You'd think that because the Hawaiian Islands are, well, ...islands... that they'd all have beaches all around them. Not so. In fact some of the islands hardly have any sandy beaches at all. Luckily, Kauai has numerous beaches - many of them being 'world class' beaches. Our favorites are on the North Shore, but we enjoy many others as well. We are more familiar with the North Shore beaches too, because that is where we've chosen to live. All the beaches are public, yet the access to them may not be, so if you can get there - it's legally okay to be there (although some land owners may think otherwise if it's a remote beach with only ocean access).
This list is in progress and more details and descriptions will be posted from time to time. We will be adding photos of various beaches in the next couple of weeks as we re-visit them for this page...
PLEASE NOTE: A listing on this page in no way implies whether swimming and/or snorkeling, etc. is safe or not.
SAFETY & HEALTH WARNINGS: The presence of others in the water
does not imply it will be a safe place for you.
OCEAN: Keep in mind that the ocean can be dangerous some days and safe on others - even in the same spot. Always judge the safety of the water, waves and currents on your own for your abilities.
LEPTOSPIROSIS: Leptospirosis, a bateria found all over the world, is also found here in Hawaii. On Kauai, this bacteria is usually found in areas with stagnant or slow-moving water and/or water that animals have had access to and/or runoff from areas with animals. It is wise to not drink, swim in, wade in, or wash in stagnant, slow moving or flood waters - especially if you have cuts or wounds in your skin. For more information on Leptospirosis in Hawaii, check out the Hawaii State Department of Health Leptospirosis web page, additional information on Leptospirosis can be found on our Leptospirosis Information and Link Page.
FLOOD WATERS: Basically, stay away from them and out of ocean in and around the mouth of a river that has flooded. Shark bites are extremely rare here, but those that have occured usually happen at the mouth of a river after a flood and/or at night. Sharks like to survey the flood waters for animals that may have been washed down river by the flood.
TRAVEL MEDICINE & SAFTETY FOR HAWAII: Check out this Dr.'s suggestions for safety, prevention and remedies for common ills of vacationing in paradise. Click Here - and Remember to Come Back! :-)
Almost every stretch of beach has its own name and character- even sections of what appears to be the same beach. Part of this is probably because we are on a small island, part from the influence of surfers, and part from the varied nature of the ocean's nature close to shore. Sections of what appears to be the same beach have different names which makes it easier for people to describe where they will be on land to friends, where the good (or bad) waves are, where the dangerous areas in the ocean are, etc. And since it varies so much it helps to be able to describe things as much as possible.
We'll start our descriptions on one end of the island's main road on the Westside, and work our way south, east and finally to the Northshore.
Enjoy - and don't forget the hats, trash bags & sunscreen for your health and Kauai's!
West Side Beaches
This is the most well known beach on the west side, and is at this end of 'the road' that goes almost all around the island. It is probably the longest stretch of beach with a single name to it on-island. The Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) has part of the stretch of beach and the other part is available for camping if you obtain a permit ahead of time. PMRF expanded its operations in 2004 & controversially took over more of the beach, limiting access and camping areas. There is still lots of room for visiting. This beach is one that the locally famous 'sunrise' shells can be found at certain times of the year. Swimming can be hazardous at certain times and spots, so be cautious. There is an island sky-watchers group that meets and looks at planets, stars and other astronomical things in the sky out there sometimes. We were there on the 4th of July last & it was overpoplulated with trucks and people as this is a popular holiday here and there has been a growing trend of parking on the beach by 'locals.' Please help keep our beaches natural so everyone can enjoy them without feeling like they're just spending time in a parking lot.
This area has a beach park near the salt ponds. There are shallow areas for the young ones and it is a well populated beach.
South Side Beaches
Poipu Beach Park
Located on the South Side, this is a vacation-oriented town based on the advertising slogan 'Sunny Poipu'. It is sunny there, sometimes too sunny, but also can be a more likely place to be uninterrupted by rain during a winter vacation (unless it's a really big storm, in which case the winds shift). Monk seals occasionally beach there for a sun and rest - be sure to give them distance as they are endangered and need the rest (it is also illegal to approach them). Many condos, vacation homes and resorts here and a public beach park well attended by all.
Located by Nawiliwili at the site of the Marriott, this is a pleasant beach in the area where the Marriott resort resides. There are shops and restaurants by this beach and a bricked beach walk between the sand and the Marriott. The beach is open to the public, as are the Marriott's restaurants, the pool is only for guests of their resort. Small sailboats & outrigger canoes are beached there by sand volleyball courts. There is another beach park area of the beach that has a local flavor and is more of a fishing spot in the areas where there is no sand. The beach park grassy area hosts events sometimes including Vollyball Championships and others. You can see people canoeing in outriggers, kayaking, etc. in the bay from time to time.
