From the sun-soaked South Shore to the jagged cliffs of the North Shore, Kaua‘i has more than 50 miles of pristine beaches. Whether you desire panoramic scenery, protected swimming, or simply a laid-back spot to relax, Kaua‘i’s has a beach for everyone (and sometimes, just for you).
Surf’s Up on the Kauai North Shore Beaches
The Nā Pali Coast on the North Shore of Kaua‘i is a series of steep sea cliffs, secluded beaches, and deep, emerald valleys accessible only by foot. Its famous winter waves can make swimming here unadvisable at times (always check conditions and obey posted warnings), but there are still plenty of beaches to enjoy year-round if you know where to look. Princeville is home to several, including the Hideaways Beach. For the best swimming in Kauai north shore beaches, head to the lagoon at Anini Beach which is sheltered by a 2-mile long barrier reef, making it the ideal spot to swim, snorkel, and learn how to stand-up paddleboard in any season. While there is no lifeguard, this is still one of the safest beaches on the island.
West of Princeville you have even more choices. Hanalei Bay – a Top 10 beach as recently as 2009 – is always a top spot, especially for those with children. Its sheltered waters and long sandy beaches make it the perfect place for swimming, surfing, and building sand castles (Tip: Stick around and catch the sunset from the pier, it’s spectacular). From there it is also an easy walk into the quaint hamlet of Hanalei where you can grab a delicious drink, snack, or meal.
Lumahai Beach, of South Pacific fame, may not be great for swimming, but the panoramic views from the cliffs above and the incredible scenery surrounding this half-mile crescent of paradise are stunning. In the summer months when the waves are down, Tunnels Beach is an ideal snorkeling spot, with patch reefs below and the majestic peak of Makana (also known as Bali Hai) above.
Now, if you have read this far it might mean you are a trustworthy sort. If that’s the case, we recommend you find someone to let you in one of Kaua‘i’s secrets: Kauapea Beach (aka Secret Beach), a truly magical half-mile of sand, tide pools, and waterfalls located between Kilauea and Kalihiwai Bay east of Princeville. But now we might have said too much…
If you are staying on the eastern or southern shores – or if you just want to escape the periodic showers of the North Shore – America’s Best Beach can be found in Poipu. Located on the sunny, leeward side of Kaua`i, Poipu has golden crescent moons of golden sand, natural wading pools, and superb snorkeling, swimming, and surfing.
Another prime spot is Barking Sands and Polihale State Park, a seeming endless stretch of beaches on Kaua‘i’s western shore. Stretching more than 15 miles, these dunes herald your arrival with a magical, eerie symphony of “barks” caused by the sand grains resonating with each wave and footstep. Hike the dunes or lay down a towel and enjoy the concerto beneath the warm Hawaiian sun, the choice is yours!