Kauai's Hanalei Bay may be one of the most magical places on the planet. I swear some of the locals start paddleboarding at sunrise and don't come back in until sundown. I've paddleboarded in calm waters, but this was my first time trying to actually surf the waves. One positive: Standing lets you see the sets roll in before the surfers see them. The highlight of my morning was watching a dad surf into the waves while his 2-year-old rode on the nose of his board. I was happy playing in head-high surf. Maybe next year I'll be ready to charge Hanalei on its big days. To see just how big the bay can get, check out this video of surf star Laird Hamilton at Hanalei: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jA05XIX7Yh0.
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Early Evening In Hanalei Beach
During my stay in Kauai, I spent time in both Poipuu beach on the south side of the island, and then one day in Hanalei Bay, on the north. Both were fun, but Hanalei beach was really beautiful, with its majestic cliffs and sandy beach. Renting a surfboard was cheaper in Hanalei too. There is a toothless man with boards in his pickup truck (maybe his name was Amani?), who gave me a board for 2 hours for 10 bucks because it was almost the end of the day. Unfortunately I didn't become an instant surfer, but it was the right setting to aspire to be one.
On a wide strip of powdery sand overlooking Hanalei Bay, an array of opportunities await. Setting sail, boogie boarding, body surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, or simply lying back as the trade winds breeze by and you gaze at the sharp emerald mountains ringing the blue water... it makes for an amazing day at the beach. Hanalei sits on the north shore of Kauai. It's a tiny strip of a town that you can drive through in four minutes.
I woke up early to the roosters crowing in Kapaa. I threw on some shorts and a tshirt and hit the road stopping to watch the sunrise at Kealia Point. Driving north I stopped in Kilauea at the Kilauea Bakery & Pau Hana Pizza restaurant to pick up a sticky cinnamon bun and coffee to enjoy on the beach in Hanalei. After my yummy breakfast eaten at a picnic table at the Hanalei pavilion, I walked from one end of Hanalei Bay to the Hanalei Pier. I am the most at peace and in love when I am at Hanalei Bay.
For the most dramatic and powerful sunset experience on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, check out the crescent shaped Hanalei Bay on the tropical North Shore. Hugged by towering green mountains and kissed by some of the most fun surf waves in the state, Hanalei Bay's sandy shores are a perfect spot to curl up with a friend, a local brew and a camera to await the sun's descent behind Bali Hai, the peak used in the 1958 film South Pacific.
Charming hamlets like Haleiwa, Hana, and Hanalei represent an island culture stripped of tourist trappings. In Haleiwa, sitting prettily on Oahu’s North Shore, the seasons guide the surf culture, bringing in visitors with the winter swells. On Maui, Hana greets travelers at the end of a long and meandering coastal highway; just past the town lie the sheltered red sands of Kaihalulu Bay and the “sacred pools” of Oheo, with waterfalls stacked like a champagne tower. Although the Kauai town of Hanalei provided the backdrop for the film “South Pacific”—and legend has it, inspired the Peter, Paul & Mary song “Puff the Magic Dragon”—it’s isolated in quiet beauty, proving that Hawaii still exists beyond airbrushed brochures.
Hanalei, home of Puff the Magic Dragon, sits on the north shore of Kauai and offers up dramatic sunsets. In fact it seems to be the thing to do in this small town where groups gather across the wide beach on the weekend, set up campfires, cook out, and laugh with friends as the sun goes down over Hanalei Bay.