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The 10 best beaches in Kauai
Kauai offers 63-miles of accessible shoreline, so there’s a beach for everyone. If you’re planning a Kauai vacation and looking for the best beaches in Kauai, you’re in the right place.
Kauai is home to some of Hawaii’s endangered monk seals, which you might find sunning themselves on the beach.
You’ll definitely need a rental car for your Kauai honeymoon. I’d recommend a Jeep! There isn’t much for public transportation, and you’ll need a car to truly explore the island.
If you’re looking for the best way to rent a car in Hawaii, I recommend Discount Hawaii Car Rental.
You’ll find the best deals on any of the Hawaiian Islands, and you don’t have to pay anything to reserve the rental. You simply reserve it and pay upon pickup. If you find a better deal, you can cancel and re-book any time.
If you wait to rent a car, there might not be any available, so make sure to reserve a car as soon as possible.
The best beaches in Kauai
Kauai isn’t as famous for beaches as, say, Maui, but Kauai has some truly spectacular beaches and so much to offer. In my opinion, Kauai is a very underrated destination.
When you visit a beach in Kauai, make sure to remember these safety tips:
- Never turn your back on the ocean, ever!
- Never swim alone
- Beaches with a lifeguard are always a good option
- Always supervise children closely
- Never swim near river mouths
- Always check for warnings signs
Kauai is beautiful, but it can be dangerous. I more about this in my “Is Hawaii Safe?” blog post. Now that we’ve got that out of the way let’s get to the best beaches in Kauai.
Poipu Beach is often considered one of the best beaches in Kauai. This beach is near some of the most popular resorts in Kauai, such as Sheraton Kauai Resort, Ko’a Kea Resort, and Hotel and Marriott’s Kauai Beach Club.
This beach is protected by a reef making it the perfect location for boogie boarding or beginner surfing. A lot of my clients take surf lessons on this beach! Poipu Beach has plenty of amenities, including showers, a playground, restrooms, and a picnic area.
Baby Beach (the western side of Poipu Beach) sits on the other side of Nukumoi Point. This sand bar is a popular spot to see endangered Hawaiian monk seals. Please remember never to touch or go too close to the monk seals.
Want to know more about what not to do in Hawaii? Check out 20 things you should never do in Hawaii to learn more to make sure you aren’t “that tourist,” or check out everything you need to know about Hawaiian animals to learn more about monk seals.
Moving up to the North Shore, Hanalei Bay is a crescent cove with reefs on both sides.
This two-mile beach offers something for everyone, from surfing to snorkeling and diving to kayaking. Hanalei Bay is also a great spot to take surf lessons.
Mountains or ocean view? In Hanalei Bay, you can have both!
Kalapaki Beach is located on the east side of Kauai. It is an excellent beach for swimming and learning to surf. If you’re staying at the Royal Sonesta Resort, Kalapaki Beach just steps away. Kalapaki Beach is also a great place to watch the cruise ships come in and out.
There are also plenty of restaurants and shopping opportunities steps away.
Located in front of the Grand Hyatt Kauai, Shipwrecks Beach is a favorite local spot for surfing. Due to the large surf, it’s not the best for swimming, but it’s an excellent spot for sunbathing or for experienced surfers.
This beach is also the start of the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail.
Polihale State Park
Polihale State Park is a remote beach on the East side of Kauai. The road to this Polihale State Park is 5 miles of gravel, but it’s worth it! This beach is over 17 miles, although only 10 miles are available to the public.
This is primarily a local beach, so it’s a great way to get away from the crowds and catch the sunset. There is no shade, no lifeguards, and it’s not a very swimmable beach.
That said, Polihale State Park is one of my favorite beaches on Kauai and a hidden gem. If you decide to visit, please be respectful to locals, and clean up after yourself.
Whenever I’m asked about the best places to snorkel in Kauai, I always think of Tunnels Beach. Tunnels Beach, or Makua Beach, is easily the best spot for snorkeling and diving.
Lava tubes have formed underwater caverns perfect for exploring, thus the nickname Tunnels Beach. Tunnels Beach is also great for surfing and kite surfing. Plus, the beautiful mountains give it an epic backdrop.
If you are visiting Kauai and love beautiful scenery, make sure to check out the best hikes in Kauai.
Anahola Beach is a beautiful white sand beach – the kind of beach you think of when you think of Hawaii. This spectacular beach is excellent for swimming and snorkeling for the majority of the year, thanks to a protective reef.
This beach is secluded enough not to be busy but easy enough to access to not be inconvenient. Anahola Beach is one of the best beaches in Kauai for families and has lifeguards. You can also see the beautiful Kalalea mountains.
Anahola Beach is another favorite for locals so that it can get busy on the weekends. If you have young children, this is a great beach to visit.
Ke’e Beach, which is pronounced like Ke-ay, not key, is located in Ha’ena State Park. Located on the North Shore, Ke’e is the furthest beach on the north side that you can access by driving. Ke’e Beach is near the beginning of the Napali Coast and the Kalalau trail that leads to Hanakapiai and Kalalau Beach.
For Hanakapiai Beach and Kalalau Beach, you’ll need to hike in, and for that, you’ll need a permit. You can obtain your permit through the Hawaii Division of State Parks.
Ke’e Beach is generally not the best beach for swimming in the winter due to strong currents, but it can be calm in the summer. Ke’e Beach also has lifeguards. The parking situation is very limited, so make sure to arrive early to ensure parking availability.
When I think of Anini Beach, I think of a rogue wave that came very high up on the shore and soaked my Kindle Paperwhite while. However, I hope you make better memories because it’s truly a gorgeous beach!
There are no lifeguards at Anini Beach, but it is still considered one of the safer beaches on the North Shore (unless you are a Kindle) due to the protective reef. Anini Beach actually has the longest reef in the Hawaiian islands.
Anini Beach is an excellent area for snorkeling and swimming, but be careful beyond the protective reef because the conditions can be rough.
Lydgate State Park
There are two rock-enclosed ponds which are great sheltered areas for kids to swim and see tropical fish. Lydgate State Park also has a playground and a 2.5 mile paved coastal walking path which makes it one of the best beaches in Kauai for families on this list.
Lydgate State Park also has lifeguards, restrooms, and picnic areas, so it’s a great place to spend an afternoon.
The best beaches in Kauai
What did you think about this list of the best beaches in Kauai? Did your favorite beach make the list? If not, let me know in the comments! There are plenty of other amazing beaches in Kauai, but this is a great start.
If you’re planning a Kauai vacation, make sure to check out some of my other posts about things to do in Kauai:
- The best happy hours in Kauai
- 10 best adventure activities on Kauai
- 10 best things to do on Kauai
- 7 day Kauai Itinerary
Glass Beach in Lihue didn’t make the list since it’s not your typically sandy beach, but it is a great place to spot Hawaiian monk seals!
Ready to plan your Kauai vacation?
I am a Hawaii Travel Agent specializing in honeymoons, vacations, and group trips. However, I am currently only taking on a select number of clients per month. You can contact me if you want to learn more and check my availability. If you’re having trouble figuring out your Hawaii vacation and want to hand it off to a professional, that’s what I am here for!
If you prefer to DIY your trip, you should also check out this post on how to plan a Hawaii vacation.
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