The History of Hanalei Pier

North Shore Landmark Dates To Days of Inter-Island Steamers

Surrounded by the clear, blue waters of Hanalei Bay and the towering, waterfall-lined peaks of Kauai’s north shore mountains, Hanalei Pier is a favorite community gathering place.

Children play, tourists take a scenic stroll, fishermen try their luck with a pole and line, and many runners and walkers start at the pier as they trek the length of the crescent-shaped Hanalei Bay shoreline.

At the base of the pier is Black Pot Beach Park with a large grass lawn that fills up with Kauai family picnics each weekend when camping is allowed. The name of the park comes from a big black iron pot once used for cooking fish caught during the hukilau, an event that included the community gathering in the nearshore waters of Hanalei Bay to pull in the large fishing nets.

Alongside Hanalei Pier is one of the gentler surfing breaks in the bay while experienced surfers paddle straight out from the pier to an offshore point break which, during the winter months, features some of the world’s best and most consistent surfing waves, and also some of the largest waves.

Hanalei Pier Construction Spurred On By Rice Era

The Hanalei Pier was originally built of wood in 1892 and used to unload goods that arrived in Hanalei Bay by ship. These ships included inter-island steamers which arrived about once each month causing rice planters and store owners to head for the pier with their horse-pulled carts and wagons.

In the early 1900s work began on a longer Hanalei Pier to meet the needs of the thriving rice industry as Hanalei was one of Hawaii’s major rice-growing areas. The new pier was completed in 1912 using reinforced concrete which was a relatively new building method at the time. Atop the concrete pier was a wooden deck.

A Railroad Track on the Hanalei Pier

Flat bottom boats were used to carry the milled rice down the Hanalei River to a landing near the rivermouth where it was offloaded so the small boats didn’t have to enter the Hanalei Bay.

From there the rice was shuttled to the end of the Hanalei Pier on iron railroad tracks and loaded onto cargo ships to bring it to market. Look around near the base of the pier and you can still see some remnants of the old tracks.

A freight storage warehouse was located at the foot of Hanalei Pier and connected to the tracks. Farm supplies and food brought was brought in on steamers which anchored offshore. The goods were then transferred to the pier using small boats known as “lighters” which also brought the rice out to the larger ships.

Hanalei Bridge Over the Years

In 1921 the wooden deck was replaced with concrete and the pier was extended. Princeville Ranch began shipping cattle from the bay and in 1927 a corral was built on the beach near the pier. A shed roof was first built at the end of Hanalei Pier in the 1940s.

Hollywood movies that have featured Hanalei Pier include Bird of Paradise (1950) and South Pacific (1957). During the filming of the 1960 movie Wackiest Ship in the Army starring Jack Lemmon the filming barge came loose twice causing damage to Hanalei Pier requiring repairs paid for by the film studio and barge company.

In 1992 the pier suffered major damage in Hurricane Iniki and a major reconstruction was required. Hanalei Pier is listed on both the Hawaii and National Registers of Historic Places.