Explore Hanalei Bay and the Beautiful North Shore of Kauai (updated 2023)

Hanalei Bay is one of the scenic spots in Hawaii that will always stand out as that perfect place that exudes what paradise is all about.

With an idyllic bay and beach area, Hanalei Bay feels so special and surrounded by 4000-foot jagged mountains within a two-mile crescent shaped golden sand beach. The scene is magical and even surreal especially at sunset when the views to the west and lit up mountains create some dreamy skies. There are so many cool things to do in Hanalei.

The beach scene is laid back and relaxing – you wouldn’t know it from the top 5 beach ratings it gets regularly from magazines and online sites.

Explore Hanalei Bay and the Beautiful North Shore of Kauai

Where is Hanalei located?

Just a few minutes’ drive from the Princeville resort area, it’s a beautiful drive downhill into the valley with taro patch farms and the small-town vibe of Hanalei. The drive from the capital city at Lihue is about xxx miles and under an hour drive through pleasant surroundings and lush areas of the eastern to north shore of Kauai.

Tip – When you go into town; you have to pass a one lane bridge which gives the right of way from the side where to there is a wait and double line to stop.

Where is Hanalei located?

Hanalei’s history

Hanalei Bay is translated into two meanings; the first meaning is “Crescent bay” and the second meaning is “Lei making”.  The valley can also be translated to mean “Lei Valley” with the rainbows that always show up around the valley from wet rains and circling the town like a wreath.  Located on the mouth of the Hanalei river, the area was very productive with the ancient settlers who grew a bounty of taro, banana, coconuts, yams and breadfruit.  With foreigners settling, more introduced crops of cotton, rice, sugar cane, potatoes, various greens and tropical fruits were introduced into the area. Around the 1900s, the area was filled with sugar cane and rice fields from farmers with Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Portuguese and other migrant groups to work the plantation farms.

Hanalei’s history

Cool facts and trivia

Hanalei was featured in several movies including South Pacific, The Descendants and the TV series Twin Peaks. Also, Hanalei was featured in music like “Puff the Magic Dragon” by Peter Paul and Mary and “Hanalei” by the Red-Hot Chili Peppers.

Check out these popular places to explore around Hanalei Bay

Check out these popular places to explore around Hanalei Bay

Hanalei pier

Instantly recognized pier from so many Instagram shots and other magazine photo spreads, the pier jutting out is very simple, but it’s the views you get to see from the pier up to the mountains and town that truly dazzles and adds to the delightful experience of just walking on the pier at Hanalei. This is also a favorite spot for locals to jump off and swim, fish and even play some music while hanging out on the pier.

Hanalei town

Hanalei town

Just a short walk from the beach, the town is low key with some art galleries, coffee and bakery spots, surf shops, boutique stores and some wonderful restaurants to check out. Some of the churches in town are worth checking out for their simple architecture along with just walking down the street.

Visit the Waioli Mission House and Church

Visit the Waioli Mission House and Church

Part of the historic landmarks of Hanalei which were created in the early 19th century by the first Christian missionaries from the mainland USA. The Waioli Mission house is now a living museum filled with artifacts and personal belongings of the missionaries.

Beautiful Hanalei Church
Beautiful Hanalei Church

Relax at Hanalei Beach

Relax at Hanalei Beach

A perfect white sand beach with a shallow ocean front area, swimming and surfing is a fun pastime on the beach at Hanalei. With a fun crescent shaped beach to enjoy, beach combing, picnics or enjoying a nice sunset, a beach day at Hanalei beach is a must.

Waipa Farmers Market

Waipa Farmers Market

A regular farmers market is held at Waipa just outside of Hanalei between the Waipa and Wai’oli bridge. Market takes place every Tuesday from 3:30 to 5pm offering locally grown produced, finished goods and take away foods, craft vendors and art. Check out their website here for more details.

Limahalu Garden Preserve

Limahalu is a place of refuge and also a preserve that houses some of the rarest Hawaiian plants and endangered birds on the island. The garden highlights culturally significant native plants in an authentic Hawaii ecosystem. Check out more details to visiting here.

