Wailua Valley State Wayside Park is a state park located in the U.S. state of Hawaii on the eastern side of the Hawaiian island of Kauai, within the district of Lhain. It consists of approximately 1,400 acres (5.7km2), and overlooks the Pacific Ocean. The wayside includes an archaeological site known as Kaumualii Culture Center that features pre-contact stone tools from the time when the valley was inhabited by the ancient people who built the many waterfalls on the mountain sides. The park also contains the “House Without Windows”, a concrete bunker used during WWII to protect against nuclear attack.
In addition to these attractions, the park provides hiking trails through rainforest, views of the ocean, and access to freshwater swimming areas. There are several beaches around the perimeter of the park including Hanalei Bay, Kamokila Bay, Makalawena Beach, and Olokele Bay. On weekends, local residents gather here to surf, swim, picnic, and play volleyball. A number of festivals are held at the park each year, including Holoholok, Kahuku Day, and Kaula’i Kuina.
The park’s name stems from the fact that it sits between two valleys; one named after King George III of Great Britain (“Waimea” or “Oahu”), and the other named for Queen Victoria’s son Prince Albert (“Kuuwela”). Prior to 1820, this area would have been very difficult to reach, since there were no navigable rivers leading to the coast, and the only practical way to get across the mountains was to climb them. That changed with the discovery of how to use the wind to haul boats up the slopes, which made it possible to travel from Honolulu to the north shore. Along with development came the need for reliable sources of food and water, which led to the establishment of farms along the upper reaches of the Wailua River.
At first, most crops failed due to drought, but later improvements in farming techniques made it possible to grow more than enough to feed the population of Oahu. One problem that remained, however, was the threat of crop failure from pests, particularly rats, which arrived in large numbers aboard ships docked in the port of Honolulu. To combat this problem, the government sponsored the building of the Puna Mound, constructed out of rock and coral, which now protects over 13,000 seedlings from the elements and predators.
However, even with such protection, nearly half of all plantation trees planted in the mound fail before they can produce fruit. This leads to another problem; much of the harvest goes uneaten because there simply aren’t enough pickers to go around. To solve this labor shortage, in 1959, then-Director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources William J. LeLani proposed establishing a state park along the Wailua River. Although he mentioned tourism among others, his primary purpose was to provide employment for the unemployed young men of Japanese descent born in the United States. With help from state senator Daniel Inouye, land was acquired for the park, which opened to the public in 1963.
The park has facilities for camping, picnicking, snorkeling, swimming, surfing, horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, running, and playing tennis. There is a nine-hole golf course with pro shop. The park has four tennis courts, 12 soccer fields, six softball diamonds, three basketball courts, and a roller hockey court. Waimea Bay is popular with locals for its excellent beach weather and safe swimming conditions throughout the year.
The bay offers a wide variety of marine life, both above and below the surface, making it a destination for divers and non-divers alike. The waters offshore from the park offer some of the best scuba diving in all of Hawaii. The harbor seals seen almost daily in the summer are rarely observed elsewhere in the state.
Among the wildlife of the park are:
- wild turkeys
- and squirrels
- ring-tailed cat
- mountain lions
Visitors will see about 250 species of birds including:
- loquacious loons
- noisy nutcrackers
- black-crowned night heron
- white ibis
- red-tailed hawks
- bald eagles
- owls like the:
- screech owl
- the crybully kite
- blue jays