You might’ve have traveled through a tunnel before. But, have you traveled through a tree tunnel? Did you even know that one exists?
The Maluhia road or the Tree Tunnel road in Kauai, gets its popular name from the lining of old, twisted eucalyptus trees that stand majestically on either side of the road. The trees are easily over a hundred and fifty feet tall, with their intertwined branches forming a closed canopy at the top. This gives the road users a tunnel like experience and hence the name.
The word Maluhia in native Hawaiian means “Serenity” or “Peaceful” which are exactly the emotions you’ll experience when you drive through this fragrant stretch.
Gateway to the South
The Tree Tunnel road is on the way from Lihue to Koloa, not too far from the airport. To access the Tree Tunnel, you have to turn on to the Maluhia Road (Route 520) from the Kaumuali’i Highway or Highway 50 and drive south.
This forms the main access road that leads to the beautiful south shore towns- Koloa and Poipu. As cheesy as this may sound- The tree tunnel looks like a magical gateway to the south shore towns of Kauai. Also, it is a gateway to some of the most amazing beaches and adventures the Garden Isle has in store for you.
The tree tunnel road marks the entrance to the island’s most appreciated tourist attraction- The Koloa Heritage Trail. The Heritage Trail or the Holo Holo Koloa Scenic Byway is collectively represented by a series of places or stops that are of historical importance. They depict the island’s rich history and geology- be it the ancient places of worship, the early sugar plantation days, natural wonders like the spouting horn and Kauai’s modern charms like Poipu beach park.
This is a busy roadway and not a scenic bypass. Along the road, there is no place to pull over and enjoy the scene. Doing so will disturb the ongoing traffic and may lead to an accident. It is best to just keep driving and enjoy the experience.
This fragrant Tree Tunnel stretch is about 3 miles long. So drive slow and take your time to experience the moment. If taking pictures is a must, there is a place at the beginning and at the end of the road to pull over and take the Instagram-worthy shots you desire. You can also have the person in the passenger seat click pictures as you drive.
Keeping photography constraints aside, the tree tunnel road is a photographer’s paradise. If you have already seen the tree tunnel on numerous postcards, photos and paintings that have immortalized this lush green stretch of road, you’ll know the point we are trying to make here. However, you might not come across a person with a tripod because they are most likely to have finished their job before traffic hits the road.
The beauty of the tree tunnel is enhanced with light pilfering through the Eucalyptus Robusta. So for a great view, the tree tunnel is at its visual best during midday and in moonlight.
History of Kauai Tree Tunnel
The popular story goes that the tree tunnel we see today is a result of the contribution made by a Scotsman named Walter Duncan McBryde, more than a hundred years ago. It is said that he donated more than 500 eucalyptus trees, or the Swamp Mahogany, that were leftover after landscaping his estate. These trees are native to south-eastern Australia.
Mr. McBryde was the co-founder of McBryde Sugar Company and also managed the Kauai Pineapple company. He was popularly referred to as the “Pineapple Baron”. His estate was later donated to the locals, which is the Kukiolono Park and Golf Course we see today.
Some locals have a different version of how the tree tunnel road came to be what is today. They believe that the trees were planted by the Knudsen family to tighten the boggy road and to provide a windbreak to the sugarcane fields nearby. The accurate history is unknown. Regardless of its origin, what we see today is nothing short of a miracle.
The tunnel had formed a full canopy earlier, but was damaged during the hurricanes Íwa in 1982 and Iniki 1992, with wind speeds crossing over 225 kmph. Following the calamity, the trees have slowly grown over the years, restoring the tunnel like appearance. To this day, the tree tunnel continues to thrive and graciously welcomes its visitors.
Several communities are actively involved in preserving this graceful stretch of trees. Seeing people from different walks of life volunteer for this cause reflects the generosity of the locals.
When tourists visit Kauai, usually, the tree tunnel road is on their list of must see attractions. When compared to other destinations on the island, this may not be something you must go out of your way to see. But, if you are driving around, this tunnel connecting one part of paradise to another, is definitely a wonderful drive-through experience.