Kauai Beach Guide
Kauai offers more than 60 gorgeous white-sand beaches, from the tranquil waves of Poipu to the crashing surf of Polihale State Park Beach. Here’s a round-up of the island’s best beaches for a beach holiday or romantic getaway.
Poipu Beach (South Shore) – This crescent of golden sand curves for around 300m between two small bays and offers year-round calm waters on Kauai’s south shore, just perfect for families.
A narrow reef of black lava stretches from the beach to a sand bar (known as Nukumoi Point) in the middle of the cove and acts as a breakwater, creating a protected pool-like area with a sandy bottom and calm, shallow water on the eastern side – perfect for children and parents wanting to play and snorkel. On the western side you’ll find ideal wave conditions for body boarding, surfing, windsurfing and snorkelling.
Look out for endangered green sea turtles as you snorkel the reef and while sunbathing don’t be surprised if you’re joined by endangered monk seals that often waddle up the beach for a snooze. Pick a spot on the 15m-wide beach to build sandcastles, or picnic on the grassy lawns of the small park that borders the beach.
Facilities include showers, toilets, covered pavilions and lifeguards, as well as surfboard and snorkel rentals, a restaurant and deli. Brennecke’s Beach, world famous for body surfing, is just a short stroll away.
Hanalei Bay Beach (North Shore) – Nestled beneath volcanic mountain ridges and 1200m-high peaks, Hanalei Beach stretches for 3.2km along a half-moon crescent of 38m-wide golden sand fronting the largest bay on Kauai. The beach offers year-round swimming, fishing, windsurfing and kayaking, especially in summer when the bay becomes a large placid lake.
When conditions are right, surfers head to the large waves at the right side of the bay and boogie boarders to the middle of the bay. Near beachside waves are perfect for beginners, while scuba divers can dive a wreck and coral reefs at both ends of the bay. Facilities include a pavilion, toilets and picnic tables, as well as the services of a lifeguard.
Makua Beach (North Shore) – Fringed by stands of ironwood trees and nestled beneath soaring emerald mountain peaks, this 3km-long golden-sand beach shelves into calm turquoise waters, providing a postcard-perfect setting. Protected by a fringing coral reef, Makua Beach (also known as Tunnels Beach) is perfect for swimming, snorkelling and diving during the long summer months. There are no beach facilities.
Anini Beach Park (North Shore) – Discover Kauai's safest beach for year-round swimming and windsurfing. Fringed by shade-giving Kamani trees and sitting beneath vegetation-covered cliffs, Anini Beach offers a nearly 5km-long stretch of golden sand that dips into a shallow 1.5m-deep lagoon that is protected by the longest fringing reef in Hawaii.
Snorkel the reef or dive through a channel on the northwest side to the ocean side. Facilities include showers, toilets, barbecues, picnic tables and a park.
Ke’e Beach Park (North Shore) – Swim from one of Kauai’s most popular beaches, located at the start of the famed Kalalau Trail. Set beneath volcanic cliffs at the end of Kauai’s North Shore between the dramatic Na Pali Coast and Limahuli Stream, Ke’e’s small crescent of golden sand is renowned for its incredible sunset views.
Fringed with a lush backdrop of ironwood trees and coconut palms, the beach flows into a sheltered lagoon perfect for swimming and snorkelling among colourful reef fish and sea turtles during the summer months when the sea is calm. Stroll up to a panoramic lookout overlooking the Na Pali Coast and don’t miss the ancient heiau platform. Facilities include showers, toilets and picnic facilities but no lifeguard.
Lumahaʻi Beach (North Shore) – Relax on one of Kauai’s most scenic beaches where much of the movie South Pacific was filmed. Sunbathe or stroll along the wide crescent of golden sand then cool off with a swim in the fresh water of Lumahai' Stream, which often pools behind a sand bar before flowing into the sea.
Although absolutely gorgeous to look at, strong currents and backwash make this an unsafe beach for swimming or surfing most of the year. Huge lava rocks lie scattered across a small, protected bay just metres from the shoreline, creating an enclave for splashing around in the turquoise-coloured sea. There are no facilities or lifeguards.
Kalapaki Beach (East Coast) – Discover a small, 50m-wide beach of golden sand fronting the Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club and shelving into the calm turquoise waters of the half moon-shaped Nawiliwili Bay, overlooked by the 670m-high Haupu Ridge.
Go swimming and surfing in winter with surf lessons, enjoy catamaran cruises and beach volleyball or rent a sailboat nearby. Other facilities include showers, toilets, a food kiosk and picnic area in the adjacent Nawilwili Park. There is no lifeguard.
Polihale State Park (West Shore) – Stroll along Hawaii's biggest beach, a 27km-long stretch of wind-blown golden sand located just beyond Waimea and backed by huge sand dunes, some of which are 30m high. With the exception of the 90m-wide Queen's Pond Beach, which fronts a small reef and is safe to swim in a shallow protected inlet, the entire beach is unprotected from strong ocean waves and currents.
Explore the ancient Hawaiian heiau (temple) within the park and discover Barking Sands Beach, which is said to make the sound of a dog’s bark when trod upon. Facilities include toilets, showers, picnic tables and drinking water. There is no lifeguard.
Lydgate Park Beach (East Shore) – Head to one of the best snorkelling and safe swimming beaches along the eastern shore of Kauai. Backed by a park, picnic and playground, the two boulder-enclosed swimming areas offer calm protected waters that are perfect for children. Facilities also include showers, toilets and lifeguards.