Visiting Kauai is a true gift, and you’ll likely plan many adventures for your vacation here. But one of the biggest highlights of your trip will be seeing Kauai’s most beautiful beaches.
Wondering which beach to enjoy while on island? We recommend including a mix of shorelines in your vacation. After all, you may want to spend a day relaxing in a family-friendly park, but then watch the sunset with sweeping views and crashing waves. You may want to snorkel close to a lifeguard stand, but take a stroll in a secluded setting.
Ahead, we’ll rank the best Kauai beaches. Check them out and include several of them on your Hawaii itinerary. After all, when else do you get a chance to beach hop around a magical, scenic island?
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POIPU BEACH PARK: AMERICA’S BEST BEACH
Once you visit Poipu Beach Park, you’ll understand why the Travel Channel named it America’s Best Beach. There’s something for everyone here. A natural wading pool welcomes you to the sandy beach, and adventurers can head farther out where great bodyboarding awaits.
Snorkelers find colorful marine life in the calm, rocky areas, while surfers flock to the site when waves are high.
Not far from shore at Poipu Beach, you’ll find one of the island’s best scuba diving sites: Sheraton Caverns. However, most divers access that area by boat instead of swimming from shore.
Poipu Beach is located on Hoowili Road in the Poipu Neighborhood of Kauai’s South Shore. It’s a popular beach, but it’s spacious and fun. You’ll be sharing a fun experience with other families who appreciate great water, amazing sights, and unique adventures.
Read More: Off the beaten path Kauai: 18 secret(ish) activities and tips
HANALEI BAY: A WORLD-FAMOUS PARK IN A CHARMING HAWAII TOWN
A visit to Hanalei Bay Beach is one of the top things to do on Kauai. It’s the perfect beach for almost anyone. This beach area features glistening water against a backdrop of dramatic green mountains, and its vibrant energy is both youthful and historic.
Families staying in the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas and Hanalei Bay Resort will love having the Bay nearby. But visitors and locals flock here from across the island to enjoy this incredible place.
Three beaches make up the two-mile stretch of Hanalei Bay, each with its own parking lot and restrooms.
Black Pot Beach Park is the corner to the right of Hanalei Pier. This eastern section of the beach is a draw for picnics and family gatherings, and before its 2018 flood, it was once a hotspot for tailgate parties, thanks to the ability to park right on the sand.
The flooding brought renovations to the park, and you won’t see the unique Hawaii sight of oceanside tailgating here anymore. But you will still see families from all over gather at this spot that’s great for swimming, kayaking, picnicking, and simply enjoying the sights.
Hanalei Pavilion Beach Park is the central and popular area of the beach. Swimming conditions here are good, and it’s easy to access the shoreline from the parking lot. This wide beach is an excellent place for boogie boarders, so come prepared to catch a wave or simply enjoy the sights from shore.
Waioli Beach Park is located toward the right-hand side of Hanalei Bay. It’s framed by tall Ironwoods trees and is a famed surfing spot. There’s an expansive grassy area behind the beach, complete with picnic tables and volleyball courts. Conditions can get rough in this part of Hanalei Bay, especially as the sand bar shifts, so consult with lifeguards before hitting the water.
No matter which area of Hanalei Bay you choose to enjoy, you’re sure to have a classic Hawaii beach experience. Plan to make an entire day of your North Shore adventure. Hanalei town features acres of taro fields, historical sites, charming shops, and an array of art galleries.
It’s a true adventure that encompasses some of the best beauty in the Hawaiian islands.
Looking for more things to do in Kauai? Here are some great adventures you don’t want to miss!
- Enjoy Luau Kalamaku with Open Bar and Buffet Dinner. Don’t miss this extravaganza and Kauai’s most popular luau with graceful Hula dancers, fire poi ball twirlers, traditional fire knife dancing, a buffet of local dishes and vivid storytelling.
- Fly high on a Kauai 65-Minute Grande Deluxe Air Tour. Fly over the most beautiful landscape in the world on this deluxe air tour. Soar through the Waimea Canyon, along the Na Pali Coast, and above beautiful waterfalls, while hearing all about the rich history and mythical lore of Kauai!
