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Alternative-Hawaii



ISLAND OF KAUAI

WEST SIDE DRIVE GUIDE

Historic Towns, Technology Center, Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Kokee State Park, Wettest Spot on Earth, Beaches, Salt Ponds, Sugar & Coffee Plantations

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Created by: Alternative-Hawaii.com
  • All drives start from Lihue International Airport.
  • Approx. 105 miles from Start to End of Drive.
  • Approx. 4 hours driving time from Start to End of Drive excluding time spent at "stops".
  • Effect of high elevation on pregnant women, young children and persons with heart and/or respiratory problems should be considered.
  • No gas available in Waimea Canyon State Park or Kokee State Park. (Cell phones do not work in the parks.)
  • Descend from Kokee State Park in low gear.
  • Report all accidents in the State Parks to park officials or Kokee Museum staff.
  • When in the State Parks, stay on maintained trails for your own safety and to protect plant & animal life.
  • Leave no scars on the land. Collecting any material from the State Parks is prohibited.
  • For your safety, please observe Cautionary Notes on drive "stops" below.
  • Set Odometer to Zero between "stops" below.
  • All distances are to the nearest tenth of a mile.
  • Do not leave valuables in vehicle or unattended.
(Photographs are not viewable on this Printer Friendly page. To view photographs return to Color page.)

STOP 1: HANAPEPE TOWN PHOTOGRAPH
START: LIHUE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT  
DIST/TIME: Approx. 19.2 Miles / 35 Mins.  
WATCH FOR: Sign - Hanapepe ("Kauai's Biggest Little Town")  
 ROUTE:
  • Exit airport on Hwy 570 (Ahukini Rd) & go approx. 1.5 mi. to Hwy 56 (Kuhio Hwy)
  • Turn Left onto Hwy 56 (heading for Waimea)
  • Go short way to merger with Hwy 50 (Kaumualii Hwy)
  • Take Hwy 50 (right side) & go approx. 17 mi. to Hanapepe Town
  • Park in public parking lot at beginning of town

A time-frozen still life of vintage false-front buildings housing everything from art studios to restaurants.  Walk across the suspended wooden swinging footbridge - a shortcut across the river back of town.





STOP 2: WEST KAUAI VISITOR & TECHNOLOGY CENTER (WAIMEA TOWN) PHOTOGRAPH
LEAVE: HANAPEPE TOWN  
DIST/TIME: Approx. 7 Miles / 11 Mins.  
WATCH FOR: Sign - Kauai Visitor & Technology Center (right side)  
 ROUTE:
  • Leave from Hanapepe public parking lot at beginning of town
  • Turn Right onto Hanapepe Road & go short way (0.2 mi.) through town to Iona Road (left side - at bridge)
  • Turn Left onto Iona Road & go short way (0.1 mi.) to Hwy 50 (heading west to Waimea)
  • Turn Right onto Hwy 50 & go 6.5 mi. through historic Waimea Town to the West Kauai Visitor & Technology Center (at Waimea Canyon Drive - right side)
  • Park in the Center's parking lot
The West Kauai Visitor Center bridges the Science & Technology and Visitor communities through its state of the art facility, utilizing interactive multi media presentations capable of portraying the many facets of Kauai and it's people. The Center offers the visitor exhibits, videos, and demonstrations that rediscover Kauai's past.

Note: Open M-F 9-4 & Sat.9-1, tel. 338-1332. Self-guided maps of Historic Waimea town. Free guided Historic Waimea Walking Tour (Mondays only at 9:30 am). For a guided Walking Tour of an Old Waimea Sugar Plantation call 337-1005. Restrooms.




STOP 3: WAIMEA CANYON LOOKOUT
(WAIMEA CANYON STATE PARK)
PHOTOGRAPH
LEAVE: KAUAI VISITOR & TECHNOLOGY CENTER  
DIST/TIME: Approx. 10.2 Miles / 23 Mins.  
WATCH FOR: Mile Marker 10  
 ROUTE:
  • Leave West Kauai Visitor & Technology Center parking lot
  • Turn Left onto Waimea Canyon Drive (Hwy 550)
  • Go 10.2 mi. to Waimea Canyon Lookout (past MM10)
3,400 feet elevation. Most expansive view of the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific". An awesome vista. The Canyon is about one-mile wide, ten miles long, and 3700 feet deep with other canyons branching off. Look out for the wild chickens!

Note: Snack wagon. Restrooms.




