The Best Beaches in Kauai for Swimming
When you visit a tropical island on vacation, swimming in the sea is one of the best ways to keep cool, relax, and really enjoy your surroundings. With nothing but the blue sky above, the blue sea around you and the golden shore nearby, many people feel that a trip to the coast isn’t complete without at least one dip in the ocean.
Kauai is a Hawaiian island with plenty of beaches to choose from, whether you’re staying on the north or south shore. However, not all of these beaches are suitable for swimming, so if you’re visiting the island and want to know where you can dip your toes (and the rest of you!) in the water, you need to do your research beforehand on the best swimming beaches.
To make that job a bit easier, we’ve put together this guide to the best beaches for swimming in Kauai that includes our top recommendations for where to visit around the island and advice to ensure that you stay safe when in the water.
When to Go Swimming in Kauai
If swimming in Kauai is high on your list of things you’d like to do when you visit the island, then it’s worth considering which time of year will be best to visit so you can get the most out of the experience.
The weather in Kauai is known for being rainier than the other Hawaiian islands, but you can still expect a fair amount of sunshine amongst the showers no matter when you visit. The winter months are usually slightly wetter than the summer, but this doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed dry conditions if you hit the beach between June and September.
When it comes to water conditions, the time of year you come to Kauai on vacation may also impact how safe it is to swim at different beaches. You should check the conditions for each location before you visit, but in general the beaches on the South Shore are calmer in the winter, and those on the North Shore are calmer in the summer.
Hanalei Bay is the biggest bay in Kauai and one of the most famous areas of coastline on the island. Located on the North Shore with a coral reef at either end, the bay is backed by a stunning landscape of mountains that makes this one of the most scenic places to swim and definitely one of the prettiest beaches in Kauai.
Swimming at Hanalei Bay is only safe between June and August, as water conditions outside of these months are much too rough. You can swim near the pier in Hanalei during the fall and spring, but if you want to enjoy the rest of the beaches then the summer is the best time to visit.
Because Hanalei Bay is two miles long, it’s actually split up into several different beach parks. You can find more information about each of these below.
Black Pot Beach Park
Black Pot Beach Park sits between the famous Hanalei Pier and the mouth of Hanalei River. Its name comes from the fact that a large black cooking dish used to be left on the sand and used to cook for large group gatherings that took place on the beach.
This beach park consists of a small stretch of sand that is backed by green space with picnic benches and some shower and toilet facilities. After flooding in 2018, the area underwent quite a bit of work and now has a paved parking lot for visitors, as well as limited shade due to all of the trees being cut back.
Black Pot Beach Park is a great place for swimming in Kauai, as it’s an incredibly scenic location with relatively reliable calm water conditions.
Hanalei Pavilion Beach Park
Hanalei Pavilion Beach Park is in the center of Hanalei Bay between Waiʻoli Beach Park and Black Pot Beach Park, offering incredible views of the entire crescent of coastline. It’s probably the most popular spot in the area, so it can get busy during the summer as the area of sand isn’t particularly wide.
This beach is lifeguarded so is an excellent place to take children swimming in the sea, with very calm water conditions in the summer months. It’s a popular spot for body boarding as the shape of the ocean floor creates small, consistent waves, so be prepared to see plenty of people with this equipment visiting the beach.
Waiʻoli Beach Park
You’ll find Waiʻoli Beach Park just to the left of the middle of Hanalei Bay, located between Hanalei Pavilion Beach Park and Oliwia Nani Point. This tends to be one of the quieter parts of the bay, but the shore break means that swimming conditions are dangerous except for a couple of calm months over the summer.
Palm trees line the pale gold sand and are backed by a long stretch of grassy lawn with more trees that offer visitors plenty of shade. There are also two volleyball courts at this beach park, which tend to be busy when the weather is warm and dry.