- See Jurassic Park sights from above. Experience the view from above in the comfort of a state-of-the-art helicopter on this tour covering over 100 miles of amazing Kauai scenery. Land at the movie-famous Jurassic Park Falls and more.
SALT POND BEACH: A CULTURAL TREASURE AT ONE OF KAUAI’S BEST BEACHES
For generations, Native Hawaiians have harvested salt using man-made clay ponds. The shallow ponds collect water from the ocean, which then evaporates, leaving only the salt behind. The salt is used for food, but also for sacred practices: healing, blessing, and purifying.
Salt Pond Beach is home to one of the state’s few active, large-scale salt-making sites. While you’ll keep a respectful distance from the salt ponds that lend the park its name, you can still find joy in being so close to a place rich in culture.
Salt Pond Beach is an all-around great beach for all ages. There’s ample parking, the water is typically calm yet deep enough for swimming and snorkeling, and the weather here is excellent. Plus, it’s beautiful – palm trees line the scenic shoreline.
The main bay is a popular swimming destination, and toward the side of it you’ll find tide pools with shallow water – a perfect spot for little kids who want to splash around. Snorkelers explore the shoreline, while windsurfers are often in the distance when conditions are right.
Stick around to explore Hanapēpē Town, a historic and charming community that calls itself Kauai’s biggest little town.
LYDGATE BEACH PARK: A SWIMMING POOL BY NATURE
If you long for the calm waters of swimming pools but want to enjoy the atmosphere of Kauai’s beaches, consider visiting Lydgate Beach Park in Lihue. Decades ago, the community funded a project that calmed the waters at Lydgate Beach. The rock barriers they installed break any waves, creating two swimming areas for kids of all ages.
Fish still find their way through the breakwall, so snorkelers are treated to an underwater show in these protected lagoons. Outside the pools, you may see surfers and windsurfers out enjoying great ocean conditions.
Lydgate Beach Park is next to the Hilton Garden Inn. There are lifeguards, picnic areas, a playground, and a paved coastal path.
Stay Here: Hilton Garden Inn Kauai Wailua Bay
LUMAHAI BEACH: THE IDEAL PLACE TO TAKE A SCENIC BEACH WALK
Visiting Lumahai Beach is a unique experience. Golden sand fades into glistening turquoise water. The waves crash to shore loudly and dramatically, yet there is still a serenity to the place. It’s a postcard-worthy beach where you can walk along the shoreline and watch the sunset. Just don’t plan to swim here.
The large waves and strong currents can be extremely dangerous, so be smart here and stay far from the water. You’ll be treated to a breathtaking experience and a beauty that embodies the best of Kauai.
Movie buffs will also appreciate Lumahai Beach – it’s where they filmed South Pacific. Mount Makana in the distance played the role of mystical Bali Hai.
Lumahai Beach is just west of Hanalei town off of Kuhio Highway. There are two access points for this long beach: the western edge at the mouth of the Lumahai River, and the eastern point with an overlook and a pretty hike down to the shoreline.
KE’E BEACH: A NA PALI TREASURE
Ke’e Beach marks the beginning of Kauai’s Na Pali Coastline. This white sand beach typically has calm waters, especially within the inner reef close to shore.
It’s a popular spot for families and sightseers who travel to this North Shore treasure to take in the views, enjoy Hawaii’s crystal clear waters, and experience some of the Na Pali Coast.
Ke’e Beach is part of Hāʻena State Park, and the state requires you to reserve your spot and pay your entrance & parking fees in advance. The entrance fee also grants you access to parts of the Kalalau Trail, though you’ll want to have hiking experience to venture far on this path.
MAKUA BEACH: ONE OF THE WORLD’S TOP SNORKELING SPOTS
Makua Beach (AKA Tunnels) is a snorkeler’s dream. The reef draws an incredible array of marine life: tropical fish, green sea turtles, and octopuses. And it’s all set against the stunning backdrops of Kauai’s verdant sea cliffs.
