Hā‘ena is Kaua‘i’s most isolated community, steeped in tropical beauty, as well as legend and lore. It’s where the Hawaiian fire goddess, Pele, is said to have dug a cavernous home, known as Waikapala‘e wet cave, for her lover, though her efforts were thwarted as the abode kept filling with water. Legend also has it that this north shore region was once ruled by a chiefess and was “politically independent” from the rest of the island.
These stories aren’t the only thing that make this location intriguing. Hā‘ena, which means “red hot,” is surrounded by emerald peaks and azure waters and has some of the most enchanting beaches and rainforests that truly depict a “Garden Island.”
Respect the Rules of the Road
To get here requires driving a winding mountain-hugging road and crossing several one-lane bridges. And since word has gotten out about just how beautiful this place is, traffic tends to snarl as the day goes on, so please respect the residents and make sure to pull over when the urge to gawk settles in. As of 2019, new restrictions are in place for parking at Hā‘ena, with reservations required.
Haena Beach Park
It’s really no wonder why so many visitors congregate here. The vistas alone, including the famed Mount Makana (also known as Bali Hai), are beyond imagination. Hā‘ena Beach Park is another one of these other worldly landscapes, and a great place to unwind or go for a dip.
Maniniholo Dry Cave
Across the street exists yet another natural wonder called Maniniholo dry cave. The cavern is where Menehune, believed to be the original inhabitants of Kaua‘i from the Marquesas Islands, are said to have stored their catch for the day, only to have the fish disappear by the time they returned. In order to find the culprit, they dug into the mountain, thus, constructing the eerie hollow.
Makua Beach aka Tunnels
Near the grotto and adjacent to Hā‘ena Beach is yet another spectacular site, Makua Beach or Tunnels, nicknamed for its vast underwater reef terrain. This snorkeling and scuba diving haven attracts all kinds of marine life and is best enjoyed during summer months when tides simmer down.
Kēʻē Beach, located at the end of Highway 560, is also a dazzler. Sneak a peek at the dreamy Nāpali Coast here and, if the season is right, enjoy a lovely shoreline walk.
Limahuli Garden and Preserve
The capstone of this gorgeous sleepy town, which doesn’t have much shopping or many eateries, is Limahuli Garden and Preserve. Step back in time and meander among loʻi (taro patches), native plants and a restored Hawaiian hale (home), while mountain spires stand guard around you. Marvel in this ahupuaʻa, a land division stretching from mountains to sea that naturally sustained the ancients, because it doesn’t get more environmentally divine than this.