Best Beaches on

Kauai has some of the most picturesque beaches in Hawaii. Some, like Poipu Beach, are a simple car ride away. Others, like Kalalau Beach, require an 11-mile (one way) adventure along the rugged Napali Coast. Great snorkeling can be found on Kauai, too (Lydgate State Park is great for beginners).

Anahola State Park

Resort Area : Coconut Coast

Anahola State Park beach provides Kauai's safest swimming for small children, with a shallow reef just offshore protecting its coast from high surf. Surfers are actually required to stick to the northern end of the beach so there are no boards near the shallow swimming area, either.

The narrow sandy beach off Anahola Road receives shade from lush trees and is wonderful for picnics, snorkeling, wading, and scuba diving. Lifeguards are on duty on the weekends and holidays and there are restrooms, showers, and picnic table facilities.

Some slippery rocks and sharp coral are scattered in the water though, and you must watch out for occasional strong currents, high surf, and large wave breaks.

The beach park is off of Hwy. 56 - go north from Lihue, take a right on Anahola Road(by mile marker 13) and go about a half a mile down to the park.

Anini Beach County Park

Resort Area : Anini

Anini Beach is a 3-mile curve of golden sand with shallow sparkling blue lagoon waters along the north shore of Kauai. With emerald cliffs on one edge and one of the longest and widest fringing reefs in all of Hawaii protecting it from the deeper ocean on the other, Anini's 5 or so feet of warm water provides the best snorkeling location on the island. Paddle around there for hours and enjoy the brightly colored fish and reef scenery, or venture to the northwest side where a 60-foot drop in the reef's channel allows for deeper scuba diving expeditions.

This is one of the island's safest beaches for swimming, windsurfing, and kayaking, although there can be occasional dangerous rip currents when the surf is particularly high. It's relatively secluded and less crowded than some of the other Kauai beaches, but you'll definitely have some company there too, especially on weekends. Anini is classified as a County park. There's a campground (pick up a County permit to stay overnight), picnic, barbecue, and restroom facilities, and even a boat-launch ramp provided.

From Hwy. 56 to Kilauea, take the second exit called Kalihiwai Rd. After a half mile, turn left on Anini Beach Rd. (You can also walk there from Wyllies beach via a casual tree-lined footpath down from the road that is actually an historic route that once circumnavigated all of Kauai.)

Hanalei Beach

Resort Area : Hanalei

Famous Hanalei Bay is a spectacular location with a picturesque Hawaiian beach. It's a sort of natural circle, half of which is a beautiful wide curve of sand set against ancient volcanic cliffs, the other half made up of coral reefs underwater, sprinkled with what's left of an ancient king's sunken ship to complete the ring.

It's a diver's paradise, but also perfect for sunbathing, Frisbee-throwing, sunset strolling, and swimming, especially at the westernmost curve where the water remains relatively calm most of the time. The beach's gentle surf is always soothing, but in summer the swimming is more carefree as the water turns into a smooth glassy lake.

The beach has 2 miles of shoreline and runs almost a full mile inland (travel a couple miles farther inland and see waterfalls falling from 4,000 feet!). It's almost always busy and is also a great spot for surfing, fishing, snorkeling, windsurfing, and kayaking. There are lifeguard, picnic, parking, and restroom facilities, plus a boat ramp on the Hanalei river bank leading into the bay.

Pass Princeville on Hwy. 56 then turn right onto Aku Rd. (off what is then Hwy. 560) in Hanalei town. Take another right onto Weke Rd. and the parking lot with beach access is at the end.

Hanamaulu Beach

Resort Area : Lihue

Hanamaulu Beach is at the edge of a large bay near Lihue shielded from the open ocean where the Hanamaulu stream enters the larger body of water. It forms a lagoon area where fish school for periods of time as they migrate so there's great scuba diving, fishing and sometimes swimming.

The best picnic spot is in the tree-shaded area on the quiet little strip of sand. If you walk upstream from the bay, the wooded banks of the water are particularly fun and camping is allowed with a permit in the 6 ½ acre park.

