Kauai, also known as Kaua’i, is an island in the Hawaiian archipelago and is reportedly the oldest of its kind in the region. It is the fourth largest in Hawaii and the 21st largest in the United States of America.
Termed also as the ‘Garden Island’, Kauai has everything that one can wish for – imposing mountains, splendid beaches, fascinating hiking and biking trails, luxurious resorts, impeccable tropical flora and fauna, and then some more.
The total population on the island is around 70,000 and the small town is as charming as it is intriguing.
Being the oldest of its kind, Kauai has a rich geological history that fascinates nature and wildlife enthusiasts from all around the world.
Since the island’s major focus are its picturesque beaches, let us take a look at the best beaches in Kauai:
1. Hanalei Bay Beach
The most popular beach spot on the northern shore of Kauai, Hanalei Bay stretches over two miles and is characterized by its pristine landscape and fine sand.
The crescent-shaped bay is backed by majestic mountains and is complemented on the east by the Hanalei River, on the west by the Waipa River, and two enormously beautiful coral reefs on both sides.
Hanalei Bay Beach is highly famous among family vacationers and caters to everybody’s enjoyment. While the reef on the right side of the bay is perfect for experienced surfers, the waves near the pier are comparatively gentle and are good for amateurs.
There is a sunken shipwreck that pleases the curiosity of divers. Swimming is open and extremely enjoyed throughout the year. Other popular water activities at Hanalei Bay Beach include bodyboarding, fishing, kayaking, windsurfing, boating, and canoe paddling.
2. Kee Beach
Located between Limahuli Stream and NaPali, Kee Beach is known for its jaw-dropping scenic beauty and is the location for several popular Hollywood movies like Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.
The Kalau Trail near the beach offers one of the most amazing hikes in the area.
The beach is very popular among visitors due to which the parking gets full quickly. To find a nice parking spot, you must arrive here before 10 in the morning. Restrooms and showers are some of the public facilities available around the area.
Kee Beach has crystal-clear water and an abundance of coral fish. Another unique and peculiar feature of the beach is the many chickens which are seen all around the area (chicken on the beach – where else would you find it?)
For photographers, early morning views of the vast ocean and its surrounding landscapes make for brilliant opportunities.
You could also enjoy a kayak tour during summers.
3. Tunnels Beach
Tunnels Beach is regarded as one of the best spots on the northern shore of Kauai for snorkeling. The enormous coral reef at Tunnels, a rare gem of Kauai, offers a spectacular dive location for scuba diving enthusiasts.
Finding the beach may be a bit tricky but the two access roads have been marked by the residents to assist you. Parking at the beach isn’t an option but if you come early, you can secure yourself a parking spot by the narrow road close to the beach.
Other activities that can be enjoyed in the area are swimming, windsurfing, and strolling.
Tunnels Beach is protected by lifeguards who patrol the area for your safety. There are picnic tables by the beach where you can enjoy a quiet lunch with your family.
4. Baby Beach
A rather small and quiet beach in the town of Poipu, Baby Beach is 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.
The serene Anini houses Hawaii’s longest and widest fringing reef and is commonly protected by the beach waters. The unique conditions of the landscape make for great snorkeling and tide-pooling opportunities in the area.
As compared to its highly-popular counterpart, Poipu Beach, Baby Beach provides all the goodness and beauty of a beach destination along with tranquility and a relaxed atmosphere.
Sea turtles and monk seals can be frequently spotted in the region.
There aren’t any public facilities at the beach but it is a great spot for unwinding and experiencing a beautiful Hawaiian sunrise.
5. Anahola Beach
Located south of Anahola Bay, Anahola Beach is a beautiful, secluded stretch of white sandy coastline known for its protective reef which offers amazing swimming and snorkeling options most part of the year.
Tucked away from hustle and bustle of a usual city life, Anahola is perfect for families and visitors wishing for peace and quiet. Driving to the beach is possible and convenient which means you don’t have to worry about carrying your gears.
The gorgeous Kalalea mountains can be seen from the coast. Surfing, fishing, and beach walking are some of the activities enjoyed at Anahola Beach.
Lifeguards frequent the beach area. Common amenities at the beach include camping facilities, shaded area, restrooms, picnic tables, and showers.
6. Haena Beach
Located on the northern shore of Kauai, Haena Beach is a paradisiacal setting where perfectly white sands and dazzling turquoise waters meet rich tropical wilderness. Mount Makana, another iconic landmark adorns the background of the beach. Where else would you find the perfect photography settings?
During calm weather, the water at the beach is great for swimming and snorkeling. Beachcombing or simply exploring the beach can also be highly enjoyed. Come winters, the extremely wild and dangerous waves challenge the best surfers from around the world.
Lifeguards, picnic tables, showers, and restrooms are some of the common public facilities at Haena Beach. Camping is also possible here but you would need to obtain a permit for it first.
7. Lydgate Beach
Lydgate Beach, adjacent to Wailua River, is located on the east side of Kauai County, Hawaii.
A part of Lydgate State Park, the beach is popular among all kinds of visitors including family vacationers. A couple of enclosed ponds is a slight relief from the ocean waters but that doesn’t stop the intriguing reef fish to swim in from the little crevices between the rocks.
Spotting distinctive varieties of tropical fish in the area is definite.
The diversity of fish, the protected waters, and patrolling lifeguards make Lydgate a great spot for surfing newbies.
Swimming, snorkeling, and picnicking around the protected lagoons are highly encouraged and well-liked. Other attractions in the area include the Kalamani Playground and a 2.5-mile-long coastal trail.
