Looking to treat yourself to a beach vacation in Hawaii? The best beaches in Kauai have all you need for a relaxing and invigorating holiday. Known for its white-sand beaches, Kauai is one of the top destinations in the United States.
The Hawaiian island of Kauai is the last major island in the chain, with exotic snorkeling and great surf backed by incredible mountains. On the tropical island, you’ll find remote beaches away from it all, or beachfront resorts with romantic restaurants for cocktails at sunset.
Ready to plan the perfect Kauai beach vacation? Find your own paradise on one of these top Kauai beaches.
Top-rated Kauai beaches
Hanalei Bay Beach
Of Kauai’s 63 miles of pristine shoreline, one section stands out the most: Hanalei Bay. Featuring the alluring Hanalei Bay Beach, it’s a picture-perfect setting protected by two large reefs.
The crescent-shaped bay is two miles long and stretches as wide as 125 feet. Those staying at the nearby Hanalei Bay Resort, one of the best hotels in Kauai, will have envious access to one of the best beaches in Kauai.
Although Hanalei Bay is popular, plenty of space remains to relax. Whether you’re a family or someone just seeking some sun and sand. From the golden sand beach, you can appreciate the marvelous backdrop of emerald-hued mountains. When the wind is soft, the soaring sun glistens across her crystal water.
The right end of Hanalei Bay Beach offers some great surfing, but strong currents. Rookies can make do with the forgiving waves that roll by the historic pier.
Poipu Beach Park
Another popular family-friendly beach can be found on the island’s South Shore. Split by Nukomoi Point, Poipu Beach Park has two sections: one that’s great for your swimmers and the other prime for snorkeling and surfing.
The left section of Poipu Beach has a long sand bar, creating shallow waters. The off-shore swell is also blocked by the point, so you won’t have to worry about a surprise arrival. Importantly, the beach’s lifeguards will also be on the lookout.
On the other side on the popular beach, you’ll find smaller surf, great for first-timers and those a little rusty. Bigger waves can be found beyond Nukumoi Point. The real stars of the show here, however, are the Hawaiian monk seals that often laze on Poipu’s soft white sand.
Not far from Princeville, a major resort area, life at Anini Beach is as relaxing as it gets. Encased in coral reefs, it’s a great beach for swimming thanks to its calm waters as blue as the sky above.
Although you won’t find any lifeguards on Anini Beach, the shallow water is a safe introduction for young ones and inexperienced swimmers. Those who know their freestyle from their backstroke can go explore the vibrant Anini Reef, also popular with scuba divers.
The North Shore beach also has all the amenities you need for a great day at the beach. You’ll find everything from picnic areas to restrooms and shows. Anini Beach even offers overnight camping.
Backed by resorts and towering palm trees, Kalapaki Beach is great for swimming and one of the best Kauai beaches thanks to its mild surf, excellent snorkeling, and on-site amenities.
Perched on Kalapaki Bay, the crescent beach is home to rich soft sand with the larger waves breaking well off-shore. This leaves pleasant swimming conditions for those who stay close. If you want to venture out further, you can go boogie boarding on the edge of the breaks for an exciting afternoon.
Behind Kalapaki Beach is a large lawn area that’s great for picnics, rental facilities to try paddleboarding, and beachfront restaurants. You’ll also be just minutes from the major Kauai port town of Lihue.
Before winter comes around and sweeps along the Kauai coast, Tunnels Beach presents some of the most spectacular snorkeling on the island. Just behind the white sand beach are the stunning mountains of the Na Pali Coast and a shady collection of beautiful ironwood trees.
Also known as Makua Beach, this North Shore beach lets visitors explore the nearby shore reef. Scuba divers can venture to the outer reef where the coral makes way for underwater cliffs. What makes snorkeling here so majestic is the marine caverns formed by ancient volcanic eruptions.
When the wind picks up, Tunnels Beach becomes a haven for windsurfers, who can zoom across the effervescent water while surfers make use of the rising waves. Despite having the feel of a remote beach, Tunnels has stationed lifeguards.
Lydgate Beach Park
On Kauai’s East Shore, Lydgate Beach Park is an excellent choice for families. Here, a duo of boulder-protected lagoons makes for some of the most protected swimming on the island—not to mention a great place to float with your face to the sky as you bathe in paradise.
The boulders stop the waves, but fish still make their way through. This makes Lydgate Beach a great spot for easy and lovely snorkeling, especially for first-timers.
Adding to its strength as a family-friendly beach, beyond the sand, you’ll find Lydgate State Park. Here, the kids can trade the lagoon for one of two oversized playgrounds.
To stretch your legs, wander along the gorgeous Ke Ala Hele Makalae Trail, a 2.5-mile paved path following the coast.
Popular with surfers and boogie boarders, Kealia Beach combines exceptional scenery with an enthralling surf break. This is particularly true in the winter when the wind and swells pick up a head of steam.
During this time, you’ll find as many surfers as beach walkers thanks to Kealia Beach’s open-ocean views. From the beach and the adjacent Kapaa Coastal Path, you can enjoy one of the best spots to witness the migrating whales.
If you aren’t heading out into the surf with a board, Kealia’s northern end will have safer swimming. You can always check in with the on-site lifeguards for up-to-date conditions.
Polihale Beach State Park
Located in Western Kauai, Polihale Beach State Park is a stunning stretch of beach running for 17 miles. It’s the perfect place to go to escape the Kauai tourist crowds and to be present in the moment without a high-end resort in view or any sign of civilization.
Getting to Polihale Beach is a challenge, one part of why you’ll find few crowds on its sandy shores. To reach the coast, you’ll have to drive down a rugged 5-mile dirt road. 4WD is recommended, with some rental companies not allowing the journey.
