What is the Best Beach on Kauai?



When you think of Hawaiian islands, beaches tend to be the first image that comes to mind. Pure golden sand, beautiful blue water and tropical trees lining the coast… it’s easy to understand why so many people visit this part of the world on vacation!

These images of beaches aren’t just in our daydreams however; there are plenty of them all around the coast of Kauai. If you’re planning a visit to Hawaii’s ‘Garden Island’ then you’ll definitely want to spend at least some of your time on the beach, which may leave you wondering what your options are.

We’ve put together this guide to the best beaches in Kauai to help you decide where to visit on the island.

Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay

The Kauai beach that comes highest recommended is Hanalei Bay Beach, located in a cove ​​on the northern shore of the island. With mountains as the backdrop, three rivers feeding into the ocean and reefs on both sides, it’s the ultimate destination for an unforgettable day beside the sea.

There are over two miles of sand at Hanalei Bay, so even though it’s the most popular coastal spot on this side of the island, there’s plenty of space to stop it from feeling overcrowded. It’s a beach in Kauai that is partially suited to families thanks to the range of facilities available and calm waters in the middle of the bay.

Hanalei Bay Beach is also a very popular spot for snorkeling because of the reefs and the remains of a shipwreck on the seabed. There are great snorkeling tours by kayak around this area in the summer months, and if you'd like to take part then our Pure Kauai hosts can arrange everything for you.

Tunnels Beach

The official name for Tunnels Beach is Mākua Beach, but it gets its better-known nickname from the coral reefs that line the seabed just offshore. It’s these reefs that make it perhaps the best snorkeling beach in Kauai, and on days when the weather is good you can expect to see plenty of swimmers and divers exploring the habitats under the water.

Please note that snorkeling is only possible on Tunnels beach in the summer months, as in the winter the conditions make it incredibly dangerous. The best months for snorkeling on this part of the island are between June and August, when visibility is good and the water conditions are safest.

Tunnels Beach is located on the north coast of Kauai between Hanalei Colony Resort to Haena Beach Park. Get there early if you would like parking, as the only nearby parking spaces are very limited,

The huge reef protects the bay and means that Tunnels Beach is also one of the best beaches in Kauai for swimming, again only during the summer season. Lifeguards are stationed at the beach during peak season, and it doesn’t tend to get too busy even when the weather is good.

Poipu Beach

Poipu Beach at Sunset

One of the best beaches in south Kauai is Poipu Beach (Poʻipū Beach), which is split into two neighboring bays. The western bay is known as Baby Beach because of its smaller size and quieter atmosphere, and is a particular favorite with families who have small children.

The bay on the other side of the sandbar is larger and busier, with swimmers and surfers often enjoying the water on days when the weather is good. Sunny days are plentiful on Poipu Beach; the area has its own microclimate and sees less rain than almost every other part of Kauai.

There are plenty of beachfront facilities at Poipu Beach such as a cafe, surf shop, picnic benches, showers and restrooms. The sandbar in the middle of the bay is home to a population of Hawaiian monk seals, and while you can spot the creatures from the shore you are not advised to try and approach them.

Ke'e Beach

Ke’e Beach marks the trailhead of the Kalalau Trail ​​at Ha’ena Point on the north coast of Kauai. It’s one of the most popular north shore Kauai beaches because of the incredible views of the surrounding Ha'ena State Park where the beach is situated, which is one of the reasons why this spot has been used as a filming location in multiple movies. Bear in mind however that since the parking area reopened in 2019, you must have a permit (or shuttle reservation) in order to go to/park at Ke’e beach.

Swimmers and snorkelers come to this beach in droves because of the incredibly clear water, abundant coral and range of marine wildlife. If you visit you’ll also see plenty of wild chickens; a quirk of the area that has only contributed to its popularity. 

Anini Beach

If you’re after the top beaches in Kauai with calm water, Anini Beach is an excellent option. The lagoon the beach belongs to is very sheltered because of the two-mile reef out in the water, which is actually the longest and widest reef in Hawaii.

You’ll find Anini Beach on the north coast of Kauai, and with over two miles of sand to enjoy you can be sure to find a spot even on the busiest of days. The views are stunning, the water is calm and clear, and there are plenty of facilities that mean you can spend as much time as you like here.

Polihale Beach

Polihale Beach is known as being the longest beach in Kauai, stretching out for 17 miles on the west coast of the island. Only 10 miles of the beach are actually open to the public, with the other 7 occupied by a military base, but that still leaves a huge portion of the sand free for visitors.

There are very strong currents in the ocean around Polihale Beach, so it’s not a site that is recommended for swimming or snorkeling. However, its proximity to the Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park means that the views are spectacular, so it’s the ideal spot for a beach walk or evening watching the sunset. Access is only via dirt roads, but it’s well worth the journey once you arrive.