Snorkelers call Makua Beach Tunnels because of the lava tubes and rocky archways near the shoreline. Surfers find thrills in the tunneling waves farther out.
There are also sandy spots for swimmers to enjoy and a shady treeline to take a break from the sun. This is a great place if you want a North Shore snorkeling experience, but cannot get a reservation for nearby Ke’e Beach.
Parking can fill up fast, but additional parking and facilities are located at neighboring Haena Beach Park. Look for Tunnels Beach near mile marker #8 on Kuhio Highway.
KALAPAKI BEACH: RESORT VIBES AT A PUBLIC BEACH
Kalapaki Beach in Lihue features both scenic natural beauty and a manicured resort vibe. A breakwall keeps the water calm, and nearby vendors offer snacks, lunches, and rentals. It’s also close to Nawiliwili Harbor, which cruise ships use as their port-of-call.
You can learn to surf at Kalapaki Beach, or head to Duke’s Kauai and sip a Maitai as the sun sets. The beach fronts Marriott’s Kaua’i Beach Club, but it’s free for anyone to visit.
Parking and access are available through the resort, so you can enjoy the lovely Marriott grounds as you head to Kalapaki Beach for your day of snorkeling, people-watching, or water sports.
Stay Here: Marriott’s Kaua’i Beach Club
ANINI BEACH: MORE THAN TWO MILES OF BEAUTY
You may visit Anini Beach to see one of the state’s longest stretches of shoreline, or you may be drawn to the calm waters along the reef. No matter what brings you to this glistening coastline, you’re sure to love your time here.
Located near the ritzy Princeville neighborhood on Kauai’s North Shore, Anini Beach is ideal for all kinds of visitors. It’s one of the few north shore beaches that offers good swimming conditions in the winter. The fringe reef calms the water, creating excellent beginner surf conditions. The best snorkeling here is close to shore.
Just be aware that rip currents are common here, and there are no lifeguard stands, so stay close to shore as you enjoy the warm water.
There are campsites, restrooms, and picnic pavilions at Anini Beach. You’ll want to turn off of Kuhio Highway on Kalihiwai Road, then veer left onto Anini Road.
POLIHALE BEACH: THE BEST REMOTE BEACH IN KAUAI
You’ll need four-wheel drive to reach the vast and beautiful Polihale Beach. This is one of the longest beaches in the state, and the westernmost one as well. Its remote location and the rough access road make it very secluded – a hidden gem on an island of unparalleled beauty.
Walk along some of its 17-mile shoreline and feel the magnitude of mother nature: the endless stretch of the Pacific Ocean, vibrant sunsets, the feeling of being at the edge of the world. Winds here can get intense, and the water is usually too rough for swimming.
You can get camping permits for Polihale Beach. Or make a detour on your way back from Waimea Canyon. This is one of the top beaches to watch the sunset, as long as you don’t mind the rough drive in and out.
Polihale Beach is on the west side of Kauai, past Waimea town. At the end of Kaumualii Highway, you’ll reach a dirt road and then go another five miles to find the beach access.
KIAHUNA BEACH: POIPU’S QUIETER NEIGHBOR
If you don’t need the calmest waters and prefer a more quiet atmosphere, Kiahuna Beach is an excellent alternative to Poipu. Located within walking distance of its more famous neighbor, Kiahuna Beach features soft, pristine sand and a calm atmosphere, especially on weekdays.
Parking here is limited, which helps keep the park less busy. It fronts the Sheraton Kauai Resort and the Kiahuna Plantation condos, so most of the beachgoers come from those accommodations or walk over from Poipu – there’s a beach path connecting the two spots. There is limited parking at Kiahuna Beach near the Sheraton.
Stay Here: Sheraton Kauai Resort Villas
BABY BEACH: THE BEST BEACH FOR TODDLERS
On the outskirts of Poipu, away from the resorts and surf spots, you’ll find Baby Beach. This small pocket of shoreline is tucked away in a residential neighborhood and kept calm by an offshore reef.