STOP 4: PUU HINAHINA LOOKOUT
(WAIMEA CANYON STATE PARK)
PHOTOGRAPH
LEAVE: WAIMEA CANYON LOOKOUT  
DIST/TIME: Approx. 3.2 Miles / 6 Mins.  
WATCH FOR: Mile Marker 13  
 ROUTE:
  • Leave Waimea Canyon Lookout
  • Continue 3.2 mi. to Puu Hinahina Lookout (past MM13)
3,500 feet elevation. Best views down the Canyon toward the ocean. The view of Niihau is great on a clear day. Excellent chance to view native forest birds.

Note: Hawaii's State bird, the endangered Nene (Hawaiian Goose), is now becoming well established on Kauai and is often seen in Waimea Canyon State Park and Kokee State Park (except during their nesting period from Fall to late Spring). Please don't feed the Nene - help to keep them wild.




STOP 5: KOKEE STATE PARK ENTRANCE PHOTOGRAPH
LEAVE: PUU HINAHINA LOOKOUT
(WAIMEA CANYON STATE PARK)
 
DIST/TIME: Approx. 0.4 Mile / 1 Min.  
WATCH FOR: Sign - Kokee State Park  
 ROUTE:
  • Leave Puu Hinahina Lookout
  • Continue short way (0.4 mi.) to Kokee State Park Entrance
Commanding views of the lush, amphitheater-headed Kalalau Valley. Hiking in native rain forest and along the rim of the Waimea Canyon; additional trails in neighboring forest reserves. Excellent area for study of native plants, forest birds and insects.

Note: Picnicking, tent camping and trailer camping with State Parks permit, and lodging. Kokee Natural History Museum serves as the interpretive center for the park. Before hiking, please get directions & current trail conditions at the Museum. Guided hikes, seminars, workshops, residencies, special events. Book & craft shop. Free admission (donations welcomed). Tel. 335-9975. Food at Kokee Lodge. Restrooms.




STOP 6: KALALAU VALLEY OVERLOOK
(KOKEE STATE PARK)
PHOTOGRAPH
LEAVE: KOKEE STATE PARK ENTRANCE  
DIST/TIME: Approx. 3.9 Miles / 11 Mins.  
WATCH FOR: Mile Marker 18  
 ROUTE:
  • Leave Waimea Canyon State Park & enter Kokee State Park
  • Go 3.9 mi. from Kokee State Park Entrance to Kalalau Valley Overlook (at MM18)
4,120 feet elevation. One of the most spectacular sights in all of Hawaii. Lasers of sunlight illuminate the green-cloaked mountains plummeting down to the sea far, far below. Excellent bird watching opportunities in the early morning.

Note: If there is cloud cover over Kalalau Valley - don't despair - check back some minutes later and good chance it will be gone! Please don't feed the Nene. Stop by the Kokee Natural History Museum & obtain their form to report your Nene sightings. Restrooms.




STOP 7: PUU O KILA LOOKOUT
(KOKEE STATE PARK)
PHOTOGRAPH
LEAVE: KALALAU VALLEY OVERLOOK  
DIST/TIME: Approx. 1 Mile / 4 Mins. Drive  
WATCH FOR: End of the Road  
 ROUTE:
  • Leave Kalalau Valley Overlook & continue 1 mi. to Puu O Kila Lookout
4,176 foot elevation. Wonderful view into the Kalalau Valley and across the Alakai Swamp to Mt. Waialeale ( the wettest spot on earth with over 440 inches of rain a year - that's 37 feet!). One of the greatest views in the Pacific. Excellent bird watching in the early morning.

Note: As at Nov. 30/03, this 1 mile section of road to the Lookout is temporarily closed to vehicular traffic. The overlook is well worth the 1 mile walk.




STOP 8: KEKAHA BEACH COUNTY PARK PHOTOGRAPH
LEAVE: PUU O KILA LOOKOUT
(KOKEE STATE PARK)
 
DIST/TIME: Approx. 23.3 Miles / 50 Mins.  
WATCH FOR: Jct. Hwy 550 & 552 on park road  
 ROUTE:
  • Leave Puu O Kila Lookout
  • Return down park road 16 miles to Junction of Hwy 550 & Hwy 552
  • Turn right onto Hwy 552 (Kokee Road)
  • Go 7.3 mi. on Hwy 552 to end of road at Hwy 50 (Kaumualii Hwy)
  • Kekaha Beach County Park is across the road
Endless stretch of white sand beaches. Swimming, fishing, body boarding, surfing. Pavilion.

Note: Pavilion, tables, barbecue pits. Restrooms.

Caution: Very dangerous during periods of high surf, particularly during the winter and spring, when the waves generate powerful rip currents and longshore currents.




