Beaches in Kauai, Hawaii

Going to the beach is an obvious activity in Hawaii. But, all beaches have ups and downs – and not just the waves and tides. Here are our favorites of Kauai and why (or why not).

Polihale Beach – I’ll start with this beach because it was my absolute favorite on the island. It is secluded and picturesque and the perfect venue to watch the sun sink into the water. It is secluded and a local favorite because you MUST have 4 wheel drive to access this beach. The roads leading into the beach and state park are sugar sand, or very deep sand, that a car with front wheel drive only just cannot make it through. Michael and I even helped a car who took the risk (and failed). We helped the couple to push their car out of sand. Meanwhile, the locals drove past and shook their heads. You can’t blame them though; there are signs posted in multiple locations along the road; so proceed at your own risk. Not to mention that they’ve likely helped their fair share of clueless tourists. So, the need for a 4-wheel drive vehicle is both a blessing and a curse, depending on how you look at it for this beach. A pitfall of Polihale Beach are that the waters are very rough. Polihale Beach is not a swimming beach, but the fact that it is not busy and so scenic made it our favorite.

Brennecke’s Beach – Brennecke’s Beach is the opposite of Polihale in that it is very busy and easy to get to from a busy road in Poipu. But, on the flip side, you can easily swim. Another plus is that you have the chance to see turtles nesting. This is a common occurrence on other beaches on the island, but this is the only place we saw a turtle on the beach while on Kauai. You also have the option of sipping a cocktail at Brennecke’s Beach Bar while watching the waves if you want. This kind of option is always good when you’re fed up with other tourists stepping over you and screaming children. Sorry! (Not really!)

Shipwreck’s Beach – Like Polihale, Shipwreck’s Beach is not good for swimming, but it is great for watching surfers and boggy boarders. The waves crash violently at the shore, making for dramatic wipe outs and impressive rides. Parking is also very close. The beach is next to a large resort, so you will not have the place to yourself, but it was not as busy as Brennecke’s when we were there around sunset.

Tunnels Beach– Tunnels beach is a long, curved shoreline, offering beach goers space to spread out and feel like you have a place to relax without hearing other’s conversations or music. It is also great for snorkeling, a long stroll on the beach and shell/rock hunting. The large black lava rocks against the bright turquoise water make for a beautiful view when on land too. We also saw a monk seal bathing on the beach, the only sighting during our week on the island.

Ke’e Beach – Ke’e Beach is known for its snorkeling, calm waters and sunset views. We experienced all 3 and agree with its reputation. The biggest downfall of this beach is the parking problem, and it is a problem. The beach is also at the trail head for the Hanakapi’ai Trail; the most popular trail on the island. Arrive early, or wait until just before sunset and hope you find a spot. Expect to walk at least a half a mile once parked. It’s a hike; before the hike.

Hanakapi’ai Beach – Speaking of hiking, Hanakapi’ai Beach is only accessible by boat or a couple of hours of hiking. But, oh man! It is so worth it! Pack plenty of water, hiking boots and snacks and enjoy a pristine beach while eating, re-hydrating and cooling off in the water. But, again, parking is an issue as you park in the same area for this hike and beach as you do for Ke’e Beach. So, again, get there early, really early.

All beaches are not created equally, but Kauai’s beaches are known around the world for a reason. Kauai is the perfect destination for beach lovers and for outdoor lovers in general. 

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