If you’re into admiring mountain ranges, Kauai will surely keep you busy. Along with the gigantic Napali cliffs, the rusty cliffs of Waimea Canyon, and the weeping Mount Waialeale, Kauai is blessed with several sections of intriguing mountains and valleys that spur awe and curiosity in visitors. One such bizarre natural site is the Kalalea Mountain Range located on the north eastern coast of the Garden Isle.
Part of the Anahola mountain range, the Kalalea mountain is one of the many magical locations in Kauai that have graced popular Hollywood movies. “Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Six Days, Seven Nights” and “Tropic Thunder” are some examples.
The Kalalea mountain range has history, spirituality and ancient legend associated with it. Let’s dive into each aspect in detail.
The mountain mainly includes two peaks- The Hokualele peak and Mano mountain. Mano is the second peak that has a unique shark-fin like appearance. Mano, in Hawaiian, means Shark.
In recent years, following the release of the second King Kong movie, the peak came to be popularly known as the King Kong mountain as many visitors saw its resemblance with the head of the large mighty ape. King Kong has been the subject of quite a few Hollywood movies, some of which were shot in Kauai!
Another peculiar shape of the mountain range becomes evident when viewed in its entirety. When viewed from afar, the stark silhouette formed by the ridgeline against the sky resembles the profile of a woman sleeping on her back, with arms folded.
To access the Kalalea mountain, drive north from Kapaa on Highway 56. The mountain will be to your left, past mile marker 14.
Hole in the Mountain
The Kalalea mountain has an open hole on its ridgeline, just towards the right of the King Kong profile. The result of a lava tube, this hole was much bigger earlier, but most of it was closed due to landslides in the 1980s.
When we view the mountain from a distance, the hole can only be seen from certain angles. It appears like a flicker of light and can be viewed past mile marker 15 on Highway 56.
Since the inception of Hawaiian civilization, the natives have expressed a deep spiritual connection to the Kalalea mountain.
The word “Anahola” has various meanings associated with it. People who have a good grip of Hawaiian literature state it as “The time of the breath of life”.
The Dalai Lama XIV is said to have expressed a profound interest in visiting Anahola for its reverence as the place where souls enter Earth. Some spiritual natives believe that the “Hole in the Mountain” is actually a portal for souls to enter Earth, while others debate that it was formed when a huge warrior wielded his spear.
Another theory states that the Kalalea mountain was earlier called “Monkey Head Mountain”. In those times, there was a myth circling around that talking to the mountain would invite bad luck.
Hike to Kalalea Mountain
There is no hikeable route to the top of King Kong Mountain. However, there are a few ambitious mountain climbers who attempt to climb it.
The initial challenge is to access the base of the King Kong peak. The route is well internalized by frequent hang gliders who soar from the top of the summit. People who are new will have a hard time finding the right path.
The climb starts on the northern side (on the face of King Kong) and is not an easy one. Climbers will have to course through thick bushes and safeguard themselves from weak and falling rocks. The vegetation on the rocks serves as a firm grip and aids in climbing.
Nevertheless, it’s a risky adventure and not for the faint of heart.
The mountain range overlooks Anahola, a sweet little town on Kauai’s northeastern side. Anahola is located 14 miles from Lihue and rests on the land that divides the mountain and the ocean. Anahola town is so arranged that the old town is located near the bay and recent developments have happened near the Highway.
Unlike other towns of Kauai, this one is yet to modernize. Much of the land here is residential and is designated to natives of Hawaii. Thus, Anahola boasts of the largest native Hawaiian population on the island.
Nearby Places to Visit
Anahola beach is a beautiful, long, reef-protected white sand beach that doesn’t see much of a crowd. The beach is good for swimming and snorkeling except for the portion where the river joins the ocean, forming rip currents.
Surfers and body boarders also have a good time at Anahola beach. Graced by a backdrop of Kalalea mountain range and lined by trees that provide plenty of shade, this beach is a perfect relaxation spot.
Anahola Beach Park has an overnight camping ground and you need a permit to access it. Although the beach remains secluded most of the year, it can be filled with campers during summer.
Na Aina Kai Botanical Garden
This botanical garden has a huge assortment of exotic plant species, sculptures, fountains, and lagoons, spread across a humongous 240 acres. Started as a landscape project in 1982, today, it has the largest collection of bronze sculptures in the U.S
Na Aina Kai Botanical Garden houses The International Desert Garden (a massive collection of desert plants), The Poinciana Maze, The Wildforest Garden (collection of spice trees), a Canyon and a Beachfront, making it unique and an inviting spot for all age groups.
To reach Na Aina Kai, follow Highway 56 and take a right on to Wailapa Road just past mile marker 21. Shortly after, you’ll find a gate and a parking spot near the visitor center. A guided tour of the botanical garden is available.
The best way to see the Kalalea Mountain is by planning a road trip to the North Shore of Kauai. This way you get to stop at all the interesting places on the way and make the best use of your time on vacation.