The one lane Hanalei Bridge is a nostalgic and much loved entry into the quaint town of Hanalei and the often celebrated Hanalei Bay. One of Kauai’s most recognizable man-made landmarks, the original 113 foot American made through-truss steel bridge would be celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. It was built in 1912, the same year the “unsinkable” Titanic luxury ocean liner sank on its maiden voyage, Arizona and New Mexico became US States and Woodrow Wilson was elected President.
When you cross the Hanalei River now, you’re on an exact replica of the 1912 bridge. U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye rededicated the new Hanalei Bridge in 2003 after a long battle that stopped the replacement of the 91 year old bridge with a modern concrete structure.
History of the Hanalei Bridge
Manufactured in New York City by Hamilton & Chambers, the Carnegie Steel truss pieces were built for the then Territory of Hawaii as a replacement to the existing bridge built in 1895. Upon arrival on Kauai, the bridge was assembled on-site over the Hanalei River. One of my favorite parts of driving over the bridge is hearing the ripple of the timber deck.
After the tsunami of 1957 which destroyed 250 homes (miraculously no one was killed) the bridge was repaired and again reinforced in 1959. The Warren trusses, equilateral triangles which work to spread out the weight load, were added in 1967.
Prior to the Hanalei Bridge and the other bridges in Hanalei and Haena, hand-pulled wood “ferries” were used to cross the rivers at various points along the valley floor. Not as easy nor as sturdy as a bridge crossing, canoes were often considered the safer way to cross the rivers.
The Hanalei Bridge spans the Hanalei River at the bottom of a Hanalei Valley Road, now known as Route 560, which started as a trail down to the valley floor around 1885, an alternative to the steep winding switchback trail that wound its way down the hill. Somewhere around 1904 this trail became the main route and was considered the primary route to the Hanalei Valley.
Directions: Take Highway 56 past our Princeville Resort vacation rentals on the North Shore of Kauai. As you drive down to Hanalei town, Highway 560 begins and you will cross the historic bridge just prior to entering the town of Hanalei. You’ll find our extensive selection of Hanalei vacation rentals in town and on Hanalei Bay – one of the best beaches in America.
One-Lane Bridge Etiquette: As with all one-lane bridges, let all vehicles on one side cross together (typically 5-7) and then proceed.