Ninini Lighthouse

Ninini Lighthouse

Ninini Lighthouse is an 86 foot tall lighthouse that overlooks Nawiliwili Bay. Off the beaten path, Ninini Lighthouse provides breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Waves crashing against the cliffs, wildlife, and mountain views are part of the scenic visit.  Furthermore, this lighthouse is often secluded with very few visitor.

The Ninini Lighthouse was built in 1906 and was automated in 1953.  It is one of the first things you see when landing on the island of Kauai by airplane.  The lighthouse looks over Nawiliwili Harbor and Kalapaki Bay.  Moreover, this vantage point provides views of the northern entrance of Nawiliwili Bay.  

You may be able to see the barges that come into the harbor. Consequently, Nawiliwili Harbor provides almost all of Kauai’s imported goods.  When visiting Kauai, it is likely that you will use an item or two that came from these docks.

Ninini Lighthouse is located near the Marriott Resort and Hokuala Resort.  If you are heading to the lighthouse take the opportunity to check out the Marriott Beach Resort grounds as well as the Hokuala Resort grounds.  Many walk able paths are open to the public.  It is a great way to get some exercise and to enjoy the beautiful scenery.  If you want to go for a swim in the area, Kalapaki Beach is nearby.  Check out Kalapaki Beach on Things to Do: East side.

Ninini Lighthouse is great to visit in the late afternoon or if needing to kill some time before a flight.  Furthermore the area is great to watch airplanes descending onto the runway.  Airplanes fly low over the Ninini Lighthouse making it a great vantage point for airplane lovers.  See the image below of an airplane flying right over us!

The Ninini Lighthouse is free of charge and is accessible any time during the day. Access the lighthouse by driving through the Marriott and Hokuala Resort. After passing the Hokuala Golf Course Clubhouse, drive over the bridge.  Look for the Shoreline Access sign and turn left before the second bridge.  This will bring you to a road through the golf course to the accessible Shoreline Access.  Keep driving until you see the next posted sign that directs you to Ninini Lighthouse.  A short drive down the dirt road will take you to the lighthouse. In addition, you could also park at the Kalanipu’u resort and walk to Ninini Lighthouse. Google Maps offline mode will also get you to Ninini Lighthouse.




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Maniniholo Dry Cave, Haena Beach Park

Maniniholo Dry Cave

Maniniholo Dry Cave and Haena Beach Park is a popular attraction for those visiting the North Shore of Kauai. This ancient site is located across from Ha’ena Beach Park, on highway 560.

Maniniholo Dry Cave is said to have formed naturally thousands of years ago.  The sea level was higher and the ocean once used to hit the base of the cliff. As a result, erosion from the waves formed the cave.  The sand was brought into Maniniholo Dry Cave during the 1957 tsunami. In addition, stones have been piled in the front of the cave by locals as well as native Hawaiians.  


About 300 yards deep, with plenty of standing room, the cave is great for exploration.  The floor is covered by sand as well as large stones.  Furthermore, keiki love to explore the cave and run around.  Consequently, a flashlight is needed to go deeper into the cave. We used the one on our cell phone.

Hawaiian Culture and History

Maniniholo Cave and the surrounding Haena area has its importance in Hawaiian culture and history.  In Hawaiian legends, it is told that this dry cave was once used by menehune to escape danger. For that reason, the cave was used as a passage route to get from one side of the island to the other.

 Another Hawaiian legend says that this cave was named after Maniniholo, the head fisherman of the Menehune.  Maniniholo used it to catch many fish here at Ha’ena. On one account, after catching many fish, he left some of the catch under the cliff. The menehune then carried the rest of the fish to the island’s interior to other menehune.  However, when they returned to gather the rest of the fish, they saw an akua (supernatural beast/ spirit) who took the fish that they had left there.  In order to catch the supernatural beast, they decided to dig a cave and make a trap.  This cave is the remnants of the menehune work.  Other legends say that the menehune dug the cave looking for imps that stole their fish.

Parking and Information

Ke’e Beach, Hae’na and the North Shore was impacted by a severe flood in April 2018. As a result, the road to Ke’e Beach and the surrounding area (right past Hanalei) was restricted due to repairs and maintenance. Since then, a shuttle service has been established to help transport visitors to many popular destinations past Hanalei.  This will help preserve the beautiful landscape and limit traffic flow to the recovering areas impacted by the flood. In order to visit this area, you must book tickets for the shuttle in advance as most shuttles are booked two weeks out in advance.  Here is the link to the website.

