, all that is left of the construction is some concrete foundations and the block pillars of these buildings.
For awhile there was talk of Disney purchasing the property. Then a plan was designed which included hotel rooms and condos. But, as of now, the property stands clear of anything except these memories. The foliage is overgrown but the lawns are mowed and access is legal and easy.
Start your Kauai hike by driving down Hanalei Plantation Road until you come to a small parking lot that services a cute little lunch stand called Nourish Hanalei. They are open from 11:00 to 3:00, Monday through Friday, so avoid those times or you will have difficulty finding a parking spot. To find this road, go north on the Kuhio Highway. Just past the fire and police stations, located after the Princeville Shopping Center, and before you go down the hill to Hanalei, turn right onto Hanalei Plantation Road. If coming from the Princeville Community, you may use Lei O Papa Road (runs next to the Makai tennis courts and leads to the back entrance), and turn right onto Hanalei Plantation Road.
After parking, continue down the road and around the gates. A short walk through the undeveloped land will bring you to the end of the pennisula. From there the view is across the entrance to Hanalei Bay and over to Lumaha’i Beach. When the swells are big enough, surfers grace the waves. In the mornings the rising sun shines on the mountains across the bay. And, in the evenings, the sun drops behind the mountains or into the sea, depending on the time of year.
If you curve around to the left, you will have an unusual view from the mouth of the Hanalei River to the Hanalei Pier and beyond.
After these Kodak moments, backtrack just a bit and take the narrow path on the right side of the walkway, facing the ocean. This will quickly take you down to the water’s edge where you will be shaded by false kamani trees along the shore. A perfect spot to read a book, or sit and contemplate life.
Ducking under these trees and heading toward the open ocean, you will come to the beach directly below Hanalei Bay Resort and the (under construction) Hotel One Hanalei. This is a snorkeling beach which has had quite a recovery due to the island closure of 2020. With fewer visitors, the reef and the reef fish have come to life. Please do your best to not stand on the coral reef. If you have carried your snorkeling gear on the walk, now is the time to check out the water.
Or, if not, have a seat and enjoy the mountain view. It runs from Bali Hai (Makana Mountain) to Hanalei. Remember the song, “Puff the Magic Dragon?” He lives by the sea in Hanalei. Notice his nose sticking into the ocean, his triangular red dirt “eye”, and his scales running along the ridge.
When I walked down to take these photos and videos yesterday, one of the ladies on the beach said, “It doesn’t get any better than this!” She may be right.
Once you make your way back to the parking area, have a seat under the big mango tree and, if they are open, have a bite to eat at Nourish Hanalei. Here you may complete your Kauai hike with this view of the Hanalei Bay, River, and Valley. It is a nice way to end a lovely walk. Enjoy!
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