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Best Kauai Beaches

Kauai offers more beach per mile of coastline than on any of the other Hawaiian Islands. The topography is beautiful and diverse; from protected white sand lagoons and bays to world class surf breaks and the rugged Na Pali coast!

North Kauai Beaches

On Kauai's north shore you'll discover some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet. There's the Na Pali Coast, whose cliffs rise 4,000 feet above the ocean. And Lumahai Beach, where Mitzi Gaynor 'washed that man right out of her hair' in the movie South Pacific. The north shore also is home to the quaint town of Hanalei, one of the earliest areas to be settled by the ancient Pacific voyagers.  

Na Pali Coast:

Honopu Valley The densely jungled valley of Honopu was thought to be the last home of the Menehune and is often referred to as the "Valley of the Lost Tribe." The beach in this area is where Jessica Lange eluded King Kong in the 1976 remake of the classic King Kong and Harrison Ford fled from pirate attack in 6 Days, 7 Nights.

Na Pali Coast Cliffs rising as high as 4,000 feet are accessible along the beautiful Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast. Hiking, helicopter or rafting trips offer spectacular views of the region where many believe that the Na Pali spirits can play tricks on hikers and campers alike. Some historians claim that the Na Pali region was the first part of Kauai to be settled.

Ke ahu a laka Heiau Located on a terrace above the boulder, this is a heiau that was part of a famous hula school in the area. Chanters came to receive the most advanced training possible. To test their skills, they walked across the smooth boulders at the edge of the sea and chanted their mele (chant). If their voices could be heard above the sounds of the waves and the wind, then their training was completed. Students are still brought here to test their skills.  

Hanalei/Waikanaloa

Hanalei Bay

Famous for its spectacular beauty, Hanalei Bay is a long half-moon of sandy beach carved into the base of a sheer cliff on one side and narrowing into a rocky point on the other. The beach is a great spot for walking or throwing a Frisbee around. At the westernmost curve of the bay, you'll find a calm shoreline where the water is relatively quiet even when most of the north shore is too rough for safe swimming.  This is one of the best Hawaii beaches.

Maniniholo Dry Cave Maniniholo Dry Cave (Maniniholo means "swimming Manini fish") is about 300 yards deep, and reaches to a small exit hole on the side of the mountain. The cave interior used to be larger than now, before a 1957 tsunami half-filled it with sand. To get there, go to Ha'ena Beach Park on Route 560. Look for the cave on your left.

Lumahai Beach Between Haena and Hanalei Bay is the most photographed beach on Kauai. Lumahai Beach is where Mitzi Gaynor "washed that man right out of her hair" in South Pacific.

Makana Peak This familiar peak can be seen from Ha'ena and is easily recognized as "Bali Hai" from the movie South Pacific. During special occasions, the ancient Hawaiians would climb Mount Makana and throw burning spears into the wind to sail across the sky and eventually land in the ocean.

Waikanaloa Wet Cave, Waikapalae Wet Cave Waikanaloa (water of Kanaloa, a god) Wet Cave is, as its name implies, underwater. It has been explored about 100 yards in by scuba divers.The two caves are located within approximately 100 yards of each other on the mauka (mountain) side of the highway after Haena and before Ke'e Beach.

Kee Beach This is a famous movie location and excellent snorkeling area, located at the foot of the Na Pali Coast Trail. Kee Beach appeared in the popular television mini-series, The Thorn Birds.

Waioli Mission House Wai'oli Mission House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built of coral limestone blocks in 1837, its chimney was put in place by the Reverend William Alexander, the first missionary on Kauai. The house was restored in 1921, and is currently undergoing another restoration. The Mission House will reopen for tours after renovations. Wai'oli Mission Hall and picturesque Wai'oli Hui'ia Church (founded in 1834) are nearby.  

Kilauea/Princeville:

Anini Beach 'Anini (stunted) Beach Park offers restrooms, showers, tables and barbecue facilities. Camping requires a County permit. About a mile down the road is 'Anini Beach. No one seems to know why the two aren't together in once place.

Hanalei Valley Lookout Hanalei Valley Lookout offers one of the most famous views on Kauai. The valley is one mile wide and six miles long. Most of the taro grown in Hawaii is grown here. On the valley floor is a one-way truss bridge built in 1912. The bridge was damaged by a tsunami in 1957, and subsequently reinforced. Legend has it that the rainbow came to Hawaiian Islands from the bluffs just beyond the valley when a piece of brightly colored kapa cloth was thrown into a pool below Namolokama Falls, and its colors arched up in the mist.

Kilauea Lighthouse The 52-foot Kilauea Lighthouse was constructed in 1913, and its beam once reached 90 miles out to sea. The lens is the largest of its type ever made. The lighthouse has not been in service since 1976. At Kilauea Point, you are at the northernmost point in the Hawaiian Islands. Open daily from 10am to 4pm (except Holidays).