This little beach is the perfect place for small children who want to splash around without worrying about shore breaks. But you don’t have to be a baby to enjoy Baby Beach.
Marine life abounds in the rocky waters here, so snorkelers will enjoy the small beach. And the quiet setting often draws the Hawaiian monk seal and sea turtles who come to rest on the sand.
Baby Beach is on Hoona Road, a quiet side street about halfway between the Poipu resorts and Spouting Horn Park. Look for a beach access sign that leads you through a pathway to the beach.
SHIPWRECK BEACH: THE GATEWAY TO MAHAULEPU COASTAL TRAIL
Shipwreck Beach isn’t a top choice for swimming and snorkeling, but it’s incredibly scenic and popular for portrait sessions and sunset walks.
This long, beautiful beach is in front of the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa in Poipu. The water here can get rough, and the beach is named for the many ships that have crashed in these rocky waters.
One of the best things about Shipwreck Beach is that it marks the beginning of the Mahaulepu Coastal Trail, a 3.7-mile out-and-back hike that will take you through protected wetlands, lithified sand dunes, sacred historic sites, and sugarcane fields.
Stay Here: Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa
KEALIA BEACH: THE BEST SCENIC SURF SPOT
In the summer months, Kealia Beach is the ultimate destination for surfing (or watching surfers from shore). The crescent-shaped bay on Kauai’s eastern coast has often-changing conditions, but when the water is right and the winds are calm, it’s one of the best places for surfing, boogie boarding, and people-watching.
Swimming is possible here too on calm days. Onsite lifeguards can direct you to the best area and brief you on current conditions. There’s not much shade here, so come to enjoy the sunshine or take a stroll as the sun sets. The coastal boardwalk is super scenic, and in the winter months it’s a great spot for seeing Humpback whales not far from shore.
Kealia Beach is just north of Kapaa Point on Kauai’s eastern shoreline. It’s the start of the Kauai Path, a coastal trail that’s great for walking, jogging, or biking.
KAUAPEA BEACH: KAUAI’S SECRET BEACH
If you’re drawn to the idea of secluded locales and hidden gems, you must visit Kauapea Beach on the north shore of Kauai. Nicknamed Secret Beach, this small sandy hideaway features dramatic lava rock, lush trees, and views of Mokuaeae Island and Kilauea Lighthouse.
To get to this treasured spot, you’ll need to hike down a steep and tricky path, making it feel even more adventurous. This isn’t typically the best spot for swimming, but you may be able to watch skilled surfers or simply enjoy the sights and sounds of this secluded beach.
To find Kauapea Beach, head north out of Kilauea Town. Turn onto Kalihiwai Road and then look for an unmarked dirt road. Parking is at the end of the road, and the path begins next to a fenced residence.
ANAHOLA BEACH: THE BEST WEEKEND HANGOUT
Anahola Beach is a quiet, spacious area on Kauai’s east shore. The coral reef within the bay creates a calm environment for swimming or snorkeling. Just be sure to stay within the protected area near the lifeguard stand.
This beach draws lots of locals on the weekend, so you can come and enjoy the lively atmosphere as families enjoy the beauty in their own backyard. Or come on the weekday, when the beach is serene and quiet.
You’ll be away from the hotels and tourist shops here, something that leaves some longing for the security and cleanliness of their resort’s shorelines.
Look for the signs for Anahola Beach between mile markers 12 and 13 on Kuhio Highway. From there, continue following the signs until you reach the parking lot. It’s a dirt lot that’s a short walk to the beach, so you don’t have to carry your beach essentials far.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO HAWAII
- YOUR HAWAII VACATION
- KAUAI: 22 Breathtaking Things To Do In Kauai You’ll Love
- WHERE TO STAY IN KAUAI: 19 Awe-Inspiring Spots You’ll Adore
- HAWAII BEACHES: 14 Best Beaches In Hawaii For Fun In The Sun
- OAHU: 25 Absolute Best Things To Do In Oahu You’ll Love
WHERE TO STAY IN KAUAI
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