Hanalei Access-Kauai-Landslide

Hanalei Access Challenge – Latest DOT Schedule

Update (August 30, 2021): Good news! Access will get easier as of September 4th at 5:30. The Department of Transportation released the following updated schedule:

Monday through Saturday

  • Two lanes open (one in each direction) from 12 a.m. to 6:59 a.m.
  • Single lane alternating traffic (guided by pilot vehicle) between 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.
  • Two lanes open (one in each direction) after 5:31 p.m.

Sunday and State Holidays

  • Two lanes open (one in each direction) all day

Original Post: Hanalei access from Princeville is a short, steep, two-lane portion of the Kuhio highway ending at the historic, one-lane Hanalei Bridge. Generally traffic runs smoothly with a short wait as 5 to 7 vehicles, alternating from each side, cross the bridge. It is the entrance to some of the most beautiful scenery on the island. Hanalei Bay, Lumahai Beach, Tunnels (Makua Beach), Ke’e Beach, and the start of the Kalalau Trail are the points beyond. It is a part of the island you do not want to miss.

The challenge is that last March (2021), there was a huge landslide on the Hanalei Hill leading down to the bridge. Large amounts of rain caused huge amounts of dirt and rock material to slide down the hill, onto the road, closing it completely. For several weeks Hanalei acccess was by boat only, across the Hanalei River. Fortunately the close-knit community came together to help stranded visitors get up to Princeville, and supplies were brought down and across the river for residents on the Hanalei side. Eventually the Department of Transportation was able to clear enough material off of one lane so that they could open the road access for three short periods every day.

Hanalei Landslide

Tremendous work is ongoing as workers try to stabilize the hillside six days a week. The discovery of a 19th century water tunnel running horizontally through the area added additional concerns. Old maps were consulted to determine where the water, flowing through the tunnel, initiated. 545 soil nails were installed and a 300 foot wide, 60 foot tall concrete wall has been built to secure the slope.

According to a news release from the DOT on July 30th, the roadwork is on schedule. “Remaining work before the road can be reopened with occasional closures and night work is expected to run to the end of September, weather permitting.” Additionally, “A second phase of permanent repairs is currently in the design and environmental phase. This work, which will include installation of drainage system to intercept water coming from the 19th century water tunnel on the hillside and installation of a tecco mesh and soil nail wall to stabilize the slope below the highway at mile marker 1, is expected to advertise for bids later this year.”

DOT work on Hanalei Hill

What Does This Mean?

A little planning is necessary. If you are staying on the south side of the Hanalei Access, and you plan to visit Hanalei or parts further north, then it is critical that you understand the current time schedule for the daily road openings. During the week, there are three periods of time when traffic can alternate from each side of the closure. On Saturday, the traffic alternates for a half hour every hour on the half hour. On Sunday, there is no work being done, so one lane is open all day with traffic alternating from each side. Here is the schedule as of August 14th, 2021:

The schedule for public access for the upcoming week will be:

Every Saturday:

Public access:

5:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. (Hanalei side goes first)

8:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.

9:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

10:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

11:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

12:30 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.

1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

2:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

3:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

4:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

5:30 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.

Every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday:

Public access:

5:30 a.m. to 7:45 a.m. (Hanalei side goes first)

1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. (Princeville side goes first)

5:30 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. (Princeville side goes first)

Every Wednesday :

Public access:

5:30 a.m. to 7:45 a.m. (Hanalei side goes first)

12:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. (Princeville side goes first)

5:30 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. (Princeville side goes first)

Every Sunday and State Holiday:

Public access:

5:30 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. (Hanalei side goes first)

What I Tell My Guests

At first glance it seems that the obvious time to visit Hanalei and beyond is on Sunday when the public access runs all day. Or, Saturday, when one can drive down during a half hour period every hour. Being able to go down or come back up at just about any time makes this a popular choice. The problem is that LOTS of people are making this choice, including residents who want to spend their days off on the north shore. So, it is crowded! There’s plenty of room for everyone at the beach, but restaurants and food trucks are swamped. Expect to wait a long time to purchase any food or beverage.

My suggestion, instead, is that visitors dedicate one weekday to the north shore, and spend the whole day enjoying everything it has to offer. Take the early morning access before 7:45 AM and head directly to Tunnels (Makua) Beach for some morning snorkeling. At that time of day one should be able to find ample parking (not true for most of the day). Then head to Hanalei for lunch and/or walking through all the cute shops. Spend the afternoon at Lumahai Beach or Hanalei Bay, or both! After a full day, go back through the Hanalei access after 5:30 PM (Princeville side goes first, so the later, the better. After the first long line of traffic goes through, the wait is shorter). Or, stay and watch the sunset or go to dinner (make reservations), and then drive back up to Princeville. It is a L O N G day, for sure. But, there will be less people and your time will be way more enjoyable.


Makua/Tunnels Beach

If you are planning to go to Ke’e, either with a parking reservation or shuttle ticket, use that day to extend your stay on the north shore. I was able to get 12:30 parking reservations for my family on a Friday in June. Believe it or not, I set my alarm for midnight at exactly 30 days prior to the day we wanted to go, so that I could get the reservation and entry passes for them. Residents do not need reservations. We drove down early, had coffee (the line was long), and went to Hanalei Bay. After lunch, we drove out to Haena State Park so several family members could hike to Hanakapi’i Beach and Falls. (Depending on the time of year, this may not allow enough time to go to the Falls and back before dark. It is an eight mile, round trip hike.) The rest of us luxuriated at Ke’e Beach. We then drove back up to Princeville at about 6:30. It was a highlight of their trip!


Haena State Park – Ke’e Beach

Here is one more thing to keep in mind, especially if you are staying in Princeville. Traffic wanting to use the access during the weekday, mid-day access time, starts lining up an hour ahead of time and often backs up past the entrance to Princeville. Therefore, it is best to be mindful of this as you navigate your entrance or exit from the Princeville Community or the Princeville Shopping Center.

All of this has been a bit frustrating for residents and visitors alike. You do not want to come to Kauai, however, and miss the part of the island that looks like what your image is of lush, green, Hawaii. So, check out the Hanalei access schedule and plan your days accordingly. If you do this, you will have incredible, stressfree days on the north shore. Enjoy!

Find a schedule of all Kauai road closures here.

Find information about Haena State Park reservations here.

For more of my blogs about Kauai, visit the Guide page of our website. If you would like to be notified when a new blog post is created, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the Guide page and fill in the Subscription Form. An email will be sent to you. For more information about our luxury, three bedroom, Kauai vacation rental on the north shore, go to any other page of this website. We would LOVE you to follow us on Instagram @honupoint. Mahalo!

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