Kaua‘i is fringed with beautiful and pristine coral reefs and countless pockets of pure, golden sand just beckoning the weary traveler to relax. While the strong winter waves can make swimming and snorkeling at many North Shore beaches a challenge, there are plenty of inviting spots if you only know where to look. One such location – and one that is often overlooked due to its proximity to the world-famous Kalalau Trailhead – is Ke`e Beach. Located at the end of the road – and the end of the world – above Hanalei on Kaua‘i’s North Shore, this is an excellent spot for snorkeling and swimming thanks to a protective reef just offshore that cuts down most of the larger winter swells.
Activities at Ke`e Beach
The last beach above Hanalei before the jagged ridges of the Na Pali Coast begin to dominate the landscape, the beach – and excellent snorkeling – at this popular spot is overlooked in lieu of visitors using it as a jumping off point for the Kalalau Trail. While winter conditions can make it too rough to enter the water (the reef can provide some protection, but you should always take care), this is always a perfect spot for a picnic and a sunset. In summertime, the water is much calmer and can be as flat as a swimming pool on some days. The offshore reef provides exceptional snorkeling along the undersea boulders and plateaus that are teeming with tropical reef fish and curious marine creatures. Avoid the rocky channel to the left (strong currents are found here year-round) and instead enjoy the countless butterfly fish, unicorn fish, goat fish, and green sea turtles that frolic in the center of the swimming area.
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Ke`e Beach is located at the literal end of the road, where Highway 560 ends at the soaring cliffs of the Na Pali Coast. Most visitors to Ke`e barely pause to take in the scenic beach, but parking is always at a premium. If the small lot is overcrowded (it is usually full by 9am), an overflow dirt parking lot is a quarter-mile down the road. The beach features restrooms and showers, but you might not have cell service. Such is the price of paradise, and you know what? We don’t mind in the slightest. So grab your snorkel and mask, check the conditions, and enjoy a beautiful day at one of Kaua‘i’s best beaches. Here at the end of the world is where your vacation begins.