It is practically impossible to visit the island of Kauai and not drive up to the north shore area of Hanalei. It is one of the lushest and greenest places in the world. It has a population of 450 people. Hanalei means lei making in Hawaiian. It also means “crescent bay” perhaps due to the shape of Hanalei Bay itself. The little town, or rather village, sits at the mouth of the Hanalei River.
It is quite likely that the Russians were here before most anyone else. Then along came the German physician, Georg Anton Schaffer. He tried to retrieve goods that were confiscated by the Kauai chief, Kaumaulii. However, he made the mistake of getting involved in local politics, including the return of the kingdom of Kauai to the Chief, at the expense of King Kamehameha I. So, from 1817 to 1853, Fort Elizabeth, near the Waimea River, were part of tsarist Russian America.
Closer to today, this region was used as the backdrop for the movie, South Pacific in 1958. And the famous 1963 Peter, Paul, and Mary song, “Puff, the Magic Dragon” tells of Puff’s homeland of “Hanah Lee.” Metaphorically, the cliffs on the side of the beach look like a dragon. Some go as far as saying Hanalei produces the best marijuana on the island, thus the inclusion in the song. The line, “a dragon lives forever, but not so little boys”, implies that Jackie Paper dies.
I don’t see dragons or marijuana in Hanalei, but I do see taro farms, art galleries, and reminders of old Kauai. Taro, used most often to make the gooey, gelatinous poi, grows in abundance here. These heart-shaped leafy plants grow in flooded fields, much like rice. Perhaps nowhere is the patchwork of taro fields so prominent as from the Hanalei Valley lookout.
The Hanalei Valley is only one mile wide, and six miles long. It is the home of the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge. Also of interest is the rather creaky old Hanalei Bridge. It is only a single lane, requiring some courtesy by drivers coming from either direction. And most importantly, it has a 15 ton limit! To make matters even more precarious, this area is also known as the wettest spot on earth with an annual rainfall of 460 inches!
Across from the lookout is the famous Princeville Resort and Princeville Center. This is about the only shopping area besides the little shops in the Hanalei Village itself. Originally, a man named R. C. Wylie started a coffee plantation back in 1853. Thought the coffee plantation failed, Princeville is the largest planned development on the island.
The big attraction for me has always been the world-famous Prince Golf Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones. Located along the dramatic coast, the first hole is a rather curious and difficult start to an otherwise beautiful round of golf. This is also where we met dear friends, Rey and Corinne over ten years ago. They say it is the No. 1 rated course in all of Hawaii. I am not so sure, but it is a beautiful setting, when it is not raining.
The drive only takes about half an hour from Kapaa. It is worth the drive, in any weather. After all, how many of your friends can say they have been to the wettest place on earth?