Relax at Hanalei Beach

Enjoy a gorgeous sunset at Hanalei beach

Pick some spot on the coastline or above for a gorgeous views of Hanalei and you’ll probably get a gorgeous sunset view and time to enjoy the end of day in this fabulous area. Ending the day with sunset views and collecting your thoughts about the day visiting here is probably one of the most impressionable time frames and also to capture it in photographs.

Where to eat in Hanalei

There are some delicious foods, cafes and bakeries in Hanalei town with mostly mom and pop type shops and some fine dining venues.

Kalypso Island Bar and Grill – 5156 Kuhio Hwy – Ching Young Village

Casual restaurant serving Hawaiian style menu and tropical drinks

Bar Acuda – 5-5161 Kuhio Hwy

Tapas style and creative small plates in an urban chic eatery

AMA Restaurant 5-5161 Kuhio Hwy – Hanalei Initiative Creative Center

Noodles and ramen, small plates and Donburi dishes

Café Tumeric – 5-5100 Kuhio Hwy

Food truck offering Indian plates from curries, meat dishes to seafood

Village Snack Shop and Bakery – 5-5190 Kuhio Hwy B3

Breakfast style and bakery, loco mocos, omelets and French toast

Where to sleep in Hanalei

There are no big hotels at Hanalei, just mostly inns and small Bnb places, there is a large Resort and condo complexes at nearby Princeville to stay in if you are looking for nicer resort style

Westin Princeville Resort Villas – A fabulous location with views and sunset to match along with gorgeous villas and well appointed rooms.

Hanalei Bay Resort – right in town within walking distance of the town attractions and an affordable mid range hotel that is well reviewed and popular with visitors

Hanalei Colony Resort – beachfront and more remote location from town with privacy and a gorgeous beach to enjoy with friendly customer service

Makai Club Resort – Golf course lifestyle and accommodations with larger rooms and kitchens along with other amenities

Check out the best rated and reviews places to stay with These hotels and inns here for more details and current prices and availability.

Weather and best time to visit Hanalei

Hanalei, located on the island of Kauai in Hawaii, enjoys a tropical climate year-round, but the best time to visit depends on your preferences and the activities you have in mind:

  1. Dry Season (April to October): This period is considered the best time to visit Hanalei. You’ll experience warm temperatures, plenty of sunshine, and minimal rainfall. These months are ideal for outdoor activities like hiking, beach outings, and water sports. However, it’s also the peak tourist season, so expect more crowds and higher prices for accommodations.
  2. Wet Season (November to March): While the wet season sees more rainfall, Hanalei’s lush green landscapes are especially vibrant during this time. If you’re a nature enthusiast and don’t mind occasional showers, you can enjoy lower accommodation rates and fewer tourists. Just be aware that some trails and activities may be affected by the rain.
  3. Shoulder Seasons (April and November): The shoulder seasons offer a balance between good weather and fewer crowds. You can enjoy pleasant conditions while avoiding the peak season’s crowds and prices. Keep in mind that the transition between wet and dry seasons can bring a mix of weather.

Overall, the best time to visit Hanalei depends on your priorities. If you want to ensure the sunniest and driest weather, plan your trip during the dry season. However, if you prefer a quieter experience and can handle occasional rain, the wet season or shoulder seasons can be equally rewarding, allowing you to explore Hanalei’s beauty without the crowds.

Check out these other topics on visiting Kauai now

Visiting Wailua Falls

Things to do in Lihue

Enjoy Kauai’s Beaches

Experience these Kauai hikes

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Meet Noel Morata

Noel Morata is the creator of This Hawaii Life along with a small team of contributors. Living on the Big Island and traveling regularly to the neighbor islands, Noel and team actively search and share the latest information and updates to Hawaii travel, food, adventure and various lifestyle activities on the islands for your planning and vacation. Aloha and enjoy This Hawaii Life.