My Favorite Kauai Beaches

Sure, it’s common knowledge that some of the best beaches in the world are on Kauai, but from a local boy’s perspective, many of the beaches that make those infamous "lists" tend to have just the "tourist" in mind.

My Favorite Kauai Beaches

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Kauai Boy on July 5, 2004

Sure, it’s common knowledge that some of the best beaches in the world are on Kauai – but from a local boy’s perspective, many of the beaches that make those infamous "lists" tend to have just the "tourist" in mind. Spending my entire childhood, and much of my adult life here, all of the beaches on MY list are geared toward activities that I enjoy the most – fishing and diving (spear-fishing).

I cannot stress this enough – EVERYONE (locals and visitors alike) MUST abide to warnings regarding the SURF SEASONS. Huge waves hit the north shore in the winter while it is typically flat in the south. In the summer, it’s reversed, although the south side doesn’t get as big as the north. WHATEVER THE SEASON, if there are waves and you are unsure, the best advice I can give is: WHEN IN DOUBT, STAY OUT! Rip currents are often misunderstood and underestimated.${QuickSuggestions} You don’t see this one in any tourist guide, but I’ve always wished that there was an effective venue to get the word out. Local Kauaians are very friendly people IN GENERAL. However, the beach, to them, is not only a source of recreation and relaxation (as it is for tourists), but it is also a source of FOOD. If you are visiting one of the beaches less-frequented by tourists, please be mindful of any locals that might be fishing, spear-fishing, netting, etc. DO NOT swim or snorkel near the area they are trying to catch fish. Yeah, there are no laws against it, but it’s just COMMON COURTESY. This doesn’t mean you can’t approach them and chat with them – most would be very happy to share their experience with you, as long as you don’t come across as pushy and inconsiderate. ${BestWay} Public transportation on Kauai is virtually nonexistent. Yes, we have the so-called 'Kauai Bus', but it's small, infrequent, and, for now, unreliable. Things to do here are so spread out, that using a taxi is out of the question. Hence, renting a car is a necessity here. And, depending on where you plan to go, I would recommend something that can handle a bit of "rigor" -- a Jeep Wrangler, perhaps.

#1 -- Secret Beach

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Kauai Boy on July 5, 2004

WHERE IT IS: Just below the North Shore town of Kilauea, between the Kilauea Lighthouse and Kalihiwai Valley.

HOW TO GET THERE: There are no public roads that lead to the beach, but there is a gated entrance through a pasture that a privileged few have access to. Driving from Kapaa on Kuhio Highway, pass Kilauea town and turn right on Kalihiwai Road. About 50 yards in, turn right into an unmarked, unpaved road and drive to the end where you can park and find the trail entrance. A moderate hike down will take you near the west end of the beach.

WHEN TO GO THERE: The beach is accessible all year round. However, the winter waves on the north shore make entering the water out of the question for the inexperienced. PLEASE – ABIDE BY LOCAL WARNINGS AS PEOPLE DROWN DURING THE WINTER ALL TOO OFTEN!!! The best time to go is in the summer – the waves go down yet are big enough for a good time.

WHAT TO DO THERE: I took my first shot at surfing and bodyboarding at the west-central section of the beach, right where the trail dumps you. My friends and I would just ignore the nude sunbathers (which, by the way, is illegal but rarely enforced). Local fisherman willing to haul their gear in head to the far west end for some excellent shoreline fishing. My favorite activity here? We head to far east end just below the lighthouse and do a lot of spear-fishing, casting and diving off the cliffs.

Kauapea Secret Beach
West of Kilauea off a dirt road
Kauai, Hawaii

#2 -- Cliffs Beach

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Kauai Boy on July 5, 2004

WHERE IT IS: A very small beach in a hidden cove, it lies just below the Cliffs Resort (hence its name) in the resort community of Princeville on the North Shore.

HOW TO GET THERE: This is a tricky one. There are actually two routes we take to get here: one by foot, the other by boat. The foot trail actually starts at the end of a cul-de-sac somewhere in the Princeville neighborhood. We usually take kayaks from the end of Anini road – heading from Kapaa, pass Kilauea town and cross the long Kalihiwai bridge. Take the first left, then the first right and head to the end of the road. Kayak about a mile west – Cliffs beach is the first cove after the point. I recommend wearing reef-walkers (or ninja tabis) in case you need to get off your kayak and walk through shallow reef.

WHEN TO GO THERE: Like ALL north shore beaches, you will need to heed the local warnings during huge winter swells – STAY OUT OF THE WATER. Even if it SEEMS safe and shallow over the reef, rip currents everywhere and they can easily pull an unsuspecting swimmer out into the treacherous open ocean. Late spring brings in the summer flat season which lasts through early fall – the perfect time to visit this secluded beach.

