Hawaii: Kauai – Waimea Bay and the Menehunes
Photos by Kit and Diana Herring, except where noted
Of all the Hawaiian islands I have visited, Kauai ranks as best. The people are friendlier than on other islands, the history is more mysterious, and the climate is more agreeable to my personal taste. Not to mention that Poli Poli Beach is located here, in my opinion the most wonderful stretch of sand I have ever had the privilege to tread.
The town of Waimea, where Diana and I like to stay, overlooks the bay of the same name. At this exact spot, near the outlet of the Waimea River, Captain James Cook laid eyes on the Hawaiian Islands and made his first anchorage.
1) The town of Waimea and the bay; at top right is an abandoned sugar mill in nearby Kekaha
2) Point of First Contact: setting moon over Waimea Bay
Cook was preceded, of course, by the Hawaiians. Not many people realize that the Hawaiians themselves were not the original settlers. This honor belonged to the Menehunes, a quasi-mythological race of little people, purported to have come from the Marquesas in distant Polynesia. That they existed is fact; an early twentieth century census recorded residents of the Napali area who identified themselves as Menehune in ancestry.
4) Kalalau, the principal valley of the Napali region and last known hideaway of the Menehunes
They left behind works of finely-dressed stone, a very few of which still exist.
5) Menehune irrigation channel (bottom center-left)
The old stories recount how the Hawaiians, upon their arrival and settlement of the islands, drove the Menehunes into the far recesses of Kauai. Their final extermination was probably aided by white missionaries.
But on a more postive note, Kauai also boasts the astonishing Waimea Canyon, also accessed from the town of the same name.
6) Waimea Canyon, comparable in size and depth to the Grand Canyon of Arizona: photo by Shawn Herring
Most tourists head to Poipu Beach with its modern condos and plastic resorts or to the north shore, with its lush, rain-filled climate and endless traffic jams. We prefer the quietness of Waimea, where from a converted sugar plantation cabin we look to sea, wondering if another winged demon will appear over the horizon and change our ways forever.
7) Our favorite cabin
8) Waimea Bay from the front porch