Grassy campground area by a beach. Camping permits required in advance. Community events are held there from time to time, including sometimes a New Year's Day celebration with all kinds of types people on motorcycles (Harley's predominating) attending.
Not much of a beach for regular beach going, but a known resource for local hobbyists and crafters. This beach is almost completely composed of ocean tumbled glass from old soda and beer bottles. You can find a variety of colored glass pebbles here: brown & white/clear predominating, green next, and cobalt blue occasionally. Also found here is the only black sand on the island I'm aware of, tumbled ceramic pieces and a few shells. A fun beachcombing experience if in the area.Port Allen
Located in Eleele, this beach has boating events such as tours of the recreation of Captain Cook's Ship, the Endevour, when in port.
East Side Beaches
Lydgate Beach. Kamalani Playground and Bridge
Located between Lihue and Wailua, this popular community beach park has big boulders set into the water creating two large 'sheltered' swimming areas. One is more shallow than the other making a great place to go with the kids. In the same park area across the parking from the beach is Kamalani Playground, definitely a popular destination with the kids. The playground is one of those wood post and metal constructed playground 'city' scapes constructed by the local community. It features art set in concrete - seating areas with glass (from glass beach), rock, and ceramic inlays. The land is privately owned and dedicated to serving the community. Members of the family that owns the land are very active in creating more features for an enjoyable community park geared towards families as well as periodic community beach cleanups. There are picnic areas throughout, a pavilion area where people hold parties and events, and cement tables with cement benches that have chess and checker board designs on them for game-playing enjoyment. The restroom - changing areas are well maintained as are the outdoor showers for rinsing off the sand. Added later is Kamalani Bridge in a different area that is connected to the playground area via walking/jogging/bike paths. This bridge is styled in the same manner as the playground and has many elements for playing as well. Like the playground it was constructed by community volunteers.Wailua
The beach accross the highway from the old Coco Palms resort area can be seen completely from the highway and offers a nice view while waiting for the street light and Kamakoo to change when heading south. By the way, up this road is the Opaekaa Falls waterfall that was featured in the beginning shots of Fantasy Island, "The plane! The plane!" and a re-creation of a Hawaiian village. The old Coco Palms resort was also a filming area of Elvis Presley beach movies and more. It has been vacant and unused since Iniki, while the owners tried negotiating with their insurance companies. It has recently sold and may be renovated? We'll see. This beach is a nice stretch of sand that stretches from the Aloha Beach Resort to another resort. There is a turnoff to a parking area accessable when coming from Lihue - pass the Aloha Beach resort & stay right, going over the makai-side (ocean-side) bridge & take the right hand turn just afterwards, before the traffic light. This area is sometimes washed out with sand (yes, in the parking lot) due to high tides from storms and is bordered with large rocks/ small boulders.Baby Beach
Located in Kapaa Town, this beach has sections that are protected and shallow - good for babies. Good view of kite surfers who launch from a sandy area near there.Library Beach
Located by the Kapaa Public Library and a sports field, this beach park is primarily attended by fisherman. It has some covered cement slab pavilion areas. A small police office is adjacent to the field that does not have regular hours. The field is host to a variety of community events including the Coconut Festival and Earth Day celebrations. The field also hosts a variety of sports events, primarily soccer. There is a small art exhibit-playground area at the library for small and medium aged children. This playground consists of a sandy area with ceramic shapes glazed and shaped such that it evokes play.Kealia Beach
Located on Kuhio Kwy. at Kealia (between Kapaa and Anahola), this beach popular with the surfers, boogie boarders and their friends is also a family beach in the areas closer to Kapaa. Drift wood, etc. washes up quite frequently at this beach and it is not uncommon to see bond fires there at night. Not all drift wood smoke is safe to inhale, so try not to be upwind of it. Part of the land bordering this beach was recently privately purchased and this area is undergoing some cosmetic changes as a result. Large rocks/ small boulders were arranged at the edge of the parking areas, trees were cut, etc. Highway guard rails were put up and vehicle access has been channeled to two spots. A sidewalk and curb were put in accross the street as well. Road construction and the beach areas are still undergoing changes.Donkey Beach
Located just north of Kealia Beach, beyond the point, this beach used to be known as one of the few bathing suit 'optional' beaches (even though it is technically illegal to be nude on beaches here) as well as a homosexual beach. Things have changed a bit with the land purchase and I believe bathing suits are 'required' here by custom as well. It is not as isolated as it had been in the recent past and is more populated by surfers and the like currently. When the cane fields went out of production people started accessing the beach via the old cane roads in addition to walking from Kealia. The cane land was purchased and converted into a land development with paved roads, etc. called Kealia Kai. The highway was changed and a parking lot was installed on the land for beach access. People now park there instead of the highway. We have not been to this beach since the development started.Anahola Beach
Located deep in Anahola, this beach park is mainly used by local residents of Anahola and definitely has a local flavor. A small playground area with swings is located in the grassy area. It is not uncommon to see local residents drive their trucks onto the sand where they set up tents, shade, horseshoes, BBQ and fun for the day. Another stretch of beach in this area has a wide swath of sand. This area is popular for the local surfers and boogie boarders. A Hawaiian Homes owned park is accross the dirt street from it that occasionally has community events and parties.Aliomanu
Located at the edge of a new land subdivision, this beach has access through a public access trail used extensively by fisherman. Papaa Bay Beach is visible from above.