Restrooms and showers are also available at the beach.
8. Kealia Beach
During winters, Kealia Beach, a long stretch of perfect white sands, becomes a hotspot for whale watching and beach walking. Subjected to amazing wind swells and open ocean swells, the waters here are also popular for surfing.
The northern end of Kealia Beach is a great location for swimming and boogie boarding, provided that the waters are calm on the day.
In particular, Kealia has a reputation for strong currents and wild wind swells so it is advised to be cautious while venturing into the waters here. Lifeguards patrol the area for visitor safety.
Restrooms and shower facilities are available for public use.
Speaking of whale watching and beach walking, the Kapaa Coastal Path that runs along the beach is the most appropriate spot in the area.
You can also choose to explore the shore area on foot or bicycles.
9. Kekaha Beach
Nestled in the far west end of the county of Kauai lays the beautiful beach haven known as Kekaha Beach. The surrounding beach park is great for beachcombing and sunset watching.
Additionally, Kekaha Beach is also renowned as the mouth of the longest stretch of fine white sands in Hawaii. Though sometimes brown in color due to strong winds resulting in waves and river runoffs, Kekaha is enjoyed by local fishermen as well as surfers.
You could easily notice Niihau and Lehua rock islands from the shore of Kekaha.
Picnic areas, restrooms, and showers are some of the common public facilities here.
10. Poipu Beach
Two beaches separated by a tombola, Nukumoi Point, conjoin to form Poipu beach which is on the southern shore of Kauai and is the star attraction of this part of the region. One part of the beach is ideal for children and learning surfers while the other is apt for swimming, snorkeling, and surfing.
Nukumoi Point is home to the endangered species of Hawaiian monk seals who can be often found napping here.
Regarded as the top beach in America, Poipu Beach is a favorite location for birthday parties, family activities, beach games, and picnics.
Aside from common amenities such as restrooms, picnic tables, and showers, there is an outdoor playground for children and rental shops for snorkeling and surfing gears. Parking is readily available as well.
11. Shipwreck Beach
Located in Poipu, Shipwreck Beach accredits its name to a sunken ancient wooden ship that is long gone since the actual drowning. However, the place is still a great hit among surfers and bodysurfers.
Due to its strong currents and high waves that often crash at the shore, swimming is not ideal here. As though to make up for it, the natural surrounding at Shipwreck Beach is surreal and the lack of crowd here provides a romantic ambiance.
Also referred to as ‘Shipwrecks Beach’ by many, the setting of the beach is idyllic for hosting get-togethers and romantic dates.
One of the major attractions of Shipwreck is the accessibility it offers to the lithified sand dune of Makawehi Point. If this is not all, the beach also provides access to the beginning of the otherwise tricky Mahaulepu Heritage Trail.
12. Anini Beach
Although unguarded by attendants, Anini, a famous beach spot on the northern shore of Kauai, is one of the most protected beaches in the county, thanks to the adjacent reef that runs along the whole two-mile-long stretch of Anini’s coastline.
Home to Hawaii’s longest and widest fringing reef, Anini provides some of the best weather and water conditions that are suitable for almost all kinds of water-related activities.
Whether you are the adventurous type to enjoy snorkeling, diving, and windsurfing, or you prefer a relaxed swim, a gentle walk on the sand combined with beach combing, Anini Beach has it all.
Outside the reef, the water has a strong current which is why it is best avoided.
Showers, picnic tables, pavilions, and restrooms can be found by the beach area. Camping is also allowed but you need to obtain a camping permit.
13. Polihale Beach
By far the lengthiest beach in Hawaii, Polihale Beach and State Park is in West Kauai and is a 17-mile-long stretch of glistening white sand and remarkable dunes. Access to the beach is down an unsurfaced old cane trail road which makes it appear like a desert highway than a coastal island.
The dunes at Polihale offer endless opportunities for shelling and beach walking. While seven miles of the stretch is occupied by a military base, the remaining ten are sure to blow your mind.
There are no shaded areas right along the coastline so it is suggested that you carry an umbrella and a lot of water if you wish to spend time at the beach.
Restrooms, picnic tables, and showers are available at the beach but there are no lifeguards. Camping is allowed by permits only.
14. Kalapaki Beach
Regarded as the best on the east coast, Kalapaki is one of those jewels which are unfortunately a little underrated as compared to what they can offer.
A great location for swimming, boogie boarding, standup paddle-boarding, and newbie surfers, Kalapaki Beach flows in front of the Kauai Marriott Beach resort. A part of the beach is protected by a huge break wall.
Visitors at the beach enjoy the seclusion it offers and it’s mind-blowing beauty which is still intact due to the lack of attention the area gets.
Sunbathing, relaxing at the beach, or enjoying a game of beach volleyball with friends are all popular activities here. Kalapaki Beach Huts, located at the south end, across the walking bridge, is a great spot for picnicking.
Restrooms, showers, gear rental stores and a range of accommodation options line the beach shore.
15. Salt Pond Beach
Located in Hanapepe on the western shore of Kauai, Salt Pond Beach is characterized by its natural wetlands and man-made salt beds. The Beach Park also has plenty of shallow pools which are perfect for snorkeling for children.
The natural reefs keep the waters calm and the waters here are typically clear.
To its east, Salt Pond Beach has quite a few tide pools which are ideal for exploring marine life.
Lifeguards are available at the beach, so are restrooms, picnic tables, and showers.
The salt beds that lay next to the beach are the only salt beds in Kauai and are restricted to be used by only residents of the county.