North Shore to South Shore, Kauai Offers Spectacular Beaches
As the oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands, Kauai has had the most time for the wind and weather to carve away at the volcanic lava rock that formed Hawaii and create beautiful golden sand beaches. Whenever visiting a beach in Hawaii make sure to follow all Kauai Ocean Safety Tips.
Few beaches have such a lush and tropical setting as Keʻe Beach with clear blue water set beneath majestic cliffs at the edge of the famed Na Pali Coast. This is a great place for snorkeling during the summer months. Winter can bring strong currents, waves and other dangers so make sure to check with lifeguards. This is also the site of the Na Pali trailhead so you can enjoy a day hike to Hanakapiai Valley and then return for a swim at Keʻe Beach.
The Mahaulepu Heritage Trail follows along the southern coastline to reach this remote beach in an area important in Hawaiian history and culture. Scientific work in the area is ongoing and continues to reveal clues about Hawaii’s past. A treasure trove of information has come from the excavation limestone sinkholes among the cliffs and sand dunes. The trail to the beach is one of Hawaii’s nicest coastal hikes, and the Mahaulepu Beach is great too!
Tunnels (Makua) and Haena Beach Park
Protected by an offshore reef with plentiful fish and pristine water, Tunnels is set beneath a backdrop of green mountains typically lined with waterfalls. Tunnels, know also by its Hawaii name Makua, is a great snorkeling beach when the ocean conditions are calm, particularly during the summer months.
The scenery and translucent turquoise waters make this one of Hawaii’s finest beaches. Just down from Tunnels is Haena Beach Park where you can often find a food truck to get some snacks, or a chilled coconut that will be opened on the spot to quench your thirst!
At the end of the paved road on Kauai’s southwest shore is a dirt road that leads miles farther west to the remote and pristine Polihale Beach. Known for its deep and wide stretch of sand that goes on and on for many miles, Polihale is a favorite camping area.
The currents can be deceptive here and swimmers need to use caution. At the south end of Polihale are the 60-foot-high sand dunes of Barking Sands. There is no lifeguard at Polihale so make sure to check ocean advisories, when in doubt don’t go out. It is recommended that you enjoy this beach simply for its remote beauty and enjoy ocean activities at a lifeguarded beach.
Poipu Beach Park
One of the most popular south side beaches, Poipu Beach offers protected areas that are great for small children making this a nice family beach. There is also some great snorkeling and often waves that are fun for bodyboarders and surfers.
The rare Hawaiian monk seals have also been known to visit Poipu Beach, hauling up onto the sand to rest. This is also a good beach for tidepool exploring with offshore reefs that provide habitat for some remarkable fish. Nearby to Poipu Beach are all the amenities of Poipu Resort area.
Fronted by the Kauai Marriott Resort, Kalapaki is one of the east side’s most popular beaches. A crescent of golden sand lines the shore of the well-manicured lawns of the resort. The length of the beach is only about one-third of a mile but this is a case of quality over quantity.
The waters are relatively well protected from the open ocean by a jetty, making this a great place to take a surfing or stand up paddleboarding lesson, with vendors right onshore. Also offered are outrigger canoe rides!
Protected areas make this a great swimming and snorkeling beach with a crystal blue lagoon formed by the fringing coral reef offshore and a shoreline of golden sand that stretches on for miles. Enjoy a leisurely beach walk and keep an eye out for cowries and other seashells often found here, including the rare Niihau shells!
A large, crescent-shaped bay relatively well-protected from the open ocean, Hanalei is a favorite area for watersports activities including kayaking, body boarding, surfing, snorkeling and stand up paddling as well as sailing adventures and boat tours.
Paddle a kayak up the meandering Hanalei River all the way to the Hanalei Bridge and then float back down amidst the grand scenery. Hanalei Bay is a great place for a surfing or stand up lesson, or take a walk along the crescent shoreline and stroll out to the end of Hanalei Pier to take it all in.