As an island chain, Hawaii is home to hundreds of beaches, each possessing its own set of unique qualities and Kauai is home to some of the best. Here is a list of our favorite Kauai beaches, which should help find the perfect beach for you!
There are 3 actual beaches in Hanalei Bay: Hanalei Pier, Hanalei Pavillion and Hanalei Pine Trees. For the purposes of this post, we’ll just consider it a single beach since you probably won’t be able tell where one begins and the other one ends.
This part of Kauai is breathtakingly beautiful and probably one of our favorite places to visit. Until you see it for yourself, you won’t get a sense of how beautiful this area really is. Pictures just don’t do it justice.
This beach is a great place for surfing, body boarding, swimming and fishing. However, our favorite activity by far is to walk the beach from one end to the other and just taking in the sights.
Some portions of the beach do have lifeguard supervision. There are also restrooms, showers and picnic tables. Camping* is also permitted at this beach.
At one end there is famous Hanalei Pier, that appears in many pictures of the area. This is where the waters are the calmest. Keep this in mind if you are traveling with little ones.
Hanalei Bay is very popular with both locals and tourists. Finding parking can be a challenge, especially on weekends and holidays.
If you want to get a glimpse of this area, parts of the movie the Descendants, featuring George Clooney, was filmed in Hanalei Bay. If you haven’t seen it, you should definitely check it out.
This area was devastated by terrible flooding in the spring of 2018, consequently there is a lot of damages still to be repaired. It’s certainly a beach to put at the top of your list if you are visiting Kauai.
Considered one of the safer beaches on the Kauai’s North Shore, Anini Beach can thank the adjacent reef that runs along the whole two-mile-long stretch of its coastline.
This beach boasts the longest and widest fringing reef in the Hawaiian Islands and because of the unique conditions, it usually has well protected waters and some of the most consistent conditions for water activities. These calm waters make it a great place for swimming or snorkeling and safer for little ones than some of Kauai’s other beaches, and also during winter months. Be aware that there are no lifeguards here.
At this beach there are multiple campsites*, trees to provide shade, picnic tables, pavilions, restrooms and showers.
You can find the white sands of Kealia Beach along Kuhio Highway. It’s a popular spot with surfers since it is subject to open ocean swell and wind well. Because of this, it’s not such a great beach for swimmers and boogie boarding. But, on calmer days, if you stick to the north end of the beach it is possible to go for a dip.
Kealia Beach is a great place to sit and watch the sunrise, and it’s also a great spot for whale watching during the winter months.
If you are running or biking the Kapa’a Coastal Path Ke Ala Hele Makalae, this beach is along the pathway. It’s a great spot for a break. There are picnic tables, restrooms and shower facilities and lifeguards patrol the area.
Shipwreck Beach is located in front of the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Poipu. Its name comes from a sunken ancient wooden ship what drowned in the area, but is no longer there.
Large surf usually pounds the shore and makes for difficult swimming and boogie boarding. Beware if you decide to go for a dip in the water as there are no lifeguards around. It is however a great beach to sit and watch crazy talented surfers or catch a beautiful sunrise.
One of the major attractions of Shipwreck is the accessibility it offers to the lithified sand dune of Makawehi Point. If you are brave enough you could even jump! And also provides access to the beginning of the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail. This is a great easy hike that allows you to explore an area that you would otherwise not see.
The natural beauty surrounding Shipwreck Beach is surreal. It’s also a popular place for wedding and family photos especially around sunset.
Poipu Beach has been voted the #1 beach in the United States by the Travel Channel. It’s actually two beaches in one. A tombola (known as Nukumoi Point) separates the two bays. What is a tombola? It’s a narrow sand spit that extends from shore to an island.
On the left of the sandbar is a lava rock protected and shallow area for swimming. This is a great spot for families with small children. You can find parking , snorkel rental and surfboard rentals near by. Interestingly, Nukumoi Point is home to the endangered species of Hawaiian monk seals who can be often found napping.
This beach has lifeguards along with restrooms, showers and picnic tables.
Don’t forget the sunscreen and to reapply often. After spending a good amount of time in the water here, we did find ourselves burnt in some spots. Don’t make the same mistake!
Beautiful Baby Beach is small and quiet beach in Poipu and a great spot for families with kids. The shallow and calm waters make it safe for children to play and splash around by the coastline.
This beach can be a bit tricky to find. From the Lawai Road, make a left on Ho’ona Road and look for a yellow pipe that marks the beach access. There will be a set of stairs down to the beach between two homes.
The beach is beautiful with clear waters. With the protected rocks, it was perfect for little kids to play in and adults (who don’t swim well) to swim and snorkel in the water. The water was waist deep even when you are near the rocks, and you can see lots of fishes without needing to snorkel. For those not as interested in the fish, the coral bottom can be a bit of nuisance. Also, Sea turtles and monk seals can be frequently spotted at this beach.
There aren’t any public facilities at the beach but it is a great spot for unwinding and experiencing a beautiful Hawaiian sunset. A fun idea would be to get some food to go from one of the great places to eat around and have a picnic on the beach while taking in the sunset. Click here for a list of out favorite places to eat on Kauai for some inspiration.
Kekaha beach is located on the far west side of Kauai, just past Waimea. This is the dry side of the island and if raining elsewhere you are sure to find a lot of sunshine here. As a result, when we stay in Poipu and it’s raining there, we often drive to Kekaha and the sun is shining there.
This is the last lifegaurded beach on the west side. It is however not a great beach if you are looking to get in the water since the waves and wind are very strong in this area. It is a popular beach for local surfer and local fishermen.
You can also see the island of Niihau and Lehua rock can be seen from here. And, it’s a great place to for beach walking and also a fantastic place to take in the sunset.
Polihale Beach is certainly the longest stretch of beach in the state of Hawaii at 17 miles. It is located at the end of Highway 50 and is accessed down an unpaved old cane haul road. If you do a little bit of research on getting to this beach, you will see a lot of warnings around trying to access this beach by car and to only attempt it with a truck or SUV.
After having driven there with an SUV, you could probably make it at least part of the way with a car, but we would definitely not recommend it. There are a lot of deep potholes on the road, especially closer to the beach. Due to some spots with deep sand that a two week drive vehicle would certainly get stuck in.
This beach sits at the end of the Napali Coast and the views are spectacular. It’s a great place to view the Forbidden Island of Niihau. There is not much shade here so be sure to bring lots of water and perhaps an umbrella.
Polihale Beach has several restrooms, showers, picnic tables and camping which is by permit only*. Strong currents and no lifeguard make it a notoriously dangerous beach for swimming. But, this beach is great for long beach walks and its spectacular sunsets.
*If you are planning on camping check out the County of Kauai’s Camping site for restrictions and permit information.
Wary Travelers Tip:
If you are staying in a condo while on the island there might be some beach chairs. Put them in the truck of your car since you never know when you will want at one of the fabulous beaches. If you are staying at a hotel or your condo doesn’t have any, you can rent some at various places around the island. It is certainly worth it!
Beach Safety Tips
Regardless of the beach you choose to visit, please be safe. Here are some tips:
- Choose beaches with a lifeguard
- Before entering the water check for any warning signs indicating hazardous conditions
- Avoid swimming during high surf
- Don’t swim alone
- Under no circumstances should you let small children to swim or play in water unattended
- Never swim in murky water and never swim in river mouths
- Unexpected wave can knock you down and drag you out so never turn your back to the ocean
- Listen to weather and surf forecasts on local radio or check the surf report