Famous for its spectacular beauty, Hanalei Bay is a long half-moon of sandy beach carved into the base of a sheer cliff on one side and narrowing into a rocky point on the other. As you can see I took this picture while we were actually in the bay. We decided that a Zodiac Boat trip to the Napali coast was the ticket for the day. Maybe not one of my better ideas retrospectively!
The beach is a great spot for walking or throwing a Frisbee around. At the westernmost curve of the bay, you'll find a calm shoreline where the water is relatively quiet even when most of the north shore is too rough for safe swimming. We found out just how ruff it gets once we left the tranquility of this bay. The Zodiac Boats were one of the most exhilarating (and scariest rides I have ever been on). It was almost as if the driver was intent on trying to lose someone off of his boat (just for kicks)!
Though the main center for tourism on the North Shore, PRINCEVILLE is not exactly a town; it's too short of shops, public amenities, or even a permanent population. Instead it's a "planned resort community" consisting of neat rows of quasi-suburban vacation homes mixed in with a few larger condo complexes, two golf courses and a couple of luxury hotels. The general sense of placid domesticity is somehow heightened by the fact that the whole place is overlooked by the magnificent mountain wilderness that fills the western horizon.
Princeville stands on a well-watered plateau that abuts Hanalei Bay to the west and the open ocean to the north. Once this was the site of a sprawling grove of hala (pandanus) trees. In contrast to the common farming lands of Hanalei Valley below, it served as a residential area for the island's elite.
Soon after Europeans arrived on the island, the Russian-backed German adventurer George Schäffer renamed this district "Schäffertal" and constructed the short-lived Fort Alexander on the Pu'u Poa headland now occupied by the Princeville Hotel. The general outline of the fort is still discernible on the lawn near the main hotel entrance. In its centre, a small pavilion holds explanatory displays and enjoys superb views across the bay to Lumaha'i Beach and beyond.
In the 1830s, the British consul Richard Charlton leased most of the land between Kilauea and Hanalei to pasture a herd of one hundred cattle. He failed to pay his rent, however, and after the Great Mahele, Robert Crichton Wyllie, Hawaii's Foreign Minister for twenty years, acquired the land. Wyllie built an overambitious sugar mill beside the Hanalei River, equipped with machinery imported from his native Scotland. King Kamehameha IV, Queen Emma and the young Prince Albert visited him in 1860. The name "Princeville," adopted in Albert's honor, has stuck ever since, although Albert died two years later at the age of four. Just four months after Wyllie died in 1865, his nephew and heir committed suicide upon realizing that he had inherited a mountain of debt.
Sheep farming subsequently proved no more profitable than sugar, and Princeville was, until 1969, a cattle ranch. The entire area was then bought by an American consortium, and work started on the construction of the resort. Its centerpiece, the Princeville Hotel, opened in 1985 and has changed hands repeatedly ever since, while continuing to rank among the world's top tropical hideaways.
Princeville was hit especially hard by Hurricane Iniki in 1992; for several days the Princeville Hotel served as a makeshift community shelter, despite losing most of its roof and its entire tenth floor. Now things are back to normal, and Princeville can't be faulted as a relaxing base from which to explore North Kauai. Though, in truth, there's nothing in particular to see, and the pretty little beaches tucked beneath the cliffs are no better than countless others along this stretch of coast.
Don't get me wrong here, the sea caves we went into while at the Napali Coast were spectacular, and the view of Napali Coast from the Zodiac Boat, was just unbelievably beautiful. But if I had it all to do over again, I would recommend the catamarans which go to the same area, (sans the sea caves). You still get the nice picnic at the bottom of the cliffs and you don't have to worry about loosing your lunch on your way back to Hanalei Bay at Princeville.". . .travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living."