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge Kilauea is the northernmost point of the Hawaiian Islands. Surrounding the lighthouse is the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, home to an array of protected sea birds.

Princeville In 1853, R.C. Wyllie started a coffee plantation on the site of what is now Princeville. The coffee plantation failed, but Princeville is now the largest planned development on Kauai. It's home to some of Hawaii's finest resorts, golf courses and restaurants. Princeville is also the site of three beaches, Pu'u Poa (thumping point), Kenomene Beach, and Kaweonui Beach (mostly rocky but, like most beaches on Kauai, beautiful to behold). A wide reef creates pockets which are good for snorkeling, however, high surf creates rip currents which make it wise to stay near shore unless the sea is perfectly calm.     

South Kauai Beaches

Kauai's south shore is a wonderland of diversity, with excellent beaches for swimming and snorkeling, and a wealth of historical and scenic sites. This also is where you'll find the National Tropical Botanical Garden, the only garden of its kind to be chartered by Congress. Also, be sure to visit Spouting Horn, whose natural lava tube formations creates one of Kauai's more spectacular locations.  

Koloa/Poipu:

Kipu Kai Beach The majestic "Hoary Head" mountain ridge frames the golden sands of Kipu Kai beach, which is only accessible by boat. Many years ago, the local population of Nene, the endangered Hawaiian goose, disappeared from Kauai, but thanks to the efforts of local cattle rancher J.W. Waterhouse, these rare birds may occasionally be seen at Kipu Kai.

Koloa History Center Located in the Old Koloa Town Mall, the tiny history center offers a brief introduction to the history of the area in the form of artifacts from the old plantation days.

Kukuiolono Park From Kalaheo, travel Papalina Road for a little less than a mile and you'll see a sign indicating Kukuiolono Park. Kukuiolono means "light of Lono," which has its origin in the fires that were built on the hillside to guide Hawaiian seafarers. The park features a beautiful Japanese garden, legend stones, and a panoramic view. The gate closes to cars at 6:30 p.m. Open daily 7am-6pm. Golf course starting times from 7am-3pm.

Maha'ulepu Beach Maha'ulepu Beach is great spot for exploring. There are petroglyphs in the area, and the water is usually calm due to a protective reef and shallow water. The name Maha'ulepu means "falling together," as in two warriors falling in battle. When King Kamehameha attempted to invade Kauai in 1796, many of his war canoes were sunk during a storm in the channel between Oahu and Kauai. However, a few managed to land here on the beach. The warriors who made it to shore were exhausted. Kauai's defenders caught them sleeping near their canoes just before dawn, and slaughtered all but a few. Those who escaped, fearful of facing Kamehameha's wrath, paddled all the way to the Big Island.

National Tropical Botanical Garden Located in Lawai Valley, the National Tropical Botanical Garden is the only tropical botanical garden in the U.S. to be chartered by Congress. The tour of the grounds, ablaze with a multitude of plants and flowers, includes ancient Hawaiian stone walls and taro terraces.

Old Koloa Town The enchanting town of Koloa was the site of Kauai's first sugar plantation, which was built in the 1830s by Ladd and Company.

Poipu Beach Park poipu beachPoipu is located near the southern-most tip of Kauai. The beaches in this area are favorites for snorkeling and scuba diving. Lots of fun in the sun in Poipu!

Prince Kuhio Park Located on Lawai Road, west of Poipu, Prince Kuhio Park marks the birthplace of Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, one of Hawaii's most cherished royals.

Shipwreck Beach For many years this was one of the best "hidden" beaches on Kauai. Today, the sandy, rock-studded beach is still beautiful. But it is no longer hidden. A major resort now borders the beach, which means it's harder to have the beach all to yourself - but easier to find a cool drink when you tire of beachcombing.

Spouting Horn Water, forced into a lava tube by the surf, gushes into the air making an eerie hissing noise. The ancient Hawaiians believed that Kaikapu, a lizard goddess, was trapped by a clever fisherman in the lava tube and the hissing is the sound of her angry roar. [button link="#backtotop" color="lightblue"] Back to Top[/button]         

East Kauai Beaches

Kauai's Coconut Coast is rich in variety. It's an ideal area to experience the beauty of Kauai, especially with a visit to the Wailua area with many heiaus (sacred sites), petroglyphs, and other unique points of Hawaiian culture. Kayaking/boating up the Wailua River is a favorite for visitors and locals alike. Come on and explore! Lihue is Kauai's county seat, as well as the center for business and transportation. Here you can explore Kauai Museum and tour extensive exhibits of Hawaiiana along with memorabilia from the sugar plantation era. This area is also a great spot for recreation. Beautiful Kalapaki Beach is perfect for swimming and sunning. Nearby is Kauai Lagoons, which hosts two Jack Nicklaus-designed 18-hole golf courses and 40 acres of freshwater lagoons and a wildlife sanctuary.  

