Kauai is an island, approximately 30 miles across, with more sandy beaches than any of the other Hawaiian Islands. Even better, there are no private beaches. If you can get to it, you can play on it. But not all beaches or waters are safe to swim. There can be currents, rip tides and crashing surf which may make it unsafe. The best rule is to observe the water and, if in doubt, don’t enter.
The safest coastal areas for swimming and snorkeling can be found in areas which have a protective reef. The Lonely Planet Kauai or The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook (which can be found in our condo), lists and discusses many of Kauai’s beaches, including how to find them.
Below, is a brief summary of some of our favorite beaches on the Northshore, near our Princeville Resort condominium. Each beach offers its own attraction. Most are drop dead gorgeous, some are easy to access, some are great for keikes (young children), some offer superior snorkeling, some are secluded or virtually so, some are good for swimming, boogie boarding, surfing and so forth. We typically pick the beach we visit based upon our energy level and activity we want to enjoy.
You haven’t seen Kauai, if you haven’t visited Hanalei and Hanalei Bay.
Hanalei Bay was selected as the Best Beach in America for 2009. Hanalei Bay has awesome views, in all directions and offers a great experience for all ages and a multitude of activities. One of the most peaceful, awe-inspiring locations on the face of the Earth.
This #1 Beach in America is quite large and offers a variety of beaches and views. We particularly like the area near the Hanalei pier. In the late afternoon, it offers incredible sunset views over Bali Hai. There can be waves that are good for body surfing, boogie boarding and surfing. Out beyond the reef you will see big wave surfers. This is the beach and pier used as the backdrop for the Rodgers & Hammerstein movie musical “South Pacific”. This is where Bloody Mary burst on to the scene and the Navy nurses ran on the beach.
Hanalei Pavilion Beach Park, which is about in the middle of Hanalei Bay, offers a life guarded area and rest rooms. The waters can be calm enough to “swim laps”.
Anini is one of the easiest beaches to walk on to and is typically so well protected, by the reef, and is shallow, which makes it an ideal beach for keikes. Snorkeling has improved over the years. You may also see wind surfers.
Hideaway requires some effort to negotiate the stairs and path, but it is within a mile of our condo and offers a beautiful beach upon which to lie and contemplate the world. The snorkeling can be good, in the summer, and occasionally, a group of kayakers will pull up on the beach for a rest (as well as monk seals, which are protected by law).
1 Hotel Beach (formerly St Regis)
The 1 Hotel sits on the eastern edge of Hanalei Bay and is being remodeled. We like this beach for multiple reasons. The views are magnificent. The water is typically calm and relatively shallow. Snorkeling is good as is beachcombing.
Tunnels is excellent for snorkeling and laying on the beach and soaking in the awesome views. Finding it and parking can be a chore, so be sure to have your Guidebook. Or take the shuttle from Hanalei.
Ha’ena Beach Park
Ha’ena Beach Park has limited beach parking without a reservation requirement. There is a lifeguard and restrooms. It is across from the Manini-holo Dry Caves.
This beach is where the main road ends going west, and the magnificent Na Pali coast begins. This beach has excellent snorkeling, views and beachcombing. It is also near the trail head of the Na Pali Coast hike (Kalalau Trail), which we strongly recommend, and which is discussed in the “Activities” section. Don’t miss this beach. Reservations are required.
If you are old enough to remember Mitzi Gaynor singing “I’m going to wash that man right out of my hair”, in the musical South Pacific, then this is a must-see beach. This is a beautiful beach, BUT don’t swim here. The waters are treacherous most of the time.
Below is a group of beaches which we do not often frequent but which are in the area and may be of interest.
The Guidebook and a significant walk are required to visit this beach. It offers a very long sandy beach, which is great for walking, with a view of the Kilauea lighthouse, at the eastern end of the beach. The waters can be rough and not safe for swimming. Nude bathing is illegal, in Kauai, but you may run into law breakers on this beach.
Hanakapi’ai Beach is located 2 miles into the Kalalau Trail from Ke’e Beach. This beach, with its sea cave are worth the hike, but crossing the Hanakapi’ai River can be treacherous and swimming is typically out of the question. Don’t swim here! A reservation is required to visit Ke’e Beach and take this hike.
This beach can be found after walking two (2) miles, on the Kalalau Trail, along the Na Pali coast, from Kee Beach (see “Activities). It is a cool and welcomed respite from your hike. BUT don’t swim at this extremely treacherous beach. If you follow the river, up the canyon, for another two (2) miles, you will find the Hanakapi’ai falls. This is a strenuous hike, but, if you are up to it, you will find it rewarding. You can swim in the pool, at the base of the falls, but be careful, because rocks and branches will be washed over the falls. If you take this hike, prepare for it with the proper clothing, water/food, camera (in a plastic bag), and time to make and enjoy the sights.