The winds would be mild and swells would be a low 0-3 metres today, according to the concierge at the Sheraton Kauai. While my eyes would have glazed over at this sort of information back home in Sydney, it’s vital when your thinking of swimming in certain waters in Hawaii, like Hanalei Bay. Hanalei Bay, the largest bay on the north shore of Kauai, is home to w orld champion surfers. With powerful waves breaking on sandbars on higher swells, today’s mild surf report meant that Peter and I would be able to have a dip at the Bay without being swept away by strong currents. Sounded like a plan.
An hour and twenty minutes from Poipu Beach, we stopped halfway to the Bay for a bite to eat at a family restaurant in Kapaa en route. Given a surprisingly high rating on Urbanspoon and highly recommended by the hotel concierge, our lunch was mind numbingly forgettable. Abandoning our cardboard-disguised-as-a-meal after the third bite and promptly settling the bill, we strolled along the town of Kapaa. We nearly cried when we spotted Zagat-recommended eatery, House of Noodles only a few doors along, with a menu that proudly displayed a plethora of delicious sounding fare. Due to the time factor, we decided to continue along the Kuhio Highway (or Highway 56), straight to Hanalei Bay instead. Once we were on our way, the scenery became far more lush and interesting.
The wetlands of Hanalei Bay were used to grow taro by ancient Hawaiians. By the 1860s, however, the focus had shifted to growing rice, which was shipped to Honolulu to become the second largest export crop of the islands. The Hanalei Pier was built to help Hanalei farmers move their crops to market. With nearly two miles of beach and surrounded by misty mountains, Hanalei Bay is incredibly serene and picturesque. The covered pier, located near the mouth of the Hanalei River and Black Pot beach, has long been a favorite family gathering place for fishing, picnicking and swimming.
Here’s a historical tidbit for you. In 1824, King Kamehameha II’s royal yacht, the Pride of Hawaii, sank near the mouth of the Waioli River, on the southwest corner of the bay after its crew struck a 5-foot-deep (1.5 m) reef a hundred yards offshore. It is believed the captain and crew were drunk at the time. A large section of the ship’s hull washed ashore in 1844 in a winter storm surge, but most of this historic wreck remains buried in silt in the bay.
Laying on the beach, Peter and I soaked in the unrushed vibe of the islands. With eyes closed, we took in the sounds of the surf and sporadic chatter of the handful of families on the shoreline. A young father was giving his 18 month old son his first surfboard ride, gently gliding the board across the water as his little boy lay face down, gripping the sides. Surfing is a way of life in Hawaii and they start them young.
After our visit to the Bay, an early dinner at Kapaa was on the cards before heading back to Poipu Beach. Boasting a healthy local following, Kintaro Restaurant promised delectable teppanyaki and some of the “freshest sushi and sashimi on the island.” It wasn’t going to take much to improve on our disastrous lunchtime experience. “Get there before 7:00 as it starts getting busy and you may not get a table,” the concierge at our hotel advised. Leaving Hanalei Bay at 5:30, we were at the restaurant half an hour later. While amazing it wasn’t, the food was pleasant and the wine good. We counted our blessings and were grateful for the opportunity of driving through this remarkable island.