In Lihue/Kalapaki:

Hanamaulu Beach Park Hanama'ulu Beach Park is about six acres in area with tables, restrooms, barbecue facilities and showers. The surf is gentle and swimming is safe. Camping is allowed with a County permit.

Kalapaki Beach The white sands and gentle waters of Kalapaki Beach are ideal for sunning, swimming, and sailing. Kalapaki Beach also is the home of the Kauai Marriott Resort & Beach Club, and Kauai Lagoons--40 acres of freshwater tropical lagoons that serve as a sanctuary for exotic wildlife.

Lydgate State Park Lydgate has much to offer the visitor. Fine picnic grounds, an excellent swimming area for the keiki (children), and a wonderful stretch of beach for sunning or a stroll. There is also a great playground built by volunteers from the community. The coconut grove here once served as a place of refuge for the ancient Hawaiians. Those who could reach the boundaries of the refuge before being caught were spared punishment or even death for breaking a kapu (law). The Wailua River begins near the north end of the park.

Ninini/Running Waters Beach It's a good spot for swimming and getting an excellent view of nearby mountain ranges and ships coming in and out of Nawiliwili Harbor.

Niumalu Beach Park Niumalu (shade of coconut trees) Beach Park ranges over three acres and offers picnic tables, showers and restrooms. Camping is allowed with a County permit. Kayaking up-river and sailboarding are also popular.

Niumalu Harbor Adjacent to Niumalu Park are Nawiliwili Harbor, the main port for Kauai, and Nawiliwili Small Boat Harbor. This entire area was once part of a large Hawaiian settlement, hence the large number of heiau in the area. On the Coconut Coast. wailua river

Wailua River State Park Wailua River State Park ranges over one thousand acres and includes Lydgate Park, some archeological sites, and a picnic area at the south side of the river. It is also near a number of heiau.  

Kapaa-Wailua:

Bell Stone The bellstone is so named because, when struck sharply, a note would resonate over the entire Wailua Valley. Royal births were announced this way. Holo-holo-ku Heiau Holoholo Ku (run run stand fast) Heiau, or the site where it formerly existed (a cemetery replaced it around 1890), is about 1/10-mile up Route 580 off Hwy. 56. A large stone adjacent to nearby ruins is the birthstone, the sacred site of royal births on Kauai.

Keahua Forestry Arboretum Keahua Arboretum is home to mango, monkeypod, eucalyptus trees. The streams are filled with life, and there are pools in which to swim. Picnic tables are scattered here and there and just beyond is access to the sacred area of Mt. Waialeale.

Old Kapaa Town Old Kapa'a is a quaint 19th century plantation town. The streets are lined with a variety of unique shops and an abundance of ono (delicious) restaurants. A wonderful place to take a stroll and see the wares of local merchants.

Opaekaa Falls Opaeka'a Falls is about 1.3 miles from the start of Route 580. We're told there are shrimp in the pool beneath the falls, emerging from their hiding places at night. The best view is from the path along the highway. Across the way is a great view of the sacred Wailua River.

Poliahu Heiau Poliahu Heiau was named for the snow goddess of the Island of Hawaii (legend has it she lived on Mauna Kea). The heiau contains several terraces, idol sites, and a "god stone" five feet high. It is the largest heiau on Kauai.

Sleeping Giant (Nounou Mountain) Look for the mountain ridge between Wailua and Kapaa which looks like the figure of a man on his back. Legend has it that this was a pesky giant who ate constantly. The villagers of Wailua, tired of feeding the giant, tricked him into eating a great number of rocks hidden in a vast quantity of fish and poi. The giant was so full that he lay down to take a nap, fell into a deep sleep, and has yet to wake up. 

West Kauai Beaches

West Kauai is an remarkable blend of spectacular natural wonders and Hawaiian cultural landmarks. Awe-inspiring Waimea Canyon is just the beginning. Also in Waimea is the Captain Cook Monument, where British Captain James Cook first landed in Hawaii in 1778. Just north of Polihale State Park is the sacred Polihale heiau from which the Hawaiians believed the souls of the dead departed the island into the setting sun. From lush rain forest to a sunny stretch of white sand beach, West Kauai has something for everyone.  

Polihale/Mana

Polihale Heiau Just north of Polihale State Park is the powerful Polihale heiau (sacred site). This is one of the points from which the souls of the dead departed the island into the setting sun.

