Hanalei Bay, Kauai – My Hawaiian Vacation Dream Come True

The Complete Package (my beloved) and I went to Hawaii this year on vacation. It’s been on my travel bucket list, and I’m happy we finally made it. There are many lovely islands to choose from in Hawaii. Each island offers travelers something different. We were looking for solitude, lush scenery and little or no crowds. For that reason, we chose Kauai, and more specifically the town of Hanalei on Kauai’s north shore. Have you ever seen the Dr. Beach list of top beaches worldwide that gets released every year? Well in 2009, Hanalei Bay was rated the best beach in the world by Dr. Beach. He’s right. This place is beautiful – 2 miles of stunning, wide beach lining a beautiful crescent-shaped bay.

Hanalei Pier & River - Inside NanaBread's Head

If you’ve read my travel post about HomeAway.com, you’ll know that I’m partial to renting vacation homes over hotel rooms, especially when the prices are comparable. I found the NamiNori house in 2009 while searching for possible vacations. When we decided to go to Yellowstone instead, I bookmarked it for later. In early 2010, we were ready for a beach vacation, and this house came back up. It had everything we were looking for, including a fabulous location adjacent to Hanalei’s historic pier. Although we found the house on HomeAway, the owners have since launched a new website, which is much slicker and has better photos. If you’d like to see NamiNori House for yourself, open this link in a new tab: www.naminorihouse.com. I’ll warn you…once you look, you may dream of going there yourself.

Sunrise Over Hanalei Bay - From the Pier

We absolutely loved walking out to the pier every day to watch the sun rise and set over Hanalei Bay. The beautiful Hanalei River joins the Pacific ocean right there at the Hanalei pier and the adjacent Black Pot beach park. Families like to gather at the pier and park for sunset picnics. It’s a great atmosphere. I loved the sand. Walking on the beach was like walking through warm powdered sugar. It was heavenly. It didn’t hurt that George Clooney was there all week filming his new movie “The Descendants” so really, it couldn’t have been more perfect. We saw George and his crew filming on the beach frequently. They also filmed in a house on our street (Weke Road), and the film crew rented several other houses on our street and around town, as well. We had no idea they would be there and were surprised to find ourselves in the middle of it all. Other than a few impromptu parades of film trucks, a small occasional crowd on the beach, and a brief traffic jam, you’d never know they were there. We’re looking forward to watching the film when it comes out now so we can relive our time on Hanalei Bay. It’s like the best vacation video ever, right?

Clooney Sitting on Hanalei Beach While Filming

Kauai is called the “garden isle” of the Hawaiian chain because it has such a lush, remote landscape. Most of the island is inaccessible due to rough terrain, and the famous NaPali coastline on the north shore is a great example of this. It’s one of the most photographed shorelines in the world, and the best way to see it is by air. There are several helicopter tour companies on Kauai, but we chose to see it in a Cessna with “Wings Over Kauai” – a small family outfit working out of the Lihue airport. We’d never flown in a plane this small before, and I admit to being nervous. I had a real fear of small planes and air sickness. But Bruce Coulombe, our pilot and the owner of WOK, talked me through it, giving me tips on how to best enjoy the flight. His experience and patience were greatly appreciated, and our flight was fabulous. We spent almost a full hour flying over most of the island, including the NaPali coastline, our beloved Hanalei Bay, and Waimea Canyon (often called the Grand Canyon of Hawaii). Bruce was an excellent tour guide and pilot, and the flight was one of the best experiences of our vacation. Kauai is a gorgeous place, but you’ll only see a fraction of it if you don’t get up in the air, so conquer your fear and get up there!

Wings Over Kauai View of NaPali Coast

Beaches are the reason most people vacation in Hawaii, and there are some marvelous beaches on Kauai. We spent nine days trying to see them all. Of course, we had our favorites. Hanalei Bay beach was our refuge, and an awesome place to stay. But Secret Beach, so named because it’s really hard for tourists to find and not too easy to get to, was stunning. The views of the Kilauea Lighthouse made it even better. Like I said, it’s called Secret Beach for a reason, but if you can find it, it’s well worth a visit.

Secret Beach with a View of Kilauea Lighthouse

Haena Beach on the far north shore, west of Hanalei, was also a favorite. It had a cool dry cave right off the road you could explore, a lovely creek that ran down the mountainside and into the ocean, and a great little beach park with all the amenities you needed – bathrooms, an outdoor shower, and a concession truck selling snacks and ice-cold drinks. The wide beach and random lava rock outcroppings also made it a great place to hang out and a lot of fun to explore.

Haena Beach on the North Shore of Kauai

The most relaxing and most memorable part of the trip for me was the sunsets at the pier. Each night provided a different show. Daily changes in the weather made each sunset unique. It was the best free show on the island. Having other couples and families gather each night to share it made it even more special. Locals would get out and walk their dogs, surfers would paddle in from a day riding the waves, fishing boats would slowly drift in, and as the sun set, everyone would stop and quietly enjoy the spectacle. I’m thankful for the opportunity to travel, a loving husband to share it with, a camera to capture the best moments, and the beauty every part of the world has to offer. And I’m grateful that my dream to visit Hawaii was fulfilled. Oh, Kauai, I dream of you still…

Siblings Celebrating the Sunset over Hanalei Bay



Filed under Travel Tales

5 responses to “Hanalei Bay, Kauai – My Hawaiian Vacation Dream Come True

  1. Big Sis

    Georgeous photos, oops, meant gorgeous.

  2. So glad you wrote this up….Now I am ready to finally plan our trip to Kauai! ;) (Even after living on Oahu for 10 1/2 years!) Excellent post and it does indeed look like an amazing place!

    • Hanalei Bay is supposed to have excellent surfing, depending on the time of year. Also saw lots of stand up paddlers. It is a beautiful place, and there are so many gorgeous beaches to choose from. We made it our mission to try to see them all. I highly recommend staying in Hanalei on the north shore. So peaceful and quiet.

  3. Kauai sunsets are the best free shows on earth and, a different one each evening. Try to never miss one when I’m there. Aloha and Mahalo for taking me back there………

    • Thanks, Auntieannieboo. We loved those Hanalei Bay sunsets, especially when you find a nice place in the sand and everyone comes to hang out together. I was pleasantly surprised by how many families came down to the pier to picnic or barbecue each night. Every sunset is a party in Kauai.

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