With a tropical landscape that exceeds your imagination and a reef that follows the coastline for about two miles creating shallow inlets for snorkeling, swimming, and fishing, Anini may claim bragging rights as the most family-friendly beach on Kauai. It’s a common sight to see ohana gather on the shore to spend an entire day to “talk story” and celebrate the time spent together.
Anini’s history is as colorful as its scenery. Folklore is attached to the area’s actual name. Many locals call the area Wanini, derived from the word “wainini” meaning spilled water, referring to the water that seeped from the cliff rocks. According to the tale, the first road sign read “Wanini” however, a resident was upset that the name, Wainini, was misspelled and shot the “W” off the sign, leaving the word Anini, which stayed.
Also, this locale is comprised of two beaches, Anini and Kalihikai. Anini Beach is on the western end of the road, closer to Anini Stream. Kalihikai Beach fronts Anini Beach Park Campground.
Idyllic conditions prompted early Hawaiians to settle in this region. Loʻi kalo (taro patches) and loko iʻa (fishponds) were scattered along the shoreline. Evidence was found of an old irrigation system that rerouted water from Anini stream to these fields.
Adjacent to Anini is scenic Kalihiwai Bay (kalihi meaning “with a stream” or ka lihi meaning “the edge”). Surrounded by rugged lava cliffs and sweeping ironwood trees, this strand looked much different prior to 1957, when a tsunami changed the topography.
Before the construction of any bridges, ferries and scows transported goods and people across the Kalihiwai River. The first Kalihiwai Bridge was constructed in 1904 above the river’s mouth. The immediate area was more of a village with shops and homes dotting the shores of the bay. In 1957 a tsunami destroyed the structures, including the bridge, the only way to access the north shore. A portable truss bridge was erected and remained for about seven years, until the current bridge, approximately 800 ft. in length, was built.
The history of Kalihiwai and Anini is characteristic of most Hawaiian regions. Early Hawaiians settled in the fertile valley and coast, building heiau (temples) and cultivating their domain as a community. The introduction of Western civilization basically ended the long-established way of life. Though ancient artifacts may be scarce or non-existent in this section of the Halaleʻa district, the resiliency of the descendants is prolific and their aloha ‘aina (love of the land) palpable.