North Shore Beaches
Moloaa Bay Beach
Small beach in Moloaa usually only used by residents and guests of the immediate area, because it is so small. There is no park or parking.Larson's Beach
Located on the edge of Moloaa and Pilaa, this beach has a gentle walk from the end of the road yet can be a bit overgrown in areas. This is not a beach park and there is no official parking area. The access is down a dirt road that branches off of the bumpy area of Koolau Road. There are lots of old reefs near the shore, so it's not great for swimming. At certain times of year it does lend itself to some nice shallow areas where babies can sit and 'splashy-splashy', or you can do shallow swimming. This has become one of the new bathing suit optional beaches where people are hassled less than at Secret Beach. Monk seals occasionally lay out on this beach too. They can be mistaken for the black rocks there, so keep aware around the rocks so you don't end up walking up or on a seal. It is illegal to approach or hassle these endangered animals who need to have a place to lay out undisturbed too.Rock Quarry Beach (Kahili Bay)
Located by areas of Kilauea Town and Wailapa, this beach used to be a rock quarry and has a lagoon formed by a widening of the Kilauea River Mouth. It is a popular beach for Kilauea residents and used to be more accessible from Kilauea town before a land owner improved part of the road and limited its access. It is still accessable by 4-wheel drive and walking. There is an adjacent lagoon that is used for fishing at times and the beach is often used for surf lessons - official and unoffical ones.Secret Beach
One of our favorite beaches! It's not so secret anymore, since it's been featured in many tour books. The beach areas change daily - really. One day there will be several pond areas in the sand and the next, there will hardly be any sand (compared to the day before). There are several sections of this beach: zero beach, second beach, third beach, etc. The trail lets out at the main part of the beach, go to your left to get to zero beach, to your right to second and third beaches. Zero beach-way is rocky and has cool tide pools and small sandy areas inbetween. Pay attention of the tides, when there a while - it could be difficult to get back to the trail (the same thing for areas beyond the 'showers' by third beach). Off to the right of the entrance a way down the beach you'll come to an area in the cliffs where fresh water comes out of the cliffs. A couple of them have pipes and/or sticks guiding the flow, but the 'showers' just come straight out of the rock. I always have to go down and take a quick *cold* shower there when I visit - so refreshing! Some people fill up water jugs and the like with the water claiming it is fresh spring water - I don't know how potable it is, but have drank some myself.
This used to be the primary bathing suit optional beach, but a land owner with property on the bluff took it upon herself to hire security guards to hassle naked people (it is technically illegal to go nude on the beaches, all of which are public). This was quite controversial and is still going on irregularly. Another controversy about this beach was when a land owner purchased land by the beach access trail and attempted to move the trail to a different spot. If successful, there could be a loss of public access through this area eventually as the continued use would have been broken. Now there are two trails, one the land owners made that is more well maintained at this point than the original one, the other original trail used by locals mainly is on the left. We use both so as to not loose access to this wonderful beach. FYI- There were 2 other access paths to this beach, one of which from Kilauea that landowners were successful in closing so this is the only public access trail left. Please help maintain public access by using both paths when you visit.
