Puff the Magic Dragon of Hanalei

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Does “Puff the Magic Dragon” still live in the hippy town of Hanalei?

The popular 1960s folk song, “Puff the Magic Dragon” by Peter Yarrow and Leonard Lipton has often been connected with this North Shore Kauai town of Hanalei, or in this case, “Honah Lee.” The song references to a mythical land called Honah Lee, where the “magic dragon lived by the sea and frolicked in the autumn mist.”

Turns out, the dragon didn’t quite live in Hanalei. But rather, the reference was a “serendipitous coincidence,” according to Peter himself in an article by The Garden Isle. And as much as it may seem like a hidden reference to smoking marijuana, it’s not. The article clarifies that the song is about the “innocence of childhood lost” and is inspired by an Ogden Nash poem about a dragon.

This unveiled truth about the hit song, however, doesn’t dispute the popular belief that a dragon lives among Hanalei’s sea cliffs. Many say the green hillside that wraps around the bay looks like a sleeping dragon. Its head faces south, directly in front of the pier, while its tail gets lost in the landscape.

Puff the Magic Dragon or not, the magic of Hanalei can still be found floating along the peaceful crescent-moon bay. It remains hidden among the trees and nestled in the bosom of the verdant valley, protecting the sleepy town of new and old-aged hippies. It’s in every sunset and everyone you meet. There’s magic wherever you look.

The Pier & Beaches

The Hanalei Pier is a popular attraction for folks visiting this part of the island. On any given day, fishermen and locals share the space and enjoy its natural beauty and resources. The pier itself has exceptional views from just about every direction. You can take photos or spend more time enjoying the nearby beach park called Back Pot Beach.

The pier was once a port for trade and commerce (mainly rice) until that ended in the 1930s. In 1992, the pier suffered severe damage from Hurricane Iniki, and with the help of civic organizations, it was restored to its original condition. The pier has also appeared in films, including the classic South Pacific.

The beaches here are true family favorites because of their calm waters and bay atmosphere. The water is clear and calm, perfect for any water sports. You can rent snorkeling and boogie boards nearby and even traverse up the Hanalei River, which flows into the bay. Jumping off the pier is also fun and safe; kids can do it, too! The beaches are wide and expansive, with much room to spread out.

Offshore Reef

Visitors can take the opportunity to explore the offshore reef, as it provides an excellent snorkeling experience. Moreover, boogie boarders and surfers can take advantage of the moderate swells in this area. While the reef may not display an extensive range of colors or variety, snorkelers can still encounter a plethora of marine life, including parrotfish, damselfish, surgeonfish, uhu (green wrasse), tangs (surgeonfish), Moorish idols (a yellow fish with black stripes), and butterflyfish. Be sure not to miss the intriguing eels concealed beneath the reef’s rocky formations.

Know before you Go

  • Hanalei Bay includes four beaches and is more swimmable during the summer months from June to August. The Pavilion and Pines sections are the most popular and also have lifeguards.
  • While there is ample parking during peak season, it gets filled quickly, so it’s recommended to get there early. The beach park has restrooms and shower facilities as well as some picnic areas. The sunsets here are really spectacular and very popular, but you should get there early to experience it because it can be crowded.
  • Local food trucks are located by the Pier which feature local favorites

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