The beach is off of Kuhio Hwy. (go to Hanamaula Rd., then right onto Hehi Rd.) and there is no lifeguard but restrooms and showers are nearby.

Kalapaki Beach

Resort Area : Lihue

Kalapaki Beach located in Lihue on Kauai

Kalapaki Beach is a lovely crescent-shaped sand beach in front of the Kauai Marriott Resort and the Kauai Lagoons championship golfcourse.

The Hoary Head mountains and Haupu Ridge that protects the bay can be seen from the sand and the beach faces the shimmering Nawilwili Bay and Harbor itself.

You can find volleyball, sailboat rentals, catamaran cruises, and surf lessons nearby and there are some nice swells so it's a great spot for swimming, surfing and boogie boarding (with occasional strong currents and dangerous shorebreaks to look out for).

A popular picnic area is in the adjacent Nawilwili Park and facilities can be found in the nearby Anchor Cove Shopping Center.

Although there's no Kalapaki Beach sign, follow the "Shoreline Access" sign just past the Marriott to find one of the best east coast beaches on Kauai. (Or turn right off of Nawiliili Rd. onto Wa'apa and the harbor will be on your left).

Kee Beach State Park

Resort Area : North Shore

Kee Beach State Park on Kauai's north shore sits at the foot of the Napali Coast trail that leads up to the volcanic cliffs surrounding this beautiful cove. A reef protects its waters, making it wonderful for swimming and snorkeling (the open ocean's strong current and huge waves make it dangerous to go out past the reef's edge, though).

Gentle waves from the generally tranquil waters crash against the small strip of golden shore and the amazing view of the cliffs create a wonderful ambiance. Make sure to avoid it at high surf times, though, since waves can kick up to 20 feet high.

It's also a somewhat famous scenic spot, since part of the "Thornbirds" movie was filmed here.

There is no lifeguard on duty, but there are restrooms and showers plus free parking.

You need to park in the same spots as the hikers heading up the trails use, though, so get there early and bring any food or drinks you might need. At the end of Hwy. 560, about 7 ½ miles past Hanalei.

Lumahai Beach

Resort Area : Haena

Lumahai Beach has been photographed from almost all angles (among other claims to fame, it served as the setting for the 1957 film "South Pacific"). It's a very wide stretch of sand backed by cliffs with lush vegetation and is about ¾ of a mile long.

Lumahai sits between Haena and Hanalei Bay on Kauai's north shore and is great for picnics under the trees, photography, and wave watching.

There is no offshore reef protecting this beach, so the waves are very large and very strong. The force moves the sand around so much that it actually changes the shape of the beach itself each year.

There are no restrooms or lifeguards around and swimming is not recommended, but the scenery is fantastic and it's a wonderful place to hear the roar of the waves.

Sit back from the shoreline to enjoy the view, though, since the strong high surf can arrive quickly, break dangerously, and pull back powerfully. You might like seeing some professional (or daredevil) body and board surfers around, but keep the strong current and waves in mind before you consider joining them.

Park at the scenic lookout off Hwy. 560 just after Hanalei, then take the trail to the beach below.

Lydgate State Park

Resort Area : Kapaa / Wailua

Lydgate State Park sits along the Coconut coast near the mouth of the Wailua River and includes a rock-walled fishpond that takes the edge off of direct ocean waves. The one-acre beach park offers some of the only protected waters on Kauai's east coast and is a fun place to swim, snorkel, and feed the clouds of fish that will appear if you sprinkle frozen peas in the water for them.

Lydgate also has lifeguards on duty and they, along with the calm and clear water of the enclosed pool, make it a very safe spot.

The sandy beach is also popular for picnics, kite flying, and strolling, and includes restrooms and showers. Volunteers built a playground at this park, where the coconut grove once served as an ancient safe ground for Hawaiians who had broken the law.

It's about 5 miles north of Lihue on Hwy. 56, just before the Kauai Resort Hotel. Turn right on Leho Dr. at mile marker 5 then take the second right into the beach parking lot.

