Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge is one of three nature preserves on Kauai Island; it is also the oldest of the three, having been established in 1972. It is located on the island's north shore and surrounded by a range of mountains known for spectacular waterfalls. The purpose of the refuge is to protect several species of endangered birds. Some of the birds are native to the area, while many other species were introduced after the park had been opened. The valley is flat with rivers flowing through and has steep wooded hillsides lining the base of the surrounding mountains.
The refuge is near the similarly-named city Hanalei, where you can gather supplies, groceries, or just relax. There is a beach area and beach park along the northern shore, restaurants if you want to dine out, a farmers' market, and more. From Hanalei, roads lead into the refuge to a trailhead; you can hike the trail or take photos from the scenic lookout where the trailhead begins. You can also take an auto tour of the road to see more of the park.
Wailua River State Park is a tropical river valley preserve with mountains and caves, waterfalls, and a river that flows through the park. The park is an ADA-accessible National Historic Landmark; it was once a place of worship and the seat of power for the chieftains in Old Hawaii. While you're here, you'll see the remains of the birthstones that have been left behind as you enjoy a riverboat sightseeing tour. You can also come here to enjoy a picnic and observe the plant and wildlife that call the area home.
Kōkeʻe State Park is a popular destination for hiking with various trails winding through the area's forest. The park has a museum where staff can answer questions and point you down the right hiking path, as well as advise you on current weather conditions. The museum has a gift shop where you can purchase a wide variety of souvenirs and other items. There are books about the park and Hawaii in general, jewelry, and t-shirts, hiking sticks, and more. The museum is open year-round during regular business hours; the park is open year-round during daylight hours. With an RV rental near Kōkeʻe State Park, you can relax in comfort when your outdoor excursions are finished for the day.
Poipu Beach Park is an outdoor recreation area located not far from several urban communities. It's well known for its surfing potential in season and its white-sand beaches and swimming area. The beach is divided into two separate areas, so younger kids and adults who may not be experienced swimmers can enjoy the area safely; the other section (Waiohai Beach) is good for more experienced swimmers and for snorkeling. The beach area is protected by a reef but is still a relatively safe place for surfing. If you're new to surfing but would like to give it a shot, a neighboring beach is where you can take lessons. Park your Hanalei camper rental nearby, and you can shower and clean up once you're done.
Camping near Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge
There aren't any facilities for camping in Hanalei NWR, but there are a few RV campgrounds on Kauai that will suit your needs. One of them, Kumu Camp Beach Retreat, offers a perfect rustic camping experience for small RVs. The campground has restrooms and hot showers, and there are picnic tables at some of the campsites as well as fire rings. It's a popular destination, open year-round, and providing social activities like beach volleyball and yoga classes. You can even book a massage while you're RV camping at Kumu Camp Beach Retreat.
Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park has primitive hike-in campsites and limited overnight parking for the Kauai campervan rental. It's located on the northwest section of the island. The cliffs are majestic and divided by valleys that extend down to the shoreline. The cliffs and valleys are accentuated by waterfalls and streams, and you can see the remains of where natives once lived on walled terraces near the valley bottoms.
Exploring the Area
If you'd like to experience the culture and urban environment while you're here, start with Princeville, a small community just north of Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge. The town is every bit as scenic as you've probably imagined, with shops, urban parks and landmarks, and a botanical garden. One of the parks, Queen's Bath, is a natural pool and waterfall that you can hike to. Princeville's restaurant scene has everything from fast food and inexpensive cafes to fine dining; whatever you're hoping to eat for dinner, you're likely to find it here.
Wailua is on the island's eastern edge, where the Wailua River flows into the Pacific. Dining and shopping opportunities are plentiful here, along with boat tours, botanical gardens, and beaches lining the shore. Visitors can experience an authentic luau, tour grottos, and venture into some of the surrounding city and state parks for hiking, kayaking, and natural sightseeing opportunities.