Kauai is not a good place to be if you like to hurry. Even if you are accustomed to a frenetic lifestyle, Kauai has a way of taking that out of you. And if you don’t give it up willingly, it just kind of forces it out of you. One of the most effective ways is to slow you down with its one-lane bridges. They are along the north shore from Princeville headed west to the end of the island. This stretch of the road is arguably the most scenic so Mother Nature influenced the early road builders in such a manner as to intentional make you chill out.
The highway along the north shore has several mechanism for slowing you down. Aside from the narrow, winding roads that are often close enough to the ocean that one wrong turn means you’ll be surfing in your rental car, the most charming interruptions are the one-lane bridges.
After you leave the Princeville area which is more or less where the high-rise hotel monstrosities end, you drop down into the Hanalei area where you encounter the first one-lane bridge, the Hanalei Bridge. This crosses the Hanalei River which, at one time, was crossed in a wooden ferry. The current Warren Trussed steel bridge was built in 2003, but replicates the first Carnegie steel truss bridge built in 1912, the same year the Titanic was built. In the early part of 2000, when the bridge needed to be replaced, Senator Daniel Inouye was responsible for having a replica built instead of a boring concrete bridge.
This lovely iron/wood bridge covers a stream where you can learn how to kayak or paddle board in safety before you head out the ocean. This stream connects to the small village of Hanelei where there are all sorts of kayak and surf shops.
Once you pass Hanalei town, you will encounter several more bridges as you head towards the end of the road at Ke’e Beach. Signs will warn you in advance that you are approaching a one-lane bridge.
The common courtesy is for 5-7 vehicles to pass, then let the oncoming traffic have their turn. There were two occasions while we were there where people ignored these signs and started into the bridges ahead of their turn. One impatient person shot past us and he was met shortly into the bridge by a friendly, but unyielding local who obviously had the right-of-way. These are not easy bridges to back up on, especially at night, so just be nice.
Try slow. The locals have a nice little sign to let you know you’re doing okay.
One down the road, there is a set of two bridges that are the most difficult to navigate because they are back-to-back and there’s a hokey little turn you have to make between them. Again, if you try slow you’ll be fine. One impatient driver had to back up half the length of the longest one in the dark. It took them a along time.
Another piece of advice I would give is NOT to travel at night. For a flatlander like myself, driving some of these windy, narrow roads at night was unsettling. One tire over the edge and Herbie the Love Bug had better be an amphibian. Plus, it seems like the hippies on the islands like to wear dark clothes so they’re hard to see in the dark.
The road along the north shore will also break you of texting-while-driving. Kauai doesn’t have a lot of signs warning you not to text-and-drive. It assumes that if you have at half-a-brain, you’ll know better than to try it because you’ll most likely end up in the ocean.
I’ve been home for a few weeks now since we went and, throughout the day when my life winds itself tighter than a three-day clock, I start looking for metaphorical one-lane bridges to slow me down. A cup of coffee; a phone call to a friend; lunch with a co-worker; a walk with my wife; all of these things are like one-lane bridges to intentionally pause, enjoy the scenery, and be nice to oncoming traffic.
Next up: Photographing Lumahai Beach, also knows as Luma-die beach.