Shuttle services are provided at various locations where you can park and take the shuttle to your destination.

Make sure to make it back for the last shuttle that leaves at 5:00 pm.  

Another option to get to attractions, sites and beaches past Hanalei is to purchase a pass for entry and parking. Facilities with limited parking spaces and monitored entry, require parking permits that need to be purchased a week in advance as there are only a set number of dedicated parking stalls for visitors.  It is advised that visitors plan ahead if wanting to take a day trip to Ke’e Beach or hike the Hanakapiai or Kalalau Trail. You can get a permit two weeks in advance before heading to the area.

Haena Beach

During the winter months, the surf can be very high and beachgoers should heed caution. Inevitably, the beach will be closed by lifeguards when conditions are too rough.

The Maniniholo Dry cave is a great place to take a break from a long drive. As a result our boys get a chance to stretch their legs and run around.  They also get to explore one of Kauai’s natural wonders. After visiting the cave, they came up with so many stories.  This is where the Batman and Spiderman lives.  They also claimed to see blood on the rocks.  Whether adult or keiki, your imagination runs wild as you enter the cave.  Will the space cave in?  How was this cave formed?  What was the cave used for?  What’s in the darkness?  Are the Legends of the Evil Spirit true?  Maniniholo Dry Cave and Haena Beach Park is great for exploration and play with your keiki.




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Upcoming Holiday Events on Kauai

Here are some upcoming events that make us proud to be one L.O.C.A.L on Kauai.

Tree Lighting in Waimea, November 30th

On November 30, 2017 the West Kauai Business and Professional Association will be holding their annual tree lighting ceremony.  This will be at the newly renovated Hofgaard Park in the center of Waimea town.  Beginning at 5:30 and after the sunset, the tree as well as the historic town buildings and businesses will turn on their lights for the holiday season.  They will exhibit their festive decorations.

This event sponsors keiki literacy and will feature a storytime for children. Mayor Bernard Carvalho will be present and read a story from Moana.  The Waimea highschool band will also play.

County Buildings Festival of Lights, Lihue

Historic County Buildings Festival of Lights will run from December 1-30, 2017 from 6:00-8:00 pm.  This event is featuring Christmas decorations made with recycled products.  Also, local themed decorated Christmas trees that are influenced by Hawaii’s LOCAL culture will be featured.  For more information you can check out

Rice Street Parade in Lihue, December 1st

On Friday, December 1, 2017 from 6:00-8:00 pm Rice Street will be holding its annual light parade.  One of Kauai’s largest gatherings, the Lights on Rice event is definitely a must do. It is a treat to both visitors and locals.  Live entertainment, food booths and many organizations, clubs, community groups and families make this event a true L.O.C.A.L (Loving Our Community and Lifestyle) experience.

Arrive early to find parking. Parking can be found near the Lihue Civic Center, Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall, Vidinha Stadium, and at business parking lots on Rice street.  Free Shuttle services are provided at Kukui Grove Shopping Center from 5:00-9:00 pm.  The shuttle will depart from the First Hawaiian Bank at Kukui Grove and will drop off guests at the First Hawaiian Bank on Rice Street.  With the limited parking spaces on and near Rice Street, taking a shuttle is recommended for both Kama’aina and visitors.  Rice Street will be closed down from 5:30 pm and will reopen after the event is finished.  Please be aware that the closure may restrict  your access to leave if you are parked near Rice Street.

Plan Ahead and Stay Safe

The parade will begin at Vidhina Stadium and will go through Rice Street ending at the Kauai County Building.  It is best to plan and stay at the event. Take tme to enjoy the many different food vendors, shops, craft fair and boutiques that are in the area.  There will be a variety of local products to purchase and great food to eat. Many participants and performers are in this year’s event. Advisors expect 60 units and 3,000 performers.  Beautifully decorated floats along with energized walking troupes for various community groups and organizations will make this parade an entertaining and festive occasion.  This is one of Kauai’s largest attractions. The Rice Street parade is a family event that is a must-see if visiting or residing on Kauai

For parades, please be sure to accompany your keiki at all times. Keep keiki on the sidewalks to be safe.  Keiki will have the opportunity to get candy and treats from many of the groups and organizations in the parade. They will also get to see a number of Santa Claus. There are some pretty cool vehicles that you may not see otherwise.

