Since we stayed on one island the entire duration of our trip to Hawai’i, we were able to see a large chunk of it (thanks mostly to a helicopter ride over the island, we were actually able to view all of it, but most of it is inaccessible by car or foot). In fact, we went to a number of different beaches during our stay. Let’s compare and contrast.
First, the beach that we obviously visited the most is the beach that is located at the St. Regis Princeville. It is separated by a river from the larger beach at Hanalei Bay. Part of the beach is tree-lined, making it a nice, shady spot. Also, you have the benefit of the St. Regis’s lounge chairs and poolside bar and grill which makes it a perfect afternoon lounging spot.
Closest to the St. Regis is the beach of Hanalei Bay. The beach might look familiar to you if you saw the recent George Clooney movie “The Descendants” or, as I refer to it, “that movie with the filthy mouthed teenagers who are in clear need of more direct parental supervision.” As it turns out, my “subtitle” for that movie actually accurately describes many kids on vacation in Hawaii at the St. Regis too (more on that in a later post). Nonetheless, Hanalei Bay is beautiful and George Clooney’s character was right, its sands are perfectly packed for a morning jog. The water is well suited for swimming, but since the waves are bigger here, I would recommend this beach for body surfing (or judging from the number of surfers poised along the reef) for actual surfing.
Now if you are an old-timer not up on the latest George Clooney movie, then you might also recognize this beach and more specifically, this pier, from its appearance in the old musical “South Pacific.” It just happens that South Pacific is one of two musicals from the 1950s that I adore, the other being Gigi. After that, the musical theater genre lost any merit, in my view.
We also visited two other beaches in the Northwest portion of the island – Ke’e Beach and Hanakapiai Beach. But since those were involved in a hike, I am going to save them for a different post.
Moving eastward on the north side of the island, we spent a few hours at Anini Beach, famous for the fact that lots of celebrities have houses along it. It was a nice beach, but the sand wasn’t as good of a quality as the beaches further to the west. It was more like walking on little pebbles, which is not enjoyable to a girl who grew up on the white sugar sands of the Gulf Coast; Pretty good snorkeling though, judging by the number of people there doing that activity.
On the southern side of Kuau’i, we visited two beaches. The first was the popular resort beach of Poipu. The south has far more condos, resorts, and other developments lining the beaches. This means that beaches definitely seem louder and busier. On the day we went to Poipu, it was pretty windy too and so I felt like I was getting my legs sandblasted. I think that this is the time of year when the trade winds are about to change and the south swells are picking up, so that could explain that. Nonetheless, the south side still has beautiful beaches. It was a nice combination of sand and lava rock at Poipu.
We also visited Salt Ponds Beach, further to the west near the town of Hanapepe. I really liked this beach. It had good sand and a nice swimming area that was somewhat protected from the large waves. This is a good beach for swimming, not so much for body surfing or actual surfing. It is calm, peaceful, and was far less crowded than Poipu.
This beach provided one additional treat that is a rare one in Hawaii. Here, while I was swimming, a critically endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal swam up on the beach and decided to take a nap. Considering that so few of these exist in the wild, it was an absolute privilege to observe a seal in the wild. I kept my distance, since one of the main reasons this poor animal is so endangered is because of human encroachment on its territory. Monk seals are solitary animals, and we have disrupted their habitats enough, altering their behavior and breeding patterns. Sadly, other observers on the beach didn’t give the same spatial respect to the poor seal, even with posted signs pointing out the importance of giving the poor animal some space. It was one of those experiences when I just turned to David with my mantra, “Aren’t people just the worst?” Fortunately, I had a good telephoto lens with my camera so I was able to capture this picture of the seal:
Sadly, one of the best beaches on Kauai is one that was inaccessible to us because getting there violated our rental car agreement. It is on the west coast of Kauai, up a dirt road (after the highway ends). It just gives us something to look forward to for next time.