Hanalei is the main hub and gateway to the north shore of Kauaʻi. A small beach town, Hanalei resides along a crescent-shaped bay, backdropped by lush, green mountains. It offers a relaxing, slow-paced atmosphere to go along with its opportunity for epic adventures.
There aren’t many places to stay in Hanalei town itself – mostly vacation rentals – but it’s still a very active town, filled with day trippers exploring the north shore as well as folks staying in the nearby Princeville resort area.
What are the top things to do in Hanalei? Below, we provide an extensive list of activities and offerings.
Table of contents
Table of Contents
- Hanalei FAQ
- Eat and Drink
- Farm Tours
- Hanalei Beach
- Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge
- Limahuli Garden and Preserve
- Nāpali Coast/North Shore
Here are a few frequently asked questions about Hanalei:
Hanalei is known for its gorgeous beach and bay, as well as being the gateway to the north shore and the Nāpali Coast.
Without traffic, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. The trip is about 40 miles.
Hanalei Beach, Hanalei Town, Limahuli Garden and Preserve, Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge, various nearby beaches, and the Nāpali Coast.
Hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, and surfing.
Eat and Drink
If you’re looking for something to eat on the north shore of Kauaʻi, Hanalei is the place to be. It has a variety of restaurants and food trucks, offering everything from American classics to local plate lunches. Some of our favorites are:
- Hanalei Taro & Juice (food truck),
- Fresh Bite Kauaʻi (food truck),
- And of course, the Hanalei classics Kalypso Island Bar & Grill and Tahiti Nui.
Much of Hanalei’s appeal comes from its beautiful, farm-filled valleys that butt up against the mountains. Exploring a local farm is a great way to get a look into local life, and try some real local products. Explore the world of Hawaiian taro with Hanalei Taro’s farm tour (and be sure to visit their food truck, listed above, afterwards).
Are you a foodie? Then you should take a bite of our list of culinary tours and activities on Kauaʻi.
Nearby in the resort area of Princeville, you’ll find a spectacular, absolutely stunning seaside golf course at Princeville Makai Golf Club (makai means “seaside”). It’s been ranked ranked on lists such as the Top 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses in America by Golf Digest, the Top 3 Best Courses You Can Play in Hawaii by GolfWeek, and America’s “Top 5 Great Golf Settings” by National Geo Traveler.
Don’t have the time (or budget) to play a round? Take the Sunset Golf Cart Tour instead.
Hanalei Beach’s beauty cannot be overstated. Backdropped by lush, jagged mountains (often graced with waterfalls), the crescent-shape, white-sand beach is a tranquil sight to see. Whether you spend the day or simply take a walk, you won’t regret making the stop. Hanalei Beach is also a great spot to take surf lessons (see below).
See more favorites on our list of favorite Kauaiʻi Beaches.
Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge
The Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge protects more than 900 acres just outside of Hanalei, providing a safe haven for endemic flora and fauna. Most of the area is closed to the public to assist with restoration, but there are a few ways to enjoy this pristine area – on foot (see hiking below), on a kayak (see kayaking below), or from observation points located along its perimeter. A new viewing point from Hanalei is nearing completion as we type, and there is also one along Kūhiō Highway in Princeville.
There are some good hikes that are easy accessible from Hanalei. The ʻŌkolehao Trail is one of the few ways to gain access to the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge, offering sweeping views of the north shore, including Hanalei, Princeville, the Kīlauea Lighthouse, the green agricultural fields, and the mountainous scenery.
You can get a good (and muddy!) feel for this trail by watching the following video by Hannah, Richard, and Paul from Wild and Growing:
Another great day hike is Hanakāpī‘ai Falls, which follows the Kalalau Trail for 2 miles before heading another 2 miles into the valley to the 300-foot falls. More adventurous folks can hike the entire Kalalau Trail (11 miles) for an overnight camping experience.
You can find these hikes, together with many more, in our list of favorite easy, intermediate, and difficult hikes on Kauaʻi.
Hanalei Bay is a great choice for kayaking, as well as the Hanalei River, which runs through the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge. For beginners, we recommend this tour from Kayak Hanalei, which allows you to start inland and paddle downstream, following the Hanalei River into Hanalei Bay.
More advanced kayakers will want to head out of the bay and paddle beneath the cliffs of the Nāpali Coast. These long-distance tours from Kayak Kauaʻi and Nāpali Kayak take place in the summer. The latter will even facilitate overnight camping.
If you’re just looking to cruise around, rent a kayak in Hanalei and take it out on the bay at your leisure.
Limahuli Garden and Preserve
Limahuli is a 17-acre botanical garden in a valley just outside of Hanalei. For those interested in tropical plants, natural beauty, and/or photography, it’s a worthy place to check out. From colorful flowers to traditional agricultural crops, the preserve was previously named the Best Natural Botanical Garden in the U.S. by the American Horticultural Society. Stop by to indulge in Hawaiʻi’s flora while soaking up great views of the mountains and ocean.
Nāpali Coast/North Shore
Hanalei is the gateway to the north shore and the Nāpali Coast. Head west from Hanalei to discover myriad beaches (Tunnels, Hāʻena, Keʻe) or hike the Kalalau Trail, all amongst some of the best scenery Hawaiʻi has to offer.
The Nāpali Coast is one of the oldest parts of the modern-day chain, and its weathered erosion is what gives this area its beauty, the mountains carved and jagged, the cliffs tall. From Hanalei, it’s easy to access this area by car or shuttle. See here for parking, reservation, and shuttle information.
There are many good snorkeling spots around Hanalei.
- Tunnels Beach is particularly interesting, showcasing underwater lava fields, including some caves.
- Anini Beach is one of the longest reefs off Kauaʻi;
- Hideaway’s is full of coral and topographical channels; and
- Keʻe Beach (shown below) offers the chance to see sea turtles and lots of tropical fish.
You can find more spots in our guide to snorkeling on Kauaʻi.
Hanalei is a great place to learn to surf, not only because of its scenic beauty, but because the bay offers natural protection and induces a lot of beginner friendly waves. There are several surf shops in town; we recommend Hanalei Surfing Adventures. If you already know how to surf, simply rent a board and get after it.