HAWAII — Westside

The western side of Kaua´i is very different to the other areas and is more rural. It is also hot and the soil is very red. There is some spectacular scenery to be found in Waimea Canyon and the Koke´e State Park.

The sights found here are:
Kukuiolono Park
Pu´u Road Scenic Drive
Hanapepe Valley Lookout
Kauai Coffee Company
Port Allen
Hanapepe
West Kauai Technology and Visitors Center
Waimea Historic Town Centre
Russian Fort Elizabeth
Lucy Wright Park
Waimea Pier
Menehune Ditch
Kekaha
Polihale State Park
Waimea Canyon State Park
Koke´e State Park

Kukuiolono Park
Kukuiolono Park is found in the centre of Kalaheo which is a small town on the westside of Kaua´i where Highway 50 meets Papalina Road. This quiet hilltop park is popular with joggers, dog walkers, visitors and even golfers as there is a small golf course here as well. There are also Japanese gardens and a display of Hawaiian stones. The views from here of the westside and south shore of Kaua´i are quite spectacular and the sunsets are particularly beautiful. It was once the site of an ancient Hawaiian heiau and the mountaintop was used by ancient warriors to light their signal fires to communicate with other warriors and warn them about invaders coming across the channel from O´ahu.

Pu´u Road Scenic Drive

Pu´u Road Scenic Drive
From the park turn right onto Pu´u Road to start this drive on this small, winding and one-laned road. Drive slowly and you will be rewarded with the sight of large mango trees, beautiful coastal views and coffee trees.

Hanapepe Valley Lookout

Hanapepe Valley Lookout
This scenic lookout is found along Highway 50 and gives a fantastic view into Hanapepe Valley. You will see some dramatic red clay walls topped by bright green sugarcane along with rows of coffee trees.


Traveller's Tip

Hanapepe Valley Lookout was used for filming in the movie Jurassic Park.

Kauai Coffee Company
The Kauai Coffee Company is found in the town of Numila on Highway 540. This is Hawaii’s biggest coffee operation. It is a place to visit if you are interested in buying coffee and this is what is basically promoted but there is a video on coffee production and you can sample the coffee. The sight of the coffee trees on your drive into the plantation is quite spectacular.
For information about the Kauai Coffee Company visit the website at: http://www.kauaicoffee.com

Port Allen
This is one of the busiest recreational boat harbours in Kaua´i and if you are interested in doing any boat tours around here then the Marine Centre is the place to go. There is a little beach to the east of Port Allen which is interesting to visit because it is covered in colourful bits of sea glass and it is a great place to explore. To reach this beach you will need to take Aka´ula Street and go past the fuel storage tanks and curve right and follow the dirt road to the end.

Traveller's Tip

The road down to Glass Beach is quite rutted and could damage your car. It is best to park your car and walk down. Be careful on the beach and wear shoes.
Hanapepe

Hanapepe
This town is found off Highway 50 and is often called ‘Kau´ai’s Biggest Little Town’. The town was once one of Hawaii’s best preserved historic towns until Hurricane Iniki in the early 1990s destroyed about half of its historic buildings. It is still a quaint little town with a lot of charm and is popular with visitors. It has plenty of sights for everyone including the Swinging Bridge crossing the Hanapepe River which you find opposite the Koa Wood Gallery. The bridge you see today isn’t the original which was destroyed by the 1990s hurricane. Salt Pond Beach Park which is found not far from Highway 50 at the end of Lokokai Road is very popular with families because of the calm water conditions and you can snorkel in the tide pools and small lagoon found here. Near the beach are the salt ponds which have been used to make salt by letting seawater into shallow basins and having it evaporate and then scraping off the crystals left behind. The salt in these ponds has a red tint because a bit of the red earth that you see in this area has been added.

Traveller's Tip

Several movies have been filmed in Hanapepe including The Thorn Birds and Flight of the Intruder.

West Kauai Technology and Visitor’s Center
The West Kauai Technology and Visitor’s Center is found in the town centre of Waimea which is the Westside’s largest town. It features exhibits and programmes about the local history of this area as well as classes in lei making. You can watch a video presentation of the island of Kaua´i as well having access to computers with free Internet.
For information about the centre visit the website at: http://www.wkbpa.org/visitorcenter.html

Waimea Historic Town Centre
In the past Waimea was the first stop for many visitors to Hawaii, including Christian missionaries, Russian emissaries, and Captain Cook. It was an important port because of the sandalwood trade of the early 1800s, along with the whaling and sugar industries. Historic wooden buildings such as the First Hawaiian Bank and the Waimea Theatre in the Art Deco style line Waimea Road. You will find a statue of Captain Cook in the centre of town which is a replica of the one that stands in Whitby in England where Cook lived. There are a few churches of historical significance including the Waimea Foreign Mission Church at the corner of Huakai and Makeke Roads built by missionaries and Waimea Hawaiian Church on Highway 50 where the hymns at the Sunday service are sung in Hawaiian.

