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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Kade

Kauai North Shore

Decided to do a little exploring today so we took route 56 and 560 along the coast.

Route 56, also known as Kuhio Highway, is the main highway on the north and east shore of Kauai.

Route 56 runs 28 miles (45 km), stretching from Hawaii Route 50 at the junction of Rice Street in Lihue to the junction of Hawaii route 560 in Princeville. The road is named for Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana'ole, a territorial in delegate to Congress after Hawaii's annexation by the United States. He also was the second non-voting Congressional Delegate from territorial Hawaii. We started our journey from our hotel in Kapaa.

The road is a major thoroughfare for the eastern and northern parts of Kauaiʻi. Going through Kapaa, Hawaii 56 is jammed in the morning and the afternoon. The route goes through some of the most gorgeous scenic countryside with few services and buildings from Kapaa heading towards Princeville. The bridge over the Kalihiwai river west of Kilauea is particularly scenic.

Route 560, or Kaua'i Belt Road-North Shore section, is a ten-mile (16 km) scenic road on the northern shore. The entire belt road is signed as the Kuhio Highway and Hawaii Route 56 was once signed on this route before it was downgraded to become Hawaii Route 560 in the late 1960s.

Kuhio Highway ends its Route 56 designation in Princeville. The road drops in elevation heading towards the Hanalei River with lookout points giving views of the river valley and the northwestern shore of Kauaʻi. It then goes through the only major town on this route Hanalei, and past the Hanalei Bay. It follows a foot trail used by ancient Hawaiians. An early record is given in the 1849 diary of William DeWitt Alexander, who lived at the Wai'oli mission which still can be seen along the road. William Tufts Brigham recorded boats used to cross the rivers in 1865. The Hahalei Pier is just north of the road on the bay. At one time the valley was home to rice fields, and the Haraguchi Rice Mill is one of several built along the river.

The road is narrow at times and features eleven one-lane bridges with the first five constructed in 1912. County engineers J. H. Moragne and R. L. Garlinghouse supervised building the bridges and paving through the 20th century.

Many of these bridges have restricted weight limits and some of them are wooden. Traffic must yield at these bridges and it is custom to allow the greater traffic to cross first or after five to seven cars have passed your side of the road to allow to the other side to pass. The road becomes narrower with each passing mile as the Na Pali Coast begins to inch closer towards the coast. The road dead ends at Ha'ena State Park.

There were plans to extend the road to Route 550 allowing one to circumnavigate the entire island in the 1960s; however, those plans were dropped due to environmental concerns and lack of traffic demand. The HHawaii Department of Transportation was planning to replace these bridges with two-lane bridges, but the plan was later abandoned in 1987. The area is popular for films, although they can cause traffic congestion since there are no alternate routes.

Instead, a massive renovation project began for the Hanalei River bridge, promoted by a community preservation group with cooperation of the Hawaii Department of Transportation. A Pratt truss was built as a replica of the original 1912 one-lane structure. The new bridge was officially dedicated in November 2003. A 1960s structure under the roadway supports the heavier weight of modern traffic. Route 560 was added February 11, 2004 to the National Register of Historic Places listings in Hawaii as site 03001048.

We stopped at the Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Lighthouse pullout. The lighthouse is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Perched at the northernmost tip of Kauai, the 52-foot Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse was built in 1913 as a beacon for traveling ships. Although its light was turned off in the1970's and has been replaced by an automatic beacon, it still serves as one of the island's most frequented attractions.

The view off the rugged northern coastline and the deep-blue Pacific makes this the perfect vantage point for photos. The lighthouse is located within the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, a sanctuary for seabirds. Signage throughout the refuge identifies the various native bird species that nest or visit the area, including great frigatebirds, wedge-tailed and Newell’s shearwaters, brown and red-footed boobies and Laysan albatross. Watch them soar the skies or see them up close in their burrows. From December through May, you are likely to catch a glimpse of humpback whales. This scenic peninsula, 200-feet above sea level, is a must-see on your visit to the North Shore of Kauai.

"The Hanalei Valley has been an important agricultural site for as long as people have populated Kauai. Polynesians introduced taro to the islands when they first arrived between 300 and 800 AD. After more than 1000 years of growing taro, production in the Hanalei Valley shifted to rice in the 1800s. The Hanalei Pier was first built in 1892 to support a then thriving rice industry. Production shifted back to taro some time after World War II.

