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West Shore Sights of Kauai

You just passed the sunny south shore only to arrive at the western shore that is even sunnier. You may not have thought that a possibility after seeing the south shore, but it is true. In fact, you will rarely see rain here and will notice that it is generally three or four degrees hotter on the west shore than the rest of the island.

The two most noticeable things about the west shore are that the soil appears red while the area is more arid than other parts of the island. It’s not lush like the north shore. You have several treats in store for you on Kauai’s West shore so keep reading to find out what they are!

Hanapepe
You remember passing the Hanapepe Valley Lookout from the South Shore and in order to reach the west shore you just keep on driving along the main highway. After you pass ‘Ele’ele you will arrive at Hanapepe. Many locals call this town the “Biggest Little Town.” It was once a thriving town that had many bars and was known as the wild spot on Kauai during the early 1900s. Things have changed over the years and know Hanapepe is more run down than anything. There are changes taking place and perhaps it will be restored to its glory. For now though only you can decide if you want to stop and look around Hanapepe or keep on driving.

once a thriving town that had many bars and was known as the wild spot on Kauai during the early 1900s. Things have changed over the years and know Hanapepe is more run down than anything. There are changes taking place and perhaps it will be restored to its glory. For now though only you can decide if you want to stop and look around Hanapepe or keep on driving.

You might want to check out the swinging footbridge that hangs over the Hanapepe River. It’s interesting to check this out because from here you can also see where the electricity for the island comes from. Oil is burned to create the power but there are some plans in the works to possibly burn wood chips from the island to reduce the dependence on oil not to mention lower power bills!

Salt Pond Beach Park is up next and this is truly worth checking out because you can see how salt is made form saltwater. There are several big containers of saltwater that are allowed to evaporate, then more water is added, it evaporates, and the process continues. Finally, there are just salt rocks left over!

Waimea
The great explorer first set foot on Kauai in 1778 at Waimea and there is a monument remembering here. Some interesting sights here include the Waimea Swinging Bridge as well as the Waimea River. The river water is often red thanks to sediment that dyes it that color. In fact, the word Waimea means red water so it is an appropriate name for this river.

If you are in need of some refreshment by this point in your tour of the West shore of Kauai then consider stopping off at Jo-Jo’s Clubhouse. Here you will find the island’s best shave ice. The prices are affordable and the flavor selection is very wide at 60 different flavors. If you like shave ice then you definitely need to give this place a chance!

Kekaha
Kekaha is the next stop on the West shore as long as you continue along the coast. This is the last town on the west side of the island and it is just past mile marker 25. It is a great place to enjoy Ni’ihau views not to mention hit the beach. All you have to do is open your car door and step out to be on the beach so it is convenient beach access to say the least!

If you are hungry then stop now because Waimea Canyon Plaza is the last stop that has food. You might enjoy the Menehune Food Mart’s selection of hot dogs, sandwiches and the like.

Near here you can imagine what the town of Mana was like. It no longer exists, but some of its homes now are part of the Waimea Plantation Cottages Resort. These homes all have doors to the north and south so that evil sprits can easily escape.

You will also pass the Pacific Missile Range Facility. This is where exercises for submarine hunting take place, offshore of course, and once and awhile there are also Star Wars Missile Tests.

Barking Sands beach is right in front of the Missile Range, or at least part of it, and the beach is covered with particles of silica. This combined with the sand results in a barking sound when people walk over it. It’s not easy to get there and the sand doesn’t always bark, but it is an interesting thing to see and hear when it does!

Polihale
To reach Polihale you will need to take the first dirt road after mile marker 32. The beaches at Polihale boast dunes that are as high as 100 feet and make for fun walking down but are a real challenge to walk back up! The beach is long and you could walk 17 miles just one way along the beach, that is if you had that much energy and drive to do so. You might enjoy sticking close to the beach access and taking advantage of the facilities that include water, showers, and bathrooms.

Ha’ele’ele are the cliffs that border Polihale Beach. Hawaiian legend has it that the spirits would jump off the cliffs in order to reach their next life and join their ancestors.

Waimea Canyon
There truly are no words to define Waimea Canyon. It is a must see while you are on Kauai’s west shore and it is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. It’s size is incredible and measures 10 miles long, one mile wide, and is over 3,600 feet deep.

In order to arrive at the Canyon you should take Waimea Canyon Road from Waimea. There is access from Koke’e Road in Kekaha but you will enjoy the views more by taking Waimea Canyon Road not to mention you won’t have to deal with people trying to sell you stuff. Of course, you can always return the other way if you want to see some different views. A good idea is to fill up the car with gas before you go. There are no gas stations on top of the Canyon and it is a good 40-mile drive. Temperatures are frequently cooler so if you are cold natured you might want a light jacket or sweater to keep you warm. If you like to hike, then Waimea Canyon is a great place to do just that.

As you wind your way to the top you will see the Waimea Canyon Lookout near mile marker 10. There are plenty of lookout points and this is a great one to stop at and get a look at the canyon. Something that might surprise you is the amount of wild chickens that live here.

You might choose to stop at Pu’u Ka Pele Lookout as well where you can also see the Waipo’o Falls. You can see the private island of Ni’ihau from the Pu’u Hinahina Lookout that is past mile marker 13 as well as the canyon. As you continue down the road you will run into Koke’e Museum just past mile marker 15. There are some nice maps at the museum that will help you get an idea of what the canyon is as well as plenty of knowledgeable staff that can answer your questions. If you are hungry then the Koke’e Lodge is the best and only place to eat.

Mile marker 18 is where most tourists choose to stop and see the Canyon. This is called the Kalalau Lookout and although it is good there is a much better lookout just past it that is less crowded. It is called the Pu’u o Kila Lookout. Here you can see the Kalalau Valley, which is Na Pali’s largest valley. It provides an unbelievable view that is definitely worth the trip. Keep in mind that it is better to go early when the clouds aren’t so low and you will have better views.



 
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