Kauai is known as the Garden State, with its lush landscape that covers everything from its rugged coastline to its picture-perfect beaches. It is the fourth largest Hawaiian island, and is known to be quite rainy in comparison to its other neighbors. If you’re looking for sunny beach days, head to the southern portion of the island, where it rains less in comparison to the northern portion of the island. Here’s where you should go if you are looking to sample the best beaches in Kauai.
Please note: in April of 2018, Kauai was hit with record rainstorms that flooded the North Shore. The area between Hanalei and Napali were especially hit hard. The result is that most of the beaches in this area of the island remain closed to tourists into 2019. Make sure to double check the road closures if you are headed out to that area.
Part of Lydgate State Park, this beach is located right next to the beautiful Wailua River. The beach’s protected lagoons are perfect for beginner snorkelers and swimmers, and are a great spot for young children to wade in. Although the water is protected, there are plenty of tropical fish that make their way through the rock wall into the calmer waters to enjoy. Restrooms/changing rooms, picnic tables, and outdoor showers are all available. This spot has a mix of locals and tourists, and is not as busy as some of the other South Shore beaches. Best of all there is usually plenty of parking.
Hanalei Bay Beach
One of the most popular white sand beaches on the island, this beach stretches on for more than two miles on the northern shore of Kauai. Its crescent shape is bordered by towering mountains, as well as the Hanalei and Waipa Rivers on the east and west respectively. The town of Hanalei Bay is located nearby, where you can grab lunch or rent beach gear. During the summertime, the bay is calm and is perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and stand-up paddle boarding. In the wintertime, the larger waves are ideal for surfing a bit further out. Make sure to get there early in the summer, since parking can be difficult.
This scenic beach on the West side of the island is known for having the longest stretch of white sand in Kauai. The crowds are usually minimal and you will share the beach with locals instead of tourists. The water itself is quite calm and remains shallow for a bit after the surf, making it ideal for wading and swiming. There is always a lifeguard present for added safety. Parking is abundant, and there are BBQ pits, picnic tables, and restrooms available as well. For a real treat, make sure to come back for sunset views.
Located on the South Shore, this popular beach is always buzzing with sunbathers, surfers, and snorkelers. If you’re lucky you may spot the sea turtles that frequent the shallow waters. The beach is divided into two different sections, where the smaller section west of the sand bar is called Baby Beach, and there’s a protected cove that serves as an ideal wading pool for young children. The eastern portion of the beach is where all the action is, with all the water sports you could ever dream of. Keep your eyes peeled for the mischievous Hawaiian monk seals that are usually napping on the sand bar. Come early if you want to beat the midday crowds.
A less crowded alternative to Poipu, this neighboring South Shore beach is a great spot for beginner surfers, swimmers and boogie boarders. The sand is soft and the beach itself is kept quite clean. The water is quite calm due to an outlying reef, and serves as a good spot to snorkel. There is street parking near the Sheraton, as well as a public lot that is a bit further down the road from the hotel. There are public restrooms that are in the Sheraton, which means you don’t have to deal with questionable beach bathrooms. There is no lifeguard on duty like Poipu, so swim at your own risk.
A beautiful rugged beach that is not ideal for swimming due to rough waters, but doesn’t skimp on the views. It’s located off of a dirt road that’s a bit of a challenge to drive, but is worth the adventure for the end result. The beach itself is pretty isolated and good for wandering around the tide pools and up and down the sandy shore. This is the spot for a quiet beach day, where you can take in the beauty of Kauai without having to deal with the crowds. There is also a scenic hike that is worth checking out along the coast, that passes cultural and geological sights.