Kauai, the oldest island within Hawaii’s chain, is known for its relaxed, quiet, and relatively unpopulated beaches. Fifty miles of white sand adorn this garden isle, giving visitors a wide variety to choose from. But with so many options, and so little time, how do you pick or even prioritize which beach to spend your day at?
I always recommend beginning by narrowing down the activities and your preferences for your beach day. Are you hoping to snorkel? Do you wish to bring the kids? Are you looking for calm waters, public restrooms, or generous shade? Are you renting body boards or surfboards? All these tidbits play a role in choosing the ideal beach for the day.
That being said, I have narrowed down some of Kauai’s top beaches for you. Whether you’re hoping to be active in the water or simply relax on a lounge chair, you are sure to find a beach in this review that suits your interests.
Polihale is Kauai’s most western beach accessible to people. It spans approximately seven miles and is known for its hot climate, white sand, and expansive views of the Pacific. Ocean conditions are unpredictable and swimming is usually not recommended here. However, there is a portion of water along the beach called Queen’s Pond that is sheltered by a circular reef pattern, enclosing a large portion of the water for safe swimming. This is a great spot for beach combing, lounging, exploring, and is one of Kauai’s largest, most stunning spans of sand.
Lawaii Road beach may be one of my favorite spots for snorkeling on the island. It is located on the south side in Poipu, next to the Beach House Restaurant. Although the beach is not ideal for lying out, the waters and reefs are ideal for viewing an array of vibrant underwater life. Here you can spot everything from sea turtles to manta rays to needle fish to the iconic humuhumunukunukuapuaa. Angelfish are also plentiful here, as well as urchin, eels, and tons of other species of colorful fish.
If you’re looking to do some surfing, body boarding, or just play in the shore break, Kealia beach on the east side and Shipwrecks on the south side are excellent destinations. Be cautious of unsafe ocean conditions however, because where good surf lies, often times, danger lurks too, many times in the form of strong currents, rocky bottoms, and powerful waves. Both beaches have large stretches of sand for sunning and walking, and both have public restrooms. Kealia has a lifeguard on duty and a generous parking lot that stretches from end to end. Although Shipwrecks has a smaller parking lot, it may be more worthwhile because of its attractions (cliff jumping, the Grand Hyatt Resort, professional surfers and body boarders, whale watching, and more).
The north shore has some of the island’s most unbelievably beautiful beaches that are secluded and set in tropical rainforests. Tunnels beach is great for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing, and gets its name from the underwater tunnels that have formed in the reef, making it a poplar place for snorkelers to frequent. Ke‘e Beach is great for all these reasons as well and is located at the farthest northern point accessible by car. Hanalei beach is a great place for kids because of its calm waters, picnic areas, and cement pier that is safe to jump from.
I have only mentioned seven beaches in this review, but if none seem to entice you, you have approximately 40 miles left to explore!