How many times have you seen a beach with a mountainous backdrop?
Haena is the last of the beaches you’ll find on the north shore of Kauai, and is commonly referred to as the “end of the road”. Haena beach is located along the Kuhio Highway (Highway 560) past mile marker 9. From here, it’s just a mile before the road ends. Haena in Hawaiian means “red hot”.
One of the great pleasures of driving along Kuhio Highway is the view. The highway is sandwiched between beautiful beaches on the left and lush green cliffs on the right. Situated in a similar setting is Haena beach, with Mount Makana and the tropical jungle forming a spectacular backdrop.
Neighbouring Haena beach is the all-year round snorkeling hotspot – Tunnels beach. But Haena beach trumps Tunnels (or Makua beach) because of more parking, restrooms, showers, picnic tables, campsites and lifeguard facilities.
Haena beach is well known for beach camping, surfing and swimming. With that said, surfing and swimming here can be dangerous, especially in winter. It is best to analyze the surf report and your abilities, before you decide to take the plunge. The waves here are nasty and strong, and only recommended for expert surfers.
Haena beach is bordered by two large reefs- Makua Reef to the east and Hauwa Reef to the west. However, these reefs are not protective and the beach is completely exposed to the open ocean. Therefore, Haena beach is characterised by fierce shorebreaks and rip currents, particularly during the winter and spring. Ironically, due to this reason, the beach has witnessed many drownings in the past. It is not advisable to go swimming or surfing in the shorebreak during such conditions.
Haena beach is much calmer during summer and is an ideal spot for snorkeling at this time of the year.
This pyramid shaped mountain peak on the north shore of Kauai is a part of National Tropical Botanical Garden. Makana means “gift from heaven” in native Hawaiian. At first glance, this mountain looks like an exotic island, exactly the way it was featured in the 1960 movie- South Pacific. From then on, the place came to be called Bali Hai.
Mount Makana is famously remembered for the art of fire throwing or Ohaii. The fire throwing would be held in special honor of the chiefly graduates and chieftain visits. Skilled fire throwers would climb up the 1600 ft Makana cliff, and throw the lighted papala wood into the ocean, while the entire Kauai community gathered at the beach and witnessed the stunning display.
Haena beach park is a beautiful spot to pitch a tent. A huge grass area, complemented by other essential facilities, make this 5.5 acre park a preferred camping spot by locals and tourists. There are plenty of trees for shade and ample space to relax and sun bath. You can lie at your comfort and watch experienced surfers ride the challenging waves, thus, doing what they best do.
As is the case with other camping sites in Kauai, you’ll need a camping permit from the county to access the campsites in Haena beach park.
Haena State Park
Haena State Park provides access to beaches, trails and some ancient Hawaiian sites, including 4000 yr old sea caves. The park is bordered by two beautiful beaches- Ke’e beach on the west and Haena beach on the east. Both the beaches are peaceful and inviting locations for swimming and snorkeling during summer. Owing to the nature of reefs in these beaches, they are equally violent during the harsh winter months.
Haena State Park is home to three of Hawaii’s most ancient natural caves- The Maniniholo dry cave, and the Waikapalae and Waikanaloa wet caves. Maniniholo cave is just across Haena beach and is easily accessible. Whereas, the other two wet caves need to be observed from a distance because of infected pools. These caves were naturally formed as a result of erosion during the days when the sea level in the area used to be much higher.
The entrance to the world renowned “Kalalau Trail’ is found inside Haena State Park. The kalalau Trail branches into several smaller trails which you can choose to hike based on your abilities.
The local government has taken an initiative to restore and upgrade certain aspects of Haena state park to make it more resilient to future floods and also address public safety and accessibility issues. Even the parking lot is under the scope of enhancement, which’ll contribute towards being an integral part of alleviating north shore traffic.
Haena beach is great for romantic beach walks, shell collecting and beachcombing. Spend some time at the beach and head over to the Maniniholo Dry cave and the nearby wet caves for an interesting experience. When the conditions are calm, walk over to Tunnels beach for some great snorkeling time.