Waiʻoli Beach Park is also one of the best beaches in Kauai for surfing, with the part of the beach that has the best waves known as ‘Pine Trees Beach’ because of the trees that line the edge of the sand. It’s an area that’s better suited for experienced surfers, as the waves are very rough most of the year and only become manageable over the summer when the rest of the bay is suitable for swimming.
Anini Beach is another North Shore location that is one of the best swimming beaches in Kauai. It’s a long and very beautiful stretch of sand that has very calm water conditions in the summer, making it an ideal place to swim between June and September.
The coastline of Anini Beach is home to the longest fringing reef in the Hawaiian islands, so this is also a very popular place to go snorkeling. It’s recommended that you stay close to the shore, but there are lifeguards on duty at this beach in the summer which offers added peace of mind if you want to explore the water.
Another benefit of Anini Beach is that it tends to be less crowded than some of the other spots on the North Shore, so if you’re looking for a quiet and relaxing sea swimming experience then this is the best place to come.
Lydgate Beach Park
You’ll find Lydgate Beach Park near the mouth of the Wailua River on the east side of Kauai. It’s one of the island’s best swimming beaches because a man-made rock wall protects a huge ocean pool from the open water and means that the conditions are pretty calm throughout the year.
It also means that this pool at the northern end of the beach is home to lots of tropical fish, making it a great place to go snorkeling.
The calm water makes Lydgate Beach Park quite a popular place for families to come when they want a day by the sea, especially thanks to the range of facilities available right next to the sand.
Lydgate Beach Park has lifeguards that overlook the ocean pools and ensure everyone swimming in the water stays safe, which is another reason why this is a great place to take kids.
Poipu Beach Park
Poipu Beach Park is located on the South Shore of Kauai and is a crescent-shaped beach that is one of the most popular spots on the island. A small boulder breakwater protects part of the shore and creates a swimming area that has much calmer water conditions, which is why this beach is on our list of the top Kauai beaches for swimming.
Being on the South Shore of the island, the water conditions at Poipu Beach Park tend to be wilder over the summer. This means that it's one of the best Kauai beaches for swimming in winter, although it’s still not advised that you swim outside of the sheltered area.
This is another Kauai swimming spot that is great for families with kids, and you can expect the area to be quite busy on days with good weather during the peak tourist season. Lifeguards are situated at the beach to keep an eye on swimmers but also to ensure that visitors don’t disturb the wildlife line monk seals and turtles that occasionally make an appearance at this beach park as well.
Kauai Beach Safety
The above beaches have all been recommended for swimming in Kauai thanks to their safe water conditions at different times of the year, but it’s important to remember to follow general beach safety rules whenever you visit in order to have the best possible experience.
No matter the season, you shouldn’t enter the water if the waves look rough. Currents under the surface may catch you unawares and sudden large waves can come out of nowhere when the weather is windy.
You should also avoid swimming in deeper water if you’re not a very strong swimmer. Many of the beaches we have recommended have shallow, protected areas that mean you can bob around to your heart's content while always having your feet touch the bottom, and children in particular should never be taken out in deep water unless they have flotation devices.
There are other beaches in Kauai that are good for swimming at certain points of the year, but the safety advice to always remember is that you should choose lifeguarded beaches. Always listen to the advice given by lifeguards and never enter the water if they advise against it, as they are experts that know the area and water conditions well.
You can find a list of all the lifeguarded beaches in Kauai here.
This video on ocean safety may also be useful.
Kauai is a Hawaiian island that is known for its wonderful beaches, so swimming in the sea here is a fantastic activity for visitors staying on vacation. Understanding the water conditions around the island and which beaches are safe is very important before you plan a trip to the coast, but as long as you follow guidance and stick to areas with lifeguards, you can enjoy the ocean and the spectacular views as much as you want.
If you’re planning a trip to Kauai and are looking for somewhere to stay, Pure Kauai offers an exclusive collection of rental properties that are ideal for a luxury vacation on the island. Browse our villas here, or get in touch and speak to the team about what we can offer our guests.