Today, taro is again the principal crop and is grown year round along the river. The Hanalei Valley is comprised of many agricultural parcels, each divided into many paddy fields farmed by growers like the Koga family. The Kogas have many paddy fields or patches maturing at different times. Because it takes six months for a crop to mature, each taro patch yields two crops a year. Planting is staggered so that a new crop matures and is harvested every week. For the Kogas, the first few days of the week are spent harvesting every plant in a patch by hand. The root is cut from the stalks, bagged, and hauled out of the fields in sacks. The stalks of the plant are saved with a small part of the root top until later in the week to be hand planted again in the same patch. Re-planted, the stalks grow into new plants. Through staggered planting, a new patch is ready for harvest and re-planting each week. The different stages of production and plant maturity produce the variations of color in the patchwork seen from above. When the Kogas aren't harvesting and planting, the rest of the week is spent weeding and tending the fields. They take Sundays off to attend church in Hanalei. The Kogas are of Japanese decent and devout Mormons."

"Taro can be grown in flooded paddy fields or on irrigated dry land although flooded cultivation produces greater yields. Flooding also helps with weed control. Along with rice, taro is one of the few crops that can be cultivated in flooded conditions. Fields are kept underwater year round and are only drained to harvest and replant.

Next to the Hanalei River and with average rainfall of over 60 inches a year, conditions are ideal for taro. 73% of the State of Hawaii's taro production is grown on the island of Kauai and most of it is grown here on the north shore. With about 235 acre in production, Kauai produced 3,300 pounds of taro in 2006 valued at about $1.82 million. Taro corm is also becoming popular when sliced, deep fried and sold as chips. This is one way in which taro's appeal is expanding into new markets."

Because taro was the main staple of the ancient Hawaiian people and helped them to survive, it has a cultural and even religious significance to them. Taro is so aligned with the Hawaiian people, that the word "Ohana" (meaning family), is derived from the word oha, the shoot that grows from the taro corm. "Haloa" (Taro) is the name of the first-born son of the parents who begat the human race. Fighting, using harsh words and arguing is not allowed when a bowl of poi is on the table.

The corm, or underground part of the stem, is cooked and mashed into a smooth starchy food called poi. Like any other starchy food (mashed potatoes come to mind) poi has a rather bland taste if eaten plain. Poi looks a little like sticky purple pudding and seems a little like eating paste. Somehow the Hawaiians love it. Next time I'm at a luau, I'm going to try it with salt. Taro's steamed leaves (lu`au) and flowers (pua) are generally used in dishes with meats, fish, coconut milk, and other vegetables.

The taro fields along the river are also an important habitat for many endangered species of birds and ducks; including the Hawaiian Stilt. Its long legs are perfect for wading and hunting insects in the flooded taro fields.

Taro production on Kauai is hampered somewhat by a recent invasion of Apple Snails which eat the plants and lay their pink eggs on the stalks. Besides reducing yields, another consequence of this pest is that farmers are no longer able to work barefoot in the paddies because underwater snail shells are sharp.

Why are houses in Kauai on stilts?

The major purpose of using stilts is to protect the houses from water-logging and flooding.

Traditionally, homes in the tropics were built off the ground to ensure airflow, passively cooling the house in a warm environment. It also helps with insect control, flooding and inhibiting mold growth.

Had to stop for Dole Whip and a pineapple lemonade.

Why are there wild chickens on Kauai? Well as local lore goes, the hurricanes of 1982 (Iwa) and 1992 (Iniki) destroyed domestic coops, releasing the chickens into the jungles. These domesticated birds then mated with the wild red junglefowl (brought to the islands by the Polynesian) resulting in the feral chickens we see today.

These once-domesticated birds that have reverted to a wild state — that provide a unique look into how domestic animals and their genes respond to the natural environment.

Some estimates put the feral chicken population at 450,000, or three times as many chickens as Kauai's equally feral wild pigs. Welcome to Kauai, Hawaii's 'Bacon and Eggs Island.

We had dinner tonight at the Sam's Ocean View Restaurant. The waterfront restaurant in Kapaa is owned by Samantha Reynolds. Sam was born in South Africa and immigrated to the US with her family at a young age. A US citizen, Sam has also traveled and worked throughout the US, South Africa and the United Kingdom, before settling in Kauai in 2013.

"Sam has created a beautiful Ocean Front Restaurant on Kauai, a place where they could bring people together for great food, drinks, music, ambiance and fun, simply one of the Ten Best Restaurants in Kapaa, on Kauai."

Michael started with a Kauai Rum Mai Tai and I had a Guava Margarita with sugar rim.

Michael and I had the Parmesan Crusted Island Fish: Green Onion Mashed Potatoes & Asparagus with a Lemon Caper Sauce. Michael added shrimp, too. The fish today was fresh Ono.

Delicious! This is "a keeper meal". Yummy!

I thought I would sit outside the room and enjoy the view while I wrote.

Good night, aloha ahiahi 

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