Russian Fort Elizabeth
The ruins of this stone fort, built in 1816 by an agent of the imperial Russian government named Anton Scheffer using Hawaiian Labourers, are found above the east bank of the Waimea River. The story behind the fort is that a Russian ship loaded with seal skins was wrecked off the coast near Waimea and Kaua´i’s King Kaumuali´i took the cargo for himself. Anton Scheffer was sent to recover the cargo and when he arrived he took advantage of the rift between Kaumuali´i and King Kamehameha and entered into an agreement with Kaumuali´i to provide him with a ship and military assistance for him to invade O´ahu. In return the Russians were offered half of O´ahu and so the fort was built. Of course this agreement hadn’t been sanctioned by the Russian government and so the Russians were removed from Kaua´i. The exterior walls of the fort are the most intact being built of lava rock but they are not particularly interesting but the placards are very informative. There is a good view of the river from the fort.

Lucy Wright Park
Probably the most interesting thing about this park is that it is where Captain James Cook first came ashore in the Hawaiian Islands in 1778 and there is a plaque to commemorate this on a rock. The park is named after the first native Hawaiian school teacher and is found on Ala Wai Road, on the western side of the Waimea River.

Waimea Pier

Waimea Pier
This picturesque pier found off Pokole Road was the region’s main harbour until Port Allen was built. Today it is used for fishing and crabbing and there is a park with facilities that you can have picnics in.

Menehune Ditch

Menehune Ditch
According to a Hawaiian legend the high chief of Waimea asked the Menehume (the magical little people of Hawaiian legends) to build this aqueduct in one night. The reality is that a huge irrigation system made from lava stone was built to carry water from the river to the taro fields and it is truly an amazing engineering feat. Today only a small portion of it remains but it is still an interesting place to visit. The Menehune Ditch is found on Menehune Road next to the Waimea Swinging Bridge.

Traveller's Tip

When you are driving to the ditch take note on your left of the holes in the cliffs. These are Hawaiian Burial Caves.

Kekaha
This is Kaua´i’s westernmost town and it is very small but the surrounding countryside is quite stunning with its steep cliffs and deep valleys and there are beautiful sunflowers on the side of the road. There is a lovely beach park but it is advisable to only swim here when the water is calm because it is open ocean and it can get quite rough. There are facilities here. From the beach you can see the island of Ni´ihau and its offshore islet, Lehua.

Polihale State Park

Polihale State Park
The beach park found here is the last beach on the road and is Kaua´i’s westernmost point. It is a magnificent beach but the ocean can be very dangerous at times because it is unprotected so be careful. From the northern end of the beach you can see the beginning of the cliffs of the Na Pali coast and this is where you will find Polihale State Park. There are some huge sand dunes along this beach which the locals like to drive over in their 4WDs. The road out to the beach is a dirt road and can be rough in parts. The area is popular as a camping spot and there are facilities here but no shops. You will need a permit to camp and information about this can be found on the website below.
For information about camping in Polihale State Park visit the following website at: https://camping.ehawaii.gov/camping/all,c-search.html#

Traveller's Tip

A safer alternative if you want to swim is Queen’s Pond which is a shallow pond with a sandy bottom surrounded by a protecting reef. It is located about midway along the shoreline fronting the beach park.
  • Sometimes the road to the beach may be closed due to adverse conditions so it is best to check after rain if the road is open. You can do this by looking at the following website: http://www.hawaiistateparks.org/announcements
    Waimea Canyon State Park

    Waimea Canyon State Park
    This spectacular canyon is known as the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’. It is smaller than the original being 16 kilometres long, 3 kilometres wide and over 1000 metres deep but more colourful with its vibrant reds, greens and browns. There is a river flowing through it which is Kaua´i’s longest at just over 31 kilometres. There are many lookouts to view the canyon from but the best time to see it is probably just after rain when the colours are more vibrant but at times it can be hazy. You reach the canyon from Waimea Canyon Drive off Highway 50. There are some excellent lookouts to be found along Waimea Canyon Road and Makaha Ridge Road which runs off it. There are lots of hiking trails in the canyon and information about these can be found at the Ranger Station and be aware that some of these will need a permit.
    For information about the trails visit the following website at: http://www.hawaiistateparks.org/hawaiistateparks/hiking/kauai/index.cfm?hike_id=15

    Koke´e State Park

    Koke´e State Park
    This state park is found north of Waimea Canyon as you drive up Koke´e Road. It covers an area of 4,345 acres on a plateau that is over 1000 metres above sea level. The Koke´e State Park is covered in forest and wild flowers and is an excellent spot to see native fora and fauna. The park also offers around 72 kilometres of hiking trails which lead to fantastic views of Waimea Canyon and valleys opening up to the North Shore. A good place to start your time in this state park is to visit the Koke´e Natural History Museum for information about the park and the trails. Exhibits will give you an overview of the park and Waimea Canyon and the staff will also provide you with helpful assistance, advice and information on trail and weather conditions. Beyond the museum are two amazing lookouts. First and possibly the best is the Kalalau Lookout which gives magnificent views of the Kalalau Valley stretching out to the sea. This view offers a glimpse of the towering cliffs of the Napali Coast. The second is the Pu´u o Kila Lookout which is a short distance from the Kalalau Lookout where the road reaches a dead end at the car park which also gives you a view into the Kalalau Valley as well as inland to the Alaka´i Wilderness.
    For information about the Koke´e State Park and hiking trails visit the following website at: http://www.hawaiistateparks.org/hawaiistateparks/parks/kauai/index.cfm?park_id=7

    Traveller's Tip

    Note that the temperature drops as you climb up to the 1000 metre elevations of the park. Temperatures can drop dramatically so come prepared and make sure you ask about the conditions at the museum before continuing.