WHAT TO DO THERE: The entire beach area is fronted by reef, making it excellent for snorkeling. Head left and around the point at the west end into deeper water and you will likely catch a glimpse of the many green sea turtles that graze there. What we do? We locals love to fish, and this beach offers some of the best day-time spearfishing and netting on the island. We’ve also gone night-diving here with limited success.

Cliffs Beach
North Shore Kauai
Kauai, Hawaii

#3 - Anini Beach

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Kauai Boy on July 5, 2004

WHERE IT IS: Yes, this is one of those beaches you’d find in all the tourist guides and maps. However, this is the longest continuous beach on the island, so most tourists are steered toward the central area--the Anini Beach Park.

HOW TO GET THERE: Heading from Kapaa, pass Kilauea town and Kalihiwai bridge, turn right on Kalihiwai Road then immediately left on Anini Road. About half a mile in you have the beach park area, further down at the end of the road is a less-trodden area at the mouth a small stream.

WHEN TO GO THERE: This is the arguably the longest continuous reef system in the state hence, much of the shoreline is protected year round. HOWEVER, there may be days in the winter swell season that could make even the most tranquil looking spot dangerous... even deadly. Use common sense and, when in doubt, stay in and around the park area.

WHAT TO DO THERE: The entire beach area is fronted by reef, making it excellent for snorkeling. Sail-boarding and kite-surfing lessons are also offered there. However, these are all DAY activities. What makes this my 3rd favorite beach is what we do here at NIGHT. Especially in the summer, the reef at night shelters numerous types of fish valued by the locals, especially the uhu (parrot fish) and the kala (unicorn fish). Its sheer vastness makes Anini the most popular night diving spot on the island.

Anini Beach Park
At the end of Anini Road
Hanalei, Hawaii, 96714
+1 808 822 5065

#4 - Tunnels Beach

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Kauai Boy on July 6, 2004

As recently as 10 years ago, on any given summer day there would be no more than a couple of other people on this beach aside from our group. Nowadays, you’d be hard-pressed to find parking even alongside the highway anywhere near this place. However, the unusual "double reef" system and elaborate underwater tunnel system makes this beach one of my favorites.

WHERE IT IS: A long haul from my home in Wailua, Tunnels Beach is near the "end of the road" in the small North Shore community of Haena, just before Haena Beach Park and the Dry Cave.

HOW TO GET THERE: From Kapaa, head north – ALL THE WAY north about 30 miles. It’s actually a pretty scenic and enjoyable ride, even for us locals. Passing Hanalei town, the road becomes quite windy and slow. Driving high along the cliffs of Lumahai on a narrow two-lane road can be a bit nerve-racking, but your almost there! Across the two single-lane wooden bridges in Wainiha followed by a short mile through Haena and you there--look for the line of parked cars along the highway, park, then follow the crowd.

WHEN TO GO THERE: As always, the North Shore is no place to be in the Winter – unless you’re staying on the beach a safe distance from the water. Flat season (primetime for diving) begins late spring and lasts through early to mid fall.

WHAT TO DO THERE: Though it’s getting almost intolerably crowded, the inner reef is an excellent scuba-diving site for the beginner. Along the edge of the reef you can dive in, out, and through an elaborate tunnel system with sites that literally take your breath away. If you’re lucky, you’ll run across one of the resident gray reef, white tip, or black tip sharks. No worries – as long as you keep your distance, most of these guys are more afraid of you than you of them. Also, though it is too crowded nowadays, Tunnels used to be our favorite spear-fishing and netting site.

Tunnels Beach
8-mile Marker After Princeville
Kauai, Hawaii

#5 - Kalapaki

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Kauai Boy on July 6, 2004

WHERE IT IS: Just short drive from the Lihue Airport at the mouth of the Niumalu River and the entrance to Nawiliwili Harbor. This beach fronts the ultra-luxurious Marriott Kauai Lagoons Resort, Spa, and Golf Club.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the airport, head south on Kapule Highway then turn left on Rice Street, head down the hill about half a mile, then turn left into the Marriot Kauai Lagoons Hotel and Resort. Beach access and public parking is past the hotel lobby area – turn right and drive down the hill to the lot.

WHEN TO GO THERE: Kalapaki is a well-protected bay at the entrance of Nawiliwili Harbor. Hence, a choppy or big-wave day is as rare here as they are common on the North Shore in the winter. This makes Kalapaki the only "all-year-long" beaches on my favorites list. Heck, I gotta do SOMETHING when I’m not hunting fish on the north shore.

WHAT TO DO THERE: Volleyball, volleyball, and volleyball. Other than Hanalei Bay in the north shore, Kalapaki has a couple of the surprisingly few permanent beach volleyball setups on the island

Kalapaki Beach
off of Highway 50
Lihue, Hawaii, 96766

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