Finding Kauai’s Best Beaches

Photo by JamesZ_Flickr

Sun, surf and sand on Kauai: tailor-made for your mood

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Kauai’s beaches are some of the most pristine on the planet. Impossibly blue waters. Abundant tropical fish. World class surf breaks. And even some protected swimming holes for the younger set! Most everyone will find a beach for their pleasure.

Since the island has banned all watercraft like jet skis, it’s easy to spot sea life along the coast. Sometimes you’ll spot endangered Hawaiian monk seal and sea turtles sunning on the sand. Dolphins and whales also put on a show.

All beaches in Hawai’i are public, but to access some of the more remote spots, you need to pass through private land. That’s why we’ve chosen to only list beaches that are easily accessible, and of course, safe to access.

Top North Shore Beaches on Kauai

• Ke’e Beach sits at the end of the road in the North Shore against the stunning Na Pali Cliffs. If the waves aren’t too big, visibility is decent for snorkeling, making this a fine place to bring strong young swimmers. Parking is limited (you might have to walk from Haena Beach Park) so get here early.

Tunnels Beach is favored by surfers and snorkelers. This North Shore beach can be tough to locate, and even harder to find parking at, but if you’re persistent, you can enjoy some of Kauai’s best underwater visibility.

• Hanalei Bay features in many travelers’ best beaches lists. A lovely crescent backed by the Makena Mountains, with stellar swells for expert surfers, and smaller rides for novice wave-riders.  Barbecue pits, sand for miles, and the occasional live music performance, this beach is what Kauai is all about.

• Pu’u Poa, like the Princeville beaches, requires you to hike down a 200 foot slope to access the beach. This one offers services and some shady. Snorkelers like the wealth of sea life. Swimmers should look elsewhere.

• ‘Anini Beach doesn’t look like much at first. A grassy knoll populated on weekends by family reunions and kids playing ball. But this beach features the isle’s most azure swaths of warm shallow water for keikis to splash around.

Top Eastern Beaches

• Moloa’a Bay isn’t what you’d expect. Hidden in a residential area, with waters not fit for swimming, the draw is the solace, the sheer beauty of the contrast of the impossibly blue water with with white sand, and the chance to have an entire beach to yourself.

• Lydgate Beach Park isn’t the most stunning, but if we were to name a community gathering spot, this would be it. An enclosed lava rock wall swimming area lures kiddos and lap swimmers. There’s an adjacent playground, sand area, and walking path.

Top South Shore Beaches on Kauai

• Maha’ulepu is the most sacred (and beautiful) beach on the island. You have to pass through private land to access. When you arrive there are no services–it’s just the call of beauty and the epic strands.

• Poipu Beach Park is everything you imagine from a Hawaiian beach–an enclosed swimming area for kids, a decent surf break, a bodyboarding area, a grassy (and shady) picnic area, an adjacent restaurant and bar, a shave ice shop, and lots of visitors from the sea (sea turtles and monk seals like to hang out here). It’s crowded and sunny.

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Top Western Beaches

• Polihale Beach sits at the end of the road on the west shore of the island. You need a reliable 4-wheel drive to access this beach. Surfers appreciate the empty beaches. The waves are rough. Come here to watch the sunset.

Note that like all of Hawai’i, the ocean here—though it looks beautiful—can be cruel. Always check the local surf report and ask around before heading out. Never underestimate the power of the ocean. Summer generally heaves large waves to the south side. While in winter, huge, powerful swells pound the north and west shores. These waves can be extremely dangerous and unpredictable, so use caution and follow local’s advice, When in doubt, don’t go out.

A Note About Kauai Surf

When there is a west wind, north shore waves get blown out (this only happens about 60 days of the year) During this rare west wind, head to the east shore. The rest of the year you can depend on the trade winds to give consistent surf conditions.

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