Waimea Light Parade, December 16th

On Saturday, December 16, 2017 the 23rd Annual Waimea Christmas Light Parade will be taking place in Waimea. Starting from the Waimea Canyon Park the parade will, make its way down from Waimea Canyon Rd. to the main street of Waimea town (Kaumualii Hwy.) to Ala Wai Road.  It will then head back West on Waimea Road to end back at Hofgaard Park. This annual event is one of West Kauai’s largest gathering for locals.  The parade features many hand crafted floats created by over 40 different groups.  Many of our local organizations, businesses and families are represented.

Holiday Tradition continues

Westside LOCALS, look forward to this event as it is a tradition.  It makes those living here appreciate the community we live in, the love we have for each other and the beautiful island that we share.  The event first started in 1994 with only a collection of lighted fishing boats, a red tractor, and a few walking and bicyclists that was led by the mayor in a fire truck.  Over the years, this annual event has grown in the number of participants as well as its popularity among local families and visitors alike.  It is a once a year event in Waimea, where the Holiday Season is at it’s best. The quiet little town is vibrant and energized with entertainment, good food and lots of people on the streets mingling and having a good time.

Parking for the Event

This event is not as large as the Lights in Lihue Parade. However, there will be many people in town trying to stake their spot for viewing the parade.  For convenience in parking, it is best to park on the Kekaha Side of Town across from the Waimea Plantation Cottages and alongside the road.  There will be very little parking in Waimea Town as many residents and businesses will have had most parking taken well before the event starts.  You will even see lawn chairs and people set up seating areas for the their family and friends three to four days before the event.  With that being said, the best thing to do is come early before the bridge closes at 5:30 pm.

Spend some time exploring the West side of Kauai, which may include: visiting the beaches, going up to Waimea Canyon/ Kokee, getting a bite to eat, grabbing some snacks and refreshments, or hanging out in the town well before the big party begins.

Preparing to arrive in Waimea Town at 4:00 pm to get a good spot is advised.  Kaumualii Highway will reopen after the parade is finished (This may be around 7:00-7:30pm) so if you are trying to get somewhere, plan accordingly.  Only emergency vehicles will be authorized to use Kaumualii Hwy and head eastbound.

Salt Pond Beach, Hanapepe

Salt Pond Beach Park

Salt Pond Beach Park, which is named for its traditional Hawaiian salt collecting beds, is located on Kauai’s western shore.  If you are traveling along Hwy 50, heading west from Kalaheo, after passing Hanapepe town turn left onto Lele Road or Hwy. 543.  Protected by natural lava rock ridges as waves break outside the reef, Salt Pond Beach is perfect for little keiki.  Shallow pools and lagoons are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and tidepooling.  Furthermore, this lifeguarded beach offers amenities such as restrooms, showers, and pavilions.

Adjacent to the Salt Pond Beach are the The Salt Flats.  This delicate area is restricted, unless you have been invited by a member of a salt making family.  Making pa’akai or Hawaiian sea salt is an ancient cultural practice that is passed down from generation to generation.  Kauai is the only place in Hawaii that makes salt according to the ancient traditions which are all done by hand.  

Looking from a distance, you may see the salt patch or lo’i filled with rows of oval salt beds which are lined with clay.  These shallow beds allow for the evaporation of seawater and produce this prized sparkling salt.  Held in respect, the salt is never sold; it is only given away.  The Hawaiian salt is used for cooking, seasoning, preserving food, medicinal purposes and in cultural blessings.  The season runs from May-September; the amount of harvested salt depends on many natural variables such as the sun, ocean tides and weather conditions.

Salt beds, Hanapepe

On the Salt ponds side of the beach, the beach in this area is reddish-golden from the clay that lies beneath the water.  If you want to access this part of the beach, it is recommended that you walk from the main beach.  Although you may see vehicles lined up on the sand and parked along the fenceline, please avoid trying to park here (If you do access the beach from the back side, do not drive right on the beach as it damages the sand dunes that protect the salt patches from high surf.)  A paved parking lot that is next to the salt beds can be used.

 At this part of Salt Pond Beach, my sons were entertained by the red and greyish clay in this area. They were running it through their hands and trying to break it apart with rocks.  Also, there were many fish in this lagoon as my husband took the boys to look at the different types of fish found in the shallow waters.  We were even able to Find Nemo (a clownfish) that happened to come in with the tide and a plethora of other reef fish.

