The drive to Haena Beach is one of the most beautiful in all of Hawaii. You'll take the Kuhio Highway north past the resort town of Princeville before descending a massive cliff into Hanalei Town. The view from the cliff is breathtaking, and you can easily miss the pull-off viewpoint at the first switchback.
The north shore's first one-lane bridge is waiting for you at sea level. Here are the rules:
Simply go if there is no oncoming traffic
Slowly cross the bridge if there is oncoming traffic, but you are first to the bridge
Pull to the side if oncoming traffic reaches the bridge first
Allow five cars to pass before it is your turn
The five-car rule applies each way during heavy traffic
After the bridge, you'll meander along a river through taro fields under towering waterfall-covered mountains. The road will slow down through Hanalei Town where you'll be surprised by the quality of high-end shops. The road will then hug Hanalei Bay before teetering on ocean cliffs. You'll cross more one-lane bridges as the road narrows, and you'll find Haena Beach a mile before the road ends altogether.
Heana is impossible to miss. The road will hug a cliff inside a towering forest before sharply turning inland. The road will dip, you'll have to slow down dramatically and you'll drive over a trickling creek in front of a dry cave. When the road straightens out again, look towards the ocean and you'll see Haena Beach Park and Haena Beach.
This small park is only 5.5 acres, but it has everything you might need for a day at the beach. Amenities include pavilions, picnic tables and outdoor showers. You'll also find lifeguards on duty between the hours 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
The park is a square patch of well-manicured grass. You're likely to find a variety of tents pitched out on the grass under the shade of trees as camping is permitted at the beach park. It's an incredibly affordable way to experience Kauai and all it has to offer.
Beachgoers love to explore Haena's dry cave on the other side of Kuhio Highway. Just look out for cars driving the last mile of the road to Ke'e Beach and the Kalalau Valley Trailhead. Parking is limited at the end of the road, but you'll find plenty of parking at Haena Beach Park.
At the eastern end of the park, you'll find Heana Stream. It's the trickle of water that you drove over on your way to the park. And there are plenty of trees all around the park for abundant shade making it easy to have a cool picnic lunch. And even more shade is provided by the massive mountain just on the other side of the main road.
You'll walk over sand dunes vegetated with large green leaves to get to the beach. There are two coral reefs to the east and west of Heana, but the beach is not protected from the open ocean. The water gets deep quickly which makes for a sharp shore break. This can create powerful waves that are only suitable for the most experienced surfers. And the waves here can get extremely hazardous during the winter swell, so always take extreme caution when swimming at Heana. Always ask the lifeguard on duty if and where it is safe to swim.
Heana has beautiful, soft, white sand that is perfect for a lazy lay-out, and the beach is not a far walk from the world-class snorkeling of Tunnels Beach or the superior surfing of Cannons Beach. The beach and its park make a good home base for exploration of Kauai's remote North Shore.