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Haena Beach Park | Gateway to Kalalau

Haena Beach Park | On the road to Kalalau

Also known as Maniniholo Beach for large schools of Manini (convict fish) frequenting the coral reef offshore, Haena Beach Park is the favorite camping spot of the Kalalau crowd, both with first-time visitors and long-time locals. This eclectic group tends to hang out on the East side of the park, nearby the Nanoa Stream, which borders the park. The park is situated on Kauai's north shore on Highway 56 near the 9 mile marker, less than a mile from the trailhead. This makes it the ideal staging area for your adventure along the Napali Coast.


View of Haena Beach Park on Kauai's north shore
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The Nanoa Stream trickles down from a small, steep canyon, flooding the beach at times to create a freshwater lagoon. Following periods of heavy rainfall, this stream floods the highway. Do not cross the stream when flooded. White water only 1 or 2 feet high will sweep away most cars.

Swimming | Surfing

Although there is a lifeguard station here, swimming is very hazardous and not recommended. The lifeguard will often strongly advise you not to go in the water. The beach is located between two large reef systems on either side, however the beach are itself is open to huge winter surf and consequent undertow. Although people occasionally surf here, it seems as if the break is always pretty much onshore. This is probably because this white sand beach drops off very quickly.

Snorkeling

The color of the water here is an exceptional tourquoise, and reminiscent of the best of the Carribean. Some great snorkeling is available just a short walk down the beach at Tunnel's Beach, so-called because of the cavernous honeycombed Makua reef offshore. Tunnels beach extends beyond the park, and then Mount Makana become visible. This classic vista was portrayed as the mystical isle of Bali Hai, in the movie "South Pacific". The ironwood trees provide shade along this stretch of beach, their exposed roots clinging to the sandy soil. Tunnels Beach has arguably the best snorkeling available on Kauai.

Picnics | Camping | BBQs

The county park has a large lawn, picnic tables, a pavilion with electricity, cold showers and new bathrooms. Several large mangoes line the stream providing shade and delicious fruit during the summer. Note that these are the "common" variety, not the "Haydens" which are available on the mainland from Mexico. The common's tend to be much sweeter and more tasty, however a little bit smaller and somewhat stringy. I recommend eating these near a stream or ocean.

During the day, a food truck in the parking lot offers a variety of standard and local fare. Camping is by permit, $3/night for non-residents and free for residents and children under 18 accompanied by an adult. During the summer months, the expansive lawn is covered with tents and tarps as many locals seemed to spend their entire summers camping here. When the trades are blowing, this beach can become super windy, so a tarp is recommended if you plan on spending the night.

Maniniholo Dry Cave

Just across Highway 56, you can't miss the Maniniholo Dry Cave. The cave's interior is currently about 300 yards deep but used to be much deeper before a tsunami half-filled it with sand in 1957. There is a small opening in the back of the cave farther up the cliffside.

Kauai Mythology

Maniniholo was the name of a legendary head fisherman of the Menehune. His fishermen netted many fish at Ha'ena one day. They divided the catch, leaving half in the cave. The fishermen took the rest of the fish to the people of the island's interior. When they returned to the cave, they found an akua (evil spirit) had stolen the fish. The Menehune were known for incredible feats of construction, usually accomplished during a moonless night. So Maniniholo planned to capture the akua by forming two groups. One would dig down from the top of the cliff, while the other dug into the base. While it's a little unclear how this plan finally succeeded in killing the akua, it is an obvious explanation for the dry cave. It is not known if the missing fish were ever recovered.

Note: Other legends say that the dry cave was formed by many years of erosion from the pounding winter surf, when the ocean was much higher... who's to say?

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