Salt Pond is a great choice for a day at the beach with your keiki.




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Kilauea Point Lighhouse and National Wildlife Refuge

At the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge you will encounter unprecedented sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean.  The contrast of colors in this landscape is amazing with the deep greens and browns of the cliffside, to the blacks of the rocks, to the vibrant bright blues of the ocean.


There are many things to take notice of and engage the keiki in.


Seabirds are everywhere, hugging the cliffs, hovering above you, hiding from you, and even walking amongst you. Observation scopes are located throughout the pathways and binoculars are available for the keiki to use. Just sign them out and return when you are done.

Observation scopes
Hovering Seabirds


Besides the opportunity see seabirds in their natural habitat, there are also opportunities to see other wildlife such as whales and dolphins, endangered Nene, and Hawaiian monk seals. On this particular day, the Nene were approaching nesting season. Therefore, we were able to observe mating behaviors such as them “talking” to each other and acting territorial. We have also seen whales during whale watching season which runs from November-May. Dolphins can also be spotted from the lookout areas and are usually most visible during the summer months.


Along the property there are informational picture boards which provide a visual inventory of what to look for. Walking up the pathway to the lighthouse, take notice of the abundance of native plants. Try to have the keiki match the picture and the description with the plants around you. The easiest one to identify is the native Napaka shrub. It has waxy green leaves with white flowers that have five petals and looks like a half-flower. Your keiki can reach these along the path and feel the surface of the leaves for the texture.

There is a Hawaiian legend that goes with this half – flower that you can tell your keiki. One version is about a royal princess who fell in love with a commoner from the mountains. Together the princess and the commoner traveled up the mountain in distress. The kupuna told them that there is nothing that he could do so that they could be together.  So as a token or rememberance of her love, the princess took the flower from her ear and tore it in half telling the commoner that he must go by the water and live.

Since then, the Naupaka flower only bloomed in half-flowers where one-half can be found near the sea and it’s counter-part found in the mountains.  Some say that if you find one of each flower and put them together, you reunite their love and it can bring you good luck. The Naupaka plant can easily root near sand and rocks and is found along most of the beaches on Kauai as it prevents erosion.  

4. Kilauea Point Lighthouse

The historic Daniel Inouye Lighthouse is another highlight. Tours are offered on certain days and times of the week, so if you are interested in actually going up into the lighthouse, plan ahead. Children need to be 44 inches tall for this activity.


Admission for children 15 and under are free and adults are $5 per person so this is a great bargain.  If you are a L.O.C.A.L. (Kamaaina) you can purchase a yearly pass for $20 that allows entry for 4 people.  Only cash and traveler’s check are accepted as forms of payments, so make sure you bring some cash.  The Refuge is closed on Sunday and Monday and open Tuesday – Saturday, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm so plan accordingly.


On the way out, there is a great bookstore that offers books and gifts or information to reinforce anything that your keiki may have been interested in

Nesting Shearwater

Getting There

Heading north on Kuhio Hwy. from Lihue pass through the towns of Kapaa and Anahola.  The next town is Kilauea (look for the gas station on the right) and turn right onto Kolo Road.  Pass the gas station and make the first left onto Kilauea Road.  The refuge is at the end of this scenic road, about 2 miles in.

I had this old photo from 2008, when my family visited!

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Waimea Canyon and Kōkeʻe State Park, must sees on Kauaʻi

Things To See on Kauai’s Westside

At a 4,000 foot elevation, Waimea Canyon coined the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”, boasts panoramic views and along with Kōkeʻe State Park are must see on Kaua’i. It has taken millions of years to create the splendid array of greens, browns, and reds colors showcasing the canyon. The Waimea River, erosion from the rain, water from the peaks of Mount Waiʻaleʻale, and volcanic activity are all contributors to the natural beauty that the canyon displays. Waterfalls are visible in the distance and rainbows frequently inhabit the cliffsides. A feeling of peace and tranquility sets in place as you reconnect with nature.