STOP 9: POLIHALE STATE PARK PHOTOGRAPH
LEAVE: KEKAHA BEACH FROM INTERSECTION
OF HWY 552 (KOKEE ROAD) & HWY 50
 
DIST/TIME: Approx. 11.6 Miles / 40 Mins.  
WATCH FOR: Sign - Polihale State Park  
 ROUTE:
  • Leave intersection of Hwy 552 (Kokee Road) & Hwy 50 (Kaumualii Hwy)
  • Go West on Hwy 50 for 6.6 mi. to dirt road (left side)
  • Turn Left onto dirt road & go approx. 5 miles on dirt road to Polihale State Park
One of the widest beaches in the State, backed by extensive sand dunes. Site of Hawaii's famous Barking Sands (the noises emitted by the sands when they are agitated sound like the barking of a dog). Scenic setting, colorful sunsets and good views of the high sea cliffs of the Na Pali Coast.

Note: Picnicking, tent camping and trailer camping with State Parks permit. Restrooms.

Caution: Dirt road to beach is extremely rough. 4WD highly recommended. Driving on dirt road violates your rental car agreement. High surf, particularly during the winter and spring, generates dangerous water conditions. Swimming in summer only. Beach is unguarded and its waters can be extremely dangerous.




STOP 10: GAY & ROBINSON SUGAR PLANTATION
VISITOR CENTER & MUSEUM
PHOTOGRAPH
LEAVE: POLIHALE STATE PARK  
DIST/TIME: Approx. 18.5 Miles / 45 Mins.  
WATCH FOR: Just before Mile Marker 19  
 ROUTE:
  • Leave beach & return approx. 5 mi. along dirt road to Hwy 50
  • Turn Right onto Hwy 50 (heading for Lihue) & go approx. 13.5 mi. to Gay & Robinson Plantation at Kaumakani (right side - just before Mile Marker 19)
  • Turn Right & follow the 1920 vintage street lamps to Visitor Center parking (left side at end of row of houses).
Kauai’s last working sugar plantation and one of only two remaining in Hawaii. Boasting field averages of the highest tons of sugar per acre in the world. Visitor center contains displays of artifacts and materials of Kauai's sugar plantations from planting to harvesting to factory operations.

Note: Open M-F 8-4 & Sat. 11-3, guided tours, tel. 335-2824. Restrooms.




STOP 11: SALT POND COUNTY BEACH PARK PHOTOGRAPH
LEAVE: GAY & ROBINSON VISITOR CENTER  
DIST/TIME: Approx. 3.1 Miles / 8 Mins.  
WATCH FOR: Mile Marker 17  
 ROUTE:
  • Leave Visitor Center & return to Hwy 50
  • Turn Right onto Hwy 50 & go 2.1 mi. to Lele Road (just past Mile Marker 17 - before reaching Hanapepe)
  • Turn Right onto Lele Road & go short way (0.4 mi.) to Lokokai Road
  • Turn Right onto Lokokai Road & go short way (0.6 mi.) to beach park (beyond Veterans Cemetery)
Adjacent to the only functioning Salt Ponds in the Hawaiian Islands - where the ancient Hawaiian process of producing rock salt by evaporating seawater is still practiced. Swimming conditions are normally safe except during periods of high surf. Good snorkeling area and a popular surfing and windsurfing site.

Note: Lifeguard services. Picnic tables, pavilion, showers, camping with County permit. Restrooms.




STOP 12: KAUAI COFFEE COMPANY PLANTATION
VISITOR CENTER
PHOTOGRAPH
LEAVE: SALT POND COUNTY BEACH PARK  
DIST/TIME: Approx. 3.5 Miles / 10 Mins.  
WATCH FOR: Sign - Kauai Coffee Visitor Center (Hwy 50 & 540 - Right Side)  
 ROUTE:
  • Leave Salt Pond Beach Park & return approx. 1 mi. to Hwy 50
  • Turn Right onto Hwy 50 & continue approx. 1.5 mi. to Hwy 540 (right side - just past Eleele)
  • Turn Right onto Hwy 540 & go approx. 1 mi. to Kauai Coffee Company Visitor Center
Hawaii's largest coffee estate growing 100% arabica on 3,400 acres. The first coffee plantation in the Islands was established near here over 150 years ago. The Visitor Center contains photographs and video explaining modern coffee production.

Note: Open daily 9-5. Free coffee tasting. Gift shop. Tel. 335-0813. Restrooms.


END OF DRIVE - RETURN TO LIHUE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT


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