If you can make it, Polihale is worth every second. The never-ending coast is a popular spot for beachcombing, complemented by inspiring views of the Na Pali Coast. Wander by sand dunes and stick around for the uninhibited sunset.
Salt Pond Beach Park
Home to the only salt beds in Kauai, Salt Pond Beach offers a unique experience. Sitting on the southern coast, the beach is encased by rocky outcrops, creating a natural lagoon. The main beach area is spacious, with calm swimming conditions and lifeguards looking on.
On the other side of the outcrops at Salt Pont Beach, you’ll find tide pools and a small snorkeling area. Keep your eye out for tropical fish like butterflyfish, Moorish idols, and goatfish. You may even share the sand with monk seals.
In the summer, at this South Shore beach, you’ll still find locals tending to the salt beds which have been used for centuries. Beyond the sand, you’ll have plenty of space for picnics, with pavilions, bathrooms, and showers.
With strong currents and burly surf, Shipwreck Beach won’t be a popular swimmer’s beach any time soon. But the wondrous views from the soft and safe sand make it one of the best beaches to visit on the island.
Receiving its name from a wooden ship the sunk offshore, Shipwreck Beach remains quaint even on a cloudless day. This makes it a magnificent spot for couples who can enjoy the relative seclusion Shipwreck Beach offers.
From the beach, you’ll have access to a number of top Kauai hiking trails, including a short walk to Makawehi Point and the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail that caresses the edge of the south coast.
One of the best beaches to watch the sunset on the Garden Isle is Kekaha Beach. Spanning a remote section of the west coast, you’ll enjoy 180-degree views of the horizon with nothing but the intriguing rock islands of Lehua and Niihau blocking your view.
But there are plenty of reasons to make your way to Kekaha Beach long before sunset. The lengthy and open beach is great for beachcombing and surfing. The beach is exposed to the elements, creating powerful waves best suited to experienced surfers.
Beyond the sandy beach, you’ll find a large picnic area with restrooms and showers available. Kekaha Beach also has BBQ facilities, perfect for welcoming Golden Hour with a feast.
Near the Kiahuna Plantation, Kiahuna Beach is a quiet stretch of sand that offers a relaxing escape, with great swimming and excellent beginner surf. The beach expands out in the shape of a half-moon, where you can laze on its golden shores watching the palm trees sway with the wind.
Protected by a reef, Kiahuna Beach is splendid for swimming and snorkeling. Float in the water without a care in the world or explore the colorful coral.
The reef isn’t enough to stop the mild swell that rolls towards the beach. But the forgiving waves make for fun body-surfing and a splendid chance for newbies to learn how to surf.
Although a poorly kept secret, it’s easy to see the allure of a day at Secret Beach. Also known as Kauapea Beach, the stretch greets visitors with an expanse of white sand, making it a breeze to find your own private spot.
What once made Secret Beach a secret was the journey it takes to reach the beautiful beach. With no official marking, it can be tricky to find. There is no formal parking here either. Visitors will have to park on the roadside before embarking on a steep 10-minute trek.
There are no amenities and lifeguards at Secret Beach, adding to the aura of exclusivity. From the shore, you’ll see Moku’ae’ae Island and the Kilauea Lighthouse.
If you love to go where locals go, be sure to have a day at Anahola Beach. A favorite among residents, the beach offers lovely swimming and snorkeling while remaining close to the town of Anahola.
Anahola Beach is a half-mile long and is tucked into the side of the bay. You can easily reach the shore via Anahola Road, where you’ll also find the campground and lifeguard stations. The right end of Anahola also has a shallow section, perfect for younger kids.
Elsewhere, you can enjoy stunning views of the majestic Kalalea mountain range and anglers can cast a reel in. There are also several picnic areas, restrooms, and showers at this ideal spot.
Haena Beach Park
Combining quintessential Hawaiian jungle with golden sand and lapping aqua-colored water, Haena Beach Park is a veritable paradise. On the North Shore, you’ll have delightful vistas everywhere you turn, with the looming Mount Makana providing an exquisite backdrop.
On calmer days, Haena Beach is great for sea kayaking, paddleboarding, and even some casual surfing. Swimmers can body surf the light waves back to shore before bathing under the warm Hawaiian sun.
When the wind picks up, surfers flock to the beach to try their best to tame the soaring surf. On-lookers will still have ample room to relax, with bathrooms, showers, and picnic tables on-site and overnight camping allowed with a permit.
Towards the beginning of the unforgettable Na Pali Coast, Ke’e Beach is a stunning turquoise haven. The large off-shore reef creates a natural swimming lagoon that sparkles on a clear day. Here, you can enjoy incredible snorkeling in an area teeming with colorful fish and the odd green sea turtle.
On calm days, visitors flock to the soft white sand and calm water to enjoy captivating views of the coast. The coral can be seen clear as day through the glass-like water. Keep in mind that Ke’e Beach is a part of Haena State Park, which requires a paid reservation.
The beach also marks the beginning of the Kalalau Trail, often touted as the best hike on the island. Join the trail for a short while to enjoy spectacular views of Ke’e Beach.
On the other side of Poipu Beach, the aptly named Baby Beach is the best place on Kauai to bring young kids for a day at the beach. With its own sand bar and reef-protected waters, you can wade in the sea with the toddlers, or let the older kids stroll out into the shallows. Under your watchful eye, of course.
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Towards the reef, you can enjoy some exciting snorkeling for yourself, or even explore Baby Beach’s tide pools as a family. While most flock to the beach next door, you can enjoy a more relaxed atmosphere at Baby Beach.
There aren’t any amenities at the beach. You’ll find what you need, however, with a quick walk over to Poipu Beach.