Polihale State Park Just past the Pacific Missile Range Facility gate on Highway 50, a sign posted by the Hawaii Visitors Bureau points to a dirt cane-hauling road angling off to the left. Follow the road for about five miles and you'll arrive at Polihale State Park. The park has a beautiful 3-mile long beach. However, the ocean here can be dangerous, with a severe shore break and rip currents. A better bet is found at the 3.4 -mile mark along the cane road, where the road curves near a large monkeypod tree. Take the fork to the left and park almost immediately. Walk north along the beach until you come to a hollow in the coral. This is Queen's Pond. It's usually calm here except when high winter surf comes over the reef. Kekaha/Waimea:

Captain Cook's Monument Located on the roadside in the rural town of Waimea in Hofgaard Park (also known as Tamago -- egg-shaped -- Park), is the site where British Captain James Cook first landed in Hawaii in 1778. Cook, with his ships the Resolution and Discovery, was the first westerner to discover the islands.

Kalalau Lookout If you make the drive from Waimea to see Waimea Canyon, you might as well do it right. From Kokee State Park, at the top of Waimea Canyon Road, continue on to Kalalau Lookout. There you'll encounter a spectacular view of knife-edged cliffs and overgrown gorges that drop to the sea 4,000 feet below. Mist and cloud cover roll in and out of the valley so inquire at the Kokee Museum about the best time that day to see the full valley panoramic.

Kekaha Beach Park The sunsets from Kekaha Beach Park are spectacular, and the beach itself is beautiful. A great place for picnics and strolling the shore. However, the entire beach is exposed to open ocean (which brings with it strong currents), so caution is advised.

Kokee Natural History Museum Kokee Museum is located at Kokee State Park at the top of Waimea Canyon Road. Part of the beauty of visiting the park and museum, of course, is the drive past breathtaking Waimea Canyon, the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" to get there. The small, quaint museum is devoted to the flora, fauna, and natural history of the area. It also features collections of shells and Hawaiian artifacts. Admission is free.

Menehune Ditch According to legend, the high chief of Waimea, Ola, was concerned that his people were having difficulty bringing water from the Waimea River down to their taro patches. In order for Ola to enlist the aid of the hardworking Menehune, he had to establish a kapu (taboo) so that no one could leave their houses at night. Once the kapu was set, the Menehune proceeded to divert some water from the Waimea River overnight with the elaborate cut and dressed stones of this ancient aqueduct.

Russian Fort Elizabeth In 1815 the Russian doctor, Georg Scheffer, arrived in Hawaii to gain trading privileges from King Kamehameha, who had created a kingdom incorporating all the islands of Hawaii. The Russian went to Kauai, nominally under the control of King Kaumualii, to salvage Russian cargo being held in Waimea. Once on Kauai, Scheffer gained the confidence of King Kaumualii when he promised the king that Czar Nicholas would help him to break free of Kamehameha's rule. Kaumualii allowed Scheffer to build a fort near Waimea and two others near Hanalei. However, Scheffer did not have the backing of the Russian Czar and was forced to leave Kauai. Russian Fort Elizabeth eventually went under the control of Kamehameha supporters and years later was used to put down a rebellion by Kaumualii's son, George Prince Kaumualii. It is the only remaining Russian fort in Hawaii.

Waimea Canyon waimea canyonTen miles long and about 3,600 feet deep, Waimea Canyon was described by Mark Twain as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific." One memorable image of the canyon that will remain with you, beyond the incredible scale of it all, is the rainbow of colors that dance along the canyon peaks. From the last two lookouts there are spectacular views into Kalalau Valley, one of the most beautiful sights on the island.  

Salt Pond/Hanapepe:

Hanapepe Hanapepe means "bay crushed by landslides." The main street through town was used for the filming of "The Thornbirds." This quaint town is filled with charm, and there are heiaus and numerous Hawaiian homesites up the valley that are also worth exploring.

Hanapepe Valley Lookout Rolling green hills, quaint farms, and lush vegetation create a dazzling view from the Hanapepe Overlook. This untamed, exotic area was the perfect setting for Steven Spielberg's blockbuster thriller Jurassic Park.

Salt Pond You may be able to catch a glimpse of days gone by at the ancient Hawaiian salt ponds near Hanapepe. The art of salt-making in earthen pans is still practiced here by families descending from ancient saltmakers, and is a reminder of the rich Hawaiian culture of the island. Enter the salt-making area only if permission is granted by saltmakers.

Salt Pond Beach Park Salt Pond Beach Park is a place where the swimming is usually safe year around. Camping is allowed with a County permit. The crescent beach is partially protected by reef. A toddlers bathing pool is created by rocks that form a small lagoon. Swimming is good and there are tidepools to explore. It's also a great spot for sunsets.