Hanalei is located on the north shore of Kauai. It is a quaint little town with many shops and restaurants to enjoy. We stopped in Hanalei for lunch after visiting the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge and Hanalei Bay. You may have heard of Hanalei Bay as films such as South Pacific, Elvis Presley’s Paradise Hawaiian Style, Uncommon Valor and most recently The Descendants with George Clooney were filmed there. The bay offers beautiful views, a gorgeous beach and safe swimming from the heavy surf of the Pacific Ocean. Click the images to view larger.

Hanalei Bay
Hanalei Bay

Our favorite stop in Hanalei is the Hanalei Dolphin Restaurant. As with most everything in Hawaii, the restaurant has outdoor seating and even the indoor seating is wide open to enjoy the tropical breezes. Nestled right next to the Hanalei River, The Dolphin offers great seafood, cool island drinks and a great view.

Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge
Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge

We stopped off at the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge where I found some birds that look very similar to those we have in Florida. For example, this Hawaiian coot looks just like our American coot. There is little chance this coot will become eagle chow. There are no eagles in Hawaii.

Hawaiian Coot - Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge
Hawaiian Coot

And the Hawaiian gallinule looks exactly like our common gallinule.

Hawaiian Gallinule - Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge
Hawaiian Gallinule

Even the Hawaiian black-necked stilt is very similar to our black-necked stilt. The Hawaiian stilt is a sub-species of our black-necked stilt and is an endangered species on the island.

Hawaiian Stilt - Hanalei Naitonal Wildlife Refuge
Hawaiian Stilt

Each of these Hawaiian birds are unique species from the ones we have on the mainland. They are 2000+ miles out in the Pacific Ocean, so over the centuries, they have evolved differently than their distant cousins on the mainland. Many of these birds are endangered due to loss of habitat. The Hanalei NWR is closed to the public, but there is a public road that cuts through the refuge and leads to homes that are nestled farther up in the mountains. The refuge is really a large taro farm. Taro is an important food source for the Hawaiians, so the land is allowed to be farmed, but is also protected at the same time. Taro requires lots of water to grow, so this habitat is perfect for the bird species found in the refuge. This seems to be a good compromise between the needs of the people living on the island and the needs of the indigenous birds.

While it was nice to see these different avian species during our visit, my primary goal was to photograph nene and koloa. The nene is the Hawaiian goose and is the state bird of Hawaii. The koloa is the Hawaiian duck. Both birds are endangered and protected in the islands. We struck out this time on the koloa, but I did get some decent images of nene at the refuge.

Nene (Hawaiian Goose) - Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge
Nene (Hawaiian Goose)

We wanted to stop off at the Kilauea Lighthouse in the afternoon, but learned that the lighthouse is closed on Sunday and Monday. So I’ll follow up on our visit to the lighthouse in a future post.


  • Scott Simmons

    March 1, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    Looks like you’re having a great time! Really interesting to see species that look so much like the ones we have here.

  • Margaret Kelly

    March 1, 2015 at 10:01 pm

    Have used the word Nene so many times in crossword puzzles and I finally got to see one on your page. What a beautiful goose. Thank you for sharing it.

  • Jane Walden

    March 2, 2015 at 10:25 am

    Love seeing your photos and trip details. Such fun!

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