If you continue driving away from the airport past Kapaa you are headed for North Shore. Remember Puff the Magic Dragon? I understand why he lived in the land of Hanalei! Stop at the overlooks along the way, and,rain permitting, explore the wonders of the rain forest. Beware: this area does flood. When it floods, a gate is closed across the road, North of Princeville. If you are down in Hanalei when this happens,this is where you'll stay until the road is re-opened. www.weather.com is your friend!
Take Kuhio Highway (the ocean front road), heading North, away from the airport, all the way around to the Hanalei (one way) bridge. Having crossed it, veer to the right. You are now on Route 560. You will see Kayak Kauai on your right in bustling downtown Hanalei. They have parking and restrooms onsite. You can launch your boat from a tiny stream inlet on the property and paddle the gorgeous Hanalei River. Paddle upstream and stare at mountains, waterfalls, rainbows, and fields of green. Paddle downstream and end up at the beach with no parking hassles, pot holes, or fuss. To access to Haena State Park and Tunnels beach, keep driving on route 560 all the way past the 8 milemarker to Haena State Park. You'll see a dry cave on the left as you enter. Walk to the left on the beach, all the way to the point to catch a glimpse of the NaPali Coast. Walk to the right to access Tunnels beach; snorkeling is superb there. (When I wrote this it was; surf could be huge there in February. Consider the North Shore a place for beach hiking only for most of February.) Please make every effort not to step on live coral, and always swim with a buddy.
Strong currents run through this entire area; please watch the wave patterns before entering the water, and try not to turn your back on the ocean. We swim in wide circles to maintain situational awareness around us in the water. Having swum through a rip with Stephen, I've witnessed the freight train like currents! On the way back, do stop at the scenic overlooks if you didn't do this on the way out. Keep an eye out for waterfalls on the way back… There will be a left turn marked with a sign for the drive out to the Kilauea Lighthouse. It's definitely worth the side trip. In the winter months,this outlook is an excellent whale watching spot. :)
Sunday mornings, the champagne brunch is up and running at the recently renovated St. Regis Hotel (formerly the Princeville Resort). There's more food than you can possibly eat, a crepe chef, an omelette chef, smoked fish and champagne for breakfast. Do get an outdoor table on the patio overlooking the Hanalei Bay. This would be a good time to have a camera handy. The St. Regis just started offering Mailani (Dinner Show) on Thursday evenings, can't tell if it's a traditional luau setup and haven't heard from anyone who has partaken yet, somaybe we'll have to go and find out! Do wander around the grounds of the St. Regis before leaving. The first time we went, we asked Geena Davis for directions to the restaurant(Princeville is sprawling.) but we didn't acknowledge her identity or ogle, and she spoke with us freely.
If you attend church, don't miss the "green church" Wai'Oli Hui'Ia in Hanalei, service is at 10AM and the hymns are in Hawaiian and in English at the same time; cacaphony..
Follow the blue guidebook for directions to Anini beach which boasts the largest reef on all of the islands; it is so big, it ( unlike the Great Wall of China) really is visible from space. Look carefully before stepping in those waters in the winter. We have an excellent guide book written by residents of the island that will provide precise directions to these places. Coming back from the North Shore, you will pass through Anahola. Keep your eyes peeled for the tiny shopping center at the bottom of the hill on your left- this is the home of the Ono Charburger, an institution on the island. Even if you're not big on burgers, stop for their Aloha fruit smoothie. It's reasonably priced, delicious and made with fruit, not syrup.