Kalihiwai Road meets the highway in two places - it used to connect by Kalihiwai beach (at the mouth of Kalihiwai River). Hurricane Ewa washed the bridge away and no-one has replaced it. This means that there are two 'sides' of Kalihiwai now - the 'River Side' and the 'Ocean Side'. There are areas close to the sand where people park on both sides, but the larger area is the 'Ocean Side'. This is the more popular area as well. You can get to the river and/or ocean from either side though - unless there have been a lot of rains and the river is flowing too strongly. There are leptospirosis warning signs all over at these beaches, but it doesn't stop us residents from enjoying the ocean or river. Leptospirosis is nothing to take lightly though and you should always keep out of mucky and/or stagnant water - especially if you have any open wounds. This beach is one of my son's favorites. I like the picnic tables and areas in the shade, but in the sand so I (the fair skinned one) can sit in the shade, while my son can play in the sun. The shade is provided by iron wood trees (sort of pine tree-like). Parking is right by the sand so it makes picnicking easier too. There has been a growing trend of driving and parking on the beach which ruins the enjoyment IMO and can be a bit dangerous for those laying out there. Be aware of the trucks and please park in the parking lot so everyone can enjoy the beach without feeling like they're spending the afternoon in a parking lot.Anini
A short drive through high-end homes brings you to a beach park with bathrooms, covered picnic tables, a boat launch, and a camping area. You must have obtained a permit ahead of time in Lihue and have a tent in order to camp there. Windsurfing and surfing lessons are often held here as well. The beach park is more generous in size than the beach itself, which has not as much sand as some of the other beaches. The water in some spots of this beach can at times be safer than other areas and snorkeling can be good there as well. Pay attention to the water condition on the day you are there - not all days are 'safe'. Occasionally there are polo matches in a park accross the street past the park - a sign is usually placed on the highway about it.Queen's Baths
Accessed from Princeville, this is one of the few places you can get to the sand in Princeville. I haven't been there yet myself, but lots of people go there regularly. The water conditions vary and can be quite dangerous as some people have drowned there. There was talk of closing this state owned area due to the deaths, but people are still going there as far as I've heard.Princeville Hotel Beach
The beach by the Princeville Hotel and it's pool - mostly used by hotel guests and nearby condos. Hotel events for their guests and the community are often held here. The bluff at the Princeville Hotel by the overflow parking grassy area is also the meeting place for local ameteur Astronomers once a month at sundown.Hanalei Bay Resort Beach
The beach by 'HBR' and it's pool - actually a path down to the beach by the Princeville Hotel. The Hanalei Bay Resort has condos with full time residents, and others rented out as vacation rentals for all or much of the year and has lots and lots of tennis courts.Hanalei Pier Beach Park
An actual beach park with bathrooms, covered picnic tables, parking a lawn and the like - this beach is popular with the surfers. Surfers will paddle out to the breaking waves a distance from shore and be there all day. The area towards the river mouth and away from the park area is quite popular with locals on holidays and weekends and it is not uncommon to see trucks parked on the sand of that part of the beach. The pier area is also a boat launch area and fishing is done from the end of the pier.Hanalei Pavilions
Another actual beach park with bathrooms, one large covered area for picnic tables, outdoor rinse-off showers and a lifeguard stand. This is one of the few beaches where you can find a lifeguard. It is therefore popular with vacationers and families, but they're not the only ones. This can be a good bodysurfing and/or boogie boarding beach if the conditions are right. There are usually two sets of breaking waves: one out far that 'surfers' use, and a smaller set closer to shore in areas 4-6 feet deep. It is this smaller set that beginning surfers, boogie boarders and bodysurfers enjoy. The water stays shallow enough to stand (or gently hop) in pretty far away from shore which is another reason for its popularity. You get great views of Hanalei Bay and the mountains made famous as 'Bali Hai' in From Here to Eternity. Also in the area beyond the swimming areas and before the surfing areas there are often sailboats anchored which is a nice site as well.Pine Trees
Another area of Hanalei Bay's beach which is popular with the surfers and has a smaller beach park area.Dry Caves
The area across the highway from Dry Caves has a beach park with bathrooms a lawn and a camping area (for those with pre-obtained permits). Sometimes there will be food trucks vending food, shave ice and/or desserts in the parking lot. While there, be sure to check out the dry cave - it's cool! A very large cave with a well trodden sandy floor makes the dry cave nifty.Wet Caves
The wet caves don't have a beach, but since I mentioned the dry caves, I thought I should mention the wet caves which are further on down the road. It's a short walk to the entrance from the highway (on the same side of the road as the dry cave) and the view of the cave with the water and the colors on the sides of the cave is worth it if in the area.More Beach Descriptions Coming Soon...