The idea of Hawaii brings images of sun soaked beaches, tranquil turquoise waves, palm trees, resorts and water sports galore. Beyond this initial impression, some of the most unique elements of Hawaii extend far beyond that of the sparkling sandy beaches and reach into the shadowy depths of the tropical rainforest and over wide rivers.
There are countless bridges in Hawaii, such as the set of nearly 59 bridges on the Hana Highway in Maui, the bamboo bridge in Kauai’s McBryde Gardens or the stone bridge in Liliuokalani Gardens on the Big Island. Hawaii also has listed at least four bridges that are on the National Register of Historic Places in the state. However, none of these are quite as uniquely spectacular as the state’s famous swinging bridges. There is nothing as thrilling as happening upon a bridge that looks as if it were from another time.
Waimea Swinging Bridge – This picturesque swinging wooden bridge extends over the Waimea River on the luscious “Garden Isle” known as Kauai. Because Kauai is the island with the most rivers, it makes sense that many of the ancient swinging bridges would be located on this island. The Waimea Swinging Bridge is west of Hanapepe on Menehune Road, after mile marker 23. As the original bridge was unfortunately damaged in a hurricane in 1992, it was fortified and largely reconstructed in 1996. The bridge is the only way of accessing one side of the river from the surrounding farmlands. The walkway gently sways with the wind and has been known to suspiciously squeak when walked across, making the crossing a heart-hammering experience!
Hanapepe Swinging Bridge – Also located on the island of Kauai, the Hanapepe Bridge was built in the early 20th century as a simple passage way for the residents of Hanapepe town to cross the river. “Hawaii’s biggest little town” of Hanapepe is a charming town filled with quaint shops and art galleries, weekly events and art walks highlighting Kauai’s proud local artist community. However, the nearby swinging bridge itself remains one of its most alluring attractions of the town and is still regularly used by the locals. Like the Waimea Swinging Bridge, it did not escape unscathed by the same 1992 hurricane and required rebuilding to keep it open for public use.
Kapaia Swinging Bridge –A far less glamorous bridge in need of more restoration, the Kapaia Swinging Bridge is located on the island of Kauai. This bridge which has a 4-foot walking path spans 125 feet. It is on the State Registry of Historic Places, having been originally built in 1948 for the purpose of transporting workers of many ethnicities from their homes to a nearby sugar plantation. The county government is still debating the costs and merits of restoring this historic bridge.
Anyone who appreciates Hawaiian history or the elements that make these islands paradise on earth will enjoy exploring one of these famous swinging bridges on their next trip to Hawaii.