Getting to Waimea Canyon and Kōkeʻe

There are actually two ways to access Waimea Canyon/Kokee.  After heading West on Hwy. 50, continue through Waimea town and turn right, heading mauka (towards the mountain) on Waimea Canyon Drive (Hwy. 550).  This is the first option to get to Waimea Canyon. If you prefer to continue west on HWY. 50, another option to get up to the canyon is available where you can also get a glimpse of  the old sugar plantation town of Kekaha and pass the sugar mill that has been closed since 1999. Continuing west, when approaching Kekaha, Turn right onto Hwy 55.  The route is better on the vehicle as the climb up is less steep.  Both of these routes lead to the Waimea Canyon, however each route has its own breathtaking views and experience.  

Nonetheless, around mile marker 6, the two roads end up merging.  From a L.O.C.A.L perspective,  a recommendation is to go up using the Waimea route (Hwy. 50) to experience the rolling hills and magnificent red dirt features and then descending the mountain using the Kekaha (Hwy. 50) route as it is less steep and gives you great views of Niihau and the Westside of Kauai’s landscape, the best of both.


Views of Niihau and Westside of Kauai on decent using Kekaha (Hwy. 50) route

Continue on this curvy road about 4 miles and you will see the sign for  Waimea Canyon lookout which is  located between mile markers 10 and 11.

Waimea Canyon Lookout

  Veer right into the parking lot area.  Here there are restrooms and also snacks for sale.  You can purchase dried fruits and you must try the coconut water which is cold and crisp.  You can reach the lookout from the shorter steeper  ascend on the left or the ramp which provides a gradual ascend.   If you have children or a stroller and head up the gradual ramp, you will not be able to access the upper lookout because of the stairs.  Likewise, if you take the steeper shorter route, you will not be able to access the lower lookout area.  You do have the option of carrying your children but make sure they are carefully watched.  If you have an infant, a carrier would be perfect.  Either way,  have your camera ready for the sweeping views of the canyon.  


Views of Waimea Canyon, jackets for swift breezes and cooler temperatures

Continuing on to Kōkeʻe State Park

There are two other lookouts along the route to Kokee State Park, the Pu’u Ka Pele Lookout located between mile markers 12 and 13 and the Puu Hina Hina Lookout located between mile markers 13 and 14.  We usually skip these because of time constraints and also depending on the state of the children.  After continuing on Kokee Road for a few more miles or so you will reach Kokee State Park.  

school group playing in the meadow

Although relatively speaking Kokee is close to Waimea, the  terrain and climate differ significantly with the increased elevation.  Kokee State Park is a natural watershed, an area of land from which all surface and groundwater flows from higher elevation, Mount Waiʻaleʻale, downhill to the Waimea River.  Many community groups work to preserve and educate others about this intricate watershed and the importance of wai or water to the area and surrounding land.  The watershed is abundant with many native plants but also has invasive intruders in the form of invasive plants and animals such as pigs and goats that disturb native vegetation.  You will feel a difference in the temperature of the air as this increased elevation brings cooler temperatures.  It may often be about 10 degrees cooler in Kokee than in Waimea or Kekaha, especially in the winter months.  

An old phone booth provides symbolism; Remember these?

Kōkeʻe Lodge, Kōkeʻe Natural History Museum, and the Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow

As you turn into Kokee State Park you will see, Kokee Lodge and the Kokee Natural History Museum to your left.  The area is defined by the Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow on your right, a large open area for recreation which is a great place to have a picnic with the family or let your keiki run around a bit before getting back into the car.

Kokee Museum, Kokee State Park

Kokee Lodge offers food for purchase and also restroom facilities.  Check out the Kokee Natural History Museum which offers  information on hiking trails and the surrounding area.  Local books, maps, artwork, and handcrafted keepsakes are for sale.  They are open daily from 10-4pm and admission is free so it’s a perfect family activity.


Kokee Lodge, Kōkeʻe State Park

Continuing Further On to Kalalau Lookout

After stopping at the museum, you must continue on Kokee Road a few more miles to mile marker 18 to the magnificent Kalalau Lookout. Satisfaction will take over that  you can go no further.  Standing from the lookout you will see astonishing sweeping views of Kalalau valley.  On clear days you may even catch a glimpse of the shores of Kalalau beach.  Kalalau is only accessible on foot through a 13 mile hike beginning at Ke’e beach on Kauai north shore.  You will understand why you cannot circle the island, as the Napali cliffs lie in the way ans will be amazed by the natural beauty that surrounds you.

View from Kalalau Lookout over Kalalau valley and beach

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