Mahaulepu Beach

Resort Area : Poipu

Mahaulepu Beach located in Poipu on Kauai

Mahaulepu Beach is two miles of lovely natural Kauai shoreline, virtually untouched by modern life. One of the island's major coastal hiking trails leads straight to the beach's idyllic stretch of red-gold sand at the foot of the 1,500-foot high Haupu Ridge's sea cliffs.

The gorgeous isolated ocean wilderness ambiance is beautiful but there are no lifeguards or facilities.

Scientists spend much time studying this unspoiled tropical spot, but it's also a popular place to swim, windsurf, shell hunt, and take leisurely private strolls.

Just west of the sandy parking lot is a reef-sheltered lagoon that's ideal for a dip. Outside of that location, large waves and strong currents can make swimming risky.

To reach the secluded beach, drive about 3 miles east past the Hyatt Regency on Poipu Rd., pass a golf course and stables along the dirt road and turn right at the T intersection. Turn let at the big sand dune and park in the small lot under the trees about a half mile down.

Ninini Beach

Resort Area : Lihue

Fresh water pours out from under a bluff and across Ninini Beach during heavy rains, so the name is appropriate (Ninini means "pouring"), but it actually got its nickname, Running Waters Beach, because of an irrigation runoff that used to flow into the area.

It's a relatively small and secluded spot at the northern end of Nawiliwili Harbor where two sandy coves are separated by a lava rock formation.

It's a wonderful spot for snorkeling, swimming, and occasional bodysurfing (but can be hit quickly with dangerously high surf from sudden southern storms) and is sometimes frequented by nudists, although that's not legal in the state.

The larger of the two coves slopes slightly towards the sparkling water and is a great place to lay in the sun. The beach is about ¼ mile from Ninini Point, where the Nawiliwili Bay Lighthouse sits.

Drive along Akukini Road towards the ocean, turn right on a dirt road that follows the water, then walk from the lighthouse down trails to the beach. Or park at the golf course clubhouse near the Kauai Marriott Resort.

There's no lifeguard on duty, though, and you'll need to walk back to wherever you parked to find facilities.

Poipu Beach Park

Resort Area : Poipu

Poipu Beach Park located in Poipu on Kauai

The two sections of Poipu Beach are divided by Nukumoi Point (a strip of sand called a tombolo, created by ocean currents rushing from opposite directions). The left side is a protected sandy-bottomed pool of water surrounded by lava boulders perfect as a wading spot for small children, and the right side is an open bay great for swimming, snorkeling, and surfing.

Hawaiian Monk Seals are critically endangered and usually solitary creatures that weigh 400 - 600 pounds each, but one momma seal has delivered and weaned her pups on this beach for the past couple of years and her small family now comes with a Monk Seal Watch team to protect them.

The human swimmers are watched by lifeguards on duty and there are restrooms, showers, and free parking facilities available. The park's grassy picnic area is a nice place to eat under shady coconut trees.

Poipu is a popular and safe beach with crystal clear water, great reefs and tide pools to explore.

To get there, turn off Hwy. 530 onto Poipu Beach Rd. then right onto Hoowili Rd. where you'll find the beach parking lot.

Polihale State Park

Resort Area : Waimea

Polihale State Park is Kauai's westernmost point at the end of Old Mana Rd. and includes both Polihale and Barking Sands beaches to form Hawaii's longest beach - a 17 mile stretch of sparkling white sand that's hundreds of yards wide. It starts just beyond Waimea by Kekaha plantation town and the cliffs of Napali can be seen from the northern end.

Surf, breaks, and currents can be extremely strong since the beach is unprotected from the ocean and waves come crashing in. Swimming is particularly dangerous in the winter but the small, shallow pool called Queen's Pond (near mile marker 3.4 along the cane road) is protected from the waves by a circle of reef and is almost always the safest spot to swim.

The park includes ancient Hawaiian burial and temple sites and a view of the forbidden island of Niihau plus sand dunes that can reach nearly 100 feet high. There are restroom, shower, picnic, and camping facilities but no lifeguard.

Follow signs to Polihale off Hwy. 50, where you'll pass Barking Sands Missile Range and sugar cane fields before you get to the park. Continue onto the dirt road at the end of the paved one but be careful when driving on the sand.