Anahola Beach

Anahola Beach gets its name from the nearby town of Anahola in the east of Kauai, stretching for around half a mile around the edge of Anahola Bay. This area of the island is usually quieter than the others all year round, so it’s a pretty secluded spot that is ideal for travelers who want to enjoy peace and quiet while relaxing on the beach.

The area of Anahola Beach which is the County Beach Park is protected by a reef, which means that the waters are calm most of the time and perfect for swimming. Lifeguards are on duty at peak times of the year and there are facilities like restrooms, showers and picnic areas. The rest of the beach has quite dangerous water conditions throughout the year, so if you're visiting then it's best to stick to this sheltered area.

Shipwreck Beach

One of the best beaches in south Kauai for surfing is Shipwreck Beach, which is found close to Makawehi Point and the start of the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail. The beach gets its name from an ancient wooden boat that sank close to the shore, although all the remains of this shipwreck have now been washed away.

Shipwreck Beach is one of the best surfing beaches in Kauai because of the brilliant waves that this part of the coast experiences. The strong currents mean that visitors are not advised to go swimming here, so be sure that you’re confident being out in the water with your board before you visit.

Many recommendations also suggest that Shipwreck Beach is an ideal spot for a romantic walk or picnic, as the poor swimming conditions mean that the beach is usually very quiet and doesn’t see many families.

Lydgate Beach

Lydgate Beach Pools

Lydgate Beach is found in Lydgate State Park on the east coast of Kauai. A distinctive feature of this beach is that there are two ‘pools’ formed by rocks a short distance away from the shore, creating miniature lagoons filled with calm water that are great for swimming or paddling.

It’s these safe water conditions that make Lydgate Beach popular with families, along with the fact that lifeguards supervise the beach during busy periods. 

There are plenty of fish in the water near Lydgate Beach, which is why it’s also one of the best snorkeling beaches in Kauai. It’s not recommended that you swim or dive outside of the protected pools, as while there may be more diverse wildlife the currents are also a lot stronger.

Ha'ena Beach Park

Overlooked by the unmistakable figure of Mount Makana (Bali Hai), Ha'ena Beach Park is one of the most beautiful beaches in Kauai. The brilliant blue waters lap onto a soft golden beach that is backed by tropical trees and plants, including palm trees.

You’ll find this beach park in the north of Kauai, and in the summer months the calm water conditions mean that it’s an ideal place for swimming and snorkeling. In the winter the waves can get very wild, so whilst you may see experienced surfers heading out into the water, you’re recommended to stick to paddling and beachcombing when the wind is up and the skies are stormy.

Keālia Beach

Keālia Beach is known as one of the best beaches in Kauai for whale watching. Located on the east shore of the island, it’s surrounded by the Kapaa Coastal Path so is a great place to stop off if you’re hiking through the area and want somewhere picturesque to rest your legs to eat a picnic.

In the winter months the waves at Keālia Beach can get quite wild, so while you’ll see seasoned surfers out in the water, it’s usually pretty quiet outside of the summer months. In the summer, the conditions on the northern end of the beach are calmest, but there will be lifeguards on duty to let you know whether swimming is safe. 

Kalapaki Beach

Kalapaki Beach

You’ll find Kalapaki Beach in Nawiliwili Bay on the east coast of Kauai. This large sandy beach is often overlooked in favor of other, more popular spots on the island, which makes it ideal if you’re a visitor who prefers to have beaches to themselves whilst on vacation.

Despite its lesser-known status, Kalapaki Beach has plenty of facilities including ​​shops, restaurants, watersports activities and a large break wall that protects part of the beach from strong winds. The calm waters are perfect for things like paddleboarding, surfing and catamaran sailing, and there is also a row of picturesque beach huts along the south end of the beach. 

Mahaulepu Beach

Our final recommendation for the ​​top beaches in Kauai is Mahaulepu Beach (Māhāʻulepū Beach), which is actually made up of three smaller beaches; Gillin's Beach, Kawailoa Bay and Ha'ula Beach. Each of these is easily in the top suggestions for the prettiest beaches in Kauai, each embodying a rugged kind of beauty that will really make you feel like you’re on a deserted tropical island.

The remote nature of Mahaulepu Beach means that you’ll have to journey down bumpy roads or narrow coastal paths, but you’ll be rewarded with plenty of space along the sand that never gets overcrowded with other visitors. There’s a hiking trail that leads you past some of the key cultural and historic sites on this area of the coast, so there’s plenty to do once you arrive.

Bear in mind that Mahaulepu Beach is on private land, so the beach is only accessible during certain hours that will be enforced by on-site security staff.

Summary

No matter what time of year you visit, a vacation to Kauai isn’t complete without a trip to the beach. The scenery around the island’s coastline is truly breathtaking, and whether you’re exploring the pristine south shores or the wilder east and west regions of the island, there are plenty of beaches where you can make unforgettable memories by the ocean.

If you’re planning a trip to Kauai and are looking for luxury holiday accommodation, Pure Kauai offers a wide range of outstanding properties. Get in touch with our team to find out more and start planning your dream vacation.