Every single time I’ve visited Hanalei, located on the north side of Kaua’i, it’s rained. Every. Single. Time. Sometimes it’s been a gentle rain, other times it’s poured, but every time I’ve gotten wet and the visit has been a miserable experience. But, Brett and I decided to try a lunch date there last week, and lo and behold . . . my losing streak ended! Oh, a few drops tried to start something, and although there were plenty of clouds around, actual rain never materialized. We had a wonderful time, and I finally got to visit several places in the small town that I’d been unable to see before because of the weather.
To get into Hanalei, the highway descends into the Hanalei valley, and crosses the Hanalei river by way of the historic one-lane Hanalei bridge. Vehicles go single file, up to five at a time, and then stop to let those on the other side cross over. Sometimes after heavy rains the river will flood and the bridge is closed, effectively trapping everyone in Hanalei and beyond until the water subsides.
We arrived in Hanalei just a little before noon, and decided to have lunch at Tahiti Nui. This is the restaurant in The Descendants where George Clooney’s character runs into his cousin (played by Beau Bridges) and they chat briefly at the bar about the upcoming family meeting concerning the sale of the family trust on Kaua’i.
We peeked inside the restaurant and thought it was kind of dark, but because we had fortunately arrived before the main lunch rush, Brett and I were able to snag a nice table out on the lanai.
Brett ordered a cucumber mint mocktail; I had a passionfruit sun tea with lemonade. Both were amazing.
The waitress recommended the huli-huli chicken pizza, and it did not disappoint. So good! Yes, I ate carbs . . . and they were delicious..
After lunch we drove over to see the Hanalei Pier, which I had never seen before because of rain. We strolled out to the end to enjoy a spectacular view of Hanalei Bay, Bali Hai (the mountain in the distance), and also got to watch several kids doing flips into the water.
The pier also gave us a great view Hanalei Beach (also featured in The Descendants). Even though it was cool-ish and quite breezy there were several people swimming or lying out on the beach.
Leaving the pier, we drove slowly by and ogled as many of the beautiful beachfront homes as possible (some owned by people in the film industry), and then drove over to see the beautiful Wai’oli Hui’ia Church, founded by missionaries in the 19th century. It’s the oldest church on Kaua’i, and is listed on both the state and national registers of historic buildings. This was another site I had especially wanted to see, but had never been able because of the weather on previous trips.
While we were at the church it began to look like my streak of bringing rain to Hanalei was going to continue after all, so we headed back into town and to the Hanalei Bread Company, a bakery and coffee shop, where Brett and I both got coffee and he enjoyed a tasty biscotti.
This little red-crested cardinal (or as we call them, Hawaiian cardinals) settled himself nearby while we sipped our coffee, ready to catch any stray crumbs that customers might supply.
The rain thankfully never showed up! We were ready to go home though, and as we headed to our car we walked past the Old Hanalei School which now houses shops and a great restaurant, Hanalei Gourmet (where we’ve eaten before). Hanalei’s full-time population is around 450, but there are probably at least three times that many tourists in town at any given time, and more shops and stores where they can spend their money than you can count. We were sad to learn though that our favorite Hanalei business, Kaua’i Nut Roasters, had closed.
Once back over the bridge, up the hill and on to the highway, we stopped at the Hanalei Overlook, one more place I had never been able to see because of rain. There were lots of clouds around but the views were absolutely stunning. The valley is home to numerous taro fields. Taro is an important food to native Hawaiians, and is used to make poi.
We also had a terrific view to the north from the overlook, of more of the valley and of Wai’ale’ale. Looking out at the view, it was perfectly clear why Kaua’i is called The Garden Island.
Brett and I had a lovely day, and a fun lunch date. Now that my Hanalei rain spell seems to be broken, I’m actually looking forward to returning again, to enjoy the beach and take in more of the gorgeous views.