When the ancient Hawaiians were in the market for a new surfboard, they turned to the wiliwili tree and its lightweight wood. Nawiliwili Bay is named after this orange-blossomed tree, once found in great numbers along Kauai’s coast. Surfers still catch waves along this shoreline. Cruise ships dock at a modern harbor within steps of top-rate golf courses and family-friendly Kalapaki Beach. Though not a city in its own right, Nawiliwili Bay and neighboring Lihue offer plenty of opportunities to have some fun in the sun.
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Tee Off in Paradise
Kauai Lagoons Golf Club fronts the northern end of Nawiliwili Bay. The course hugs the shoreline, offering eye-popping ocean views from almost every tee. Guests of its affiliate hotel, Marriott’s Kauai Lagoons at Kalanipuu, get preferential rates and tee times. Kauai Lagoons also has agreements with other properties that also allow discounts, available online or by phone. Puakea Golf Course is east of Nawiliwili Bay and close to Lihue’s town center. It offers an assortment of ocean and mountain views on its 18 holes. This public course has affordable rates based on tee time start. The onsite Hookipa Café is a gathering place for golfers as well as those who just prefer to cheer their buddies on.
Tour Historical Lihue
Lihue fronts Nawiliwili Bay and is Kauai’s commercial center and home to the Lihue Airport. The Kauai Museum, located in the downtown core, has treasures from ancient Hawaii sharing space with creations by modern artists. The Grove Farm Homestead Museum on Nawiliwili Road is a restored sugar plantation dating back to the late 1800s. Visitors are welcome to take a guided tour of the Wilcox Home and stroll the grounds of this 100-acre property that’s changed little during the last century. The Alekoko Menehune Fishpond is south of Lihue along the Huleia Stream. The menehune are the legendary little people of ancient Hawaii, credited with building this pond in one night. Legend or not, this is one of the earliest examples of Hawaiian aquaculture. Using cleverly placed lava rocks, fish were enticed to enter the pond. They stayed, ate, got fat and couldn’t swim out, providing a ready source of fish for the table.
Hit the Beach
Kalapaki Beach and the adjacent Nawiliwili Park are local hangouts. The beach fronts the Kauai Lagoons Golf Course and the Marriott Kauai Lagoons Resort but this is very much a public beach. The wide sand footprint and gentle slope into the bay makes this a great place for families to build sand castles and play in the surf. The waves are gentle enough to learn to surf, windsurf or boogie board but just big enough to keep things interesting. Picnic area and public facilities are at Nawiliwili Park near the Anchor Cove Shopping Center.
Hook the Big One
Nawiliwili Harbor is one of the launching points for sport-fishing excursions on Kauai. Outfits currently running out of the harbor include Kai Bear, Captain Don’s Sport Fishing and Hana Paa. Private and shared charters are offered and last from 4 to 8 hours on average. Depending on the outfit and the type of charter, caught fish are either shared among participants or kept by the lucky fisherman that landed the prize. Kai Bear offers sunset cruises and seasonal whale-watching tours. Don’s Sport Fishing goes even further, offering private Na Pali tours that include snorkeling and exploring sea caves.