Wainiha Bay

Wainiha Bay in Kauai is the last bay after the town of Hanalei and on the road that leads toward the rugged Na Pali Coast State Park. Wainiha Bay and Wainiha Beach are accessible by driving on the coast road, narrow Highway 560, called the Kuhio Highway. This is the only road that actually reaches into the otherwise inaccessible Na Pali Coast, making an incursion of about five miles. The road travels through Haena State Park, a tiny wild park comprising less than seven acres. This area is simply called by locals the end of the road.

Wainiha Bay in Kauai and Haena State Park are popular with both locals and visitors. Wainiha Beach is usually much less crowded than its more famous neighbor—Kee Beach in Haena State Park—and offers a beautiful, wide sandy beach area with inland lagoons and plenty of shade because of the thick forest and tall ironwood trees that come right up to the edge of the sand. The waters here are clear and an offshore reef stretches almost the entire length of the beach. Pay attention to warning signs concerning the timing of strong currents and riptides, as there are no lifeguards here. Wainiha Bay has numerous villas and other attractive vacation rentals available, and they are generally along the land side of the highway, meaning you will need to cross the road to get to the beach.

Wainiha Bay and Haena State Park contain the trailhead for the Kalalau Trail that leads hikers to the beautiful Kalalau Valley. You can hike up the entire trail, which ends eleven miles later at the Kalalau Valley Lookout below Waimea Canyon. This is a steep trail and can be a very strenuous hike, likely taking an experienced hiker who is in good shape a full day to travel the entire length. Many visitors come here to hike only the shorter, less difficult portion of the trail. It is a trek of about two miles up to Hanakapia Falls, a lovely waterfall with naturally terraced pools good for swimming or at least a good soak.

Past Wainiha Bay in Kauai and on into Haena State Park, you will find several ancient sea caves, some wet and some dry. It is said that Pele, goddess of volcanoes, dug the caves in her quest for a new home. It is also said the caves were meeting places for Hawaiian royalty. There are many tales about the caves, and you could hear a different legend from every local you ask.

Here also is beautiful Kee Beach, which unlike Wainiha Beach has lifeguards on duty. There is shore fishing along the coast here and good snorkeling if you pay attention to tide and current warning signs. If you are an inexperienced snorkeler and unsure about the current, it is best to play it safe and stay out of the water. Parking at Kee Beach can be problematic, so plan to arrive as early in the day as possible. From the end of the road and Tunnels Beach, there are wonderful views of Makana Mountain, also known as Bali Hai, and the rugged coastline to the west.

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