Prince Kuhio Park

Resort Area : Poipu

Prince Kuhio Park located in Poipu on Kauai

Prince Kuhio Park is an historical and cultural site in Kauai, marking the birthplace of Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, one of Hawaii's most cherished royals and the last heir to the royal Hawaiian throne. He worked tirelessly for native Hawaiian rights and was a delegate to Congress for 20 years; his birthday, March 26, is still celebrated as a state holiday. The park includes the foundation of his royal home, a fishpond, and a temple made of lava rocks.

It sits across the street from rocky Ho'ai Bay, where swimmers usually don't venture but divers relish the offshore reef and snorkelers love the turtles and other sea life they find in the shallow protected areas among the rocks.

Take Poipu Rd. toward the ocean and veer right onto Lawai Beach Rd.

Salt Pond Beach Park

Resort Area : Hanapepe

Salt Pond Beach Park in West Kauai just outside Hanapepe is the only natural salt pond in the state still in production - descendants of ancient Hawaiians still use the salt crystals dried in sun beds to make tangy sea salt.

You need permission to enter the salt-making area but the rest of the crescent-shaped white sand beach is open to the public and it's a great place to windsurf, swim, and collect shells.

A reef partially protects the waters and rocks create a shallow bathing pool, small lagoons, and tidepools to explore. Swimming is generally safe year-round in the clear-watered cove created by two lava shelf rock outcroppings on either end of the pond. Snorkel, swim, scuba dive, fish, or explore the sea life.

Sunsets are particularly stunning, with coconut trees swaying nearby and colorful reflections off gentle waves.

Camping is allowed with a permit and this beach has a lifeguard, picnic area with pavilions and grills, parking, and restrooms with showers.

Located at the end of Route 543 from Hanapepe (take Hwy. 50 past Hanapepe and turn onto Lokokai Rd.).

Spouting Horn Beach Park

Resort Area : Poipu

Spouting Horn Beach Park located in Poipu on Kauai

Erosion has carved openings in the top and side of a lava shelf at Spouting Horn Beach, where waves now crash through and force water and air up to create a cool blowhole with sound effects. It's part geyser (just not caused by heat and steam as real geysers are) and part blowhorn since somehow air alone is pushed through one of the holes.

There are multiple legends to explain the resulting eerie roar: a dragon god mourning the loss of his sisters fell into the lava tube when tears blurred his vision and he continues to cry for them; a trapped lizard goddess who chased a fisherman into the cave and became stuck continues to moan and growl in anger.

Another blowhole actually used to sit nearby and spray water up to 200 feet high, but that one was dynamited in the 1920's because the salt water spray was ruining the area's sugar cane crops.

The rocky shoreline is very slippery and the large waves are powerful, so enjoy the sights and sounds but don't try to inspect the blowhole phenomenon too closely. When the waters are calm, there is a small swimming beach just west of the hole, but that sand virtually disappears when the surf kicks up.

Mostly diving, snorkeling, and tour groups enjoy the area from offshore and there is free parking available in a paved lot that includes arts and crafts vendors and restrooms. Go early if you can, since lots of visitors and tour busses drop in later in the day.

Take Poipu Rd. towards the water then take the right fork in the road where it curves onto Lawai Beach Rd. Signs will mark the beach parking lot a couple miles up on your left.

Wailua Beach

Resort Area : Kapaa / Wailua

Wailua Beach on Kauai's eastern Coconut coast is a popular half mile long (and 100 feet wide) belt of white-sand with mountains, waterfalls, and scenic tours nearby. Wailua River State Park and Wailua Bay are both part of the beach, where surf conditions are great and swimming, water-skiing, kayaking, and canoeing are a regular part of the activities.

Strong rip currents and sudden drop-offs can become dangerous during winter, though, and conditions at Wailua are sometimes unsafe.

There are ancient Hawaiian temples and sacred sites within the state park, near the mouth of the Wailea River, and although there are no restrooms, a lifeguard is on duty part time.

The beach is just past the intersection of Hwy. 56 and Hwy. 580.

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