As I sat on a park bench near the middle parking lot, I looked over the crowded sand and was given a glimmer of the future of Hanalei. It looked a lot like Waikiki. While the South shores of O'ahu are littered with hotels, the North shore of Kaua'i remains only minorly molested by quaint houses built by long time residents and it's vacation rentals up on poles to catch an ocean view and a few more bucks per night. Only second to the much more touristy Waikiki, Hanalei Bay is the most famous beach in all of Hawai'i.
To get to the big sandy beach, you have to slowly squeeze through the sleepy town of Hanalei and the even quieter neighborhoods. You'll notice most of the streets are named after popular and delicious fish. Makes you think maybe one day the seas will rise and the fish will take over their namesake streets. Until then, make sure you spend a day in Hanalei! Before it all sinks into the ocean...
The long stretch of two miles of Hanalei Bay can be separated into 3 different zones, the Pier, Pinetrees, and Waikokos. There is one more activity zone, but it's really for experts only, the Point.
Starting on the South side of Hanalei Bay is Hanalei river mouth. There is a small campsite, bathrooms, outdoor showers, and a very sandy parking lot. From this area you can access the pier. The pier is a great fishing spot for small bait fish and for catch and release. Jumping feet first off the pier is highly recommended.
If you are an advanced to expert level surfer, in condition for the long paddle and you know the etiquette of surfing, check out the Point. This wave is long and perfect, but some of the locals' patience for kooks is short and ill mannered. Yes, you will catch the ride of your life to there, but you also need to behave and respect the locals.
Next we go about a mile North to another parking lot, bathrooms, and a lifeguard tower at a fun sand break called Pinetrees. This is a perfect learning spot for new surfers, as the whitewash will just take you back to shore. Always talk to the lifeguards about currents and wave conditions. This is a great spot for boogie boarding, long boarding in the white wash, or short boarding the outside break. The shady grass area and convienent restrooms make this the perfect spot to spend the day at the beach.
Pinetrees is best know for being the surf spot that Andy and Bruce Irons learned how to surf. As the three time World Champion of surfing, Andy and his brother Bruce started a kids only surf contest held at this beach every April. For the last 16 years in a row, Tamba Surf Company has been a part of this special event. Read more about it here.
Lastly, at the most Northern part of the bay, is a surf break called Waikokos. Parking is not as convienent as the rest of the bay, but for an intermediate surfer who knows their way around a shallow reef break, it is worth it. Don't plan to bring much to beach here, as the climb to the sand is steep. It isn't a very crowded spot and the shade makes it perfect for a nap.
Where ever you decide to surf in Hanalei, always watch the waves for at least 15 minutes before you get wet. If in doubt, don't go out. Talk to a lifeguard and respect the locals. ;)